The Eagles couldn’t care less about the betting line for their upcoming playoff game against the Falcons. It doesn’t even qualify as bulletin-board material.
Oddsmakers installed the Eagles as an underdog, which is a first for a No. 1 seed facing a No. 6 seed in the playoffs, going all the way back to when the NFL expanded the tournament to 12 teams in 1990. But if you expected the team to take a point spread personally, maybe use it as added motivation for their divisional round matchup on Saturday, think again.
They don’t pay attention to that stuff.
“It really doesn't change the game,” Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said Monday. “The game is going to be about preparing well. The game is going to be about executing on Saturday.
“The teams that do that, the best are going to win. Not the team that got picked by the most number of analysts or experts or what the simulation games say or any of that stuff. That has zero bearing on the game for us.
Schwartz dismissed any notion that the line was something the Eagles would discuss, this week or any other.
“That stuff makes for good talk and TV, and a lot of people have a lot of programming to fill, but I have no idea if we've been favorites or underdogs the whole year,” Schwartz said. “It's not going to change now.”
He isn’t alone.
“I don’t ever look at it,” Eagles cornerback Jalen Mills said of the point spread. “This is the NFL. It’s any given Sunday. You have to go in the game with a mindset that if you slip up, if you make one mistake, it can cost you the game.”
Even if some in the Eagles’ locker room were aware of the spread beforehand, they didn’t lend the news any relevance. In a sense, it’s merely a reflection of the tone in the media or the buzz among fans, which has been more negative in general since the season-ending injury to quarterback Carson Wentz.
Whether the Eagles hear it or not, it shouldn’t change the way they prepare for the Falcons.
“Whatever people are saying on the outside, it really doesn’t matter,” Eagles defensive end Chris Long said. “What would it sound like if I came in here and I was like, ‘Man, I wasn’t that motivated for this playoff game, but I just found out we’re underdogs and nobody picked us on ESPN.’ That’s just not the way we think.”
At this point, the Eagles are probably used to it.
“I don’t think it’s any more motivating than any of our last couple games,” Mills said. “We’ve been the underdog ever since [Wentz] went down, and we found a way to win.”
Several Eagles players expressed similar sentiments. Wide receiver Torrey Smith issued a reminder that spectators had their doubts about the team before the regular season began, and defensive tackle Fletcher Cox went so far as to say it has been “disrespected all year.”
As much as the Eagles have tried to ignore the noise, they also respectfully disagree with the narrative.
“I’m not one that gets all excited off of bulletin-board material, but I think we’re better than that,” Smith said. “But it doesn’t matter unless we show it, which is more important than talking about it.”
Underdog or not, the Eagles hold one major advantage over the Falcons — home field. No matter who oddsmakers or bettors, analysts or fans may favor, the game will still be played at Lincoln Financial Field, which is not an easy place for visitors to play.
The Eagles had a 7-1 record at home in 2017, their lone defeat coming in a meaningless Week 17 contest against the Cowboys. Take into account the Falcons’ travel — which includes flying back to Atlanta from a West Coast trip Los Angeles late last Saturday, then north to Philadelphia for the game — and the Eagles have reasons to feel confident, point spread be damned.
“We're significantly better at home,” Schwartz said (see story). “That's why it was important for us to get home-field advantage. You take the travel out of the equation, it's tough on opponents when the fans are loud. I know our fans will be loud.
“It's tough on the opponents in a hostile environment, and that's what Philly is. That's what the Linc is. It's been a great home-field advantage for us over the course of the season, and it's not just the players on the field. The fans in the stands are going to mean an awful lot to coming out with a victory on Saturday.”
We know the Eagles won’t feel like an underdog at kickoff. Will the Falcons feel like the favorite on the road?
“Our fans, that’s definitely an advantage for us to play at home in the Linc,” Smith said. “Folks are going to be fired up.”