In this offensive-minded era in pro football, when Doomsday Defenses and Purple People Eaters have given way to Air Coryell and Bartkowski's Bomb Squad, what in the name of Pete Rozelle are the Philadelphia Eagles and Oakland Raiders doing playing for the NFL title?
These are teams that still include defense as part of their vocabulary. These are teams that believe establishing a running game isn't some obsolete football cliche. These are teams that remain physical and pride themselves on toughness.
And these are teams that don't normally score points in bunches, which means that Sunday's Super Bowl XV, the climax to the most proflic offensive season in league history, could become the lowest-scoring championship game since Pittsburgh beat Minnesota, 16-6, in 1975.
Perhaps that's why this contest (6 p.m. EST, WRC-TV-4; WTOP-1500, the Eagles favored by 3 1/2) is being viewed in a curious light by many. Although the gaudy atmosphere and hype that surround all Super Bowls are present, the electricity is missing.
More excitement has been generated this week by the feud between Oakland owner Al Davis and NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle. The most anticipated event is the presentation of the Lombardi Tropy by Rozelle to Davis after the game, should the Raiders win.
Will the adversaries shake hands? Will the Raiders douse Rozelle with some liquid refreshment? Is either man foolish enough to do anything but be on his best behavior?
Despite their fine records and their talent, Philadelphia and Oakland don't have the glamour of San Diego or Dallas. Those teams won because they passed. And, in the process, they were highly entertaining.
But the Eagles and Raiders could produce the same kind of game that characterized the early Super Bowls: close, conservative, less than scintillating. The buildup for this contest has suffered accordingly.
But the potential lack of scoring should not detract from the quality of play the clubs are capable of exhibiting.
"This is just going to be one of your everyday beat 'em up, knock 'em down, drag it into the trenches games," said Raider defensive end John Matuszak with a smile. "Oh, it's going to something to behold."
The game also will serve as a coming-out party for Philadelphia, which is making its debut in the Super Bowl, and a comeback party for Oakland, which once had a 2-3 record this season and had been figured for an also-ran role.
Five years ago, the Eagles were a pushover. But Coach Dick Vermeil has worked miracles, despite few top draft choices. He will have those picks from now on, so this could be the first of many appearances for Philadelphia in this title game.
When the two clubs met during a November contest in Philadelphia, the Eagles won, 10-7. But the confrontation is remembered more for the intensity of play than for its tactical revelations.
"Both teams are as close as that first game indicated," Raider guard Gene Upshaw said. "The only difference is that while everyone figured Philadelphia would be this good, no one thought we would. So I'm sure they think we will fall flat on our face."
As long as Oakland's defense holds up -- and there is no reason it shouldn't -- the Raiders are not likely to collapse. Matuszak, linebackers Ted Hendricks and Matt Millen and cornerback Lester Hayes provide the club with a solid nucleus that should be able to cope with the Eagles offense.
But there are far more questions regarding how successful the Oakland offense will be against the Philadelphia defense, the best in the league. If the Raiders can't move the ball consistently, even an occasional flashy long pass might not prevent a more lopsided Philadelphia victory than the addmakers are anticipating.
Oakland's Jim Plunkett, the Comeback Kid, can be very, very good or just plain awful. Occasionally this season he has gone from bad to wonderful the same afternoon, but in a game of this magnitude, it is unlikely a cold-starting Plunkett would ever get untracked against the Eagles, who have a knack for pouncing on struggling opponents.
To help out Plunkett, Coach Tom Flores says he will have his quarterback try more short passes, figuring the Eagles' active linebackers will be spending so much time double-teaming Oakland receivers Cliff Branch and Bob Chandler that the short zones should be open.
But tossing it short isn't Plunkett's style. He's a bomb-away, let-it-fly type who figures if he throws deep enough, a touchdown will result. That approach worked in the first Philadelphia game when he connected on an 86-yard touchdown with Branch.
"We're going to work like hell for the big play," said Flores, who would love to spring Ken King, the fastest Oakland halfback in years, for some long gainers to take the pressure off Plunkett.
The Raiders also are going to work diligently at protecting Plunkett better than they did in November, when Philadelphia had eight sacks. As Plunkett aptly put it: "It's tough to get a passing game going when you are on your back."
Oakland has relied on turnovers for getting its offense untracked most of the season. But Philadelphia just doesn't make mistakes. Quarterback Ron Jaworski had the lowest interception ration in the league and halfback Wilbert Montgomery, the league's best sore-legged runner, rarely fumbles.
Vermeil tries to play down the talents of his offense. But it is unlikely Oakland is fooled. Thanks to the input of assistant coach Sid Gillman, one of the game's finest offensive minds, Philadelphia throws a mixed bag at defenses, concentrating mainly on getting the ball to Montgomery and receiver Harold Carmichael.
With the help of a fine, veteran line, the Eagles can control the clock as well as anyone while protecting Jaworski like the valuable property he is. The club's only problem is an unjury to receiver Charles Smith, who probably will start despite a broken jaw.
"I just keep reminding our players that we have one goal going into the game," Vermeil said. "We want to play like we've been here before. I don't feel we are going to have any of these initial Super Bowl jitters."
If this game was played on natural turf, the highlight might be dirty uniforms and clouds of dust. Dick Butkus and Sam Huff should love it. In coaching terms, it should be a character builder. It may not be pretty, nothing like last year's Pittsburgh-Los Angeles beauty, but there could be enough flash to keep it from being dull.
"Anyone who thinks these are not quality teams doesn't know a whole lot about football," Jaworski said. "I think it's going to be a great game to watch and a great game to play in. It'll be even nicer when we win."