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On the road to victory

The Eagles dominated Dallas on Sunday night. And according to columnist Dave Spadaro, the next six games are all about gaining the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs.

By Dave Spadaro

Now the picture changes for the Philadelphia Eagles.

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On the heels of Sunday night’s 37–9 win at Dallas, the Eagles are 9–1 and holding a four-game lead in the NFC East with six games to play. Risking the ghosts of the Phillies’ collapse in 1964 (look it up if you don’t remember the agony), the Eagles are on the way to their first division title since 2013.

That’s goal №1 for the team, to win the NFC East and reach the postseason. But it’s now time — and it’s OK to breathe, Eagles fans — to realize the larger perspective: The next six games are all about gaining the №1 seed in the NFC playoffs.

It’s all about making Philadelphia the home base in the NFC.

In the win over the Cowboys, the Eagles scored 30 unanswered points in the second half to erase a 9–7 halftime deficit. They ran for 215 yards, averaging 6.5 yards per carry.

Quarterback Carson Wentz tossed two touchdown passes and converted three of four two-point conversions necessitated by the absence of placekicker Jake Elliott, who left the game in the first half with a concussion.

“We’re showing that we can beat teams in a lot of different ways,” defensive end Brandon Graham said. “It’s a sweet thing.”

The Eagles haven’t been a №1 seed in the conference playoffs since the Super Bowl season of 2004. They beat Atlanta that season in the NFC championship game after losing to Tampa Bay (2002, arguably the worst loss in the history of Philadelphia sports) and Carolina (2003) in previous seasons.

Here is the key metric: Since 1975, when seeding was introduced to the NFL playoffs, 32 of the Super Bowl champions (of 42 games) have been either №1 or №2 seeds. The last four Super Bowl champions have been seeded first in their conference playoffs and they hosted their conference championship games.

So that’s what the Eagles have their sights set on now. Head coach Doug Pederson, like every NFL coach, is preaching his “one day at a time” mantra, and that’s the right thing to do.

The Eagles can’t get where they want to be without playing with maximum focus each week.

Make no mistake, though. The landscape has changed for the Eagles.

Ten games into this crazily wonderful and very improbable season, the Eagles are in the driver’s seat to have the NFC playoffs come through Philadelphia, where the fan base is rabid, incredibly hungry and 100 percent supportive.

“I think we’ve shown what we’re capable of doing, but we know that we have a long season to go,” right tackle Lane Johnson said. “I mean, we feel like we’re just getting started. We feel like we can beat any team if we play our game. The great teams go out and do that every week. We want to be a great team.”

And it would certainly help if the playoffs came through Philadelphia and Lincoln Financial Field, a stadium that will rock off its axis in January. ••

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