HOW CAN TWO teams that have so much in common be separated by such a huge point spread?

That is Super Bowl question No. 1. Our job is to find the answer.

First, let's look at the similarities between the Cowboys and the Bills:

Both finished the regular season at the top of their respective conferences with 12-4 records.

Both were 6-2 at home and 6-2 away.

Both were 7-1 in their division.

Both won their conference championship game by 17 points.

Each has the premier running back in its conference.

Each is led by a talented quarterback.

Each has outstanding wide receivers and tight ends.

Each has a big, strong offensive line.

Each has a relentless defense.

Each has a dependable place-kicker.

There are other similarities, but you get the idea.

That brings us to the hard part.

Why Cowboys are favorites

Beat the Bills, 52-17, in last year's Super Bowl.

Have won seven games in a row.

Won eight games by more than 10 points, including the NFC Championship Game last week. Three of the Bills' four losses were by more than 10 points.

Had second-best offense in the NFC. The Bills were fourth in the AFC.

Defense gave up 787 fewer yards than the Bills.

Scored 47 more points than the Bills during the regular season and gave up 13 fewer.

Emmitt Smith averaged 5.3 yards per rush and had a long gain of 62 yards. Thurman Thomas averaged 3.7 yards a carry, and his longest run was for 27 yards.

Michael Irvin caught 88 passes for 1,330 yards. Pete Metzelaars was the Bills' top receiver with 68 catches. Andre Reed had the most yards, 854.

Troy Aikman threw 15 passes for touchdowns in the regular season and had only six interceptions. Jim Kelly threw 18 touchdown passes but also had 18 picked off.

Jimmy Johnson is a great game-day coach.

Why bet the Bills?

Beat the Cowboys, 13-10, in the regular season.

Were five-point underdogs in that game.

Were 4-0 against the NFC during the regular season. The Cowboys were 2-2 against the AFC.

Are undefeated in their last six games.

Played their best game of the season last week.

Team is focused on the goal and playing with maturity.

Thurman Thomas has 230 yards rushing in the playoffs. Emmitt Smith has 148.

Jim Kelly has not thrown an interception in the playoffs. Troy Aikman has thrown two.

Defense recovered 24 opponent fumbles and intercepted 23 passes. The Cowboys recovered 14 opponent fumbles and intercepted 14 passes.

Nate Odomes led the AFC in interceptions, with nine in the regular season.

The bottom line

The Bills can win if they play a near-perfect game. But despite what the players say, they are under great pressure, with little margin for error. If they fall behind or turn the ball over, their fragile dream could crumble.

If they do falter and lose, don't count on them covering the point spread. When things start to go wrong in the Super Bowl, disaster follows.

The pick

Dallas (-10) over Buffalo.

The score

Dallas 34, Buffalo 17.