If it snows, the difference in today's NFC playoff game between Minnesota and Washington could be that well-known mudder, John Riggins.

"The bad weather will have to help us a bit," said center Jeff Bostic. "Not because of the Hogs (offensive line), but because of Riggins.

"No one is going to arm-tackle John. And he always plays well in the mud and bad weather. He's a mudder. He's had big games in bad conditions. He already showed that this year, against Tampa Bay and the Giants. Besides, our style is power blocking, which helps in bad weather."

The Vikings, whose offense is built around the pass, lack a fullback of Riggins' stature for this 12:30 p.m. game in sold-out RFK Stadium (WDVM-TV-9, WMAL-630). The Redskins are favored by six points to advance to the NFC championship game next Saturday against the winner of Sunday's Dallas-Green Bay game.

The Vikings' leading rusher, Ted Brown, weighs only 198 pounds and their biggest back, Tony Galbreath, is known more for his receiving than his running skills. They'll be playing against a defense that has allowed one team to rush 100 yards in the last month.

Riggins, who is coming off a 119-yard game against Detroit last week, had 136 yards in the rain at Tampa and 87 in sporadic snow at RFK last month against the Giants.

"I think John and the other older players have a better grasp of what is at stake than the younger players," said Coach Joe Gibbs, whose team has not lost in two years in games in which they have rushed at least 30 times. "If you are young, you have tendency to say there is always another year. But older players realize that a chance like this doesn't happen very often."

The Vikings, who now are protected from the snow by their new domed stadium, will find themselves playing in Minnesota-like bad weather 1,076 miles from home. The forecast for today calls for temperatures in the high 20s and two inches of snow.

"You'd hate to see both teams get this far and then have it come down to the weather and field conditions," Bostic said. "Obviously it will have the same effect on both of us. The team that wins will be the one that adapts to it best."

Like Riggins, quarterback Joe Theismann has a reputation for playing well in bad conditions. Against Tampa Bay, he didn't commit an error; Buccaneers quarterback Doug Williams fumbled three center snaps.

"I've played in rain, mud, and just about everything else . . . " Theismann said. "Maybe I should wear a visor on my helmet . . . I just try to concentrate on holding onto the ball and not doing anything stupid. You have to admit the weather changes things and react accordingly."

Gibbs: "Going into the game, you stay with your game plan and then you make switches according to how bad things get. The most important factor will be the footing. We talk to our players to see what they feel most comfortable with . . . With the way Minnesota passes, a lot of short stuff, they may have an advantage. Defensive backs can have trouble backing up."

Under most conditions, Kramer throws around 34 passes, his norm through 10 games this season. In the regular season, the Vikings averaged 101 yards rushing (Redskins: 127) and 218 passing (Redskins: 205), but Washington players are predicting more emphasis on passing today.

"Tommy Kramer will put it up 40 or 50 times," said defensive end Dexter Manley. "That means I better get five sacks." Richie Petitbon, the Redskins' defensive coordinator, says if Kramer tries 50 passes, "we better have five interceptions."

The Redskins have won five straight, 12 of 13 and 17 of 21. They have survived this year by combining few turnovers (16 in 10 games) with an aggressive defense that has forced 29 takeaways. They have given up just one touchdown in 10 quarters and two in 14, and Theismann hasn't been intercepted in 3 1/2 games.

But the Vikings are on what Gibbs calls "a real roll. They are hot at the right time. You can see they are playing with confidence. I'm convinced that this is going to be a close, close game. We all are."

Minnesota has won four of its last five, including a 31-27 victory over Dallas, the only team to beat Washington this season. The Vikings have an active defensive front line, especially end Doug Martin, the league's No. 1 sacker this year. They mix up their defenses almost as much as the Redskins.

Kramer has a history of streaky performances, but he is among the best two-minute quarterbacks in the league. He is the key to Minnesota's ball-control passing game, which frequently substitutes a three-yard throw for an end sweep. Thus, opponents have difficulty putting pressure on Kramer, especially through blitzes.

That is a concern to Washington, whose consistent pass rush this season (36 sacks) has been generated in part by blitzing linebackers and safeties. Manley says Kramer's quick release "means the rush has to come from our front four. We can't rely on blitzes. I know I'll have my motor running."

With Ahmad Rashad out with a back injury, Kramer's most talented receivers are Sammy White (29 catches), tight end Joe Senser (29) and Brown (31), who has a sore shoulder but is expected to play. Senser has had the flu, but is a likely starter.

Middle linebacker Neal Olkewicz says his sore knee is good enough to allow him to start . . . A decision will be made before kickoff whether to restrict Mike Nelms to returning punts or allow him also to return kickoffs. If he doesn't handle kickoffs, Alvin Garrett and Nick Giaquinto are likely replacements.