By Doug Russell Special to Published Jan 13, 2012 at 11:00 AM

It has been a long, sad week in Green Bay, as the Packers have to simultaneously deal with the death of offensive coordinator Joe Philbin's 21-year old son, Michael, while preparing for the most important game of their season.

The good news for the Packers is that they are the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs. The bad news is that historically, that means almost nothing in terms of who advances and who does not. Only one No. 1 seed has won any of the last seven Super Bowls. As Green Bay proved last year, it does not matter how you get to the playoffs, just so long as you do get to the playoffs.

Six weeks ago, the Packers won a thrilling, come-from-behind contest at MetLife Stadium in where Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw for 369 yards and four touchdowns; Rodgers' New York counterpart, Eli Manning, threw for 347 yards and three scores.

It is a game the Giants feel they should have won, and let Green Bay off the hook.

"We wanted to see them again, but we realized in seeing them again it would be in a playoff game like this, so obviously we wanted to see them again," defensive end Justin Tuck told reporters this week. "But yeah, we felt like we let one slip through our hands."

Three key matchups:

New York quarterback Eli Manning vs. Green Bay's defensive secondary. I'll put bluntly. When Eli Manning turns the ball over, the Giants lose. When he does not turn the ball over, the Giants win. The lone game that Green Bay lost this year was the only contest in which they did not create any turnovers. This season, Manning threw 16 interceptions (along with 29 touchdowns) and will be going up against the most helter skelter defense perhaps in football history. While the Packers would become the first team to rank dead last to play in a Super Bowl should they win their next two games, they also led the NFL in interceptions with 31. Their opportunism has kept them in games; their risk taking has led to a reliance on their potent offense to just outscore their opponents, no matter how many points are needed to get the job done.

Green Bay's offensive line vs. New York defensive ends Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul. The Packers offensive line is as healthy as they have been all year, with the return of Chad Clifton and Bryan Bulaga at the tackles. If either one falters, Marshall Newhouse is ready to step in at any moment after having started 13 games this season. However, if Newhouse is pressed into action, that might not be a good thing, as he struggled mightily at times, forcing Rodgers out of the pocket and into some sacks. Pierre-Paul is headed to the Pro Bowl after having a breakout season registering 16.5 sacks. When Pierre-Paul needs a breather, Osi Umenyiora may get a few snaps. He missed seven games this season and is dealing with a bad ankle. However, in the nine games he did play in, Umenyiora still got to the quarterback nine times.

Green Bay's offensive coaches vs. New York defensive coordinator Perry Fewell. The sad truth of the death of 21-year old Michael Philbin is that while his father grieves, the nature of the NFL is to still plan as hard as you can against your opponent. That isn't something that Fewell and his boss, Tom Coughlin should apologize for; that is just the way it is. After the fate of the younger Philbin was discovered, Packers head coach Mike McCarthy said he was ready to assume Joe Philbin's game planning duties. However, when his other offensive assistants came to the boss and asked him to trust them to handle their coordinator's duties in absentia to allow McCarthy to concentrate on being the leader of the team, he relented. No one wants to think about the football consequences of Michael Philbin's death. We will see on Sunday whether or not there were any.

NFL Team Ranks:

Total offense: Packers, 3 - Giants, 8

Passing offense: Packers, 3 - Giants, 5

Rushing offense: Packers, 27 - Giants, 32

3rd down offense: Packers, 3 - Giants, 14

Total points scored: Packers, 1 - Giants, 9

Total defense: Packers, 32 - Giants, 27

Passing defense: Packers, 32 - Giants, 29

Rushing defense: Packers, 14 - Giants, 19

3rd down defense: Packers, 26 - Giants, 17

Total points allowed: Packers, 19 - Giants, 25

Other NFL playoff games:

New Orleans (13-3, 14-3 overall) at San Francisco (13-3); 3:30 CT: Packers fans will be watching this game with great enthusiasm as the winner will await Green Bay in the NFC Championship, should the Packers win on Sunday. This game will feature something that has to give, and will also see a dubious record erased. The Saints have won their last eight games of the regular season, and had to come from behind last week in the Wild Card round vs. Detroit to get here. New Orleans, however, has never won a road playoff game. The great matchup will be how the vaunted New Orleans offense fares against the stout San Francisco defense. After Saturday's game, Frank Gore will no longer be the NFL's all-time leading rusher without a playoff appearance. Prediction: New Orleans 31, San Francisco 21

