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Stephen F. Holder's NFL picks | Last week: 10-6 | Season: 20-12

Matchup The scoop Holder's pick
Titans (1-1) at Giants (1-1)

Time: 1 p.m.

Line, O/U: Giants by 3, 43½

So, if Giants RB Brandon Jacobs manages to have another frustrating game, will he throw his helmet in disgust at his fans, too? He did it last week at Indianapolis, though he said he did not intend for the helmet to fly into the stands. The Titans have their own little mess after QB Vince Young, left, was benched during a loss to the Steelers last week. But give coach Jeff Fisher credit for saying he intends to stick with Young. The Giants proved last week that they couldn't stop the Colts' Joseph Addai and Donald Brown, so what chance do they have of slowing 2,000-yard rusher Chris Johnson? Titans 21, Giants 20
Bengals (1-1) at Panthers (0-2)

Time: 1 p.m.

Line, O/U: Bengals by 3, 38

The Bucs exposed the Panthers last week for what they appear to be: a below-average team. With rookie QB Jimmy Clausen, left, taking the wheel, there could really be growing pains. Most quarterbacks are terrible in their first starts. Clausen had some success late in last week's game, but the Bucs were playing a conservative defense to protect the lead. The Bengals picked off Ravens QB Joe Flacco four times last week, including one by Adam "Don't Call Me Pacman" Jones. Bengals QB Carson Palmer could have a big day against a defense intent on stopping the run. Bengals 24, Panthers 14
Browns (0-2) at Ravens (1-1)

Time: 1 p.m.

Line, O/U: Ravens by 11, 37

How things unfold in the AFC North is going to be one of this season's story lines, with Baltimore, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh intent on winning the division. The Browns? They're probably thinking about more modest goals, like getting their first win. But coach Eric Mangini, left, and his crew don't break through today, not against a Ravens club coming off a loss to the Bengals. Baltimore had a tough go starting at the Jets and at Cincinnati, but coach John Harbaugh hasn't lost either of his home openers. Today, he'll take that mark to 3-0 behind a defense that is allowing the second-fewest yards in the league. Ravens 26, Browns 13
Cowboys (0-2) at Texans (2-0)

Time: 1 p.m.

Line, O/U: Texans by 3, 47

What's more surprising: the Cowboys potentially starting 0-3 or the Texans having a chance to go 3-0? And what's more likely: Dallas owner Jerry Jones, left, having his head explode or Houston RB Arian Foster having another 200-yard day as he did in the opener against the Colts? This is a big game, and not just because it's in the state where everything is super-sized. The Texans have designs on winning the AFC South. They are without their starting left tackle, which is poor timing with LB DeMarcus Ware on tap. But the Texans have enough weapons to overcome whatever damage Ware will do. Texans 24, Cowboys 23
49ers (0-2) at Chiefs (2-0)

Time: 1 p.m.

Line, O/U: 49ers by 2½, 37

Not all 0-2 teams are created equal. The 49ers showed their might against the Saints on Monday night, taking them to the wire before losing as the clock expired. Now they move on to face a surprising Chiefs team. But there's only one reason the 49ers are winless: a minus-5 turnover margin. And that stat isn't all the fault of QB Alex Smith, left, who looked rather impressive at times against the defending champs. Kansas City's defense is underrated, but if the 49ers can get their weapons clicking in unison — RB Frank Gore, TE Vernon Davis, etc. — they have as much firepower as anyone. 49ers 23, Chiefs 17
Lions (0-2) at Vikings (0-2)

Time: 1 p.m.

Line, O/U: Vikings by 11½, 42½

The loser of this game will have a steep climb out of the NFC North basement. Surely this isn't what QB Brett Favre signed up for. The Vikings need to find a way — via the run, pass, defense — to win. If they lose, you have to think there's a real chance the team begins to implode. The pressure will begin mounting, and that's often followed by mounting losses. Otherwise, this is just another game for coach Brad Childress, left, and his troops. Maybe the most disturbing thing about the Vikes is that, for a club with the fifth-rated offense in 2009, they've managed to score two touchdowns in two games. Vikings 20, Lions 16
Bills (0-2) at Patriots (1-1)

Time: 1 p.m.

Line, O/U: Patriots by 14½, 42½

The Bills look like the dregs of the NFL, and the schedule isn't doing them any favors. A week after visiting Lambeau Field and a Packers team intent on reaching the Super Bowl, the Bills travel to Foxborough, where QB Tom Brady awaits. And next week, the Jets travel to Buffalo. This game has, perhaps, the biggest quarterback mismatch of the week. You have the pride of Harvard, Ryan Fitzpatrick, left, who is taking over for ineffective Trent Edwards, going against Brady, who has three Super Bowl rings and a supermodel wife. Going out on a limb with this one, but the edge goes to Brady. Patriots 31, Bills 17
Falcons (1-1) at Saints (2-0)

Time: 1 p.m., Ch. 13

Line, O/U: Saints by 3½, 49½

The Saints have gotten to 2-0 the hard way, and it won't get any easier with RB Reggie Bush out with a broken leg. Say what you want about Bush's inability to run between the tackles. He's one of the few players every defense accounts for before the snap. And he has single-handedly changed more games than just about anyone with his ability as a runner, receiver and returner. The Saints offense will not be as efficient, but you have to trust coach Sean Payton, left, to scheme his way around Bush's absence. He's one of the better offensive strategists in the game and, oh, he has QB Drew Brees. Saints 23, Falcons 21
Redskins (1-1) at Rams (0-2)

Time: 4 p.m.

