FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Each week, Bill Belichick stands before the media and extols the strengths of the New England Patriots’ next opponent and its players.

No matter the record, the opponent will be a great challenge, he says. Its players are among the best in the league at their positions: big, aggressive, athletic, instinctive, fast.

But when Belichick says the Dallas Cowboys have “the best offensive line in the league,” as he did last week when discussing Sunday’s opponent, he’s not exaggerating.

Three members of the Cowboys’ offensive line were first-round picks: 6-foot-4, 315-pound right guard Zack Martin (2014, out of Notre Dame), 6-4, 315 center Travis Frederick (2013, Wisconsin) and 6-5, 320 left tackle Tyron Smith (2011, Southern California).

All three were named to the Pro Bowl last year. Smith and Martin were All-Pro selections while Frederick was a second-team All-Pro pick.

Left guard Ron Leary (6-3, 320) and right tackle Doug Free (6-6, 325) round out the starting five.

“It’s a tremendous group up front, some of the best guys in the league that have been playing together for a while,” said Matt Patricia, the Patriots’ defensive coordinator. “It’s a real cohesive unit, and a group that really can dominate and control the game.”

Their dominance allows the Cowboys to have one of the most-balanced offenses in the NFL, capable of controlling the clock with the run and protecting the quarterback.

The Cowboys led the NFL in time of possession last year (32 minutes, 26 seconds) and – despite missing two of their biggest offensive weapons in injured quarterback Tony Romo and wide receiver Dez Bryant – are fourth in the league this year (33:11). That includes an astounding 40:30 time of possession in a 20-10 win over Philadelphia on Sept. 20.

The Patriots, coming off their bye week with a 3-0 record, know they have a challenge when they take on the Cowboys (2-2) at Dallas’ AT&T Stadium at 4:25 p.m.

“They have a really good offensive front,” said Patriots defensive tackle Alan Branch. “They proved themselves last year and the beginning of this year so far. You can tell their chemistry on film. So definitely we have our hands full.”

With Romo and Bryant out of the game, the Cowboys are likely to run the ball more against New England, which has allowed 117 rushing yards per game (23rd in the NFL). If Dallas can control the line of scrimmage and the clock, that will take pressure off quarterback Brandon Weeden, who has lost his last 10 starts.

“This is a huge challenge for us to be able to stop their run game,” said Patricia.

To combat this, the Patriots’ defensive linemen know they simply have to focus on their roles.

“You have to play your technique and do your job,” said Branch. “If you try to do someone else’s job, it might create bigger holes, or give the offensive line a better opportunity to make the block and set a back free. So we’ve just got to do your job.”

Sometimes that’s easier said than done. But it’s a message the Patriots are stressing to their big guys on defense this week.

“They play well together,” defensive lineman Jabaal Sheard said of Dallas’ offensive line. “We’ve just got to execute – stop the run first and get to the passer.”

What may help New England is its defensive-front rotation. Belichick and Patricia have rotated several players through the defensive line: ends Rob Ninkovich, Chandler Jones, Sheard and rookie Geneo Grissom, and tackles Branch, Sealver Siliga, Dominique Easley and rookie Malcom Brown. Newly acquired defensive end Akiem Hicks will join the rotation this week.

“We feel we have a deep defensive front,” said Branch. “So we try to take advantage of that. From that, you can see that we’re typically fresh throughout the game. We’re definitely going to have to be fresh against these guys because they’re good.”

This is a game the defensive linemen have had circled on their schedule.

“Everyone is a high competitor here and eager to compete against a good offensive line,” said Ninkovich. “These types of games, that’s what you look forward to as a football player.”

Branch, at 6-6, 350 pounds the Patriots’ biggest defensive lineman, is pumped, too.

“To go through a whole week hearing how good a team is, it gets you excited,” he said. “If you’re a true football player and competitor, you always want to play the best to see where you’re at.

“This is the ultimate test.”