You remember the drum roll that started nine months ago when the Raiders learned they'd close the regular season at home against the Chicago Bears?
There was one. Really.
It's a little different now. What we've got next Sunday are two teams on two-game losing streaks. The Bears' No. 1 quarterback is expected to sit out. So is their top running back, and their best offensive tackle.
The Raiders get to go on vacation as soon as the final gun sounds. And their offense, a/k/a Bo Jackson, is still listed as questionable with a sprained ankle.
Here's a quick look at the Bear wounded:
Jim McMahon--Listed as doubtful with a hamstring pull, he's hurting so badly that the Bears just hope he'll be ready to open the playoffs in three weeks. Mike Tomczak (one touchdown pass, six interceptions in two games) is expected to start again.
Neal Anderson--The top Bear rusher suffered a knee sprain Sunday in Chicago's 34-21 loss against Seattle. Anderson presently is listed as doubtful for the playoffs.
Jimbo Covert--Out with a sprained ankle last week, he may not be back Sunday and the running game struggles without his lead blocks.
Otis Wilson--The colorful outside linebacker missed four weeks with a bruised knee, has struggled since his return and may be replaced this week.
Coach Mike Ditka is in a snit with the Chicago press, which he contends has blown his recent incidents--spitting at an official in Minnesota and throwing his gum into the stands at San Francisco--out of proportion.
Ditka now talks to the Chicago press only on Sundays and Mondays. He continues to talk to out-of-town reporters, however, presumably on the theory that they haven't blown anything out of proportion lately.
Otherwise, Ditka is trying to cool things. The Bears have been called for 18 penalties since Ditka spit at the official, and the Bears suspect a connection.
Will any semblance of the Raiders be there?
After Sunday's game, Marcus Allen and Todd Christensen suggested pointedly that some of their teammates had quit. For a better example of Raiders bailing out, there's last season's nothing-riding-on-it closer against the Colts, when the Raiders allowed 196 rushing yards and lost.
If the players aren't ready, it reflects on the coach, who wasn't delighted at the suggestion.
"Everybody has an opinion," said Tom Flores Monday. "Right now, we (the coaches) are as frustrated as anybody.
"Whenever you play, you should play hard: Every down, every game."
Have the Raiders been doing that?
"I think we played hard in the second half," Flores said. "I thought the first half there was something missing . . . "
One other note: Deserved or not, whether or not the last two losses have more to do with the missing Jackson than coaching errors, it's been open season on coaching-change rumors again.
There is a constant stream of, uh, criticism during games. Al Davis was heard fuming again in Sunday's third period when Flores ran Marcus Allen straight ahead into the line on a third and 5 at the Cleveland 13 (Allen gained 3 and fumbled the ball away).
Would Davis move Flores upstairs? Several weeks ago, Davis was reportedly telling confidantes that he'd never fire Flores, who is a friend, but that didn't exactly say Flores would remain as the coach.
And what of Lester Hayes? Will he get to suit up Sunday, as he says Coach Davis promised?
Don't bet on it.
The coaches are mad at Hayes, who has been quoted more than they like to see from a player on injured reserve.
Some of Hayes' teammates also bristled when he made headlines last week. That was even before Hayes helped inspire Webster ("that sissy") Slaughter and then turned him over to Sam Seale.
"If those guys (Seale and Lionel Washington) get beat," said a player, "at least we know they're working."
Dokie Williams came out of Sunday's game with a knee injury, first diagnosed as a bruise. He was to undergo more tests Monday and is questionable. Vann McElroy, knocked out of the game twice, is probable. . . . Howie Long, asked who's best in the AFC: "The AFC doesn't have a lot to offer. It's the Browns or Denver. In Denver, it's God forbid something happens to No. 7 (John Elway). Cleveland is better balanced." . . . The Browns Sunday may have lost starting linebacker Mike Johnson for at least a week. Johnson, the Browns' leading tackler, hurt his knee in the fourth quarter against the Raiders.