The official decision comes in two days, but, right now, it's considered likely Washington Redskins Coach Joe Gibbs will select Doug Williams as his starting quarterback for the team's first playoff game.

The Redskins will play that game on the road Jan. 9 or 10. The Chicago Bears ensured themselves a home playoff game yesterday when they hung on to defeat the Los Angeles Raiders, 6-3. The Redskins, who like the Bears finished 11-4, lost the tie breaker to Chicago on conference record and will travel to San Francisco or Chicago. If host New Orleans wins this week's wild-card game against Minnesota, the Redskins will play the 49ers. If the Vikings advance, Washington will play the Bears.

The Redskins still could host the NFC championship game if they win in two weeks and the wild-card team upsets the division champion it plays.

Gibbs said he will decide Wednesday who will start at quarterback in the first playoff game, Williams or benched starter Jay Schroeder.

"I wish I knew what he was going to do," Williams said yesterday by telephone from his father's home in Zachary, La. "I would be upset if he didn't have me start. But, by the same token, I would just get myself ready to be the backup as I've done before."

In relief of Schroeder at Minnesota Saturday, Williams threw for 217 yards and led the Redskins to 20 points in 24 minutes for a 27-24 overtime victory. Several members of the Redskins organization said they thought Williams probably would get the starting assignment in the playoffs, although Gibbs wouldn't say a word about his choice.

"We'll make our quarterback decision later," Gibbs said in the locker room after the game. "I'm too tired to think . . . Having two quarterbacks can be a disadvantage, but it can also be a lift at times. Minnesota has two good ones {Tommy Kramer and Wade Wilson} and we have two good ones."

Schroeder, who said Saturday he thought Williams had earned the starting job for the playoffs, could not be reached for comment.

Gibbs, too, was unavailable for comment on the first day he has taken off since the summer. He gave himself and his assistant coaches Sunday and Monday off and gave his players off until Wednesday, when they will start practicing for their playoff date.

Williams said he and Gibbs did not discuss the starting assignment after the Vikings game.

"He was elated about the win, as I was," Williams said. "He said he will sit down Wednesday with me and with Jay and discuss it. I don't know what he'll say. Somebody mentioned what Jay said {that Williams should start}, but I don't know. I'll say this, what happened Saturday is a good feeling when you think about what's happened in the past. I feel good about that game."

Twice this season, Williams, 32, was the team's starter, only to lose his job to Schroeder, 26. When Schroeder returned after recovering from a sprained right shoulder after the strike, Williams quietly went back to the backup job. Four games later, Schroeder was mired in a slump and was benched in the first half in a game against Detroit. Williams came in and led the Redskins to a victory. He started in a productive but losing effort against the Los Angeles Rams but then injured his lower back at practice on Thanksgiving Day and Schroeder again took over.

Four weeks ago, when Gibbs announced he was going with Schroeder, Williams was overcome by emotion speaking with reporters and excused himself as tears welled in his eyes.

"After all that's happened this year, I'm going to try not to get into feelings," he said. "I can't get nervous or worried. I'm through with that. I'm just going to play if Coach Gibbs wants me to play. If I start, that's great. If I don't, my job is if we get behind, to try to win."

Even if he starts in the playoffs, Williams is maintaining his oft-quoted posture that to start in the National Football League, he probably will have to play elsewhere. He said that on Saturday, "I was thinking there were 26 other teams watching the game saying, 'Why isn't Doug on our team? Why didn't we try to get Doug when he came out of the USFL?' "

Schroeder, who completed nine of his 17 passes for 85 yards, threw two interceptions and appeared to rush several throws before being replaced with 6:51 to play in the third quarter. Some within the organization are wondering if Schroeder might have fallen back into his bad habits of not setting up properly and misreading some defenses and not throwing to the right receiver.

If Gibbs decides to go with Williams, it will be because of his effort at Minnesota and because he wants a veteran in the playoffs. If he chooses Schroeder, it will be because he thinks of Schroeder as his starter and Williams as his ace out of the bullpen.

But the quarterback question is only one of several Gibbs faces as he prepares for the playoffs for the fifth time in his seven seasons.

For one, he must find a place for center Russ Grimm, who has recovered from a knee injury. Grimm is considered one of the best offensive linemen in the league, and it's logical to assume the Redskins want him to start.

However, the Redskins have said they are pleased with the way their line has played in Grimm's absence and don't necessarily want to break it up. Center Jeff Bostic, who was demoted in preseason but came back to start, would appear to be the man on the bubble once again.

Another area of concern is the kicking game. Ali Haji-Sheikh missed two field goals Saturday and three of his last five. Jess Atkinson, who dislocated his left ankle in the season opener, has said he is ready if needed.

It's uncertain if Gibbs would change now, but consider: Last season, he brought in a new kicker right before the final regular season game and into the playoffs.

Namely, Jess Atkinson.