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Underdog Eagles get to play the disrespect card vs. Falcons

Outside linebacker Najee Goode and linebacker Dannell Ellerbe

Outside linebacker Najee Goode and linebacker Dannell Ellerbe of the Eagles celebrate a play against the Cowboys at Lincoln Financial Field on Dec. 31, 2017 in Philadelphia. Credit: Getty Images / Elsa

The Eagles must have spent the bye week Googling themselves.

They seem to know everything that’s been said, written or thought about them as they head into Saturday’s divisional playoff game against the Falcons. As the top seed in the NFC and the home team, the Eagles should be favored. Yet few are giving them much of a chance.

With good reason, perhaps. They lost MVP candidate Carson Wentz to an ACL injury about a month ago and backup quarterback Nick Foles has looked shaky in his tuneups for the postseason. The Eagles’ chances to win Super Bowl LII, not long ago as high as they have ever been, now seem to be as thin as the sliced roast beef on a cheesesteak.

Some teams prefer to put up a wall between themselves and the opinions of the outside world, but the Eagles instead are trying to use them. They’re playing the dissed card.

“We’ve been disrespected all year,” cornerback Jalen Mills told reporters this week. “Regardless of if 11 [Wentz] was back there in the backfield or Nick was back there, we’ve been disrespected all year. . . . It’s kind of in our DNA now. We know how people view us, how people see us. But at the end of the day, we always find a way to win.”

They have done that 13 times in their 16 games so far. This team, though, is very different from the one with Wentz making the plays.

“You know, we hear about it obviously with the media and being asked questions about it,” Foles said of being the first No. 1 seed in postseason history to be an underdog against a No. 6 seed at home. “We do have family and friends. I don’t real ly respond to texts or answer calls right now because I’m really focused in. But I have heard [that we’re underdogs] . . . We understand that but it’s not going to affect us. We’re going to go out there with this edge that we have. We know what we can do. We believe in each other. And we’re going to play for each other.”

Some players have been hurt by the criticism of the team. Offensive lineman Lane Johnson staged a short media boycott for the past month or so because he felt the sky-is-falling tone of the coverage was too dire.

“What bothered me is that we were 12-2 and people were treating us like we were the Browns,” Johnson told reporters. “It happens, but although we don’t like it, I think it’s a good motivator. I’d rather have people not write good things. I think it’s the best motivator there is and then you can go and change it . . . A lot of what you all [in the media] do motivates us. It motivates me. It motivates a lot of guys in here. It’s good for us. I’d rather have guys doubting us than patting us on the back, anyway, heading into this game.”

Others are letting the criticisms and doomsaying roll off their shoulder pads.

“Honestly, and I’m not even lying to you, it doesn’t bother me that much because before we started the season, no one thought we were going to be good,” wide receiver Torrey Smith told reporters. “For us, our goal and our job is the same and we kind of just kept chipping at it and kept working and working and ended up with 13 wins. Obviously, that doesn’t mean anything if we don’t win [Saturday] and continue to win.”

Ultimately, it will be up to the Eagles to change their perception. If they win Saturday against the defending NFC champs, the 11-6 Falcons, they return to a prominent place in the hierarchy of postseason participants and will host the conference title game next Sunday.

If they lose, they’ll be a No. 1-and-done.

The Eagles still believe they are strong Super Bowl contenders and will be able to deliver a big Philly-style told-ya-so Saturday. More important, though, they want to advance.

“I say it all the time, there’s one winner and 31 losers,” Smith said. “So I’m trying to be the last team standing.”

And the last team that anyone talks or writes about.

New York Sports