• Philadelphia aware of historic underdog status against Atlanta

    By: ROB MAADDI, AP Pro Football Writer


    PHILADELPHIA - Carson Wentz's value to the Philadelphia Eagles is reflected clearly in a historic betting line.

    The Eagles (13-3) are the first No. 1 seed to be an underdog in their opening playoff game. The sixth-seeded Atlanta Falcons (11-6) are 2 ½-point favorites in Saturday's NFC divisional playoff.

    "It doesn't really matter," wide receiver Torrey Smith said Monday. "We're better than that, but we have to show it."

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    After Wentz tore his ACL in Week 14, the Eagles went 2-1 with backup quarterback Nick Foles. But the offense was inconsistent. Foles played well in his first five quarters after replacing Wentz and struggled in the next five. He sat out the final three quarters in Week 17 along with most of the starters.

    Oddsmakers weren't impressed. Of course, players and coaches shrugged off the disrespect.

    "I don't care what people say because what people say has never won a game for me and my teammates," linebacker Dannell Ellerbe said.

    Defensive end Chris Long said it would be foolish for the team to use this as motivation.

    "This is not the way we think," he said.

    The Falcons are coming off a 26-13 playoff win at the Los Angeles Rams after beating Carolina in a win-or-out regular-season finale. The defending NFC champions had their worst offensive performance during the 2016 season in a 24-15 loss at Philadelphia in Week 10.

    Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz isn't drawing too much from that victory. Atlanta has a new offensive coordinator - Steve Sarkisian replaced Kyle Shanahan - and it took a while for them to get things on track.

    "They are a little bit different than last year," Schwartz said. "Every team's going to be a little bit different from year-to-year. There's going to be some things you do well, some things that you put in in the offseason, some things that maybe fit your personality a little bit more. There's still a lot of challenges with that team. I mean, it goes well beyond a player like Julio Jones. It goes well beyond the quarterback (Matt Ryan). Their tight end (Austin Hooper) is having a great year. Their running backs (Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman), if you combine the running back stats, you're talking about a first-team All-Pro - 1,500 yards, I think 12 touchdowns. So we have to look at it that way. There's going to be a lot of challenges this week."

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