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Cowboys at 49ers

Line: 49ers by 6

OF NOTE: San Francisco and Dallas have won eight of the past 16 Super Bowls, so this is one battle in the war for best organization, team of the decade and all of those other mythical titles. The Cowboys (4-4) limp into 3Com Park and Dallas S Bill Bates says the Niners want to be the first team to stick the sword in and twist it. Are the Cowboys as good as dead? I'm hearing a flat line, but Dallas won't go easily.

KEY INJURIES: Dallas _ DT Chad Hennings (groin), T Mark Tuinei (knee) are out. LB Vinson Smith (jaw) is doubtful. DE Shante Carver (elbow), S Darren Woodson are questionable. San Francisco _ DT Bryant Young (ankle-foot) is doubtful. DT Junior Bryant (elbow), TE Brent Jones (leg), C-G Jesse Sapolu (ankle) are questionable.

HOOPER'S PICK: 49ers 19, Cowboys 15.

Steelers at Chiefs

Line: Chiefs by 3

OF NOTE: It's not a reach to say the winner will represent the AFC in the Super Bowl. The matchup also is intriguing because Pittsburgh's Jerome Bettis will bus into Arrowhead Stadium against a defense ranked seventh against the run, and Chiefs QB Elvis Grbac will take his chances against the league's No.

27 pass defense. Crowd noise will be a factor, but the Steelers won in Kansas City last year and have taken four of five against the Chiefs. It's really too close to call, but I'll take the Chiefs.

KEY INJURIES: Steelers _ S Lethon Flowers (knee), WR Charles Johnson (knee) are out. WR Will Blackwell (ankle) is doubtful. RB George Jones (knee), G Tom Myslinski (abdomen) are questionable. Chiefs _ T Steve Wallace (knee) is doubtful. CB Dale Carter (shoulder) is probable.

HOOPER'S PICK: Chiefs 20, Steelers 19.

Seahawks at Broncos

Line: Broncos by 8{

OF NOTE: Seattle QB Warren Moon, just shy of his 41st birthday, is an intriguing story, but Moon's rising does not have me convinced the Seahawks can beat Denver. Who among their five wins _ Indianapolis, San Diego, Tennessee, St. Louis and Oakland _ would you call formidable? Time for reality to set in. The Broncos routed Seattle 35-14 in Week 2 and have won eight of the past 10 meetings. Denver needs a quality effort to restore confidence.

KEY INJURIES: Seahawks _ RB Lamar Smith (leg) is out. S Bennie Blades (back), T Walter Jones (ankle) are questionable. Broncos _ DE Neil Smith (tricep) is out. DT Michael Dean Perry (knees) is questionable. RB Howard Griffith (knee) is probable.

HOOPER'S PICK: Broncos 28, Seahawks 17.


Bucs at Colts

Line: Bucs by 4{

OF NOTE: Solutions for the Bucs' offensive woes have been bandied about all week, but I'm sorry, the answer is not to open up the offense and let QB Trent Dilfer throw more. The Bucs have lost three straight, but they were in every game at the beginning of the fourth quarter because the defense kept it close. Indy will put eight in the box, but their rush defense is 27th in the league. This is a team you run the ball against. The Bucs need to spread the field, open up some running lanes and do what it takes to beat an 0-8 team.

KEY INJURIES: Bucs _ TE Jackie Harris (groin) is questionable. WR Reidel Anthony (ankle) is probable. Colts _ LB Tony Bennett (knee) is out. QB Jim Harbaugh (hand) is doubtful. LB Quentin Coryatt (ankle), G Kipp Vickers (knee) are questionable.

HOOPER'S PICK: Bucs 17, Colts 7.

Patriots at Vikings

Line: Patriots by 1

OF NOTE: QB Drew Bledsoe has not displayed the ability to carry New England to victory by himself, but the Patriots coaching staff keeps asking him to do it. The Pats' best bet is to give RB Curtis Martin the ball, but DT Jerry Ball has helped the Vikings defense against the run. Minnesota will be without RB Robert Smith and backup Leroy Hoard is not completely healthy. Still, QB Brad Johnson will hit the quick pass to Cris Carter and Jake Reed, who leads the NFL with 36 first-down receptions, and the Vikes' Metrodome noise will bother the Pats.

