What a shame it will be if Dan Fouts, Kellen Winslow and San Diego's great pass-protection line doesn't make it to Super Bowl XVI.
And what a travesty it will be if the Chargers' defense gets there.
San Diego is 4 to 1 in the Las Vegas futures to go all the way in the NFL this season. That means it is the longshot in the field of four, what with Dallas 7 to 5, Cincinnati 8 to 5 and San Francisco 12 to 5.
To many, 4 to 1 looks like a bargain, but the gentlemen who specialize in such sporting forms of mathematics know what they're doing.
"Fouts had to put more than 40 points on the board to get past Miami," one such expert observed. "He's going to have to score 40 more to win at Cincinnati, and he'd have to go for another 40 to beat either Dallas or San Francisco in the Silverdome. The odds say he can't do it. He's the best, but that's asking too much of any offense."
The Chargers got every early break in the book to open a 24-0 lead over Miami last Saturday, then were lucky to win in overtime, 41-38. A Miami fumble on the San Diego 20--with less than three minutes left and the Dolphins leading by seven points--gave Fouts an opportunity to bring his club back from the dead.
I expect Fouts will strike for 30 points Sunday in Cincinnati, and lose. The Chargers probably won't even cover the spread, getting four or 4 1/2. But that won't change my great respect for the quarterback, his receivers and, equally important, his offensive line.
No passer in the NFL has enjoyed this kind of supreme protection since Jim Hart when the St. Louis Cardinals had Dan Dierdorf and Conrad Dobler in their prime. Maybe Don Coryell should ask his offensive unit to try to play defense, too, during the playoffs. They couldn't do worse. Any unit that could make Don Strock look like Dan Fouts is not going to intimidate Ken Anderson.
So, get ready to light up the scoreboard in Riverfront Stadium. Look for a 70-point game, unless there's seven inches of snow. Cincinnati has the ability to control the ball, and at least the Bengal defense will make Fouts & Co. work in order to score. I have no choice but to take Cincinnati for an imaginary $500, giving 4 1/2.
Dallas-San Francisco for the NFC championship promises to be one of the most exciting matchups of the season. The Cowboys were favored by five when they were blown out of Candlestick Oct. 11, 45-14. This time around, the game opened with the Cowboys favored by 2 1/2 and, by kickoff, is expected to go to three nationally. It already is, in many areas.
By comparison, San Diego was favored by four over Cincinnati Nov. 8 in San Diego when the Bengals beat the Chargers, 40-17.
There is one overwhelming consideration in analyzing the Cowboys-49ers contest: will Dallas' defensive front be able to pressure Joe Montana? If Randy White, John Dutton, Too Tall Jones and Harvey Martin can apply heavy heat, San Francisco's passing game might fall apart and the visitors will win handily.
If Montana gets time to implement Bill Walsh's plan of attack, the Dallas secondary and linebackers will be exposed for what they are--ordinary. The best thing the 49er brain trust could do would be to make the field as soggy as possible, much as Al Davis did at Oakland last year to stop Houston's Earl Campbell.
A soggy, heavy, slippery turf would do more to soften the Dallas pass rush than anything Walsh could devise. And, given a good effort by its offense, the San Francisco defense figures to hold up nicely against Dallas. I don't see Tony Dorsett having much of a game. He's as likely to fumble under pressure as he is to break off a big run. I'll take San Francisco for $500, getting three.
Last Week +$650
Season Totals -$850
Last week's results: Tampa Bay, getting 7 1/2, lost to Dallas, 38-0, minus $275; Miami, giving three, lost to San Diego, 41-38, minus $825; Cincinnati, giving five, defeated Buffalo, 28-21, plus $1,000; San Francisco, giving 5 1/2, defeated the New York Giants, 38-24, plus $750.
Won-lost record: 40-39.