Conspiracy-watchers carefully noted whether Al's boys got the worst of it from the NFL officials as they came nearer and nearer to that dreaded day when Pete would have to bite the bullet and say, "Al, it gives me great pleasure...." They were waiting for a flag to drop on the play that won the Cleveland game, Mike Davis' interception in the end zone. It didn't. They were waiting for a flag when the Raiders were eating up the clock at the end of the San Diego game. Nope, none there, either. The league even did Oakland a tremendous favor when it left the field uncovered the night before the San Diego game, when flash showers hit. It was finally covered at 9:30 a.m., but by then it was too late; by game time the playing surface bore a remarkable resemblance to the one in the Oakland-Alameda Coliseum, where the Bay comes seeping up out of the turf. The Chargers' receivers were not at all happy slogging through the stuff.
Oakland has overcome all odds. When the season stood at 2-3, the players were wondering just how long Tom Flores would be their coach. "You heard all sorts of crazy rumors," Upshaw says, "about how Sid Gillman or George Allen was on the way." But the Raiders have gone 12-2 since then, counting the playoffs, and Flores has emerged as a steady hand in control. The defense came on, and Plunkett almost always managed to figure out a way to win.
The Raiders were underdogs in two of their three playoff games, and the third one—against Houston—closed at pick 'em. They were supposed to take the pipe when they got a taste of Cleveland's wintry blasts, and they didn't. Plunkett is supposed to be an erratic, low-percentage passer, but he completed 14 for 18 in the San Diego game, Oakland's biggest one to date.
The Raiders seem to be a team of destiny, and for that reason I like them against the Eagles. Not big. I close my eyes and see them driving against the Eagles in November in Veterans Stadium; I see them able to get more things going on offense than Philly could. I can also see the Eagle defense giving them a very rough time in this game, though, and forcing turnovers, and Jaworski hitting Carmichael on a slant-in pattern against the blitz for the winning touchdown. A Philadelphia win is logical. Be that as it may, I still favor Oakland. Call it a hunch. Call it 17-14.