KEY INJURIES: Patriots _ DE Ferric Collons (chest) is out. CB Steve Israel (knee) is doubtful. Vikings _ DE Derrick Alexander (ankle), Smith (ankle) are out. S Orlando Thomas (hamstring) is questionable.

HOOPER'S PICK: Vikings 24, Patriots 17.

Lions at Packers

Line: Packers by 10

OF NOTE: The Packers are coming off a short week while the Lions had a bye. Detroit upset Green Bay in Week 5, but the whole six-day layoff appears to have rejuvenated the Packers. The no-huddle offense should spark some early points and RB Dorsey Levens, who has become a heartthrob after appearing on Oprah, will cause the Lions' hopes to swoon. You can't pick against the Pack in Lambeau, especially when DT Gilbert Brown is back to help stuff Lions RB Barry Sanders. If Detroit has to depend on Scott Mitchell to win the game hey, you know the deal.

KEY INJURIES: Lions _ S Van Malone (abdomen) is questionable. Packers _ G Aaron Taylor (knee) is questionable. QB Brett Favre (turf toe) is probable.

HOOPER'S PICK: Packers 31, Lions 20.

Dolphins at Bills

Line: Bills by 2

OF NOTE: Time to get down on the Dolphins again. Hey, they blew a 15-point lead and lost to the Bears. Miami should bounce back against the Bills, but I'm rolling the dice and picking Buffalo in a mild upset. QB Alex Van Pelt will meet with surprising success and RBs Antowain Smith and Thurman Thomas should do some damage with DE Aaron Taylor missing. The Fins will counter with Dan Marino, but the Bills have the league's No.

5 pass defense and the personnel to pressure Marino into bad throws.

KEY INJURIES: Dolphins _ FB Stanley Pritchett (knee), DE Jason Taylor (arm) are out. G Keith Sims (elbow) is doubtful. Bills _ LB Chris Spielman (neck) is out. LB Marlo Perry (hamstring) is doubtful. DE Phil Hansen (wrist), LB John Holecek (ankle) are questionable.

HOOPER'S PICK: Bills 17, Dolphins 13.

Jaguars at Oilers

Line: Jaguars by 1

OF NOTE: Either Mark Brunell, injured finger, or backup Rob Johnson will start. Regardless, the Jacksonville passing game should flourish. The Oilers have been playing better lately, but Jacksonville has lost two straight and will be anxious to snap out of the doldrums. Tennessee feasted on Arizona last week with QB Steve McNair throwing 55 yards for one touchdown and running 35 yards for another, but the Oilers are due for a letdown after winning three straight. The road team has won every game in this series, and the Oilers have no home-field edge.

KEY INJURIES: Jaguars _ CB Aaron Beasley (hip), LB Kevin Hardy (knee) are out. Brunell (finger), RB Natrone Means (ankle) are questionable. Oilers _ CB Steve Jackson (ankle) is questionable.

HOOPER'S PICK: Jaguars 30, Oilers 13.


Raiders at Panthers

Line: Panthers by 3

OF NOTE: One team in northern California is known as the 49ers, and Oakland should change its nickname to fool's gold because once again it's going to trick me into picking it. The Raiders, with all their offensive weapons, are so alluring, even though they're 3-5 and 1-3 on the road. Last week, they lost to Seattle 45-34 because of a porous defense ranked last in the league. Picking them again is foolish, but I just don't think the Panthers can produce enough points to keep pace. Carolina's 4-4 record is not impressive considering it has not beaten a winning team.

KEY INJURIES: Raiders _ TE John Henry Mills (hamstring), CB Lionel Washington (hamstring) are doubtful. T Pat Harlow (back), DE Lance Johnstone (ankle), RB Napoleon Kaufman (knee), CB Albert Lewis (knee) are questionable.

HOOPER'S PICK: Raiders 27, Panthers 17.

