Year after year, one statistic is the most misinterpreted in sports: the points system that rates quarterbacks. It's bad enough that Seattle's Dave Krieg is the third-rated passer in the history of the league. Now, look at the final ratings for the 1987 season. Any rating system that would have the Raiders' Marc Wilson (84.6) rated above Denver's John Elway (83.4), perhaps the league's most valuable player, is a system that will raise eyebrows.

But the NFL is careful to call the measure a "passing" rating not a "quarterback" rating because factors like leadership (not to mention rushing totals) are not taken into account. The formula is a complex one, using pass completion rate, percentage of touchdowns and interceptions and the average number of yards gained.

Even so, it's hard to figure how Wilson could be ranked above Elway. Wilson's eight touchdowns and 12 interceptions are respectable enough. But he can't get out of his own way, which was proven again last week when the Bears sacked him eight times. For all the rated quarterbacks, Wilson finished above Buffalo's Jim Kelly (19 touchdowns, 11 interceptions), Philadelphia's Randall Cunningham (23 touchdowns, 12 interceptions), Elway (19 touchdowns, 12 interceptions) and Moon (21 touchdowns, 18 interceptions).Blowing Hot and Cold

Hot Words From Cold Climes: Chicago Bears Coach Mike Ditka is about fed up with all the credit being given the Redskins defense for Washington's victory over the Bears in the 1986 playoffs. Ditka told Chicago reporters this week, "All of a sudden they say they knew how to defense us . . . because we had a short quarterback {5-foot-7 Doug Flutie} . . . I wonder if they'll know how to defense us this year . . . because we have our starting quarterback back {6-1 Jim McMahon} . . . A lot of credit was given to all the great defense they played last year . . . I didn't think it was so great."

Minnesota tight end Steve Jordan still has the feeling after his team's 44-10 trouncing of New Orleans in the NFC wild-card game and says the Vikings are ready for the San Francisco 49ers: "We're rolling into Frisco like gangbusters. And you know what? They can be beaten, too."

Jordan, you might remember, is the same man who said in an interview with WRC's Rick Walker on Sunday, "Who dat leavin' da stadium early? Who dat?" . . .

Toned Down Words from a Semi-Cold Clime: Redskins defensive end Dexter Manley decided not to infuriate Coach Joe Gibbs by saying anything that could wind up on the Bears' bulletin board. In fact, Manley sounded as if he had taken some Gibbs pills when he said (a bit tongue-in-cheek): "The Bears are such a great team, I don't think it's even necessary for us to show up . . . If we didn't show up, the league would fine us . . . I think Mike Ditka probably should have gotten coach of the year."

St. Louis Cardinals owner Bill Bidwill has only nine days left to announce his intentions on whether he'll move his team to Baltimore or elsewhere. Rumors began flying again this week when Bidwill helped his son, Timothy, settle into Georgetown Prep. Gov. William Donald Schaefer's press secretary said he was unaware of any contact between the owner and the governor, but confirmed that Bidwill met with Herb Belgrad, chairman of the Maryland Stadium Authority, and other stadium authority negotiators . . .

The only thing better than playoff talk this time of year is trade talk. Wouldn't a Jay Schroeder-for-Boomer Esiason trade help both teams? Perhaps Schroeder could use a change of scenery after this latest benching and Esiason definitely could. Esiason, booed by the fans in Cincinnati, would love to head back home to either New York (he grew up on Long Island) or Washington (he played at University of Maryland).

It's no secret that he and Coach Sam Wyche don't exactly see eye to eye. And club management has already decided to keep Wyche for another season. The Bengals aren't about to let Esiason, who just signed a multiyear, multimillion-dollar contact, sit on the bench. He passed for more yards than any other quarterback in the AFC this season (3,321) and averaged 25 touchdown passes per season in his two full years. Both quarterbacks will be 27 when next season starts. And even though Redskins General Manager Bobby Beathard has said he is not going to trade any of his quarterbacks, it's easy to imagine Esiason flourishing in Gibbs' offensive system.Upset Pick

The Upset Pick is 7-15 for the season, but 1-0 in the playoffs after picking Houston over Seattle. Bad weather in three cities could help produce upsets, and there are many people who believe Minnesota is capable of upsetting San Francisco. Not here. No upsets in the NFC. But in the AFC, Eric Dickerson will overcome the cold weather and hold onto the ball, and he'll get plenty of help from backfield mate Albert Bentley in an upset over the homestanding Cleveland Browns.