Pittsburgh at Houston on Thursday was supposed to be the game for first place in the AFC Central and the home-field playoff advantage. Instead, it is a battle for suvival. The loser will surely spend the holidays at home. Should the Oilers be the ones watching television, look for Bum Phillips to move on, quite possibly to New Orleans. Pittsburgh was quite fortunate to survive an early scare against the youthful Dolphins and will have to play much more effectively on defense against the Oilers to keep its playoff hopes alive.

From the Oiler standpoint, Ken Stabler must stop throwing interceptions and Toni Fritsch must regain the consistency that made him one of the most feared clutch kickers in the game. Finally, the Steelers must once again contain the brilliant Earl Campbell. Houston by three.

EARLY NFL LINE: (Sunday) San Diego seven over Washington, Cleveland 10 over N.Y. Jets, Buffalo-Los Angeles even, Tampa Bay three over Minnesota, Philadelphia six over Atlanta, Baltimore three over Cincinnati, St. Louis three over Detroit, Chicago six over Green Bay, San Francisco seven over New Orleans, Oakland one over Dallas, Seattle seven over N.Y. Giants, Denver three over Kansas City. (Monday) New England over Miami.