There was nothing to suggest that the two winners in the first round of the National Football League playoffs, the New York Giants and the Seattle Seahawks, would somehow sneak into Super Bowl XIX at Palo Alto, Calif., on Jan. 20.
Although the Seahawks upset the defending NFL champion Los Angeles Raiders 13 -7 in one wild-card game and the Giants did the same to the Los Angeles Rams 16- 13 in the other, neither team figures to wear out any scoreboards.
However, when Seattle plays Miami next Saturday in the Orange Bowl, Dolphins' Coach Don Shula might be wondering which of the Seahawks' two offensive philopsophies Coach Chuck Knox will decide to use.
That is, the one that led to 51 pass attempts in Seattle's final regular-season game against Denver or the one that called for just 10 passes in eliminating the Raiders from the playoffs. The Seahawks were able to stay on the ground in the latter contest, getting a big effort from fullback Dan Doornink, whose 126 rushing yards were the most in his seven-year career.
Chances are the strategy Seattle employs against Miami will fall somewhere in between these running and passing extremes.
Miami won 14 of 16 regular-season games by letting quarterback Dan Marino throw the ball to wide receivers Mark Duper and Mark Clayton, who combined for 144 catches. There was nothing wrong with the Dolphins' defense either, which allowed the fewest points (298) of any AFC East team.
When the once-beaten 49ers and the New York Giants meet in San Francisco, also on Saturday, the edge should be with the 49ers and their vaunted pass rush. While the Giants have come a long way since last season, when they won only three games, they still don't have the depth or the talent on paper to handle San Francisco.
On Sunday it will be the Chicago Bears against the Redskins in Washington, and the Pittsburgh Steelers against the Denver Broncos in Mile High Stadium. Ordinarily you would assume that Washington, which was in last season's Super Bowl, would win handily. But considering the Bears' Stalingrad defense, plus the Redskins' inconsistency this season, this is a game that could easily be decided by a turnover or field goal.
Although Denver won four more games during the regular season than Pittsburgh and always seemed to get an emotional lift from its home crowd, the Steelers have had a few games this year in which they looked capable of beating anyone. Nevertheless the Broncos probably have too much defense and balance for a Pittsburgh team that occasionally self-destructs.
Linebacker Tom Jackson, who has been to the NFL playoffs five times with the Broncos, credits coach Dan Reeve's current squad with almost always being able to find something extra physically near the end of close games. ''While you always worry about incon-sistencies with a young team, and we've got 15 rookies on our squad, not once this year have we panicked or lost our poise,'' Jackson said. ''I'm sure we'll do well in the playoffs.'' Grant returns
When the Minnesota Vikings fired rookie head coach Les Steckel at the end of the season, a lot of it had to do with his Marine Corps training methods, which practically all of his players abhored. They couldn't adjust to Steckel's gung-ho approach after getting used to the shorter and less physical practices of former Vikings' coach Bud Grant, who had stepped aside after 17 years on the job. In fact, Minnesota allowed more points this year (484) than any team in the NFL. And only the Buffalo Bills, with two victories, won fewer games than the Vikings and Houston Oilers, both 3-13.
Rather than bring in an entirely new head coach, Minnesota owner Max Winter decided that maybe a recycled one would do the trick. However, the first two times Winter tried to get Grant to come back Bud said no. Finally Grant relented when Winter reportedly agreed to go into the free agent market, approved the beginnings of a multiple trade, and added some incentive bonuses to Bud's contract.
The only thing Winter has to worry about now is whether he has rehired the coach who had a 161-99-5 record during his first 11 years with the club or the one who went 44-44-1 his last six seasons. Elsewhere around the NFL
* There is speculation that even though the Dallas Cowboys have signed reserve quarterback Gary Hogeboom to a new, three-year contract that head coach Tom Landry might still trade him. Those close to Landry seem to feel that Tom still favors veteran Danny White, who started the season on the bench, but was given his job back when Hogeboom had three shaky games in a row.
* When owner William Clay Ford of the Detroit Lions ended the seven-year coaching reign of Monte Clark after the team finished at 4-11-1, Clark showed a lot of class by sharing a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson with reporters: ''What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us.''
* Miami's Dan Marino broke four NFL records during the regular season. With 48 touchdown passes, he demolished the old mark of 36 shared by George Blanda in 1961 and Y. A. Tittle in 1963. With 362 completions and 5,084 passing yards, he erased Dan Fouts's name from two other entries in the record book. Fouts completed 360 passes for 4,802 yards in 1981. Marino also became the first quarterback with four 400-yard games in a season.
* Hottest NFL rumor is that the Buffalo Bills, who finished the season at 2- 14 while giving up 454 points, will make quarterback Doug Flutie of Boston College the top choice in the draft. Then the Bills will try to trade for some veteran offensive linemen who can protect him.