The Dallas Cowboys cannot afford a slow start to the 2023 season.
Luckily, NFL schedule-makers gave them a relatively soft landing over the first six weeks, as they'll lock horns with just three playoff teams from last season, including the NY Giants, San Francisco 49ers and LA Chargers.
Of course, all eyes will be on the Cowboys' Week 1 matchup against the Giants. It'll be nationally televised on Sunday Night Football and Dallas will be on the road playing in front of a rabid fan base that tasted winning for the first time in years after Brian Daboll led them to the playoffs for the first time since 2016.
While the Giants are on the come-up, they've been a national storyline all offseason amid their contract dispute with Saquon Barkley.
Barkley was franchise-tagged earlier this offseason, but has been adamant about wanting a new long-term contract. Much like Dallas with Tony Pollard, the G-Men have until July 17 (Monday) to agree to a deal with Barkley before the $10.09 franchise tag salary for 2023 becomes official.
Per ESPN's Dianna Russini, there's real concern Barkley will miss Week 1 if he doesn't sign an extension before Monday's deadline.
Saquon Barkley missing Week 1 would be a dream for the Cowboys.
We'll always root for athletes to get their money, and Barkley undoubtedly deserves a contract greater than $10.1 million per year. Having said that, Cowboys fans should be crossing their fingers (and toes) that the Giants continue to stand firm as far as not acquiescing to Barkley's demands.
Barkley missing Week 1 wouldn't clinch a win for Dallas, but you'd have to love their chances considering New York would be down its top playmaker.
Barkley was fed 295 carries last season, the fourth-most of any RB. He rushed for over 1,300 yards and 10 touchdowns. While Daniel Jones accounted for 708 rushing yards, no other Giants running back rushed for more than 220 yards.
Additionally, Barkley led the Giants with 76 targets, tied for the team lead with 57 catches, and finished fourth with 338 receiving yards.
Long story short, Barkley was the lifeblood of New York's offense last year. While Joe Schoen replenished the team's WR corps, it still doesn't inspire much confidence. At the end of the day, Barkley's threat as a runner opened up running lanes for Daniel Jones and set up play action in the passing game.
Barkley's potential absence will have a trickle-down effect on the entire Giants offense, and that would be a dream come true for Dan Quinn.