Whatever else is eventually said about the National Football League's just-completed regular season, it was a year in which many of the game's so-called power teams failed to deliver quite as much as the experts had predicted.
Among those falling below expectations were both 1984 Super Bowl participants , the defending champion Los Angeles Raiders and the Washington Redskins, who managed 10 losses between them.
The Raiders struggled to a third-place finish in the AFC West and settled for a wild-card berth in the playoffs. And although Washington did win the NFC East again, this season's Redskins seemed to have down periods in every game in which they kept falling out of their moccasins. In fact, their offense scored 115 fewer points than it had a year ago.
Even more disappointing were the Dallas Cowboys, whose 28-21 loss to Miami Monday night gave them a 9-7 record (their worst since 1965) and knocked them out of the playoffs for the first time since 1974.
Poor report cards also went to Cleveland and Detroit, who dipped from 9-7 records a year ago to 5-11 and 4-11-1 respectively. St. Louis, New England, and Cincinnati were other teams which began with high expectations but missed the playoffs. Looking ahead to the playoffs
The big question about the AFC wild card playoff game at Seattle Saturday is whether Raider coach Tom Flores will start Jim Plunkett or Marc Wilson at quarterback. Both have been fighting injuries and neither has looked particularly sharp lately.
In the NFC wild-card matchup Sunday the Los Angeles Rams will host the New York Giants, a team they beat 33-12 earlier this year. Probably the main attraction in this one is Rams' running back Eric Dickerson, who will be attempting to gain over 100 yards for the 13th straight time this season.
Going strictly by their won-lost records, the two teams that should wind up in the Super Bowl at Palo Alto, Calif., on Jan. 20 are the San Francisco 49ers and the Miami Dolphins.
The 49ers, who lost only once all season (20-17 to the Steelers on Oct. 14), had the fewest points (227) scored against them of any NFL team this season. But Miami, beaten only by the Chargers and the Raiders, probably has the league's most explosive quarterback in Dan Marino, who threw a record 48 touchdown passes.
On weekends when Marino and his receivers are on the same wavelength, nobody keeps the Dolphins off the scoreboard for long. But the 49ers, in addition to that tough defense, have an explosive attack of their own featuring quarterback Joe Montana and running back Wendell Tyler, whose 1,262 yards gained this season established a team record.
Network television, of course, is hoping for a San Francisco-Miami confrontation, not only because of the coast-to-coast angle, but because the 49 ers and the Dolphins did not play each other during the regular season. Final week of regular season an eventful one
The 16-week campaign concluded with a a flurry of interesting developments.
*Despite finishing a disappointing fourth in the five-team AFC West, the Kansas City Chiefs beat San Diego 42-21 to record their third consecutive victory. The Chiefs had come on strong with wins over playoff-bound Denver and Seattle the previous two weeks.
*The Atlanta Falcons decided to test third-string rookie quarterback Dave Archer under fire Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles and came away with a 26 -10 victory, thus ending a nine-game losing streak.
*Another rookie who made headlines was Cleveland's Earnest Byner, who rushed for 188 yards as the Browns beat the Houston Oilers 27-20. Byner, a 10th-round draft pick from East Carolina, scored two TDs.
*Philadelphia Owner Leonard Tose, reportedly heavily in debt and rumored as ready to move his franchise to Phoenix, decided to keep the Eagles in the City of Brotherly Love. NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle has told Tose the league will help refinance the Eagles.
*Tampa Bay head coach John McKay, who announced his retirement six weeks ago, got a great going away performance from the Buccaneers, who routed the New York Jets 41-21.
*Even before Cincinnati ripped Buffalo 52-21 on Sunday, Bills' Owner Ralph Wilson had been out looking for a new head coach. Although no final decision has been made, Wilson reportedly will give the job to Sam Rutigliano, fired earlier this season by Cleveland.
*QB Greg Landry, who hadn't played in the NFL in three years, led the Chicago Bears to a 30-15 win over Detroit. Landry, 38, was signed as a free agent Dec. 5 after injuries sidelined Jim McMahon and Steve Fuller.