Make it Washington 27, Miami 17.
Yes, the Redskins, 27-17. They have been so good so long that even a week in the land of milk and honey will make no difference. If John Riggins isn't the MVP with his fourth straight 100-yard game, then Joe Theismann will do it with two touchdown passes against a defense that disarmed Dan Fouts. Poor David Woodley. He'll be blitzed silly before leaving for Don Strock, who will rally Miami too late.
The big boys in Las Vegas make Miami the betting favorite, largely because they know their customers consider Don Shula a more attractive investment than the new kid in town, Joe Gibbs. The football favorite should be Washington, because Super Bowls are won by teams with good quarterbacks and no fatal flaws.
Certainly, nobody won a Super Bowl with a quarterback who is the fatal flaw. No one before even made it this far with a quarterback less distinguished than Woodley, who ranked 23rd statistically among the NFL's 28 starters. Someday he will be good, but not Sunday.
This is no place for a skitterish kid, even if Woodley has been sensational in two of the previous three playoff games. Washington's defenders from Dexter Manley to Mark Murphy will stop Woodley's scrambling and steal two or three passes. It will be 21-10 when Strock comes in (Mike Nelms scores on a punt return).
Pundits point to an AFC dominance of the Super Bowl when choosing Miami to win (a poll of sportswriters favors Miami, 77-54). The American Conference has won eight of the last 10 games. The two won by the National Conference were by Dallas and San Francisco. It is significant, when picking Washington, to note that these three NFC winners are AFC-type clubs with kaleidoscopic offenses and solid defenses.
Listen, if you will, to A.J. Duhe, the Dolphins' good linebacker. All agree the San Diego Chargers have football's best offense. Early this week, Duhe admitted to confusion when studying the Redskins' offense and said it reminded him of San Diego's.
"San Diego and Washington line up on offense and then shift and shift and shift," Duhe said. "It gets confusing."
So confusing, he confessed, that the Dolphins asked Bill Arnsparger, their defensive coordinator, for a meeting Wednesday night on Washington's variety of formations.
"With all the sets and movements Washington shows, we didn't want to run into a problem," Duhe said. "They're the same problems we had before San Diego, and we handled them all right in the game, right? (Miami, 34-13.) But we asked to meet that night instead of the next morning. We want to be mentally right with no missed assignments."
Speaking of mentally right, let's get squared away with a dear reader who wrote a letter last week.
"I want to know," she said, "how you were so wrong about the Redskins?"
In September, when the Redskins went 0-4 in preseason games, I did a column saying the Redskins were five years away from the Super Bowl.
When columnists predict events and then watch dumbfounded as events run other directions, we often use terms such as "miracle" and "Cinderella" and even, as a banner at RFK declared, "God's team."
That gets us off the hook. How could anyone expect a columnist to know God had decided Dexter Manley would wear Cinderella's slipper?
The fact is, there are always good explanations why any sports team is successful. I was wrong about Bobby Beathard's trade of a No. 1 draft choice to get Russ Grimm and Manley. They're worth the cost. I underestimated the coaching staff, which turned young guys into rock-solid pros faster than I thought possible. Theismann, I thought, was a top-line quarterback who had finished his growth. Wrong again.
Mark Moseley kicked a league-record 23 straight field goals, 20 this year, which seemed a (yes) miracle because in September the Redskins nearly fired him. Had he missed six field goals at the worst times, the Redskins would not have been 8-1 but 4-5.
So I was wrong.
But only by five years.
And it seems awfully picky to make a big deal out of five years, because we all know how times flies when you're having fun.
You have to love a team with a Hog who wears top hat and tails. Twirling a black cane, wearing white gloves, more Astaire than Nagurski, here came Riggins into the Redskins' team party Friday night. "Dance across the tables?" he said, raising a smile to light the room. "That comes later."
Jack Kent Cooke, the owner, ordered up this bash only two days before the Super Bowl in happy defiance of the George Allen idea that heaven admits only those who walk the earth in solemn dedication. "What a marvelous human being," Cooke said as Riggins sashayed into the glittering company of senators, mayors, congressmen, countesses and Peter Falk's starlet/date who definitely is no Hog.
"Allllll right," Riggins said when apprised of Cooke's evaluation, pleased that his sartorial daring sat well with the megabucks owner who must sign him to a new contract soon to keep him. A smiling Joe Gibbs saw Riggins and said, "He's something different, for sure." By 9 o'clock, the Redskins left the party and Cooke said you ain't seen nothin' yet.
"We are having a huge victory party after the game," he said. "I have made a deal with Joe Robbie (the Dolphins' owner) to share the cost, instead of both of us putting on parties, with one necessarily a wake. Everyone, winners and losers alike, is invited to this party. The winner will pay 75 percent of the party's cost, and the loser 25 percent.
"Accordingly, I told Joe, 'That means you'll be paying the lesser amount.' He said, 'Oh, no,' and I said, 'But oh, yes.' "