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PHILADELPHIA — The Philadelphia Eagles are the first top seed in NFL history to enter its opening playoff game as an underdog.

According to standout defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, it’s just another example of this Eagles team not getting its proper respect.

“We’ve been disrespected all year,” he said. “Our record can speak for itself. We’re a team that’s been disrespected week in and week out, and we just come out and ring the bell every week.”

The Westgate Las Vegas Superbook set the opening line at minus-2.5 in favor of the sixth-seeded Falcons, who upset the Los Angeles Rams in the wild-card round to advance.

Since 1975, when the NFL began basing home-field advantage on teams’ regular-season winning percentage, no No. 1 seed has ever been an underdog in its first playoff game, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Until now.

“It just puts a bigger chip on our shoulder and just adds fuel to the fire, and that’s what this team, obviously, has been going off of all year,” Cox said, “people doubting us every week. So we just want to go out and shut those doubters up.”

Westgate Superbook oddsmaker Ed Salmons estimates the Eagles could have been as much as a 6.5-point favorite over the Falcons with a healthy Carson Wentz. The fact that Wentz is out with a torn ACL is clearly having a major impact on public perception. So, too, has the recent play of backup Nick Foles. He’s 23-of-49 (47 percent) for 202 yards with a TD over his past five quarters of work.

Following a Christmas night win over the Oakland Raiders, in which Foles and the offense struggled, right tackle Lane Johnson faced a string of questions about his unit’s down play despite the fact that the Eagles had just improved to 13-2. He later told reporters that he was done talking for the year, but he rescinded that a week later after he’d cooled off.

“Obviously I wasn’t happy with the way we performed, but then again, we are where we are and it’s kind of, nothing is ever good enough,” he said last week. “There’s kind of pros and cons to it. I think it’s a good motivator. It’ll piss you off and get a lot of guys fired up, and that’s what it did for me.”

Not everyone is using external forces as motivation. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz insists he has no idea in a given week whether his team is a favorite or underdog, and he’s not going to start paying attention to that now.

“The game’s going to be about preparing well, the game’s going to be about executing on Saturday,” he said, “and 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.”

But it is serving as good bulletin-board material for some.

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GREEN BAY, Wis. — The Packers decided to stay within the Ron Wolf scouting tree for their next general manager, but it’s not his son, Eliot. Instead, the more experienced Brian Gutekunst was promoted to replace Ted Thompson.

Gutekunst will receive a five-year contract, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Gutekunst was set to interview for the Texans’ general manager vacancy Sunday. The Houston Chronicle first reported the news of the Packers’ decision to hire Gutekunst as GM.

The 44-year-old had been the Packers’ director of player personnel since 2016. He joined the Packers in 1998, when he was hired as an area scout by Wolf, the Hall of Fame general manager, and served in that role for 13 years. Previous to his last promotion, he was the director of college scouting from 2012 to ’15.

Packers president Mark Murphy picked Gutekunst over the younger Wolf, 35, and another in-house candidate, Russ Ball (the team’s vice president of football operations/player finance), and former Bills GM Doug Whaley.

Had the Packers hired Ball, they would have broken from the Wolf scouting tree by hiring a GM without a background in player personnel and talent evaluation. According to multiple sources, Ball had taken on a larger role in that area over the last two years as Thompson, 64, cut back on his duties in part because of his age and his health.

The Packers also contacted two of their former scouts who are current GMs — John Schneider (Seattle) and Reggie McKenzie (Oakland). They were denied permission to interview Schneider, while McKenzie declined.

The Packers risked losing Gutekunst and Wolf if they hired Ball. It’s still possible Wolf will leave the organization. They also already lost senior personnel executive Alonzo Highsmith to the Browns last week, and it’s possible Wolf would join him to work under former Packers personnel executive John Dorsey.

The Packers would like to retain Ball in a high-level position.

While there could be turnover in the scouting department, this should stabilize the coaching situation. According to a source, coach Mike McCarthy is comfortable working with Gutekunst. McCarthy is under contract through the 2019 season after he signed a one-year extension late this season.

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Carolina Panthers

Carolina Panthers

The Carolina Panthers found themselves in a strange spot on Monday in the first practice after a bye week.

But punter Michael Palardy found a potential opportunity to brush the dust off a skill not many know he possesses.

The Panthers’ two backup quarterbacks, Derek Anderson and Garrett Gilbert, were sick and contagious and had to be sent home from the team’s facilities, coach Ron Rivera said.