Line, O/U: Redskins by 4, 39

When you look at the fact that the Redskins have given up 906 yards in two games, it's nothing short of staggering. But they have managed to make their opponents earn every point and are just a few plays shy of being 2-0 after an overtime loss to Houston last week. Don't be surprised if the Rams and QB Sam Bradford, left, continue to skew the numbers for Washington. And don't think that the apparent loss of Redskins LT Trent Williams won't hurt. Still, this one goes in Washington's favor, setting up QB Donovan McNabb to make his return to Philly with first place in the NFC East on the line. Redskins 24, Rams 17
Eagles (1-1) at Jaguars (1-1)

Time: 4 p.m.

Line, O/U: Eagles by 3, 44½

In watching Michael Vick 2.0, he looks like a guy who isn't taking being in the NFL for granted. The Eagles quarterback seems more prepared, rather than a guy who is, to some extent, winging it and relying too much on his athleticism. There were times in his Atlanta days when that seemed to be the case. Maybe being away from football did some good in this regard, but Vick is a more efficient passer than most would have envisioned. Passer rating isn't everything, but Vick's 105.5 rating is well above his best mark in Atlanta, 81.6. Coach Andy Reid, left, made a tough call, but it might be the right one. Eagles 26, Jaguars 21
Raiders (1-1) at Cardinals (1-1)

Time: 4:15 p.m.

Line, O/U: Cardinals by 4½, 39½

The Raiders have to think they can steal this one. The Cardinals were trampled by the Falcons last week, allowing 221 rushing yards. Oakland comes in enjoying RB Darren McFadden's best days as a Raider, averaging 5 yards and boasting the second-most rushing yards in the NFL (240). There's no reason to think the Cards will shut him down. But less certain is whether QB Bruce Gradkowski, left, named the Raiders starter last week, will come through. The inconsistent quarterback play for Oakland levels the playing field against a team that has its own quarterback issues with Derek Anderson. Cardinals 24, Raiders 21
Chargers (1-1) at Seahawks (1-1)

Time: 4:15 p.m.

Line, O/U: Chargers by 5, 44

These clubs have identities that are hard to decipher. The Chargers lose to the Chiefs in their opener then throttle the Jaguars by 25 points. The Seahawks thump San Francisco in Week 1 and respond with a flat performance against Denver, a 31-14 loss. If one of these teams is the pretender, it's probably Seattle. But with San Diego missing injured RB Ryan Mathews and playing on the road, this game's probably a bit closer than one might expect. The Chargers will go to TE Antonio Gates, left, judging by the 49ers' success with Vernon Davis (eight catches) two weeks ago. Chargers 27, Seahawks 20
Colts (1-1) at Broncos (1-1)

Time: 4:15 p.m., Ch. 10

Line, O/U: Colts by 5½, 47½

Is there a team that rides momentum better than the Colts? Don't think those winning streaks they usually begin each season with have nothing to do with that. The Colts are going to have their hands full with Houston in the AFC South, but that doesn't mean coach Jim Caldwell, left, and his team will concede anything to the rest of the conference. That's true even when the opponent is mourning the death of a third teammate in four seasons. The apparent suicide of WR Kenny McKinley has cast a cloud over the Broncos, even as they were coming off an uplifting 17-point rout of the Seahawks. Colts 28, Broncos 17
Jets (1-1) at Dolphins (2-0)

Time: 8:20 p.m., Ch. 8

Line, O/U: Dolphins by 2½, 35½

The Dolphins aren't flashy, brash or boastful. Lately, they've let their defense do the talking, allowing 20 points in two games — the fewest in the NFL. Although the Jets enjoyed a 28-point breakout against the Patriots last week, it wouldn't be surprising if they sputtered against a defense that made Vikings QB Brett Favre look mortal a week ago. The game is likely going to be decided, however, by the matchup of the Dolphins offense against the Jets defense. And look for Jets LB Jason Taylor, left, to make a play or two against his former club, which likely will be met by resounding boos. Jets 17, Dolphins 14
Monday night football
Packers (2-0) at Bears (2-0)

Time: 8:30 p.m., ESPN

Line, O/U: Packers by 3, 46

What could be better than a nice little matchup of undefeated clubs at Soldier Field? This is a good matchup for reasons other than the records, too. The quarterback contest between Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers and Chicago's Jay Cutler is intriguing. Cutler looks like the guy the Bears thought he could be, and now their deal with Denver looks a bit more sensible. His 121.2 rating is tops in the NFL, by the way. Offensive coordinator Mike Martz has a lot to do with that. But the Packers are still darn good on defense, with LB Clay Matthews, left, (six sacks) playing like a man possessed. Packers 26, Bears 17

Stephen F. Holder's NFL picks | Last week: 10-6 | Season: 20-12 09/25/10 [Last modified: Saturday, September 25, 2010 7:12pm]
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