The New England Patriots have been described in many positive ways over the course of Tom Brady’s 19-year career. Some words that come to mind: dynasty, winners, class and near perfection.
Heading into the AFC Championship Game this weekend in Kansas City, the word being discussed around this Patriots team is a bizarre one — the underdog. The Chiefs are three-point favorites this week with the game at home in Arrowhead Stadium.
Sure, the 2019 version of the Patriots isn’t considered world beaters by any means. But underdogs? This is their eighth-straight AFC title game appearance.
That hasn’t stopped the two-time defending conference champs from playing up their new label of being “dogs.” On Wednesday, receiver Julian Edelman tweeted out that he’s selling T-shirts of the Pats’ logo with the words “Bet Against Us.”
— Julian Edelman (@Edelman11) January 16, 2019
It may seem crazy to most fans whose teams can’t even make the playoffs, but perhaps the Pats’ mindset of “us against the world” is just what this team needs to get over the hurdle one more time.
Part of what prompted all of this was the fact that some analysts were high on the LA Chargers’ chances of taking down Belichick and company Sunday in the divisional round.
Brady felt so strongly about being disrespected that he couldn’t resist aiming the Patriots’ doubters immediately after the game ended.
While being asked about their next matchup by CBS’ Tracy Wolfson, Brady said, “Everyone thinks we suck, and you know, can’t win any games. … So, we’ll see, it will be fun.”
Even though New England opened as 4.5-point favorites against LA, the public didn’t have much faith either. The Chargers were earning 62 percent of and 71 percent of the money wagered through the middle of last week, according to SportsInsights.
Brady then proceeded to throw for 343 yards in a very convincing victory.
It might sound absurd, but the AFC title game will be the first time a Brady-led Patriots team is an underdog in 68 games. That’s more than four full regular seasons.
That’s unheard of.
The last time the Patriots were underdogs with the greatest quarterback of all time was in 2015 against Buffalo. The Patriots won by eight.
What might be even more impressive is the fact that Sunday will be just the second time they’re underdogs in the postseason since 2007. New England has won the AFC five times during this span.
The first instance was against Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos in the AFC Championship Game in 2014. The Pats were five-point underdogs, and the results followed suit. They lost 26-16.
This time around
Whether or not the Patriots are actually underdogs probably comes down to how you view things.
Should they be getting points on the road, in a hostile environment, against the probable league MVP? The answer is yes. However, in the grand scheme of the league, the Patriots are the furthest team from being an underdog.
With the greatest quarterback/coach duo ever, the Patriots are still very much a dynasty and no one will be shocked if they pull out a win to head to another Super Bowl.
The first sportsbook located just steps from the homes of four major league franchises in North America opened Thursday. The Turf Club, an OTB venue in South Philadelphia, now offers legal sports betting action to players.
Turf Club becomes the second Greenwood Racing venue open for sports betting in Pennsylvania. Parx Casino in Bensalem, on the site of Philadelphia Park, began operations last week.
What bettors will find at the Turf Club
The venue in South Philadelphia offers all the same betting options available as the sister property on the other side of I-95. Kambi kiosks dot the expansive seating floor, along with betting windows facing the bar.
Greenwood CEO Tony Ricci was on hand for the grand opening. Aside from new TVs and fresh paint, it didn’t take much to add sports betting to the Turf Club’s offerings.
“This place is a natural sports book anyway,” he said. “It was taking bets on a sport — one sport. Now it can take bets on all sports.”
Instead of partitioning off a section of casino floor or renovating an area, Turf Club transitioned easily and seamlessly. Players can bet the horses and hoops but in a bigger space than options like the Borgata. The venue includes food and drink service on site.
While Parx and Turf Club launched a month after local rival SugarHouse Casino, they got more out of their deal with Kambi, like in-game betting at the kiosks. Prices at the Greenwood books are a bit higher, as SugarHouse maintained their shorter vig on NFL games offered on their NJ online/mobile book.
Unlike other openings, players weren’t exactly lining up to make bets. The midweek open didn’t draw a big crowd. George Wagner, of Warrington, made the first bet, a three-team parlay involving college and pro basketball.
He has bet in Pennsylvania, regulated and not (it’s South Philly, don’t act surprised). He mentioned the convenience of betting on-site attracted him, along with quicker payouts versus mobile sites like FanDuel Sportsbook in New Jersey. He did admit that unregulated books can try to retain customers with better prices.
A Turf Club revival?
Ricci is looking to sports betting as lifeline horse racing thought casino games would provide racetracks but turned out to be another noose. The competition for gambling dollars has seen handle at the venue drop from $100 million at the peak to $20 million now. Turf Club has closed four of its six locations in the Delaware Valley.
This is a major opportunity to test the notion that sportsbook can save the downtrodden thoroughbred industry in the Keystone State. FanDuel Sportsbook’s crown jewel in New Jersey is at the Meadowlands is the state’s biggest retail book. In the shadow of Metlife Stadium and NYC, that sportsbook has performed very well.
Turf Club is a short walk from the three big sports venue on Pattison Avenue in South Philly and mass transit. It’s a short drive off I-95, easier to get to than Parx and closer to the suburbs than SugarHouse. There are exponentially more games in that area than the Meadowlands. Fans may find a better (and more affordable) experience than at Xfinity Live, the bar/concert venue where the Spectrum once stood.
Ricci is embracing the live experience for players. The volume of the TVs and channels broadcasted rival any major book in AC or Vegas. He hopes to launch on-site mobile betting later in the year. This could keep people in the building for hours, even on slower nights when the home teams are off.
Turf Club’s other location, in Valley Forge, near 76 and the PA Turnpike, is next. Ricci hopes to launch those operations in time for March Madness. That would certainly make it a destination for the Villanova fanbase on the Main Line. If Greenwood finds success with these locations, they could reopen the shuttered clubs around the area.