You could catch the sweet scent of victory this week on Washington's streets, in restaurants, in bars with their TV sets pointed down in readiness for today's anticipated crush of humanity, in offices, in exercise groups (you'll hear about it in the Sunday homily, if you haven't already), in kids' car pools, on any radio station. (And what's that famous WTOP personality, Coach Gibbs, saying? He's saying, direct from Redskin Park, that he's counting on the fans to make plenty of noise.) Everybody's talking Skins.

Chief Zee has his Indian suit pressed and ready to go. Bruce Volat, a fan's fan, is frantically looking for two tickets, reasonably priced; it's his wife's birthday and she's crazy about the Washington Redskins -- she's got her Redskins sweat shirt and her Redskins buttons, and she's ready to bake a championship cake if they win. The fans are ready. Even some fans who swore, back during the strike, Kickoff time, and telecast (WUSA-TV-9, WBAL-TV-11) of the Redskins-Vikings game is 12:30, with the Cleveland-Denver AFC title game (WRC-TV-4, WMAR-TV-2) at 4 p.m. EST. The times were reversed in today's TV Week listings.

that they wouldn't watch any more Redskins games this season -- well, they're ready, too.

"It's another summit meeting," said Duke Zeibert. "First, Gorbachev. Now Minnesota."

Twelve-thirty, RFK Stadium. Redskins versus Minnesota Vikings for the National Football Conference championship and a trip to the Super Bowl in San Diego two weeks hence.

So this is it: Doug Williams directing the show for the Redskins (Jay Schroeder in the wings), pitching to Gary Clark and friends, while the M & M company, Manley and Mann, stokes the defense and Manley, in his secondary role of cheerleader, waves the crowd to greater frenzy. For the Vikings, hopes ride with their little big man, pass catcher/punt returner Anthony Carter, plus quarterback Wade Wilson, defensive end Chris Doleman and a wicked pass rush and a coach named Jerry Burns, who at 61 is not quite as old as George Burns.

It hasn't exactly been one joyous romp here all week. The Redskins crept up on this championship game, winning on the road as underdogs. Redskins fever in the city has been more like a Naval Academy midshipmen's football cheer, rising inexorably. Chief Zee -- that's Zema Williams without his headdress -- explains:

Back in the other strike-torn season, 1982, the Redskins crushed everyone in the playoffs -- the Lions, 31-7, the Vikings, 21-7. "Before that game with the Vikings had ended," said Chief Zee, "we were all chanting, 'We want Dallas. We want Dallas.' It just kept up all week."

The Redskins demolished the Cowboys, 31-17, and went on to beat the Miami Dolphins in the Super Bowl, John Riggins providing the sweetest moment in Redskins history -- at least to Bruce Volat and countless other fans -- when he turned the left corner and ran for the clinching touchdown.

"Now this week," said Chief Zee, "it's been building up gradually. Sunday night, there's going to be dancing in the streets."

Maybe the best measure of interest is the mood at the Foot Anakin, a restaurant and bar (named for an English dart pub owner) in Herndon. During the strike, the mood in the Foot Anakin was angry. It was dark and smoky in there, but the mood was palpable.

Bob Croke, proprietor, and patrons were upset: Some carried placards, decrying the strike, the National Football League and the players themselves. The biggest losers in the strike were the fans, they said, and they had united. After the strike ended, they weren't going to watch any more pro football on TV this season.

And when it did end, the TV sets in the Foot Anakin stayed dark every Sunday. But, down deep, not everyone was happy. Fans stared at the walls or into their beers. Week by week, they grew more restless.

"Two games before the end of the regular season, we turned the TVs back on," said Croke. "The customers were making me turn 'em on. I wanted 'em on, too. It's like having an argument with your wife. You love her, so you get over it."

At Dominique's Restaurant in the District, a "Hail to the Redskins" offer could be a real treat. For every point the Redskins win by, Monday dinner will be discounted; a 10-point victory, for instance, means 10 percent off the check. Someone over at the restaurant reportedly wondered, "What happens if the Redskins win 73-0?" (the score of a famous defeat in Redskins history).

"I'm predicting 27-17," said Zeibert, which ought to put Dominique at ease.

At Redskin Park, assistant general manager Bobby Mitchell says the watchword is "caution."

"I think this team we're playing is a very dangerous team," said Mitchell. "It's the job of the coaches -- and this is a tough job -- to make sure all people, including the press, don't get lulled by these guys."

The 49ers last week, said Mitchell, "probably felt like most teams feel playing a team in that {Central} division, except the Bears. You play a half-decent game, you'll probably win. They got themselves caught."

No wonder Coach Gibbs on WTOP, direct from Redskin Park, tells fans how important their role is.

"I think the {Redskins} fans sit on their hands too much," said Volat, a musical instruments salesman who was requested by a game official to leave Capital Centre earlier this season for protesting a call during a Bullets game. "It makes a difference if the place is rocking. You've got to be up, screaming."

Gibbs couldn't have said it better.

Volat believes the coach deserves most of the credit this season -- pointing out that Gibbs could go two-for-two with two Super Bowl victories in two strike seasons, in part apparently because of an uncanny ability to thrive on adversity.

"If it weren't for the {3-0} replacement team," said Volat, "the Redskins might not be sitting where they are."

Volat wishes "Dexter could have stayed over in Chicago and served {Bears Coach Mike} Ditka breakfast on Monday with a glass of grapefruit juice." But now he's thinking of this afternoon, and Minnesota.

Once again, this is a Redskins game that will stop the town. Want to do your grocery shopping without standing in line? Try 12:30 to 3:30 or so, when the Redskins' unrelenting faithful will be elsewhere.

"It's going to be a four-day weekend," said Chief Zee, "since Monday is a holiday and Tuesday people are still going to be too tired from celebrating to go back to work."