San Diego and Philadelphia were the big winners Sunday as a result of the NFL wild-card contests. The Super Bowl line in Las Vegas reflects that fact.
The Chargers, after opening as a 3-to-1 co-choice with Atlanta, now are favored at 5 to 2. The price on the Eagles dropped from 7 to 2 to 3 to 1. The Falcons held at 3 to 1.
The reason for the subtle shift in the odds concerned Oakland's victory over Houston, 27-7, and Dallas' 34-13 rout of Los Angeles. Had the Oilers won, they would have played this weekend in San Diego, with Buffalo at Cleveland. Had the Rams won, theywould have traveled to Philadelphia, with Minnesota at Atlanta.
Those matchups would have made the Chargers' and the Eagles' paths to the Super Bowl more difficult. Instead, they now enjoy slightly "softer" competition on their home fields while Atlanta draws a tough assignment at home against Dallas and Cleveland plays host to Oakland's rugged defense. The schedule is ideal, from San Diego and Philadelphia's point of view.
Revised Super Bowl prices list Dallas 9 to 2, down from 8 to 1; Cleveland 9 to 2, from 5 to 1; Buffalo 7 to 1, up from 6 to 1; Oakland 9 to 1, down from 15 to 1, and Minnesota 15 to 1 (no change).
"We are also offering Pittsburgh, at 300 to 1," Bob Martin, the "head linesman," declared. "It seems like such a good deal you can't turn it down". l
Indeed it is, if only someone could get Pete Rozelle to move Super Bowl 16 to within the 1981 calendar year.
As for this weekend's game leading to Super Bowl 15, Philadelphia rules 6 1/2 over Minnesota, San Diego is six over Buffalo, Cleveland three over Oakland and Atlanta 2 1/2 over Dallas. I'm picking the home teams -- the Eagles, Chargers and Browns -- and one for the road, the Cowboys.
Philadelphia toyed with the Vikings, 42-7, the second week of the regular season in Bloomington. The Eagles were a 3 1/2 point favorite that afternoon.
Tommy Kramer always is capable of coming up with a particularly hot hand, Minnesota's defense occassionally plays better than many observers realize, and Bud Grant can be particularly dangerous in an underdog role such as this. But Philadelphia has too much balance. The extra week's rest, following the punishing loss to Dallas, should help the Eagles be ready for a maximum effort. I'll give 6 1/2, listing an imaginary $1,250. Anyone who wants to back Minnesota should shop around for 7.
San Diego attracts a $1,000 play. The Chargers have too much overhead offense for the Bills to handle. Buffalo figures to have to play catchup, a role for which they're not suited. Buffalo beat San Diego, 26-24, the fifth week of the season, coming from behind, 24-12, when two blocked punts generated the spark. The Bills will need similar good fortune to repeat, and that's not likely.
Cleveland draws a $750 play. Dan Fouts may have the best trio of receivers in the NFL but Brian Sipe also has an outstanding threesome -- plus a superior running game and better pass catchers swinging out of the backfield. The Browns' offense is good enough to get to the Super Bowl, if only the defense will perform adequately. And Jim Plunkett doesn't terrify any opponent. Bettors shopping for Oakland can get 3 1/2.
Finally, there's Dallas. I thought they'd be gone by now, eliminated by Los Angeles. The Cowboy cornerbacks are sad but Atlanta's aren't that much better. Otherwise, these are two excellent clubs. Somehow, I can't see Steve Bartkowski outlasting the Dallas pass rush, although Atlanta has been the surprise team all year. The risk is a mere $250.