With the cooperation of the swooning Rams, the Oakland Raiders have achieved on the playing fields what they haven't been able to in the high councils of the National Football League or in the courts.
They have extended their sphere of influence from the Alameda County line to the San Diego County perimeter as effectively as if they had extended Oakland's city limits to include Los Angeles and Anaheim.
Only Don Coryell's San Diego Chargers stand between the Raiders and a Super Bowl trip that the Rams were preseason favorites to make.
But the Chargers are four-point favorites in the AFC championship game, which will be televised in Washington at 5 p.m., WRC-4. The Chargers never have made it as far as the Super Bowl.
As has been the case recently, Al Davis, Oakland managing general partner, almost was more news than the game today because of an Associated Press photograph that appeared in the San Diego Union newspaper.
It depicted Davis unobtrusively slipping out of Oakland escorted by three helmeted and leather-jacketed police. He cooperatively faced up to the camera from behind dark glasses, looking as though he belongs on the Los Angeles scene he aspires to as the don of pro football.
As the Raiders dreamed of their second Super Bowl since defeating the Minnesota Vikings, Coach Tom Flores was buoyed by the same feeling he had before two previous playoff games this season.
"I felt good before our game against Houston and I felt good going into that last game (in Cleveland). I feel confident about Sunday, too.
"Both San Diego and the Raiders believe in the big play. I can't say it will mean high scoring, but in the history of this series here has been a lot of scoring."
The Chargers beat the Raiders, 30-24, in overtime in the second week of the season and the Raiders avenged that with a 38-24 victory in the sixth week.
The Raiders are healthy overall.Flores listed running back Kenny King as less than 100 percent after aggravating an ankle injury in Cleveland, but he will play.
Coryell predicted it will be "a great game, one played by two good teams. We may not be great teams, but we're good ones."
San Diego's fast-break offense may be affected by the condition of tight end Gregg McCrary, who is recovering from a back injury. If he cannot play at his usual level, starter Kellen Winslow may be limited in his options. Winslow is a tight end, but he also lines up as a wide receiver, goes in motion, and often runs his pattern from a slot formation.
Without McCrary for a double-tight end formation, Winslow may have to line up close and do considerable blocking on running plays.
Essentially, it will be quarterback Dan Fouts of the Chargers passing on quick-count plays at short to medium range to the best three receivers in the league: wide receivers John Jefferson and Charlie Joiner and tight end Winslow, and calling on Chuck Muncie and Mike Thomas to run the ball occasionally.
The Raiders' defense hopes to exert pressure on Fouts, counting on the exceptional talents of interception specialist-cornerback Lester Hayes and linebacker Ted Hendricks, an inhibiting force against the pass, the run, and the placement kick.
The Raiders go more for the long pass than the Chargers, hoping to isolate fleet Cliff Branch, tricky pattern runner Bob Chandler, or tight end Raymond Chester against the suspect pass defense of the San Diego secondary, particularly the linebackers, who were vulnerable in the Chargers' 40-17 loss to the Washington Redskins.
The Raiders have two outside threats as runners, King and Arthur Whittington. In a 24-21 victory over the Redskins, King broke for a 46-yard gain and Whittington for a 42-yard touchdown.