Denver (8-8, 9-8 overall) at New England (13-3); 7:00 CT: Will the Tim Tebow magic ever run out? That's the question so many around the NFL are wondering, from both of his supporters and his detractors. After Tebow engineered the Broncos overtime win over Pittsburgh with a one-play, 80-yard touchdown strike to Demaryius Thomas, there were those that had once doubted arguably college football's greatest all-time quarterback as a professional. Adding intrigue to this game is the return of former Denver head coach Josh McDaniels to the New England staff. McDaniels left the Patriots for the chance to run the Broncos and was responsible for drafting Tebow in the first place. Next season he will take back his old job as offensive coordinator, a job currently held by Penn State head coach-in waiting Bill O'Brien. Oh, by the way, the Patriots have not won a playoff game in four years or a Super Bowl in seven. Believe it or not, of the four major sports leagues, they are the Boston-based team that has gone the longest without a championship. Prediction: New England 27, Denver 23

Houston (10-6, 11-6 overall) vs. Baltimore (12-4): The Ravens feel like they have something to prove. Perhaps they do. Always seemingly close to reaching their goal of a Super Bowl, it has been 11 years since their only championship. This season, Baltimore went undefeated at home for the first time in team history, and did it with their characteristically stingy defense. "We have the team to do it now. We don't have too many more excuses," Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis told reporters this week. "Let's go do it right now. Then whatever else comes after that for all of your careers, you go enjoy it, but go win a championship." On Oct. 16, Baltimore beat Houston 29-14 with Matt Schaub under center. T.J. Yates has done admirably stepping in for Schaub and Matt Leinart, who both suffered season-ending injuries. Houston's run will end Sunday. Prediction: Baltimore 33, Houston 13

Broadcast information:

Television: FOX Network; (WITI – Channel 6 in Milwaukee) Joe Buck (play-by-play), Troy Aikman (analyst) and Pam Oliver (sidelines)

Local Radio: WTMJ – AM 620; Wayne Larrivee (play-by-play) and Larry McCarren (analyst)

National Radio: Westwood One / Dial Global; Kevin Harlan (play-by-play), Dan Fouts (analyst) and Hub Arkush (sidelines)

For what it's worth:

Two statistics should be noted that are either just strange anomalies or evidence of a trend could come into play this weekend.

No. 1, the last NFC team to win a playoff game the season after winning the Super Bowl was the 1997 Packers, en route to their second consecutive title game. Of course, Green Bay would up losing to Denver in Super Bowl XXXII.

No. 2, in the last ten years, there has been ten different franchises that have represented the NFC in the Super Bowl. In order, the Rams, Buccaneers, Panthers, Eagles, Seahawks, Bears, Giants, Cardinals, Saints, and Packers have all represented the conference over the past decade. The only club still alive in the NFC playoffs not in that group is the San Francisco 49ers.

My prediction:

Green Bay 32, New York 27

Doug Russell Special to

Doug Russell has been covering Milwaukee and Wisconsin sports for over 20 years on radio, television, magazines, and now at

Over the course of his career, the Edward R. Murrow Award winner and Emmy nominee has covered the Packers in Super Bowls XXXI, XXXII and XLV, traveled to Pasadena with the Badgers for Rose Bowls, been to the Final Four with Marquette, and saw first-hand the entire Brewers playoff runs in 2008 and 2011. Doug has also covered The Masters, several PGA Championships, MLB All-Star Games, and Kentucky Derbys; the Davis Cup, the U.S. Open, and the Sugar Bowl, along with NCAA football and basketball conference championships, and for that matter just about anything else that involves a field (or court, or rink) of play.

Doug was a sports reporter and host at WTMJ-AM radio from 1996-2000, before taking his radio skills to national syndication at Sporting News Radio from 2000-2007. From 2007-2011, he hosted his own morning radio sports show back here in Milwaukee, before returning to the national scene at Yahoo! Sports Radio last July. Doug's written work has also been featured in The Sporting News, Milwaukee Magazine, Inside Wisconsin Sports, and Brewers GameDay.

Doug and his wife, Erika, split their time between their residences in Pewaukee and Houston, TX.