Now a National Conference team steeped in ethics - the Redskins for instance - might well realize an obvious injustice taking shape and say, "Men, since we're so clearly inferior this year we're going to relinquish our wild-card spot and let the AFC have two. It's the only sporting thing to do."
You mean George Allen does not champion such a cause? The evidence is overwhelming. Some NFC team will limp into the playoffs with a 9-5 record; somebody from the AFC, possibly the Colts or even the defending Super Bowl champs, the Raiders, might well go 11-3 and be eliminated.
"That," said Diron Yalbert, "doesn't bother me one bit. This format was set up years ago. No one here is thinking about it. Fact is, you're the first one that's asked anything about it."
Well, the Redskins did uphold the pride of the NFC yesterday with a 10-0 victory over the 2-9 scourge of the AFC, the Buffalo Bills, and completely stifled a notion even held by some of their zealots:
The offense can too score against a stiff wind.
That became evident early in the second quarter, after Marv Bateman sailed a punt all of 20 yards, with the wind square at his back. Oh, there were 11 Bills on the field during the 53-yard drive, but a wicked wind seemed more harmful.
Joe Theismann threw one nice pass and Mike Thomas made one fine first-down run with a short pass during the effort. Theismann scrambled from the 12, finally noticed Jean Fugett had been open at least 20 minutes at the five, tossed the brown icicle his way and watched the tight end carry two Bills into the end zone.
The wind and the Bills made it nearly impossible to offer many conclusions other than to note two fine running plays by Thomas that produced first downs on third-and-long and Mark Moseley broke an 0-for-5 field-goal slump with a half-wedge from the nine.
That and the fact that the defense continues to play wonderfully. It is possible for the NFC to field a hybird for its wild-card berth, say the Redskins' defense, most of the Cardinals' offense and Walter Payton?
The lesson for more than a year now is not to underestimate the Cardinals' unique ability to fold under pressure, such as that 55-14 whipping by the Dolphins and the 27-7 embarressment to the Giants today.
What we have Saturday in St. Louis is a Redskin offense that can't score match against a Cardinal defense that can't stop anybody. Out of that titantic struggle is likely to come the wildcard team. And the Redskins seem to have the Cardinals' number.
"One of the problems with the Redskins the last seven years," said Bill Brundige, "is not playing consistently well against every team on the schedule. We play lousiest against the lousy teams.
"If played against the Cardinals and Cowboys the way we play against the Giants and Pekers, we'd be blown out. But we don't. Maybe you can't fool a veteran, but you also can't just show up each week and get by.
"Or most teams can't."
The Redskin did not seem to appreciate talk that a Cardinal defense hardly imposing even at full strength is missing one or two regulars. Or that Giant receivers were open by acres today.
"One year we went to Dallas knowing if we lost by 10 points or less we could clinch," said Brundige. "Things like that are bad. All you can do is say to yourself: "We've simply got to win the last two games." As long as you win, it doesn't matter what the other teams do."
Well, it does matter what the Chicago Bears do. Of more immediate concern is whether Theismann and the offense can penetrate a Cardinal defense spectacularly generous lately.
A problem, one Redskin whispered, other than those zillion holding penalties, is Theismann not being able to pick out secondary receivers quickly enough. He apparently comes out of the huddle committed to one receiver and is unable to react fast enough when the coverage is safe somewhere else.
But the defense and special teams once again rode to the rescue. The defense has allowed fewer points than all but two NFC teams and fewer points than anyone but the Broncos in the AFC.
"In all the years I've been with George Allen," said Talbert, "I think this has been his finest coaching job, considering all the injuries and the offensive problems. We're always prepared, but more so this year."
With the Cardinals and Rams left to play, the defense is within 45 points of its stated regular-season goal: holding the opposition under 200 points.
"Actually," said Talbert, "the goal is 190. But I sort of round it off to 200."