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Stephen F. Holder's NFL picks | Last week: 10-6 | Season: 30-18

Matchup The scoop Holder's pick
49ers (0-3) at Falcons (2-1)

Time: 1 p.m.

Line, O/U: Falcons by 7, 42½

The 49ers are making it harder to say anything nice about them. But 0-3 is 0-3, and coach Mike Singletary, left, better find a way to pull things together — fast. For all the talk about Singletary dropping Jimmy Raye as offensive coordinator, let's not forget the defense is allowing a league-high 29 points per game, including 31 last week at Kansas City. On the contrary, the Falcons defense is playing well, allowing just 15.3 points. Offensively, RB Michael Turner was able to pound the ball in a win over the defending champion Saints last week, and the Falcons look like a team that will have to be reckoned with. Falcons 23, 49ers 17
Bengals (2-1) at Browns (0-3)

Time: 1 p.m.

Line, O/U: Bengals by 3, 37½

The Bucs will want to check out their next opponent, Cincinnati. And they are likely to find a team that will look much like they do: a 2-1 club with a lot of imperfections. The passing game has been a bit pedestrian, even with WRs Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens and rookie TE Jermaine Gresham, left. Though that might have as much to do with the Bengals' 3.2-yard rushing average than anything else. The talent is there, so maybe it's just a matter of time before the parts begin to jell. The Browns, meanwhile, appear headed for the basement of the AFC North, a place they're quite familiar with. Bengals 24, Browns 14
Jets (2-1) at Bills (0-3)

Time: 1 p.m.

Line, O/U: Jets by 6, 36½

Part of what makes the Jets the Jets is their swagger. They're starting to get it back with consecutive wins over the Patriots and Dolphins, their chief AFC East foes. A quick jaunt to Buffalo gives them a chance to start 3-0 in division play. QB Mark Sanchez, left, has removed the shackles that prevented him from taking chances in the passing game. He has three touchdown passes in each of the past two games, and it would be a mild surprise if he didn't have more today. The Bills made the right choice in going with QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, but the Jets figure to force a few interceptions today. Jets 29, Bills 17
Seahawks (2-1) at Rams (1-2)

Time: 1 p.m.

Line, O/U: Seahawks by 2, 40

Still trying to figure out the Seahawks. They were outgained 518 yards to 271 yards by the Chargers last week but won because Leon Washington, left, returned two kickoffs for touchdowns in one half. So it seems sensible the Rams will be in this game so long as they cover kicks. St. Louis is coming off a nice win over the Redskins, showing it is going to be a factor in the weak NFC West. But when it comes to picking winners, it's hard to put much faith in a team that has lost 27 of its past 29 games. QB Sam Bradford is getting better, so this could be close. But the Rams have work to do. Seahawks 23, Rams 21
Broncos (1-2) at Titans (2-1)

Time: 1 p.m.

Line, O/U: Titans by 6½, 44

Titans RB Chris Johnson grabs the headlines because he talks a lot (oh, and he rushed for 2,000 yards last season), but it's the defense that will decide how the Titans do. So far, the unit is doing a splendid job, allowing 14 points a game. But that's going to be put to the test, beginning today against a Denver offense averaging 417 yards. The Broncos and QB Kyle Orton find themselves up against a capable secondary featuring three former Pro Bowl players in Cortland Finnegan, Chris Hope and Michael Griffin. A caveat: CB Jason McCourty is injured and will be replaced by rookie Alterraun Verner, left. Titans 24, Broncos 21
Lions (0-3) at Packers (2-1)

Time: 1 p.m.

Line, O/U: Packers by 14½, 45½

For all the upgrading the Lions did on defense, adding DTs Ndamukong Suh, left, and Corey Williams, we're not seeing tangible results. Detroit is giving up 413 yards per game — more than last season, when the Lions were the league's worst defense. And they are still without their franchise player, injured QB Matthew Stafford. Until he returns, backup Shaun Hill isn't going to inspire many to bet on the Lions. He certainly is the underdog in today's quarterback matchup with Aaron Rodgers, who is looking to push his team to victory after a tough Monday night loss at Soldier Field against the Bears. Packers 30, Lions 17
Ravens (2-1) at Steelers (3-0)

Time: 1 p.m., Ch. 10

Line, O/U: Steelers by 2½, 34½

This game is going to be ugly, scary and, in all probability, at least a little bit bloody. The Ravens have the league's top-ranked defense, while the Steelers might have the meanest. For as much as Steelers QB Charlie Batch looked good in Tampa last week, don't think you're going to see that today. For one, the Ravens will get more of a pass rush than the Bucs. And Batch got a little lucky on his two long touchdown strikes. No way he gets those breaks today. Plus, LB Ray Lewis, left, and his mates will make things harder on Steelers RB Rashard Mendenhall, who is averaging 5.2 yards. Ravens 21, Steelers 17
Panthers (0-3) at Saints (2-1)

Time: 1 p.m., Ch. 13

Line, O/U: Saints by 13, 44

We know this much about the Saints: They're not going to lose this game on a Garrett Hartley field goal miss. After last week's botched winner against Atlanta, New Orleans brought in veteran K John Carney for his third stint. If the game is on the line, Hartley will not be attempting a kick. That said, it shouldn't come to that for the Saints. The Panthers are still breaking in rookie QB Jimmy Clausen, left, and coach John Fox's job is very much in jeopardy. You have to think the Saints will find a way to exploit the Panthers' minus-6 turnover ratio, and this game does little to get Fox off the hot seat. Saints 27, Panthers 13
Colts (2-1) at Jaguars (1-2)

Time: 4 p.m.