That left starter Cam Newton alone as the only player who could get receivers their repetitions out of the bye – or so the team thought.

Instead, Rivera called over Palardy as the team was stretching, and told him they’d probably go with him as a backup arm in a period of drills that day, during which Palardy would take nine snaps at quarterback.

Palardy all but skipped delightfully back across the field to tell his fellow specialists, who immediately began hooting with glee. Long snapper J.J. Jansen also wondered aloud what this year’s franchise tag contract looks like for a quarterback, as opposed to a punter.

“I was so pumped,” said Palardy. “I was so, so excited. … I haven’t taken live snaps since I was 15. I was relishing the moment. I was like, ‘I’m excited. I’m pumped.’

The punter attended St. Thomas Aquinas High in Florida, a noted powerhouse in high school football, where he played quarterback his freshman and sophomore years. He also kicked and punted, so if he threw a touchdown pass, he’d just stay on the field to notch the extra point.

“I was always out there for first, second, third or fourth down,” he said. “If I had to punt, I punted. If I had to kick, I kicked. And then once we scored, if I threw the touchdown or whatever it was, I’d throw the extra point. And then I’d stay out for the ensuing kickoff and kick (the ball) off.”

Palardy was ultimately beaten out at quarterback by Jake Rudock, who is on the Detroit Lions roster after playing for Iowa and Michigan, and Ryan Becker, now the assistant director of football operations at Penn.

On Monday, he was also beaten out by quarterbacks coach Ken Dorsey as the go-to backup in camp.

Dorsey was the winningest quarterback in school history at the University of Miami, where he played from 1999-2002 and won a national title in 2001.

His credentials at the position do outweigh Palardy’s, but the punter still said he was “crushed” when Rivera decided to go with Dorsey instead (a reaction that caused the head coach to laugh out loud in his press conference later in the day).

“Man, I was distraught. It was like somebody ripped my heart out and stepped on it,” Palardy said.

Kicker Graham Gano reacted by ripping off his beanie and animatedly throwing it to the ground when a dejected Palardy shared the news.

Dorsey was intercepted once in practice, by safety Jairus Byrd, but Palardy joked that he would have gone 9-for-9 in the drill.

Rivera said he just wanted to preserve the health of the punter, who ranks No. 5 in the NFL in net punting, with an average of 43.3 yards per punt.

“We figured it was safer than having Palardy do it,” Rivera grinned. “We figured Kenny’s expendable, and Palardy’s a little bit more valuable. We can’t have someone running into him.”

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New York Giants

New York Giants

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — New York Giants coach Ben McAdoo held a “long, hard, honest meeting” on Wednesday with his players on their first day back to work this week. During the meeting, he put some plays on the screen from Sunday’s 31-21 loss at the San Francisco 49ers that McAdoo described as an inconsistent desire to finish.

It was a vastly different meeting than the Giants are used to when they arrive to work on Wednesday mornings. This one was more to the point and critical.

“Message to them in the meeting was we had some open conversations, some hard talks, some plain talks, some simple talk, played some film and were brutally honest with each other,” McAdoo said. “We’ll see how the players respond. They had a nice day of practice [Wednesday]. We also talked about the great opportunity in front of us.”

The Giants (1-8) have seven games remaining, beginning with a difficult matchup on Sunday with the Kansas City Chiefs. The Giants are 10.5-point underdogs at home.

They’re hoping the meeting correlates to a better product. They’ve conceded that what was put on the field over the past few weeks was embarrassing.

Still, it took until Week 11 for this kind of meeting to happen. It might have been too late, with this season long dead.

The Giants are in last place in the NFC East and have allowed 82 points in the past two games combined.

“Yeah, definitely,” cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie said about the meeting possibly occurring too late.

“I think it would’ve put guys at a different attention on alert back then, because nobody wants to be called out,” he later added. “I don’t care what you say. Nobody wants to have that play up there where you have to come back in the locker room and everybody is looking at you like you’re that guy.

“I think it could’ve helped if it were done earlier or not, but at least it got done.”

The meeting occurred after the Giants were blown out by the previously winless 49ers. Cornerback Janoris Jenkins appeared to be one of the biggest offenders with his effort on several tackles.

But Jenkins was not alone. McAdoo explained in his Monday conference call that he didn’t see a consistent desire to finish throughout the game. He provided that same explanation when asked specifically about Jenkins, who was unavailable for comment on Wednesday as the Giants began preparations for the Chiefs.

McAdoo said there is a “possibility there were to be some changes” this week as a result. He did not provide any specifics.

