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The Dallas Cowboys: Super Bowl bound or staring at yet another false dawn?

Can the Dallas Cowboys end their Super Bowl drought? An emphatic statement win in Week One has ignited a familiar flame, but will it be a familiar conclusion?; watch the Cowboys host the New York Jets live on Sky Sports NFL from 9.25pm Sunday

Dallas Cowboys pass rusher Micah Parsons wreaked havoc against the Giants in Week One

No team does early-season optimism better than the Dallas Cowboys.

No fan base is ready to crown their team Super Bowl champions sooner than Dallas fans, and that's despite a title drought stretching into its 28th year. Heck, the Cowboys haven't even so much as reached an NFC Championship game over that period - having previously made their home in them, appearing in 16 over the prior 30 seasons, en route to five Super Bowl wins.

There have been plenty of false dawns since, including posting back-to-back 12-5 seasons over the last two years that both resulted in handy defeats to the San Francisco 49ers in the playoffs.

But is there reason to believe that 2023 could be different? I mean, there are season-opening wins and then there is the type of 40-0 drubbing they dished out to their divisional rivals, the New York Giants - in their building - last Sunday night. Talk about making a statement.

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Highlights of the Cowboys' 40-0 win over the Giants

This was a Giants side fresh from their own playoff run to the divisional round last year, and one with genuine optimism of even better prospects this season. Within 15 minutes of football, those flickering flames of ambition were forcibly extinguished - and not by the driving rain at MetLife Stadium.

Riding a dominant defense, Dallas embarrassed the Giants, blocking a field goal and returning an interception to the house for a 16-0 lead after one quarter alone.

The Cowboys D held quarterback Daniel Jones to just 15 of 28 passing, for 104 yards, sacking him seven times and intercepting him twice.

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Osa Odighizuwa and Dorance Armstrong each had two of those sacks and Trevon Diggs had a key pass breakup and a forced fumble - one of five lost by the Giants.

The swarming Dallas defense was so dominant that Dak Prescott only had to provide 143 yards on 13-of-24 passing in the demolition, though Tony Pollard tacked on two TDs as the Cowboys recorded their largest shutout win in franchise history.

And the blowout has sparked that most familiar of things in Dallas, unwavering belief.

Cowboys edge rusher Micah Parsons said after the win: "I saw this before anybody.

"I said I can't wait to get to New York. I knew it was coming.

"With execution meets preparation, there is no one that can beat it. We've already felt this. We've been to war before. We knew the standard."

Parsons later added: "I think we made the statement which I've been trying to make. We're the best defense in the National Football League."

It's hard to argue.

The Dallas defense is the first since the 1970s to lead the NFL in takeaways in consecutive seasons, with their 33 from last season bettered by one in 2021. They were also top five in terms of points allowed per game a year ago, coughing up just 20.1 on average.

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Defensive back Noah Igbinoghene opens the Cowboys' 2023 NFL season with a 58-yard touchdown after blocking the Giants' field goal

Where the Cowboys faltered, last season in particular, was on offense, ranking only in the middle of the pack in terms of yards per game (354.9), and with Prescott finishing tied for first with Davis Mills of the three-win Houston Texans for the most interceptions in the league, tossing up a career-high 15 to accompany a career-low mark of 7.3 yards per attempt.

While he wasn't required to do much against the Giants, there is renewed optimism that Prescott and the Cowboys can rediscover their 2021 form on offense which saw them top the league both in terms of yardage (407 YPG) and scoring (31.2 PPG).

Undisputed No 1 receiver CeeDee Lamb is coming off back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, including a career-high 1,359 a year ago, while he's complimented by speedster Brandin Cooks - acquired via trade from the Texans - and the underrated Michael Gallup, hopefully free from his injury woes of the last two years.

There's also Pollard, who is very much the top dog at running back after Ezekiel Elliot's overdue exit, and he looked eager to assume such a mantle with his pair of scores in New York.

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Highlights of the Buffalo Bills against the New York Jets in Week One of the NFL season

That offensive weaponry will get a stern test of their credentials this Sunday, however, against an Aaron Rodgers-less New York Jets who themselves boast a stellar defense - one fit to challenge Parsons' claim of being the best in the NFL and fresh from intercepting Josh Allen three times in their stunning season-opening win over the Buffalo Bills.

"It's a great start," Parsons added after the Giants win.

"I haven't seen anything like that since we have been here, but it's the consistency. We just have to keep it going."

Head coach Mike McCarthy, conscious of keeping expectations in check in Dallas, stressed: "It's one game.

"We know where we want to go. I feel like we are fully capable and have an understanding of how to get there. But it's a long journey."

Well, without wishing to contradict the coach's sentiments, the Cowboys' two prior season-opening shutouts have something in common: when Dallas beat the Baltimore Colts 38-0 in 1978 and the Giants 35-0 in 1995, they reached the Super Bowl on both occasions.

Try telling Cowboys fans not to get carried away right now.

Watch the Kansas City Chiefs at the Jacksonville Jaguars live on Sky Sports NFL from 6pm Sunday, followed by New York Jets on the road against the Dallas Cowboys from 9.25pm; the Miami Dolphins then take on the New England Patriots in Sunday Night Football.

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