Ravens at Jets

Line: Jets by 5

OF NOTE: In what is an even match on paper, I'm picking the Ravens on the theory that the brewing quarterback controversy will be the undoing of the Jets. Coach Bill Parcells is opting to go back to Neil O'Donnell even though backup Glenn Foley completed 17 of 23 in a come-from-behind victory against New England two weeks ago. Couple that with the fact Baltimore has a more balanced offense, and you have another Ravens road win thanks to RB Bam Morris (176 yards last week) and QB Vinny Testaverde.

KEY INJURIES: Ravens _ CB Antonio Langham (hamstring) is questionable. CB Eugene Daniel (hamstring), Morris (ankle), S Stevon Moore (groin) are probable. Jets _ P Brian Hansen (knee) is probable.

HOOPER'S PICK: Ravens 27, Jets 24.

Redskins at Bears

Line: Redskins by 2{

OF NOTE: Da' Bears are back. Erik Kramer is the man. Okay, maybe the euphoria of the victory against Miami will make Chicago a little too giddy, but in my opinion it's a sign of things to come. The Redskins' run defense will suffer even more with LB Ken Harvey on the sideline, so look for big things from Raymont Harris. As long as Kramer is smart against CBs Darrell Green and Cris Dishman. Defensively, the Bears' pressure on Gus Frerotte is going to be more than he can handle. Hey, Gus, you're supposed to be getting better, not worse. Finally, consider this: Alvin Harper is going to start. 'Nuf said.

KEY INJURIES: Redskins _ Harvey (shoulder), WR Michael Westbrook (knee) are out. RB Terry Allen (knee), DT Marc Boutte (knee), DE Kenard Lang (ear) are probable.

HOOPER'S PICK: Bears 21, Redskins 20.


Eagles at Cardinals

Line: Eagles by 4

OF NOTE: There's a new kid in town for Arizona, but these Eagles don't care. Cardinals coach Vince Tobin said he's going with Jake Plummer regardless of Kent Graham's offense. It's not a bad plan if you're building for the future, but in the here and now it means taking your lumps against a Philadelphia team desperate to stay in contention. Plummer will be sharper than he was last week, but Philly's offense should put up enough points to outscore Snake and company.

KEY INJURIES: Eagles _ WR Chris T. Jones (knee) is out. G Ian Beckles (foot), S Brian Dawkins (foot) are questionable. Cardinals _ RB Derrick Moore (knee) is out. LB Eric Hill (neck) is doubtful. S Matt Darby (concussion), Graham (ankle-knee), DT Eric Swann (knee) are questionable.

HOOPER'S PICK: Eagles 24, Cardinals 10.

Chargers at Bengals

Line: Pick 'em

OF NOTE: Last week, a furious Jeff Blake turned over a table in the Giants Stadium locker room and almost came to blows with teammate Ken Blackman. The toll of a seven-game losing streak for the once-promising Bengals is extreme. Conventional wisdom would say pick the Bengals at home against a San Diego team accustomed to playing on grass, but Cincy is having an unconventional season. San Diego's defense is stout, and its running game is achieving greatness with the unexpected success of retread RB Gary Brown (28 carries, 169 yards).

KEY INJURIES: Chargers _ K John Carney (knee) is out. QB Jim Everett (elbow) is questionable. Bengals _ DT Brentson Buckner (knee), DE John Copeland (thigh), CB Tito Paul (knee) are questionable.

HOOPER'S PICK: Chargers 21, Bengals 17.

Rams at Falcons

Line: Falcons by 3

OF NOTE: Atlanta has the better starting pitching with Chris Chandler, but Chandler has to stay healthy if he's going to be effective on the mound. The Rams' hitting has been anemic and Lawrence Phillips has not consistently displayed the kind of speed St. Louis needs to manufacture runs. When WR Isaac Bruce scored last week against the Chiefs, it snapped a monthlong scoring drought for St. Louis. Rams pitcher Tony Banks has struggled with control, so look for a Falcons win.

KEY INJURIES: Rams _ S Gerald McBurrows (knee) is out. DT Jeff Zgonina (abdomen) is questionable. WR Eddie Kennison (groin), RB Lawrence Phillips (ankle), WR Torrance Small (groin) are probable. Falcons _ LB Ruffin Hamilton (back) is doubtful. C Roman Fortin (ankle) is questionable.

HOOPER'S PICK: Falcons 4, Rams 3.