With the AFC share of the Super Bowl race in proper focus, the Oakland Raiders are 1-point favorites in their wild-card encounter with the Houston Oilers.
Defense will be the difference against former teammate Ken Stabler. The Raiders' secondary, led by Lester Hayes, the NFL's leading interceptor, will come up with enough big plays against Stabler to offset the powerful ground threat of Earl Campbell.
In the overall Super Bowl race, AFC division, the Raiders, because they are not only a strong defensive unit, but a team that can score with the big play, must be accorded the utmost respect. They are 4 to 1 and the Oilers 6 to 1.
The Chargers are the early-line favorites at 7 to 5 to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl, but that is a public price. The Chargers aren't nearly as good as Buffalo in exerting effective defensive coverages. Also, the Chargers can't run the ball as well as Buffalo, Cleveland or Houston.
The Browns, because of their outstanding running game featuring Mike Pruitt, as well as the passing attack orchestrated by Brian Sipe, who makes full utilization of his splendid receivers, can do everything the Chargers can in the air. And the Browns can run more consistently.
Cleveland is a 9-to-5 choice to turn its home-field advantage into a Super Bowl berth. The defensive-minded Bills, statistically the best unit in the AFC playoff picture, are a 2-to-1 proposition.