In the December game in Washington, John Riggins ran for 26 yards against Dallas. Washington gained 66 yards on the ground. The Cowboys won, 24-10. Nobody said they were lucky.
Few teams run on Dallas when big money is on the line, as it will be Saturday in the NFC title contest. But an opponent can throw on the Cowboys if the offensive line can keep Too Tall Jones, Randy White and Harvey Martin off the quarterback's back.
I thought in that first meeting that the Redskins' pass protection would hold up reasonably well. It didn't. Tom Landry gambled on the blitz, and won.
I lost $275, getting 2 1/2 points with the Redskins.
Little has changed this time around except that Washington is without Art Monk, its best receiver. Dallas is going to give Riggins a rough afternoon again. Who is Joe Theismann going to throw to, even if he does have time?
Washington has been the most fortunate team in the NFL this season. The strike, as defensive tackle Dave Butz noted, enabled the Redskins to miss the part of the schedule against teams that "come to hurt, not just to play," teams such as Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. And the ball has continued to bounce in the Redskins' direction during the playoffs.
Detroit receivers couldn't hold onto the ball two weeks ago. When the Lions got close to scoring, Billy Simms fumbled or Eric Hipple threw blindly. Last Saturday, Minnesota's Sammy White suddenly couldn't catch anything. When the Vikes needed a field goal, the kick hit the goal post.
I have watched Washington through all 11 games and am convinced this is the year they have been blessed. Such blessings helped a nervous Jim Plunkett through the Super Bowl. Last year, the San Francisco secondary was blessed every time a pass was deflected.
Bettors believe in this sort of thing, ridiculous as it may sound. I wish I had $1 for every fellow traveler this year who called to my attention the Redskins' divine guidance.
Many of my friends jumped on the Redskins' bandwagon early. They wound up 9-2 against the spread, losing only to Dallas and to the New York Giants in the Redskins' 15-14 victory at RFK.
I am not normally a believer in the divine guidance method of handicapping. I refuse to go along with blind faith when logic indicates otherwise. But I do not tempt the fates by going against such a feeling, either.
To those of you who have found salvation with Washington this season, congratulations. To those of you who know Dallas is the slightly superior squad, give the two points. I think the Cowboys will win the game. But I'm not betting, on an imaginary basis or otherwise.
The New York Jets at Miami offers a different situation. The Jets are the better-balanced team. Miami must do it with defense.
Oh, I know, there are those who would have us believe David Woodley has found his passing touch the last three weeks, after a dismal streak. Simply keep in mind that, in his last three outings, Woodley has had the luxury of operating against the weak defenses of the Baltimore Colts, New England Patriots and San Diego Chargers.
The Jets' pass rush will likely make the new Woodley look like the old Woodley. If that happens, Don Strock must come to the rescue, just like he did the last time, 20-19. I have to go with Uwe von Schamann over Pat Leahy and, most important, Don Shula and Bill Arnsbarger over Walt Michaels. The risk is an imaginary $250 giving 1 1/2.
Shula is likely to find a way to win. Michaels is capable of discovering a way to lose.
Besides, that might give the Redskins a chance to win Super Bowl XVII. I doubt Washington could beat the Jets. They might, with a little help, squeak past the Dolphins