Vegas books move line to pick 'em

January, 31, 2015
Jan 31

Big, influential money on the Seattle Seahawks showed up on Saturday in Las Vegas, causing sports books to adjust the Super Bowl point spread, heading into game day.

The MGM, Caesars, Westgate, Golden Nugget, South Point, Station's and CG Technology sports books moved the line from New England minus-1 to pick 'em Saturday, as money poured in on the Seahawks. Most books reported still having more money on the Patriots, but the gap was narrowing.

"We're taking more bets on the Patriots, but the more substantial money has been on the Seahawks," Jason Simbal, vice president of risk for CG Technology, said Saturday. "What we've been seeing lately is for every two-, three-, four- or five-hundred dollar bet that comes in on New England, we'll then take a five-figure bet on Seattle."

The MGM, which took a seven-figure wager on the Patriots last week, was one of the last Vegas books to move the line to pick 'em on Saturday.

MGM vice president of race and sports Jay Rood said the seven-figure transaction was handled in advance with the funds being transferred to the casino cage, but would not elaborate on the identity of the bettor, who spared no expense.

"They laid the proper vig," Rood said.

That was the lone seven-figure wager reported by the books as of Saturday night, but six-figure bets were plentiful. Rood said his shop has already taken "a lot" of six-figure wagers, the majority of them on the Patriots. More big bets will undoubtedly show up Sunday.

CG Technology, which is known to cater to some of the biggest players in Vegas, including professional sports bettor Billy Walters and boxing champion Floyd Mayweather, also was expecting large wagers to arrive today.

"We're not going to comment on individual customers," Simbal said, "but we're still waiting to see what other high-rollers want to do."

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Fastest Super Bowl Picks

January, 31, 2015
Jan 31


"SportsCenter" anchors and analysts join NFL players and rock stars in making their fastest Super Bowl picks.
Brad MarchandAP Photo/Charles Krupa"We're not where we want to be," Brad Marchand said despite a successful Saturday.

BOSTON -- Many had written off the Boston Bruins earlier this season, and it appeared the team was spiraling out of control.

When they were struggling, the storylines were the same after each game: They were inconsistent, sloppy, had too many defensive mistakes, the mental breakdowns were mind-blowing and their goaltending wasn’t sharp. Oh, and they had too many injuries.

Boston has done a complete 180.

With their 3-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday night at TD Garden, the Bruins have earned points in 13 of their past 14 games, with a 9-1-4 record in that span. In fact, Boston is 8-1-1 in its past 10 games and playing its best hockey of the season.

“We knew that it would be a tough game,” Bruins captain Zdeno Chara said of facing the defending champs. “They played really hard all over the ice. It was a really tight game, a lot of battles. I think the fans enjoyed it, too. It started really physical and it was just really two hard-working teams battling for the win.”

Now, the Bruins are healthy and consistent, and coach Claude Julien is able to roll four solid lines at opponents. It also helps that Tuukka Rask is playing extremely well between the pipes. Overall, the Bruins have rediscovered their winning identity -- and it’s evident on a nightly basis.

“We knew how important this month was to get ourselves back into the playoff picture and we did just that, winning eight out of 12 games and getting much-needed points and moving up the standings,” said Bruins forward Milan Lucic. “It’s a great January and we’re happy with the way we played. The mindset has to be that we need to carry this on to February.”

From the opening puck-drop Saturday, the game had a playoff-like feel to it. It was a physical contest from both teams, but in the end the Bruins were able to grind out the victory.

“It’s nice to see our team compete for that whole 60 minutes and stay on top of our game,” Julien said. “These are the kind of games everybody gets up for, including the coaches. Those are fun games to coach, fun games to play in and I’m sure the fans enjoyed watching it as well.”

The Bruins received a pair of goals (one empty-netter) from Brad Marchand, while Chris Kelly produced the winner, redirecting a shot in the slot at 14 minutes, 33 seconds of the third period. Rask finished with 30 saves and is 7-1-1 in his past nine games, 10-1-4 in his past 15. He made a season-high 43 saves during Thursday’s 5-2 victory over the New York Islanders, and there’s no doubt he’s been locked in for the last month.

“He definitely was our best player in January, the last game and here tonight he definitely stepped his game up to the level that he’s capable of playing,” Lucic said. “He’s a huge part of our team, probably the most important part of our team. With his ability and his competitiveness, we’re grateful to have a guy like that between the pipes.

“He’s starting to get into the groove that we need him to be in.”