It was clear that the players’ efforts were a point of contention at Wednesday’s meeting.

“At some points [efforts were questioned],” linebacker Devon Kennard said. “Just guys could have given more effort.”

The players saw it on tape. They didn’t reject the notion that it was insufficient.

“The only thing I can say is disappointing is the lack of want-to after all we’ve been through,” Rodgers-Cromartie said. “I’ll take a lost play flying around. But how we’re losing …”

The Giants have lost each of their past three games by double digits. They’ve allowed 14 plays of over 20 yards in the past two weeks.

The meeting was McAdoo’s last-ditch effort to get his team back on the same page after a pair of recent suspensions and blowout losses have its season seemingly off the rails.

“It was just an opportunity for everybody to see what was going on, from both sides of the ball,” Kennard said. “We got to see some of the offensive plays and hear Coach McAdoo coach some guys up on the offensive side and the defensive side, and I think it’s just a good way for everybody to be held accountable for what’s going on, on and off the field.”

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Vance Joseph

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — After sifting through the wreckage of Sunday’s 28-point loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, Denver Broncos coach Vance Joseph has decided to give Brock Osweiler another start at quarterback.

Osweiler will be behind center when the 3-5 Broncos face the New England Patriots this Sunday. And while Joseph didn’t like much of what he saw in Denver’s 51-23 loss to the Eagles, he said Osweiler’s work in the days leading up to the game earned the sixth-year quarterback another start.

“I thought Brock had an excellent week of preparation,” Joseph said Monday. “It felt good to our team, it was a confident week, the energy was there, it was detailed. … Brock’s experience Brock’s personality really helped our team bounce back and gave us confidence going into this week. I think Brock’s earned it from that standpoint.”

The Broncos benched Trevor Siemian after seven games and put Osweiler in the lineup against the Eagles. Last week, Joseph said he would look at how things went in Philadelphia and then decide who the quarterback would be against the Patriots this Sunday night.

And once again Joseph would only commit to Osweiler starting against the Patriots and said that he would re-evaluate things a week from now. Osweiler finished 19-of-38 passing for 208 yards to go with a touchdown and two interceptions in the loss to the Eagles.

“In the football game … he had two interceptions, which he can’t have, he understands that,” Joseph said. “He had a couple ill-advised throws. Brock had some good things, the red-zone audible for the (Demaryius Thomas) touchdown, that was one of Brock’s audibles. I think Brock deserves one more week to prove he’s the guy for us.”

For his part, Osweiler expressed his hope, following the loss, that he would get another chance.

“Absolutely, I think every player in the National Football League plays this game to be the starter, to contribute to his team, to help their football team win games,” Osweiler said. “So, I would love to be the starter of this football team. I can promise you that this game is not going to discourage me. I’m going to work harder than ever to clean up these problems and get us back in the win column.”

The Broncos have scored 14 touchdowns on offense in eight games and are 22nd in the league in scoring (18.8 points per game), 17th in total offense (327.3 yards per game), 21st in yards per play (4.9) to go with 18th in third down conversions.

The biggest issue, however, and the one that was likely the biggest factor in Siemian’s benching, has been turnovers. The Broncos are 31st in the league in turnovers, with 19 — only the winless Cleveland Browns have more.

That total includes 12 interceptions, second-highest total in the league behind the Browns’ 17. At the moment the Patriots are last in the league in total defense (417 yards allowed per game), last in the league in pass defense (295.5 yards allowed per game) and 24th in the run defense (121.5 yards allowed per game).

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GREEN BAY (WLUK) — Green Bay might be the home of the Pack, but what many don’t realize is Titletown has actually came close to losing the team–on several occasions.

The thought can be shocking, after all the Packers have always called Green Bay home.

NFL teams, like the Pack, form strong bonds with their fans.

Would the Packers ever leave Titletown?

Listen to what Packers President Mark Murphy told fans at this summer’s Packers shareholders’ meeting:

“With our ownership structure for us the other top priority is making sure we stay in Green Bay,” said Murphy. He continued, “And I think investing in the community in the way we are with Titletown really helps insure that this team will stay here.”

FOX11 Investigates asked Murphy about his choice of words.

“You bring up the words, ‘…to insure the team stays here in Green Bay.’ Which brings up the question, ‘Is there a chance the team could leave Green Bay?’”

“Well hopefully not,” said Murphy, “but if you look at the history and go back many years it’s almost a miracle the Packers have stayed in Green Bay.”

NFL teams leaving one home for another is just part of the game. The driving force? Money.

