In Philadelphia, where losing teams once were as fashionable as lobsters at Bookbinder's, there is talk of attaching a nickname to the place, such as "Title Town, U.S.A." But first the Eagles have to do their part by winning the Super Bowl three months after the Phils captured the World Series.
The Eagles, who start on that quest today when they host the Minnesota Vikings in a 12:30 p.m. NFC playoff game at Veterans Stadium (WDVM-TV-9), will need a decisive victory to rekindle heady championship talk among their fans.
Until a late-season slump, Philadelphia rated as one of the select favorites for the Super Bowl. The Eagles had the best record in the NFL through the first 13 weeks and the kind of balanced team that seems to do the best in the playoffs.
But after losing three of its last four and almost getting nosed out by Dallas for the NFC East Title, no one is sure how good this club is.
It shouldn't have that much trouble with the Vikings, who have the worst record (9-7) of any playoff team this season and have survived only because they play in the weakest division.
Minnesota can generate an effective offense behind Tommy Kramer, who may throw 50 times against a defense that allowed the fewest rushing yards and points of any in the NFL. The Vikings don't concentrate on a ground attack much anyway, and the Eagles probably will quickly discourage anything but Kramer's passes.
But even if the Viking quarterback has one of his excellent days -- he passed for 456 yards against Cleveland -- it's unlikely he could make up for Minnesota's defensive deficiencies against a good Philadelphia offense.
That offense isn't at full strength, however, and hasn't been since Wilbert Montgomery was slowed at midseason with leg miseries. The Eagles kept winning while Montgomery either was sidelined or moving at half speed, but his problems finally threw things off kilter. Philadelphia still can score, but it wasn't as overpowering as last month as it had been.
Another problem is Charles Smith's broken jaw. Smith, who bloomed this season into a first-rate receiver (career-high 47 catches), will try to play with a special face mask after sustaining the injury in the Dallas finale.
If he is limited, it will put an added burden on Harold Carmichael (48 receptions), whose 127-game pass catch streak ended in that same game.
Still, the Eagles' success most likely will hinge heavily on the performance of quarterback Ron Jaworski. He enjoyed by far his best year as a pro, carrying the club when Montgomery was limping. Even in losing to Dallas two weeks ago, he managed 331 passing yards to finish 256 of 451 for 3,529 yards, 27 touchdowns and only 12 interceptions.
The Eagles depend on turnovers for field position, but that is one part of their game plan that Minnesota could alter. The Vikings lost only three fumbles all season and none the last nine games. And Kramer tossed only six interceptions the final eight weeks, four in the final contest.
But Minnesota can cause mistakes, especially in the kicking game. The Vikings blocked five kicks this season, giving them 46 in the last five seasons. They'll certainly take a run at Tony Franklin, Philadelphia's suddently erratic field goal kicker who has missed eight of his last 11 attempts and has been criticized by Coach Dick Vermeil for his lack of maturity.
When these teams met in September, the Eagles won, 42-7, behing Montgomery's 169 yards and Jaworski's two touchdown passes and 234 passing yards. Philadelphia totaled 529 yards in that contest, and there is little reason to believe Minnesota's defense has improved enought to prevent a similiar output today.
The Vikiing front four of Doug Sutherland, Mark Mullaney, Randy Holloway and James White is dominated by No. 1 draft choices learning to play up to their press clippings. Jeff Siemon has been injured and Scott Studwell is the middle linebacker. The club's best defender, Matt Blair, is healthy but the Eagles probably will concentrate on the other side. b
Philadelphia's 3-4 defensive alignment is much stronger. End Carl Hairston is a standout and aging Claude Humphrey registered 14 sacks playing part time. But the real talent is linebacker Jerry Robinson, who emerged as one of the best in the league this season, his second as a pro.
If that unit puts a lot of pressure on Kramer, Eagle fans might start thinking again about the Super Bowl.