Playoff picks: Packers a good bet this time
This time, they will deal with "All Day" Peterson at Lambeau Field. And in the playoffs.
The stakes are similar to last week for the Vikings, who would have been out of the playoffs had they lost to Green Bay, which already owned the division title. The venue, obviously, is different.
If that seems like a big edge for the Packers, well, they lost their last two postseason home games, both to the Giants, who went on to win the Super Bowl each time. They dropped a 31-14 verdict to Minnesota after the 2004 season, the only time in 104 matchups these NFC North rivals have met in the playoffs.
So Green Bay is 1-3 in recent home playoff games on the tundra. That doesn't diminish the challenge facing Minnesota, an 8-point underdog.
"It put us in a spot that we've been wanting to be, wanted to get here since April 23 of last year when we started OTAs," Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder said of the win over the Packers that got them a trip to Green Bay, where they lost 23-14 in the regular season.
"It's going to be tough going to Lambeau. Obviously it's an environment that's tough to play in, but we're hoping that a lot of our Vikings fans travel, just like there were some Green Bay fans at home this past week."
The shorter week won't matter to either side considering they faced off last weekend. At least it gives the Packers less time to watch video of the horror show their defense put on trying to slow down Peterson.
They'll do a better job this Saturday night.
BEST BET: PACKERS, 31-20
Indianapolis (plus 6½ ) at Baltimore
This could be Ray Lewis' final game; he announced Wednesday his plan to end his 17-year career that certainly should land him in the Hall of Fame.
There are much better ways to finish than chasing around the Colts' offense, which will be a difficult chore for the Ravens' defense. With Lewis sidelined for nearly three months with a triceps injury and Terrell Suggs not resembling the Defensive Player of the Year he was in 2011 as he plays while still recovering from an Achilles tendon injury, Baltimore can't count on shutting down opponents.
In previous seasons when the Ravens were a defensive power, Andrew Luck might be reduced to an overmatched rookie. Not now.
UPSET SPECIAL: COLTS, 23-17
Cincinnati (plus 5) at Houston
The Texans stumbled into the playoffs, losing three of four and blowing home-field advantage and a bye in the AFC. Cincinnati, on the other hand, won seven of its last eight with a staunch defense.
Houston made the postseason for the first time last year and promptly knocked off the Bengals in the wild-card round. Both teams are improved this season, and the key could be which side protects its quarterback better. Houston has J.J. Watt and Antonio Smith providing pressure on the quarterbacks. For Cincinnati, it's Geno Atkins and Michael Johnson.
Houston will do it better.
Seattle (minus 1½) at Washington
The juiciest of the weekend's matchups features two streaking teams: Washington won its final seven games to take the NFC East, Seattle took its last five and seven of eight.
Rookie quarterbacks Robert Griffin III for the Redskins and Russell Wilson for the Seahawks have been sensational, like Indy's Luck. RG3 showed enough mobility in the win over Dallas to clinch the division, and his knee should be even stronger on Sunday to provide the double-threat potential that highlights his game.
Wilson is healthy and has similar skills. Even more encouraging for him is the Seahawks have an intimidating, resourceful defense with the speed to slow down Washington's offense. Seattle also has learned how to win on the road.
Against spread: 7-6 (112-124-7). Straight up: 12-4 (159-92-1)
Best Bet: 7-8-2 against spread, 11-6 straight up.
Upset special: 11-6 against spread, 9-8 straight up.
Online: http://pro32.ap.org/poll and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL
Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press
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