On Saturday, the top-seeded Philadelphia Eagles will host the sixth-seed Atlanta Falcons in the Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs. And they will do so, according to NFL betting sportsbooks, as an underdog. It is the first time a No. 1 seed will play a playoff game against a No. 6 seed as an underdog. It also marks the first time that a No. 1 seed is an underdog in the conference semifinals.
The Eagles earned that top seed with a 13-3 record, including a 7-1 mark at home. That one loss happened to be a meaningless Week 17 game against the Cowboys. Instead of boring you by listing all the accomplishments of the Philadelphia Eagles this season, I’ll let NFL Network’s Kyle Brandt do it for me.
Written off, and on the ropes, the @Eagles have something to prove on Saturday.
Inspired by Rocky, @KyleBrandt believes they can get it done.
— NFL Network (@nflnetwork) January 10, 2018
The Eagles are 5-1 all-time against the Falcons at Lincoln Financial Field, including 3-1 with Matt Ryan as the Falcons quarterback. While the Eagles spent last weekend resting, the Falcons had to fly across the country, play a physical game with the Los Angeles Rams, then fly home. Now they face more travel with a trip north to Philadelphia. But apparently none of that matters. Not the Eagles’ performance over the course of the season, nor the history, nor the travel. Looking at the line and listening to the national media, one would wonder why they should even bother to play the game. The narrative has become so pervasive that it has even permeated the rabid Philadelphia fan base.
In fairness, there is one giant, glaring hole on the Philadelphia roster that has caused us to get to this point. That hole was created when quarterback and MVP candidate Carson Wentz tore his ACL in Week 14. Losing a starting quarterback is a huge blow for any team. Losing one that was playing at the level that Wentz was can be devastating.
Despite the fact that the Eagles went 2-1 in Wentz’s absence, the offense did not look good. Backup quarterback Nick Foles struggled. Quarterback play and the effectiveness of the offense are legitimate cause for concern.
But Wentz doesn’t play defense. And yet the Eagles boast a top five defense, including the best run defense in the league. Wentz doesn’t block for himself. But the Eagles produced two All-Pro linemen, despite losing Jason Peters for the season.
It would be silly to ignore what Wentz did for this team while leading them to a 12-2 record. But it would also be silly to ignore what the other 52 players on the roster have accomplished.
It’s also important to note that sports book’s game lines are not a straight prediction of the outcome of a game, but a business decision meant to even out the action on each team. The goal of oddsmakers isn’t to accurately predict the result of sporting events, it’s to give themselves the best chance to make money.
So are the Eagles being disrespected? Or have they simply fallen victim to the minds of the betting public who see a team that lost an MVP-caliber player? It’s possible the answer is both.
Concerns from bettors are legitimate. They’ve witnessed a sputtering Eagles offense in the absence of Wentz. They also see a Falcons team with last year’s MVP playing quarterback, a talented backfield, one of the best wide receivers in the league, and a top 10 defense. It’s easy to see why money would tilt towards Atlanta.
At the same time, the Eagles have been among the best teams in the league all season long. While Wentz had a lot to do with that, it was far from a one-man show. They are sturdy on both lines, have been one of the NFL’s best defenses, and possess an effective running attack. Disregarding all of that due to the absence of one player, regardless of how special that player has been, is disrespectful to the players and coaches who have worked hard and performed for 17 long weeks.
Adding in issues like rest, travel, and home-field advantage, combined with the fact that no other No. 1 seed has been subjected to the underdog role at this stage of the playoffs, and the level of disrespect gets turned up a notch.
You can decide for yourself if the Eagles’ wings are being clipped or if your money is on the Falcons. Fortunately, we’ll get to see it decided on the field on Saturday.
Josh Naso aka The Silver Fox has a love for all things sports that borders on disorder. Here, he aims to share his thoughts on and passion for those sports with you.