Overconfidence? Are you kidding?

"There is no way we can be overconfident," Carter said. "We have been 5-11 the past three years. We have a lot of hard work to put in. We have been 5-11. We know where we want to be as a football team. We won't be a cocky group in this locker room for a least two years."

When the Cowboys (1-1) embark on a coincidental return trip to the Meadowlands for Sunday's game against the Jets (0-3), it will be under completely different circumstances. And no not the ones surrounding coach Bill Parcells, who faces off against another former team one game after the miraculous 35-32 overtime victory over the Giants.

Though Parcells established his hall of fame coaching credentials with two Super Bowl titles with the Giants, the Jets were the last team he coached before becoming the sixth coach in Cowboys history.

However, Sunday's match up is not about nostalgia but rather steeped in the possibility of two teams seemingly headed in opposite directions.

The winless Jets are floundering with the league's worst rush offense and second worst rush defense. Meanwhile the suddenly confident and still euphoric Cowboys are giddy over their status as the league's second-ranked offense, including a top-ranked passing game.

What's more is a victory against the Jets would put the Cowboys over the .500 mark for the first time since 1999. Parcells doesn't think much of the latter, considering he doesn't put much stock in early season marks.

However, the history surrounding the notable stat is important. It drives home his point that the Cowboys have no business taking a light attitude toward any one.

"Overconfidence? On the Dallas Cowboys?" Parcells said. "Not if I have anything to say about it. Overconfident? About what? What have we done? I'd be hard pressed to find anyone overconfident in the locker room. If there was one I would have to check his IQ."

Quarterback Quincy Carter, who is personally riding the wave of surpassing career highs in passing yards in each of the first two games, offered similar sentiments.

"There is no way we can be overconfident," Carter said. "We have been 5-11 the past three years. We have a lot of hard work to put in. We have been 5-11. We know where we want to be as a football team. We won't be a cocky group in this locker room for a least two years."

That's a good attitude because a winless Jets team is as dangerous as any, considering their history of slow starts and strong finishes. The Jets were 1-2 in 1997 and finished 9-7. They were 1-2 in 1998 and finished 12-4. In 1999, they started 0-3 and made finished 8-8. In 2001, they started 1-2 and finished 10-6 and last season they made the playoffs after a 1-4 start.

Parcells, who coached the Jets from 1997-1999, said they are a prideful team filled with players who know how to win. However, he said the need for caution is not about the Jets but based on getting his team prepared for the rest of the season.

Parcells said the offense is better than he thought it was, most notably its explosive potential with speedy wideouts Joey Galloway, Terry Glenn and Antonio Bryant.

However, he said they still have a lot of things to work on, which was his focus during last week's bye. "I'm just trying to improve the team," Parcells said.

According to Parcells, the Cowboys must continue to improve their nickel defense, their red zone offense and blitz pickup and recognition. Topping the list, however, is improving an inconsistent ground attack, which has played a huge role in their red zone woes.

Running back Troy Hambrick has found that replacing Emmitt Smith is tougher than actually talking about it. He has rushed 37 times for 113 yards. His yards per carry average of 3.1 is down from the 4.7 average he had as Smith's backup the previous two seasons.

The Cowboys 256 yards rushing as a team is also boosted by a 63-yard scamper from Aveion Cason in the season opener. Take that run away and the Cowboys are averaging 3.27 yards a rush, which speaks to their inconsistency on the ground.

Improvement must also come along the offense line. Going left behind tackle Flozell Adams and guard Larry Allen has been the only successful place to run, albeit intermittently.

Parcells said the run game must improve in the middle of the field and in the red zone, where the Cowboys have scored only one touchdown in eight trips inside the 20-yard line.

"Running is important to our success down there," Parcells said. "We did some study here about the red zone with teams having success and why. It told me that total pass oriented teams aren't doing very well. You have to have some balance. You have to be able to run."

Carter said a dependable running game was needed for the Cowboys to improve their red zone efficiency. But Carter, who has shown more leadership this season in being more accountable regarding his role in the team's success and failure, said he could be better as well.

The Cowboys have called 10 runs and 11 passes on eight trips in the red zone, with Carter completing two of nine attempts. The two other pass plays resulted in a an eight-yard touchdown run by Carter and a sack.

"I have missed a couple of throws down there myself," Carter said. "I can help us out by being more accurate in the red zone. We have a lot of things we need to improve on."

SERIES HISTORY: This is the 8th meeting between these two clubs. The Cowboys lead the series 5-2. The teams last met in 1999 with the Jets taking a 22-21 victory in Dallas. Bill Parcells was coaching the Jets then. The Jets have won two of the last three games. The Cowboys last win was in 1993, a 28-7 victory in New York.

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