Considering the way they tore into and eliminated the Cincinnati Bengals (44- 17) in the first round of the National Football League playoffs, the New York Jets have nostalgia buffs rushing to turn back the pages of history. Anyway, the last time the Jets won a playoff game, Lyndon Johnson was President of the United States and quarterback Joe Namath on the verge of engineering an upset victory over the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III on Jan. 12, 1969 in Miami.
New York, which controlled the football so well against the Bengals that it did not have to punt even once, has a road game here Saturday against the Los Angeles Raiders. Actually the Raiders were almost as impressive as the Jets in their 27-10 first-round rout of the Cleveland Browns. LA has a lot of offensive tools, including rookie running back Marcus Allen, who seems to have a mental road map that can get him safely through anything except a mine field. However, New York has its own version of a jet afterburner in Freeman McNeil, who rushed for 202 yards against Cincinnati.
The Washington Redskins, who put the Detroit Lions in mothballs (31-7) by not doing much more than showing up for the game, will be in for a much tougher time on Saturday against the Minnesota Vikings. Minnesota is an extremely physical team with a consistently good pass rush, plus an aerial attack that gets every eligible receiver involved at one time or another.
Although the Vikings didn't look that good in coming from behind to beat the Atlanta Falcons (30-24), they were again quick to take advantage of their opponents' defensive mistakes late in the game. What Minnesota has to worry about most next Saturday are the offensive statistics of Washington QB Joe Theismann, who was the NFC's top rated passer during the regular season with 161 completions in 252 attempts. Overall, Theismann racked up 2,033 yards and 13 touchdowns.
After losing their final two games of the regular season to Philadelphia and Minnesota, the Cowboys appeared to be in a slump. In Sunday's playoff action, however, they beat Tampa Bay 30-17, though not in particularly convincing fashion. Dallas cannot afford another Mickey Mouse effort Sunday against the Green Bay Packers. Even though the Packers were unable to handle the Detroit Lions in their final regular season game, their offensive line started blasting holes in a (41-16) playoff embarrassment of the St. Louis Cardinals. Explained Green Bay backup QB Rich Campbell: ''The pro game is most of all a mental game. That's why one week you win by two or three touchdowns and then maybe lose by the same margin only a few days later. Most pro teams are pretty much the same physically, so the difference has to be mental.''
The San Diego Chargers, who played giveaway on the opening kickoff of their game against the Pittsburgh Steelers (resulting in a Steeler touchdown), survived that mistake plus a few others to finally beat Pittsburgh 31-28. ''I've never seen anything like the Chargers' passing game,'' said Steeler QB Terry Bradshaw, who has four Super Bowl rings. ''It's so flexible that it is almost impossible to stop. I don't know whether San Diego can get to the Super Bowl with the kind of shaky defense it has, but if it's entertainment you want, there is nothing like the Chargers' wide open offense.''
San Diego next plays the Miami Dolphins, who were the NFL's No. 1 team on defense during the regular season. The Dolphins yielded an average of only 114.1 yards per game passing, four times holding the opposition to fewer than 100 yards. In fact, in beating New England 21-13 in the first round, the Dolphins limited the Patriots to just one touchdown through the air.
Nagel in at LA, Levy out at KC
Ray Nagel, who at 29 became the youngest major college coach in the country at Utah in 1958 and has been athletic director at the University of Hawaii since 1976, has been named executive vice-president of the Los Angeles Rams. Although the Rams have put the title of general manager in limbo, Nagel (as the man in charge of the team's day-to-day operations) has in effect been given that power by owner Georgia Frontiere. Nagel's first course of action will be to find a new head coach to replace Ray Malavasi, who was fired last week by Georgia with a year still remaining on his contract. The Rams, who won only two games this season while giving up 250 points, are beset by multiple problems both on and off the field.
From Marv Levy, after being told he had been fired as coach of the Kansas City Chiefs: ''When I came to Kansas City five years ago, the Chiefs were even worse than an expansion team. My understanding with management was that it would be a long, hard road before we began to get things straightened out. Now that I've spent all those years in the trenches, I guess they decided my uniform was a little too dirty to march in the parade.'' Kansas City finished the regular season with three wins and six defeats. . . . Bill Walsh wants to resign as head coach of the San Francisco 49ers but continue to function as the team's general manager. So far that move is not acceptable to 49ers' owner Edward DeBartolo Jr. , who wants Walsh to handle both jobs for at least two more years. . . . Total attendance for the National Football League's 126-game, strike-abbreviated, nine-week regular season was 6,638,899, for an average of 53,540 spectators per game as compared to 60,745 a year ago. There were 878,373 no-shows, meaning tickets purchased but not used.