There’s nothing Philadelphians love more than convincing ourselves the rest of the world hates us. And there’s nothing athletes thrive on like hearing the so-called experts count them out. “Nobody believed in us” has been a rallying cry since Walter Camp first pumped air into a pig’s bladder.
Guess what, folks. We’ve got both dynamics this week. It’s the perfect storm of us against the world.
When Vegas odds-makers listed the Falcons as a three-point favorite over the Eagles for next Saturday’s playoff game, it hoisted a 50-pound chip on our town’s shoulder. Never before has an NFL one-seed been an underdog in its post-season opener.
I have no question this will serve as a rallying cry for Eagles players. While each will insist he pays no attention to point spreads, every player in that locker room has already read that the Vegas sharpies think 13-3 is for naught, or heard media prognosticators blather that, hey, without Carson Wentz this team is a pushover.
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“We don’t need this type of negative energy to start out 2018,” RB LeGarrette Blount posted on Twitter last week. “Block these kinda people and comments out . . . No confidence in us? We all we got! We all we need!”
To be honest, Blount was in part referring to the gloom-and-doomers among Eagles fans – you know, those who watched the last five quarters of Nick Foles and then crawled into bed, pulled the covers over their heads and lay there, quivering, in the fetal position.
“Sucks to have fans that don’t believe in you,” Blount posted.
I heard those fans as well, as they called my radio show from under their blankets. And while I understand your trepidation, I’d encourage you to climb from bed and find your way to Lincoln Financial Field Saturday afternoon.
Because the Eagles are going to win.
This is the matchup you want. While the Falcons looked impressive beating the not-ready-for-primetime Rams on Saturday, they’ll have a tougher time on a drizzling South Philly afternoon.
The Falcons rank 19th in the NFL defending the run. Assuming Doug Pederson doesn’t revert to Andy Reid vs. the Titans, he’ll make Foles’ biggest task placing the ball on Jay Ajayi’s belly. By the way, Ajayi faced the Falcons with Miami earlier this season and scampered for 126 yards in 25 carries.
The Falcons rank 23rdh in the league in red-zone scoring.Their points-per-game tumbled from 34 in 2016 to 22 this season. I love the Eagle defense’s opportunities this game. Do not forget that the Eagles ranked 1st against the run and 4th overall this season.
I’ll concede that a lot of other things need to go right for the Birds to advance to the NFL Championship game. They must avoid sloppy penalties. Special teams will need to be flawless.
And, yes, Nick Foles will have to get out of his funk and make a least a few plays downfield. He, too, has heard the critics call him an incompetent failure. With expectations this low, he’s in the perfect spot to show that he isn’t.
In the underdoggiest city in America, we wouldn’t want it any other way. Us against the world.