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Cowboys have reason to be optimistic in NFC East race

Every team has a tough schedule in the NFL. But when and where specific games are scheduled plays a huge part in the momentum it takes to get into the playoffs. Case in point, the NFC East.

After Dallas was beat down in Philadelphia, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones seemed particularly upbeat and forgiving after what was an embarrassing loss. Look at the schedule in the NFC East for the next four weeks and you see why Jones might seem so optimistic.

The Cowboys have only one road game (Washington) and will host Seattle, Buffalo and Miami. Philadelphia also has a single road game (Giants) but have the tough task of hosting Chicago, Arizona and New England at Lincoln Financial. The Giants have the toughest task, only playing the Eagles at home and then traveling to New England, San Francisco and New Orleans.

The Cowboys might not be playing the best football of the teams in the NFC East, but they still could emerge atop the division by December.

McNabb a class act

Vikings fans have to be encouraged with Christian Ponder's performance in his first two games. I doubt it will make much difference this year with regard to Minnesota making the playoffs, but as I said weeks ago when I advocated the move, the team will be better off for the 2012 opener.

I have to comment on Donovan McNabb and the way he has handled it. Andrea Kremer did a great interview with McNabb for NFL Network. You have to be impressed with the class he has displayed in dealing with the difficult situation. It is difficult enough for a proven talent like McNabb to now sit on the sideline and no longer be a factor for his team, let alone have to address it publicly week after week. By all accounts, he has been supportive of Ponder and has been a tremendous help in his recent development.

Let's remember that McNabb deserves a huge amount of the credit for Philadelphia developing into one of the most successful franchises over the past decade. Talents diminish for every player. Each has to reconcile how they are going to deal with it. Do you need to spend as much time preparing as you did when you were younger? No. McNabb could not have the successes he did without a solid work ethic. That didn't just stop. Let this guy finish out his career with the dignity and class he has exhibited all these years.

Go slowly on predictions

It seems like an appropriate time to relay a story from earlier in the season. My opening game was the Eagles at Rams. As usual, our FOX crew arrived a couple of days early to prepare for the broadcast. Our hotel was within the shadow of Busch Stadium, home of Major League Baseball's St. Louis Cardinals. They were playing the Atlanta Braves that weekend and our hotel was full of baseball media and club personnel.

I am not a baseball fan, but it was interesting to listen to the experts talk about how the Cardinals (then six or seven games out of the playoff picture) were done. The games against the Braves were well-attended, but the energy in the town and at the ballpark was commensurate with a team that was sure to miss the postseason.

In light of the Cardinals' World Series championship, I thought it was worth noting.

Follow Brian Billick on Twitter @coachbillick

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