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STEPHEN F. HOLDER'S NFL PICKS

Matchup

The scoop

Holder's pick

Seahawks(1-4)at Bucs (4-2)

Time: 8:15 p.m., Ch. 8

Line, O/U: Bucs by 10-1/2, 38

QB Matt Hasselbeck will miss his second straight game with back and knee injuries, meaning soon-to-be-retired coach Mike Holmgren, left, could have a little less hair by the end of the night. The Bucs will attempt to capitalize on Hasselbeck's replacement, sore-legged Seneca Wallace in his first start in two years, by applying all sorts of pressure. With a league-leading 11 interceptions, the Bucs are on pace for a staggering 30 (the team record is 32).

Bucs 24, Seahawks 14

Chargers (3-3)at Bills (4-1)

Time: 1 p.m.

Line, O/U: Bills by 1, 44

The cobwebs have cleared and Bills QB Trent Edwards, left, (concussion) is back. But I have doubts about this Bills defense. Giving up 41 points to the Cardinals last time out is hard to justify. San Diego is the league's highest-scoring team, averaging 29.7 points after a 30-10 throttling of the Patriots last week. QB Philip Rivers had an impressive 141.9 rating in the game, throwing for 306 yards and three touchdowns, and the offense finally iscoming into its own.

Chargers 27, Bills 20

Saints (3-3)at Panthers (4-2)

Time: 1 p.m., Ch. 13

Line, O/U: Panthers by 3, 44-1/2 This is a huge division game for the Saints. But the Panthers were exposed by the Bucs last week. That makes this a tough call. It might come down to this: To beat the Panthers, a team must run the ball as Tampa Bay did. This presents a problem for the airborne Saints. Panthers LB Jon Beason, left, is a beast against the run. DE Julius Peppers will try to pressure QB Drew Brees.

Panthers 22, Saints 20

Vikings (3-3) at Bears (3-3)

Time: 1 p.m.

Line, O/U: Bears by 3, 37-1/2

Bears KR/WR Devin Hester, left, hasn't had a return touchdown all season, but this could be the game he breaks out of his slump. Did you see Reggie Bush break two punt returns for touchdowns against the Vikings two weeks ago? If Hester can't get the Bears in the end zone, their best bet is to keep the Vikings out of it. Minnesota won a 12-10 "thriller" against Detroit last week, and the Vikings' 18.8 points per game (24th in the NFL) just isn't good enough. This game breaks a three-way tie in the NFC North.

Bears 21, Vikings 14

Steelers (4-1) at Bengals (0-6)

Time: 1 p.m.

Line, O/U: Steelers by 9-1/2, 35

The Bengals are the only winless team in the AFC. Unfortunately, they figure to stay that way. The Steelers are coming off a bye week, meaning QB Ben Roethlisberger's injured shoulder should be a little better. Same can't be said for the Bengals' Carson Palmer, who is contemplating season-ending elbow surgery and has been ruled out for this game. Backup QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, left, gets the start against the league's second-stingiest defense, a unit that gives up just 231 yards per game.

Steelers 29, Bengals 13

Titans (5-0)at Chiefs (1-4)

Time: 1 p.m.

Line, O/U: Titans by 9, 35

In this day of ever-increasing parity - ever seen this many .500 teams? - the Titans are the only undefeated team. They aren't doing it with a sensational offense or highlight-worthy defensive plays. They do the little things, like take care of the ball. Behind the careful play of QB Kerry Collins, left, Tennessee has the league's best turnover ratio (plus-6). And the Titans are solid against the pass (10 interceptions) and the run (3.7 yards per carry).

Titans 20, Chiefs 13

Ravens (2-3)at Dolphins (2-3)

Time: 1 p.m., Ch. 10

Line, O/U: Dolphins by 3, 36-1/2

Baltimore has the unenviable distinction of being the team that allowed the Dolphins to avoid a winless season in 2007, losing in overtime Dec. 16. The situation is much different in 2008, with both teams having playoff aspirations. The Dolphins are still not a complete team, thus the reason they are relying so heavily on the Wildcat offense. The Ravens are physical on defense, led by bruiser Ray Lewis, left, at MLB and Terrell Suggs at DE. Ravens CB Chris McAlister has three interceptions.

