Cowboys, Eagles Show Differences In Approach To Thanksgiving

IRVING, Texas – The stage can't get much bigger – not during the regular season, at least.

Storylines abound for the Cowboys, as they edge closer to Thursday's Thanksgiving Day showdown against Philadelphia. The winner of the division rivalry game will hold the lead in the NFC East and will guarantee itself a winning record on the season.

As might be expected from this team, though, the emphasis for Thursday doesn't seem any bigger around Valley Ranch than the 11 games that came before it.

"You've heard me say this before, you play 16 games and each one is critical," said Cowboys coach Jason Garrett. "Every game that you play is the most important game you're playing because it's the one you're involved in so this is the most important game of the year up to this point."

That's a fact echoed by Garrett's players throughout the Dallas locker room. The positioning in the division standings and the playoff implications give this game extra juice as a TV spectacle. Within the confines of the field, the Cowboys say they don't need any extra motivation.

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"I get up for every game. This is my job – this is not given," said Orlando Scandrick. "Every game I go out, I want to be better than I was the last game. We've got a chance, and we can't squander an opportunity."

As unwilling as he might be to feed the hype, Scandrick did acknowledge that opportunity – something this organization has become familiar with in recent seasons. Perched at 8-3, another victory would give the Cowboys nine wins and push them over the infamous 8-8 mark they've sat on since 2011.

"It wouldn't matter if we was playing a 3-8 team. I would still want to get to my ninth win," Scandrick said. "That's a big deal, to get to your ninth win and be 9-3 going into the four-game stretch in December."

The same can obviously be said for the Eagles, who are looking to retain the NFC East championship they won in Dallas last season. In that regard, LeSean McCoy was a bit more willing to discuss the big picture, as he noted he's had an eye on the Cowboys since they started their six-game win streak back in December.

"It always comes down to the end, and we don't want to be the team that's a game or two behind and we miss out on the playoffs," McCoy said. "Every game we play, we always knew that the Dallas game would be big, because they were winning once we were winning."

That much is true. The Cowboys and Eagles have both won in six of 12 weeks this season, and they both lost in Week 8. As might be guessed by their identical records, they've enjoyed nearly identical successes and setbacks leading up to this matchup.

"You win a close game, and Dallas is on later that night and you're hoping they might let one go and they wind up winning," McCoy said. "You always keep an eye out for your division teams – especially a good team like Dallas."

It's worth noting that these two teams will play their second meeting roughly two weeks after Thanksgiving, which doesn't quite put the end-all, be-all label on Thursday. But for a game that's been discussed since mid-October, it's impressive the way the two teams have reached this point so similarly.

As was noted last week, neither Garrett nor the Cowboys would allow that focus to slip prior to finishing the Giants game.

"The most important thing that you need to do is you need to focus on the game before the Thanksgiving game, and we really tried to emphasize that to our team in our preparation and certainly playing last night," Garrett said Monday. "Then, as soon as it's done, it's over with, and now it's a laser-like focus on this game that you have Thursday afternoon."

Regardless of the approach – watching the standings each week, or focusing inward – it doesn't matter anymore. The Cowboys and Eagles finally have each other's full attention for the first time this season.

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