Oddsmakers Setting Historic Line Against Eagles

We all know the Eagles are the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs. And with that distinction comes home-field advantage and, usually, the betting-line favorite slot.

Well, not so much on that last one this time around.

The early betting lines are shaping up for next week's Divisional Round matchup Saturday afternoon at the Linc and the Falcons, the NFC's No. 6 seed and the last team to qualify for playoffs, are shifting toward a 3-point favorite over Nick Foles and the Carson Wentz-less Birds.

According to the Pro Football Reference database, this would mark the first time in NFL history that a No. 1 seed would be an underdog in the conference semifinal round. The home team as been an underdog in the semis six previous times, according to the database, but all six previous times the underdog was the No. 2 seed, not the top seed. The favorite holds a 4-2 record in such instances.

Ironically, the largest point spread for a home underdog in the semis involved the Eagles. It came in 1979 when the No. 4 seed Eagles were a 4 1/2 favorite over the No. 2 seed Buccaneers. Tampa wound up winning that game by a 24-17 score. 

The previous six times:
4 1/2 points: No. 4 Eagles at No. 2 Buccaneers, 1979 (Bucs 24, Eagles 17)
3 1/2 points: No. 3 Cowboys at No. 2 Panthers, 1996 (Panthers 26, Cowboys 17)
3 1/2 points: No. 3 Saints at No. 2 49ers, 2011 (49ers 36, Saints 32)
2 1/2 points:  No. 3 Chargers at No. 2 Dolphins, 1981 (Chargers 41, Dolphins 38 OT)
1 1/2 points:  No. 5 Chargers at No. 2 Dolphins, 1982 (Dolphins 34, Chargers 13)
1 point: No. 5 49ers at at No. 2 Panthers, 2013 (49ers 23, Panthers 10)

Those three occasions:
1980 NFC Championship Game: +1 vs. Cowboys (won 20-7)
1995 Wild-Card game: +3 vs. Lions (won 58-37)
2000 Wild-Card game: +3 vs. Bucs (won 21-3)

Matt Ryan and the Falcons, the defending NFC champs, come into the game after a 10-6 regular-season record and with momentum after Saturday night's 26-13 victory over the No. 3 seed Rams in Los Angeles. They also have stud receiver Julio Jones and, of course, the experience that stems from last year's run to the Super Bowl.

The Eagles come into the game with all kinds of questions on the offensive side of the ball as Foles has struggled mightily in his last two outings, a sloppy 19-10 win over Oakland on Christmas Night and a poor quarter in Week 17's meaningless 6-0 loss to Dallas. 

Saturday will mark the fourth all-time playoff meeting between the Eagles and the Falcons. The Eagles hold a 2-1 edge in those games with both wins coming in Philadelphia. 

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