The Packers hold the distinction for being the oldest NFL franchise without changing its name or home. But Packers historian Cliff Christl points out history shows even the mighty have fallen.

“I mean Los Angeles, Cleveland, Baltimore, Houston. They had all lost teams, they’re ranked among the top 10 in the country in population,” said Christl. “If it can happen there, obviously it could happen in little Green Bay.”

Christl agreed it’s all about the money for teams.

“Ya, as an NFL partner you’ve got to hold up your end of the business,” said Christl.

Packers fans FOX11 Investigates caught up with enjoying the new Titletown District Park have a view that’s more loyal, when asked if they had any concern the Packers would leave Green Bay.

“You know I never really had a concern about them. I grew up here all my life not far from the stadium here. I was never concerned the Packers would leave,” said Jim Swanson, a lifelong Packers fan.

“No, no. We have the best fans. Why would they want to go anywhere?” questioned Packers fan Amy LaPointe.

Since the Packers aren’t controlled by a single owner, some believe a shareholder vote would be needed for any potential move out of Green Bay. Murphy says that’s not the case.

“I don’t think the organization would ever vote to leave Green Bay, but if it was dire enough you could see the league saying, ‘you know Green Bay you’re too small, you can’t compete anymore.’”

In fact, FOX 11 Investigates discovered the Packers franchise came close to disappearing from Green Bay on several occasions. Christl says it began in the early years of the team’s incorporation in 1923.

“At that time when that incorporation was created there were no assurances the Packers were going to be around for the full season, much less the next year 5 years down the road,” said Christl.

Fast forward to 1956, the city was old to fund a new stadium. The high school field at City Stadium was no longer acceptable to the NFL.

“That was basically going to determine if they were going to keep the franchise. I mean the league pretty much let them know either build a stadium or you’re at risk to lose your team,” added Christl.

Christl says the threat to remove football from Green Bay was real.

“I say it often, the Packers were perpetually on their deathbed,” said Christl.

New City Stadium saved the Packers that time. It would transform over the years to become Lambeau Field. But even after Super Bowl success in the mid-90s, Green Bay almost lost the Pack again in 2000.

“No matter how we try to adjust our pricing and to make this more adequate we are going to continue to slide,” said then team President Bob Harlan. Harlan led the push to re-develop Lambeau Field.

David Steffen was hired to head up ‘Team Lambeau’ to get out a ‘yes’ vote in a referendum for a half percent county sales tax to fund $295-million of the cost of redevelopment.

“It was critical, critical in my estimation to the long-term success and potential survival of the organization,” said Steffen, now a state assemblyman from Howard, looking back.

Despite success on the field and selling out every game, Steffen says the Packers needed the redevelopment to be able to generate more money.

“I specifically remember a call from a southeast Wisconsin County executive, I won’t mention, but he said, ‘when your referendum fails, call me and we’ll build a stadium for you down here,’” said Steffen.

Steffen says the Packers executive team made a point not to threaten Brown County residents with an ultimatum that if the referendum didn’t pass Green Bay could lose the Packers.

Harlan, just a month before the vote, indicated to FOX11 the Packers had run out of options.

“I keep getting calls from people if this fails you must have a Plan B. We’ve reached that, this is not nearly the plan that was unveiled on January 22,” said Harlan in August of 2000.

Harlan was then asked, “What’s Plan C?” His answer—“Plan C is death.”

We asked Steffen if the referendum failed, would the Packers still be playing at Lambeau Field?

“In my estimation the Green Bay Packers would likely not be in Green Bay,” said Steffen.

As it turns out the redevelopment of Lambeau Field paid off. It not only kept the Packers in Green Bay, it helped to raise enough money for a south end zone expansion in 2012 and renovations to the Atrium in 2013, worth $285-million. Those projects were completely funded by the Green Bay Packers.

The team’s latest venture is in the Packers’ owned Titletown District, a mix of business, entertainment and public attractions. Earlier this month the Packers and Microsoft unveiled a business incubator venture called Titletown Tech.

“Certainly we hope to make money and hope it is profitable but it was also I think one of our main motivations was to invest in the community,” said Murphy.

The Packers franchise is now one of the biggest money makers in the league. Forbes ranks its worth at $2.55 billion, with annual revenue of more than $420-million.

“I think now with what’s been done with the stadium and the Titletown District, you know, the foreseeable future, the Packer are going to be in Green Bay,” said Christl.

“For us making sure the team stays here is a priority,” said Murphy.