Ravens 21, Dolphins 17

49ers (2-4)at Giants (4-1)

Time: 1 p.m.

Line, O/U: Giants by 10-1/2, 46-1/2

The 49ers might have been encouraged by Giants QB Eli Manning's three interceptions on Monday night in Cleveland. But what San Francisco might not know is that Manning, left, has a knack for bouncing back from his blunders. In 2005, he threw four picks against the Vikings, only to respond with a three-touchdown performance against the Eagles. Behind Manning, the Giants have a league-leading 419 yards per game. Given the 49ers' defense (which gave up 40 points to the Eagles last week), things look good for New York.

Giants 28, 49ers 14

Cowboys (4-2) at Rams (1-4)

Time: 1 p.m.

Line, O/U: Cowboys by 7, 44

QB Tony Romo has the most famous little finger in sports. His broken pinkie will be the subject of much speculation right up until kickoff. Owner Jerry Jones says it's "very likely" Romo will play. Coach Wade Phillips implied the plan is to start former Buccaneer Brad Johnson, left, unless there is no doubt Romo is ready. Who knows? Another question: Are the Cowboys really this hesitant to play Johnson against the Rams? This is a team, by the way, that gives up 403 yards per game. Seems like it shouldn't matter.

Cowboys 24, Rams 14

Lions (0-5)at Texans (1-4)

Time: 4 p.m.

Line, O/U: Texans by 9-1/2, 46-1/2

Wonder what kind of television ratings this one will draw considering it features teams with combined records of 1-9. The Texans and QB Matt Schaub know how to play offense, which should serve them well against a Lions team that has the worst defense in the NFL, giving up 421.6 yards per game. Houston can't be considered a defensive power, but DE Mario Williams, left, has been dominant, with four sacks in two games. He probably already knows that Detroit has given up the second-most sacks in the league (22).

Texans 29, Lions 20

Colts (3-2)at Packers (3-3)

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

Line, O/U: Colts by 1, 47

Which is the real Colts team: the one that scored 31 against the Ravens or the one that couldn't get its act together the previous four weeks? We're starting to see signs of life. WR Marvin Harrison scores on a 67-yard strike against Baltimore. Then DE Robert Mathis, left, racks up three sacks. The Colts will be missing core players Bob Sanders and Joseph Addai but appear to be making strides. This road test will tell us a little more.

Colts 24, Packers 17

Jets (3-2)at Raiders (1-4)

Time: 4:15 p.m.

Line, O/U: Jets by 3, 41

The Jets should send Christmas cards to the NFL schedulemakers with the lineup they are enjoying now. After a gift last week against the Bengals, they take on the 1-4 Raiders today, with Kansas City waiting in the wings. QB Brett Favre, left, wasn't all that sharp against Cincinnati, throwing one touchdown and two interceptions, but he didn't have to be. Same applies today against Oakland. The Raiders have lost three straight, giving up 24, 28 and 34 points in those games.

Jets 23, Raiders 16

Browns (2-3)at Redskins (4-2)

Time: 4:15 p.m.

Line, O/U: Redskins by 7-1/2, 42

We are dealing with a pair of enigmas. Out of nowhere, the Browns upset the world champion Giants on Monday. A day earlier, the seemingly red-hot Redskins fall apart against the ... Rams? Perhaps this week both clubs re-assume their typical personalities. If Washington QB Jason Campbell can avoid t interceptions, the Redskins should win. Campbell still hasn't thrown a pick this season. And they need to keep going to RB Clinton Portis, left, who has a league-leading 643 yards.

Redskins 24, Browns 20

Monday night football

Broncos (4-2)at Patriots (3-2)

Time: 8:30 p.m., ESPN

Line, O/U: Patriots by 3, 48

A stat to keep in mind: Against the Chargers last week, the Patriots gave up pass completions of 48, 49 and 59 yards. Throw in a 32-yard pass-interference penalty in the end zone and that's four plays for a whopping 188 yards. Denver QB Jay Cutler comes to town leading the AFC in passing yardage (1,694) and 12 touchdowns. If you watched the Patriots offense last week, it suddenly appears to be in a serious funk. It won't help that RB Laurence Maroney, left, is doubtful with a shoulder injury.

Broncos 27, Patriots 20

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