It must be playoff time for the Los Angeles Raiders.
Owner Al Davis is griping about National Football League Commissioner Pete Rozelle. Again. Running back Marcus Allen is complaining about not being used enough. A controversial decision to start Jim Plunkett at quarterback has left Marc Wilson confused and saying things like, "I don't know what happened. Ask them."
And Lyle Alzado, speaking on a radio show this week in Los Angeles, said the Raiders' wild-card opponent, the Seattle Seahawks, "won't even be in the game."
It figures. The Raiders (11-5), who will play the Seahawks (12-4) Saturday at 4 p.m. in Seattle's Kingdome, thrive on chaos. This latest batch, all occurring after a 13-7 loss to Pittsburgh last Sunday, could well be the catalyst the struggling Super Bowl champions need if they are to have any chance to repeat.
Only one wild-card team has won the Super Bowl -- the 1980 Raiders. For the '84 Raiders to do it, they would have to win three games on the road just to become AFC champions.
Originally, their game at Seattle, where they have not won since 1981, was scheduled for Sunday; the league moved it to Saturday when the Los Angeles Rams became hosts of the NFC wild-card game. The league and networks did not want two West Coast games the same day.
But this left the Raiders screaming. Davis even blamed Rozelle for punishing the Raiders.
"Of the four wild-card teams, we were the last to play on Sunday. (The three others played Friday and Saturday.) Our team is hurting. We had planned for and needed the regularly scheduled week," Davis said.
The league denied Davis' charges, but, nonetheless, the Raiders have been forced into their second consecutive short week. They played a Monday night game before the Pittsburgh loss, and Coach Tom Flores said this week that the lost day gives the Seahawks, losers of their last two games, an advantage.
That's only one of the Raiders' problems. Plunkett, 37, who hasn't played a complete game in 10 weeks due to torn abdominal muscles, will start Saturday. Flores picked him because of his playoff experience, although Wilson's five-for-13 passing against the Steelers might have figured in the decision.
Allen, meanwhile, is not happy because he ran only 13 times for 38 yards against Pittsburgh.
"The game plan was devised so I'd just stand around and block," he said.
It's uncertain what kind of plan Flores has for this game. But it's clear the Raiders cannot afford turnovers. The Seahawks lead the league in takeaway/turnover ratio with a plus 24; the Raiders are last in the AFC with a minus 14.
A statistic of such extremes cannot be overlooked. In a 28-14 victory over Seattle Oct. 7, the Raiders committed only two turnovers: one fumble and one interception.
But, in a 17-14 loss at Seattle Nov. 12, they fumbled three times and threw three interceptions.
"The whole atmosphere with Seattle is turnovers," Flores said recently.
And when the Seahawks don't get any (no fumble recoveries in the last three games), they are in trouble.
"We are an opportunistic team," said veteran Seattle lineman Reggie McKenzie, "and we haven't been hitting the big play or turnover recently. We have to do those things we were doing when we won all those games (eight) in a row."
Seattle ended the season with 38 interceptions and 25 fumble recoveries, both league-leading totals. But you don't just crank up turnovers the way you would runs.
"It's a matter of getting the breaks," McKenzie said. "We just have to pick ourselves up and regroup."
Unity, obviously, is not a Raiders rally cry. When asked about the Raiders, McKenzie quickly brushed them aside.
"We can't concern ourselves with the Raiders internally," he said. "I'm more worried about us."