Line, O/U: Colts by 7, 46½

The Colts haven't given up on trying to run the ball, but they're hardly doing it effectively. Makes you wonder whether QB Peyton Manning can do it all through the air. Manning threw 43 times in a win at Denver last week. Meanwhile, RB Joseph Addai got 13 carries. Don't expect anything to change. The Jaguars have fared miserably against the pass, with Kyle Orton, Philip Rivers and Michael Vick each padding their stats against Jacksonville. Meanwhile, Jaguars QB David Garrard, left, has never played worse, throwing five picks in three games and averaging just 6.1 yards per completion. Colts 29, Jaguars 16
Texans (2-1) at Raiders (1-2)

Time: 4 p.m.

Line, O/U: Texans by 3, 43

The Texans have long had a prolific offense, but that's being offset by a defense yielding unsightly yardage totals. Only one defender, DE Mario Williams, left, has more than one-half sack (four), and the secondary consists mostly of guys you've never heard of. That's why Houston has given up 1,106 passing yards in three games. An important point: that came against Peyton Manning, Donovan McNabb and Tony Romo. Today, it's QB Bruce Gradkowski for the Raiders. The Texans have a favorable matchup with RB Arian Foster, the league's leading rusher. He is averaging 5.9 yards per carry. Texans 28, Raiders 17
Redskins (1-2) at Eagles (2-1)

Time: 4:15 p.m., Ch. 13

Line, O/U: Eagles by 6, 43

Move on. Nothing to see here. Just another game. That was the message from Washington QB Donovan McNabb, left. And if you believe that, we hear the Liberty Bell is on sale on eBay for a reasonable price. It never made sense that Eagles fans were always so split on their former quarterback, a probable Hall of Famer. Add to this game the intrigue of Michael Vick's re-emergence for Philly and this is about as juicy as it gets. McNabb's probably the better quarterback, but Vick has the better supporting cast. As a result, don't be surprised if McNabb gets outplayed today. Eagles 27, Redskins 17
Cardinals (2-1) at Chargers (1-2)

Time: 4:15 p.m.

Line, O/U: Chargers by 8½, 46½

The Cardinals might be 2-1, which is nice for a team that lost a lot of talent, but those wins came against the Raiders and Rams by a combined four points. And Derek Anderson is still Arizona's starting quarterback. The Chargers, meanwhile, have had a series of sobering moments, like last week's loss to the Seahawks that has them at 1-2 and trailing undefeated Kansas City in the AFC West. Coach Norv Turner, left, and his team face the Cardinals, Raiders and Rams in the next three games. For his sake, they had better go 3-0 or it won't matter how many yards league-leading QB Philip Rivers throws for. Chargers 29, Cardinals 20
Bears (3-0) at Giants (1-2)

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

Line, O/U: Giants by 3½, 44

When have you ever seen the Giants outscored a combined 67-24 in two games? It feels strange. Or it could be this: They are not very good. Nothing the Giants have done indicates they are a team to fear. Meanwhile, the Bears are changing perceptions and expectations, especially after a momentum-building win over the Packers. The Bears haven't produced much in the running game, but RB Matt Forte, left, is finding other ways to be effective — like leading the team in receiving and teaming with QB Jay Cutler for three touchdown receptions. And the defense is living up to Bears standards. Bears 24, Giants 20
Monday night football
Patriots (2-1) at Dolphins (2-1)

Time: 8:30 p.m., ESPN

Line, O/U: Patriots by 1, 47½

There was something disturbing about the Bills hanging 30 points on the Patriots last week. But what's really troublesome for New England is that it wasn't a strange phenomenon. The Patriots have real defensive problems, and until they get stops, even QB Tom Brady isn't going to be enough to keep this dynasty going. The secondary has allowed two 100-yard receiving efforts, and don't think Dolphins WR Brandon Marshall hasn't noticed. Miami's defense — led by LB Karlos Dansby, left, and an improved secondary — has been stout, with last week's setback against the Jets the exception. Dolphins 28, Patriots 26

Stephen F. Holder's NFL picks | Last week: 10-6 | Season: 30-18 10/02/10 [Last modified: Saturday, October 2, 2010 7:44pm]
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