Let's see, I pretty much have given 499 Monday nights to watching professional football. That is the news I get from "Monday Night Football's" celebrated upcoming 500th game, the Oakland Raiders at the Denver Broncos . . .

Let's see, I might have missed a couple. There might have been a school play to watch or a storm that knocked out the electricity or a family crisis or two, but I can't remember what they were. I say I pretty much have seen all 499 . . .

Let's see, if I ate a bag of Cheetos, my snack of choice, during each Monday night name. If I took all those Cheetos and placed them end to end and tried to circle the globe, maybe staying away from a few trouble spots like Iraq and North Korea . . .

Let's see, if I had a beer during each game . . . Okay, if I had six beers during each game (average) and if I poured them all into a giant hole. If I had a powerboat and water skis and if I went out on that new beer lake on a hot summer day and, whoops, fell in . . .

Let's see, if I counted up the times I heard someone -- probably Frank -- say "third and long, they're looking for a pass" or "he's checking off" or "he had to have both feet in bounds" or "the ground can't cause a fumble" or "the ball has to break the plane of the goal line" or . . .

Let's see, on the other hand, if I never paid attention to "Monday Night Football." If I never watched at all. If I spent those three-plus hours every Monday night reading one of those good books I'm always going to read, but never do. How many would I have read? If I started writing a good book! If I did little home improvements for those three-plus hours. If I tried to learn a new language, maybe French. If I tried to learn a musical instrument. If I developed a hobby . . .


Let's not see about any of that. Let's just celebrate the moment.

Anyway, the picks . . .

Indianapolis (+91/2 ) at Philadelphia: There once was a coach named Dungy. Who thought his team was tied to a bungee. Alas, as the weeks passed. Bad things happened fast. And he soon hoped the ground was spongy. Pick: Eagles.

Cincinnati (+51/2 ) at Baltimore: Former Bengals quarterback Jeff Blake proves invaluable in preparations for Ravens. Passes out inside information that "we can do anything we want against these guys. They're terrible." Pick: Ravens.

Detroit (+10) at Green Bay: True or false: When the Goodyear blimp hovers over Lambeau Field it becomes (outside of Lambeau Field) the biggest structure in Green Bay. I say, "true." No. 3 is the feed store. Pick: Packers.

N.Y. Giants at Minnesota (+1): Giants head coach Jim Fassel took over play-calling last week and the move worked because the team won. This week he takes a shot at fullback. Pick: Giants.

Atlanta (+51/2) at Pittsburgh: Tommy Maddox handed off again to Amos Zereoue last week. Steelers won again last week. Planning and player personnel selection are everything in this league. Pick: Falcons.

San Diego (+6) at St. Louis: Here's the new prediction theory in this year of great parity: Pick the team that was totally embarrassed last week to make amends this week. Let's see, I guess I'll go here with the team that was trailing 31-7 to the N.Y. Jets at the half. Pick: Chargers.

Seattle (+31/2) at Arizona: Mike Holmgren always has reminded me of a genial shop teacher. (Try to keep it down, boys.) (Billy, please don't put Bobby's hand underneath that power drill.) Mike Holmgren reminds me now of the genial shop teacher who has seen enough, thank you very much. Pick: Cardinals.

New Orleans at Carolina (+41/2): Stakes higher than you might think. Saints won last year, 27-25, and left town with Charlotte's NBA franchise. Threaten to take NASCAR with victory this year. Pick: Saints.

Washington (+2) at Jacksonville: If you lost your seat in Congress this week, do you still keep your Redskins tickets until the end of the season? Or do you have to give them back to the lobbyist? Just asking. Pick: Jaguars.

Houston (+10) at Tennessee: Pick Six winners in Breeders' Cup first stirred suspicion when they won a bet that the Houston Texans would win "at least two games this season." Had wheeled that bet with all possible outcomes of the Winona Ryder trial and the "Entertainer of the Year" award at the CMA awards. Pick: Titans.

New England at Chicago (+31/2): Bears fans have discovered library at University of Illinois during team's recent downturn. Librarians report great demand for books on the history of beer. Pick: Patriots.

Kansas City (+61/2) at San Francisco: Al Davis's dilemma: Does he vote for the demise of the 49ers or Chiefs? He has two voodoo dolls on the sofa, a bucketful of pins, and is absolutely paralyzed. Pick: Chiefs.

Miami (+11/2) at NY Jets: Have you ever gone to your kid's music recital? Have you ever heard a string of 9-year-olds play the clarinet badly? Have you been watching Ray Lucas play quarterback for the Dolphins in the last two games? Uh-huh. Same feeling. Pick: Dolphins.

Oakland (+51/2) at Denver: Yes! "Monday Night Football"! The 500th game! In small, intimate cocktail lounges around the country, divorce lawyers and marriage counselors toast the occasion. Pick: Raiders.

Last Week: Finished 6-7-1 against the math. Would have done better if I hadn't worn retro blue uniform jersey and white helmet with lightning bolts on sides while making selections. Now 66-59-5 for the season.