Cote’s pick: GB 31-24.
TV: 8 p.m. Saturday, NBC.
Yeah, I know the Vikings beat the Pack just last week, 37-34, to dramatically earn a playoff spot and deny Green Bay a first-round bye. But it’s tough to beat the Gee Bees twice in one season — let alone twice in two weeks. Adrian Peterson legged for 199 yards last week to narrowly miss the season record, and I’m sure he’ll get his yards again. But consider that the Vikes are 0-3 at Lambeau even when A.P. tops 100 yards rushing. Count even more on a huge day by Aaron Rodgers, who has a 132.5 passer rating with 16 TDS and one INT his past five games vs. Minny. Vikings were a mere 3-5 on the road this season, and Packers will get a big boost — both defensively and emotionally — with the well-timed return of safety and leader Charles Woodson from a long injury absence.
SEAHAWKS (11-5, No. 5) at REDSKINS (10-6, No. 4)
Line: SEA by 3.
Cote’s pick: WAS 24-23.
TV: 4:30 p.m. Sunday.
This, to me, looks like the most intriguing game of the four opening-round matchups, with two hot teams — ’Skins with seven consecutive wins, ’Hawks with five — and sensational rookie QBs Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson at the helm. There also is an unpredictability factor. Remarkably, this is the 28th NFL season in a row with at least three new playoff teams that weren’t in it a year earlier, and here are two of this year’s four. Can Seattle (3-5 away) prove it can win a big game away from home? Can Washington advance as the first team since the 1943 Giants to make the playoffs led by a rookie QB and RB (Alfred Morris)? Seattle is a better all-round squad because of its defense, but D.C. Will be pumped for its first home playoff game in 13 years. “In RG3 We Trust.” Venue pick. Upset!
FALCONS (13-3, No. 1 seed): Onus and pressure are on the top-seeded Birds to erase that 0-3 playoff record under coach Mike Smith and QB Matt Ryan. Losing last week at home to Bucs didn’t exactly allay concerns. (Atlanta would host Vikings if they beat Packers, otherwise the Seahawks-Redskins winner, at 1 p.m. Jan. 13.)
49ERS (11-4-1, No. 2): Jim Harbaugh’s mid-year QB switch from Alex Smith to Colin Kaepernick will continue to look smart … at least until a playoff loss enflames second-guessing. (San Francisco would host Packers if they beat Vikings, otherwise Seahawks-Redskins winner, at 8 p.m. Jan. 12.)