It's been a long time since both teams bearing the New York label in the National Football League were so prominent in the standings this late in the season. The Jets are 10-4 and tied for the lead in the AFC East with Miami and New England. The Giants are 9-5 and tied with Dallas for the top spot in the NFC East.
A Las Vegas source quoted odds this week of 40 to 1 on the Jets and the Giants making it to Super Bowl XX. "Neither one is a sure thing to make the playoffs," Bob Martin said. "If they did, the Giants would have to go through the Bears to get to New Orleans and the Jets would be an underdog if they had to play at Miami and they'd also be a slight underdog if they had to play the Raiders in Los Angeles."
Should the Jets and the Giants make it to the Super Bowl, Martin indicated the Jets might be as much as a three-point favorite if both teams hold their current form.
These are long odds, of course, but consider that at the start of the season the Giants were listed in Las Vegas at 20 to 1 to win the Super Bowl while the Jets were 30 to 1. GAME OF THE WEEK
Chicago at the Jets, the Bears favored by 2 1/2.
Three weeks ago I would have loved the Bears in this spot. Anyone who saw Ken O'Brien, the Jets' young quarterback, wilt under pressure from Detroit on Thanksgiving Day could easily imagine how he'd fare against the heavy pressure Chicago applies.
But O'Brien didn't have Freeman McNeil in the backfield for the holiday contest, and McNeil is a very important element if the Jets are to have a good day offensively against a quality opponent. McNeil returned to action Sunday in Buffalo, carrying 27 times for 92 yards.
The Jets are as dangerous as any team in the American Conference, although three weeks ago they didn't rate with the Bears. Then the Bears lost to Miami and looked bad in defeating Indianapolis Sunday, 17-10. Jim McMahon has not been sharp since returning from the injury that sidelined him as Chicago's starting quarterback. And the Bears' defense appears to have lost some of its sting, too.
Could it be that Chicago peaked early? Or are the Bears merely going through a mild slump? I'll not be shocked if the Jets pull off an upset, but that's not certain so I'll give the 2 1/2 and take Chicago, even though the game is obviously more important to the Jets. SUNDAY'S SELECTIONS
I'll take Washington giving 2 1/2 at home against Cincinnati and the Los Angeles Raiders giving 4 1/2 at home against Seattle.
Cincinnati has been the most puzzling team in the NFL. When they're good, the Bengals are most impressive. When they're bad, they're lousy, which explains the 7-7 record.
I like the Cincinnati offense. The big, strong line gives quarterback Boomer Esiason plenty of time to throw. He has excellent receivers and solid backs. But the Bengals defense has shown repeatedly that it can't be trusted. Away from home, Cincinnati seems much easier to tame and the RFK Stadium environment can be particularly tough on visitors. Washington has a better chance of making the playoffs than many fans realize. Give the 2 1/2.
The Raiders' performance at Denver was one of the best seen this year. Their line play is coming back to its 1983 level. Last season the offensive front fell apart. Sunday it gave Marc Wilson almost perfect protection and Wilson still played poorly.
That's the Raiders' problem: quarterback. But this squad has character and rarely loses when playoff position is at stake.
Seattle is bouncing back from its midseason slump, but the Seahawks must know they are a long shot to make postseason competition. Give the 4 1/2 in the comforting knowledge the Raiders will remember their 33-3 loss in Seattle. MONDAY NIGHT
New England at Miami, the Dolphins favored by 6.
There is no denying the outstanding performance that's been turned in by the Patriots defense over the second half of the season but who wants to go against Don Shula in the Orange Bowl when a division title might well be on the line? Not me. I doubt the New England offense can produce the points necessary for a victory. Take Miami. THE LINE
Las Vegas' early week line had Denver 10 1/2 over Kansas City, Pittsburgh 10 over Buffalo, Detroit 5 over Green Bay, Cleveland 10 over Houston, Tampa Bay 3 1/2 over Indianapolis, Minnesota 1 at Atlanta, Dallas 3 over the New York Giants, San Diego 7 over Philadelphia, the Los Angeles Rams 8 1/2 over St. Louis and San Francisco 10 1/2 at New Orleans.