My favorite football card this Christmas season features four strapping reindeer. They are sitting on a bench, on the sideline, their backs to the stands, antlers protruding through their helmets.
On the backs of their red warm-up jackets, in white lettering, are their names: Comet. . . Cupid. . . Donner. . . Blitz 'Em.
An appropriate personalized comment graced the inside of the card.
"Dear Jerry, the last six Christmases have been very pleasant in our household, thanks in small part to the success enjoyed by dabbling with 'Playing Football.'
"But this season!
"Well, we scraped enough money together for a tree, but the stockings are going to be mighty bare, featuring 'mythical' presents, unless you get things turned around in a hurry.
"Come on, man. Take the advice on the front of this greeting.
It won't be easy. And I won't get it all back in one week, in time for Santa Claus, but I'm sure going to try to come out ahead again by the time the Super Bowl is over.
Miami, giving six, is worth a mythical $250 Saturday at home against the New York Jets, while Chicago gets a $100 nod in a game rated even at Tampa Bay later that afternoon. Sunday, the selections are Oakland, $500, giving seven at the New York Giants; Cleveland, $250, giving four at Cincinnati; San Francisco, $100, getting 6 1/2 at home against Buffalo; Dallas, $1,000, giving four to Philadelphia in Texas Stadium, and Detroit, $250, giving six at home to Green Bay.
The Browns were horribly unlucky to have lost to Minnesota last week. Should they blow to the Bengals, Brian Sipe would have all winter to explain why, leading by eight points, he put the ball in the air, and was intercepted, when all he needed to do was take time off the clock against the Vikings. That was the bonehead play of the season, thus far.
Oakland's defense should continue to carry the Raiders into the playoffs. Jim Plunkett, meanwhile, continues to be the puzzle of the year. He bailed out against several teams, under a mild rush, then stood up nicely when subjected to extreme pressure by Dallas and Denver.
Of the five teams in position to make the AFC playoffs, Buffalo's spot is the shakiest. Oakland, San Diego, Houston, Cleveland and New England all figure to win this weekend. The Bills must get injured quarterback Joe Ferguson healthy in a hurry if they're to get by the 49ers in San Francisco. fThere is a tremendous drop-off in talent from Ferguson to the Bills' second and third quarterbacks, and San Francisco is the type of young team that should play with considerable enthusiasm in this situation.
The week's key pick is Dallas. Humiliated Monday night on national TV in Anaheim, the Cowboys can be expected to bounce back in anger against an Eagle squad that, while still excellent, appears to be showing a little wear and tear from the long season, particularly on offense with the running game.
The Rams may have the only offensive line in the NFL capable of keeping Dallas' front four off a passer's back.Certainly, Ron Jaworski does not figure to enjoy the kind of protection Vince Ferragamo had. The main danger with this pick is Cowboy quarterback Danny White. His passing often lacks authority, as his high number of interceptions attest.
In other games, Las Vegas lists Los Angeles 4 1/2 over Atlanta, Seattle three over Denver, St. Louis two over Washington, Baltimore 3 1/2 over Kansas City, Houston 10 over Minnesota, New England nine over New Orleans and (Monday night) San Diego four over Pittsburgh.