You need only spend one Sunday in a Las Vegas sportsbook to understand how good oddsmakers are at what they do.
Just about every game reaches the final minutes of the fourth quarter with the spread, if not the outcome, still in doubt. People on both sides watch the last seconds of a game that's been decided as if their lives depend on it -- they probably do, sometimes -- and an otherwise meaningless touchdown can send people into celebrations usually reserved for the end of world wars.
So maybe the folks in Vegas we know something that we don't, because they've installed the Cowboys as 13-point favorites over the Rams this Sunday. There's plenty of reason to doubt the Rams. They have an offense of such dubious quality that trading for Brandon Lloyd was considered a good move and their defense, while nowhere near as hideous as their offense, isn't exactly the second coming of Merlin Olsen and Deacon Jones.
On top of all that, Sam Bradford will be playing with a high ankle sprain if he plays at all. The prospect of A.J. Feeley, a quarterback whose only notable asset is his wife, is certainly worth a few points on the spread.
But are the Cowboys really capable of beating anyone by 13 points, even a team with as little going for it as St. Louis? They score touchdowns in the red zone rarely enough that we're surprised players know what to do when they get there and their last six wins haven't even added up to the margin of victory that they are supposed to pull off come Sunday.
If the Cowboys were at full strength, we'd be willing to ignore all that history and say that there was a shot they were going to break out. But they're down a starting guard and a starting tailback as they try to back up the bookmakers' support of their chances. That's not a recipe for offensive explosion, especially not with Jason Garrett, a man whose reputation as an offensive whiz rarely materializes when he's actually called on to run an offense, doing the play calling.
When you throw in Tony Romo, the Dez Bryant second half disappearing act and the lack of any big plays on special teams, it is difficult to see how things add up to a blowout win for the Cowboys. Maybe that's what the bookies want us to believe, so that they make a killing when everyone takes the Rams, but we'll still wait for the Cowboys to prove they're actually capable of crushing an opponent before we make any predictions about it happening.