Super Bowl 52
The Philadelphia Eagles and their fans can sport the dog masks for two more weeks.
The Eagles reached Super Bowl 52 with back-to-back upsets over the Atlanta Falcons and Minnesota Vikings. They’ll need to defy the odds and thrive as the underdogs one more time to win the Lombardi Trophy.
Most local sports books have the Eagles as 6-point underdogs to the New England Patriots ahead of the NFL championship game on Feb. 4 in Minneapolis. The game’s over/under is 48 points.
“I was really impressed with the way Philadelphia played today,” said Chuck Esposito, Sunset Station sports book director. “They just looked dominant. I think they’re playing great in all facets.”
Philadelphia’s 38-7 victory over Minnesota as 3-point underdogs in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday evening was impressive enough to shave a point off of the Super Bowl spread. New England projected as a 7-point favorite over Philadelphia in potential Super Bowl odds all week, and the line was even available for wagering at some shops such as William Hill sports books.
William Hill dropped its line all the way to New England minus-5 when the matchup was set, while Wynn Las Vegas posted the market-high at minus-6.5. There was some debate among the brain trust at Station Casinos, but they ultimately went with 6 and were rewarded.
“We’re already getting really good two-way action at 6,” Esposito said. “There’s a lot of similarities statistically in the way these two teams play. Both No. 1 seeds. Both tied for the league lead in point differential at plus-162 exactly in the regular season.”
The differences begin when looking at how the two teams were perceived going into the playoffs. New England was a prohibitive 2-to-1 favorite to win its second straight Super Bowl and sixth in 17 years largely because of gamblers’ confidence in quarterback Tom Brady.
Philadelphia, on the other hand, was the sixth choice at 15-to-1 despite earning home-field advantage largely because of a lack of trust in backup quarterback Nick Foles. It posted as a 3-point underdog against Atlanta in the divisional round, which prompted defensive end Chris Long and offensive tackle Lane Johnson to wear dog masks around the Eagles’ practice facility all week.
The phenomenon spread widely to the fan base after Philadelphia’s 15-10 win over Atlanta, and the stands at Lincoln Financial Field were covered with the masks on Sunday. Some fans barked throughout a historic performance from Foles, who completed 26 of 33 passes for three touchdowns and 352 yards, the fourth-most in playoff history.
“We’re not surprised,” Long said after the victory.
Esposito said the NFC Championship Game was a moderate winner for Station Casinos — despite a healthy amount of money on Philadelphia to win outright at plus-130 (risking $1 to win $1.30) on the money line — but not as successful as the AFC Championship Game. Sports books’ perfect result occurred, as New England won but failed to cover in a comeback 24-20 win over Jacksonville as 7.5-point favorites behind Brady’s 290 yards and two touchdowns on 26-for-38 passing.
“New England didn’t look great today but it’s the Patriots.,” Esposito said. “They didn’t panic. They knew what they needed to do, and now we’ve got what looks like a great matchup with two teams that can really score.”
Station Casinos immediately took a lot of action on the over, and moved the point total up to 49. As for the spread, the Super Bowl might wind up a lot like the AFC Championship Game: Sports books will likely want the Patriots to win but not cover.
Esposito said most early Eagles’ bettors were bypassing the points and taking them to win outright at plus-190 on the money line. Pulling off three straight upsets to win the Super Bowl wouldn’t be unprecedented.
In fact, two teams the Patriots remember all too well have done it in the last six years — the 2012 New York Giants and the 2013 Baltimore Ravens. Neither Baltimore nor New York embraced it quite to the extent of Philadelphia, though.
The dog masks are visual proof that the point-spread disrespect has been a driving motivational force.
“Underdogs in the divisional round, underdogs in the championship game, and now underdogs in the Super Bowl,” Esposito said. “Wouldn’t it be ironic if this is the year they win it?”