The Las Vegas line on Super Bowl XVI shows Cincinnati favored at 5-2, followed by Dallas, 3-1; San Francisco, 7-2; San Diego, 5-1; Miami, 5-1; Philadelphia, 8-1; Tampa Bay, 15-1; New York Jets, 20-1; Buffalo, 25-1, and New York Giants, 50-1.
Take your pick. There are no bargains there, not when one considers the number of games involved. For example, the Eagles at 8-1 would have to beat the Giants at home, the 49ers in San Francisco and, probably, Dallas in Dallas, before reaching the championship game. That is some risk, at those odds.
Sunday's wild card matchups find the Jets favored by three points at home to Buffalo and Philadelphia a seven-point choice at home against the Giants. I saw 6 1/2 posted on the Eagles in a few places early in the week, but I doubt that is a realistic figure. If you can find it, grab it, because that half-point difference could make all the difference in the world.
I like the Eagles, for an imaginary $750. They have everything needed to win a Super Bowl, except the right quarterback. Ron Jaworski knows how to beat up on weak teams, but put him under pressure, seven points down in the fourth quarter, and don't expect to get rich by betting on him.
The Giants' offense is weak. Against Philadelphia it could come up pathetically weak. So once again it will be up to New York's superb defense to generate excellent field position. I doubt that it can do this against the Eagles. But if it can keep things close, Jaworski will probably get jittery and I know the $750 will be in grave danger.
Once again, Wilbert Montgomery will have to carry the offensive burden for Philadelphia. He is one of the most versatile backs in the league and, with help from up front, should be able to keep the pressure on Jaworski from becoming too severe. Unlike Jaworski, the tougher it gets, the better Montgomery plays.
I'll also take an imaginary $250 on the Jets. The home field advantage is always important in the playoffs, and although Walt Michaels' coaching often is a little scary, so is the pass rush delivered by Joe Klecko and Mark Gastineau.
The return to action by wide receiver Wesley Walker is important to the Jets' offense, particularly since Lam Jones finally is beginning to live up to his New York press clippings. Pat Leahy gives the Jets a solid edge in field-goal kicking over Nick Mike-Mayer, who missed another important "chip shot" for the Bills last week in Miami.
If Chuck Knox would permit Joe Ferguson to open up the Buffalo offense from the start, the Bills might well pull off a minor upset. Knox is an outstanding coach, but this is the time of year when he tends to become ultraconservative. If he takes that approach again, he will be playing into the Jets' hands.
Should the Bills win, and I lose, there will be no tears. I would much rather bet against them the following week in Cincinnati than I would the Jets. The early line on the Jan. 2 games has Dallas favored by 7 1/2 or 8 over Tampa Bay in Dallas and Miami a one-point favorite at home to San Diego.
I was disappointed when the Chargers made the playoffs instead of Denver as the AFC West champions. My best bet of the year would have been Miami giving the points against Denver in Miami. Unfortunately, that matchup did not happen. The Chicago Bears saw to it.
The eight games leading to the Super Bowl promise to be exciting. Unlike most past seasons, there is not that much difference between the best and the second-best teams in the NFL this year. Even the Giants winning the title, at 50-1, would not be shocking. Outstanding defenses have gotten the job done before. Last WeekSeason Totals $--100$--400
Last week's results: Miami, giving 2 1/2, defeated Buffalo, 16-6, plus $750; Chicago, getting 3 1/2, defeated Denver, 35-24, plus $250; Green Bay, getting 3 1/2, lost to the Jets, 28-3, minus $275; Detroit, giving 6, lost to Tampa Bay, 20-17, minus $825.
Won-lost record, 38-35.