The proposition that the Oakland Raiders are finally a Super Bowl team again this season will be tested, for perhaps the last time, in the game of the week Monday night at Denver.

If the Raiders win that one, their bright future will be more fact than proposition.

For there's nothing much left on their schedule except teams that don't score much, teams like Pittsburgh and Atlanta and Seattle.

Even the opponents they're likely to get in the playoffs, Indianapolis and Tennessee, don't score very often; and, lately, Indianapolis hasn't even won very often.

The Raiders, who blasted Kansas City the other day, 49-31, on a big afternoon for quarterback Rich Gannon and running back Tyrone Wheatley, are a scoring machine when they put their minds to it--reminiscent of the days when the St. Louis Rams had Kurt Warner and Marshall Faulk.

And that's Oakland's edge.

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Two-Way Threat Does It

Not long ago when the Rams and Raiders were based in Los Angeles, there was always a chance that both would reach the Super Bowl in the NFL equivalent of baseball's subway series.

This season, there's even a better chance they'll both get that far; and in each instance, the explanation is the same.

Assuming that all hands are uninjured, it's the two-way Warner-Faulk threat that drives the Rams, who lost at home against Carolina the other day, 27-24, while playing without Warner and Faulk.

At Oakland, even though Wheatley was well under 100 percent physically, it was their two-way offensive threat that drove the Raiders past Kansas City.

As Wheatley ran for 112 yards and Gannon passed for four touchdowns, the Raiders looked like the best team in football.

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Someone Teaching Wheatley

Most pro clubs assume that running backs don't have to be taught, that ballcarrying is instinctive.

And maybe in most cases that's true.

But when Wheatley joined the Raiders in August, 1999, he didn't seem to be much running back, whereas, in November, 2000, he is.

By August, 1999, two NFL teams had given up on him--two that badly needed running backs, the New York Giants, who in 1995 had drafted Wheatley on the first round, and the Miami Dolphins, who in their Dan Marino days always appeared to be one running back short of the Super Bowl.