Marchand also produced one of his better games of the season. He was involved in every aspect and was chirping as usual. Julien described Marchand’s game as “tenacious” and admitted it was a solid outing.

“He seemed real focused,” Julien said.

Since it’s the eve of Super Bowl XLIX, the Bruins showed their support for their brethren, the New England Patriots, by wearing “Do Your Job” winter hats during pregame warmups and again afterward in the locker room.

The Bruins were in a good mood after their victory over the Kings and the focus turned to Sunday's big game. Of course, the Bruins were picking the Patriots to beat the Seattle Seahawks. Lucic has New England winning 28-21, with Rob Gronkowski the MVP.

If this string of success continues for the Bruins, it’s likely they will earn a postseason berth and could still end up as a strong Stanley Cup contender. Maybe then the Patriots will reciprocate.

“We’re definitely happy with the push we’ve put on," Marchand said, "but we’re not where we want to be and we’ve got to play better."
PHOENIX -- New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski was named the Associated Press Comeback Player of the Year on Saturday night. Gronkowski received 27 of 50 votes to easily outdistance the field.

Gronkowski had earned the same award in voting by the Pro Football Writers of America earlier in January.

A few other notes from the NFL Honors ceremony Saturday:

1. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady received one vote for MVP, which went to Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

2. Gronkowski received one vote for Offensive Player of the Year, which went to Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray.

3. New England's Bill Belichick received one vote for Coach of the Year, which went to Bruce Arians of the Arizona Cardinals.


Follow Herm Edwards as he makes guest appearances on as many ESPN radio shows as possible at "Radio Row" in Arizona.

New England fans believe that the Patriots will win Super Bowl XLIX because not only do they have the best players and coaches in the league, but because Boston makes the best beer in the country, Sam Adams.

Police officers from the city of Boston believe that the New England Patriots will win the Super Bowl because, like those who landed at Plymouth Rock, they eat Seahawks.

Steve Young and Ryan Clark discuss how the injuries to Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor will play a role against the Patriots on Sunday.

Patriots pool report from Saturday

January, 31, 2015
Jan 31
CHANDLER, Ariz. -- The following is the pool report from the New England Patriots on Saturday, written by Adam H. Beasley (filling in for Jarrett Bell):

Upstairs at the New England Patriots' Chandler, Arizona, team hotel, the lobby was buzzing with fans, friends and family. After two weeks of anticipation, kickoff was finally just a day away.

Down a flight of stairs, meanwhile, the organization quietly went about final preparations for its seventh Super Bowl since 1996. Instead of a walkthrough, the team held its normal Saturday meetings before posing for the team photo at lunch.

Bill Belichick's message to his team in the final hours before Sunday's game?

"Same thing that we talked about all week," Belichick said. "I don't think there's anything that's happened the last day or two days that will change what we normally do, fundamentally. Just kind of reinforcing some of the key points that we talked about all week."

The Patriots will have their final meetings Saturday night to go over "a few last-minute reminders," Belichick said, and then turn in for what they hope is a good night's sleep.

The Patriots chose not to hold a final walkthrough -- "we usually don't practice on Saturday," Belichick said -- and the first chance their players will have to test out the field at University of Phoenix Stadium will be pregame Sunday.
PHOENIX -- New England Patriots starting center Bryan Stork, who missed the AFC Championship Game with a right knee injury, has been upgraded on the injury report to probable for Super Bowl XLIX.

Stork has been limited in practices all week but sources expect him to start Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks.

A fourth-round draft choice out of Florida State, Stork started 11 games in the regular season. His inclusion into the starting lineup in Week 4 was part of the Patriots stabilizing their offensive line. With Stork taking over at center, it allowed the Patriots to slide veteran Dan Connolly to left guard and insert veteran Ryan Wendell at right guard to help solidify the interior of the line.

Jim Basquil and Greg Garber break down why it is so difficult to repeat as Super Bowl champions.

Tedy Bruschi named Patriots' honorary captain

January, 31, 2015
Jan 31
PHOENIX -- The New England Patriots named Tedy Bruschi their honorary captain for Super Bowl XLIX.

“He was called the perfect Patriot by head coach Bill Belichick,” Patriots owner Robert Kraft said in a statement. “With an undefeated record in the games that we have honored him, including the 45-7 win in the AFC Championship game two weeks ago, Tedy is the perfect player to serve as our honorary captain for Sunday’s Super Bowl.”

Bruschi has been honored six times by the Patriots since he retired prior to the start of the 2009 season. The Patriots won all six of those games. Below is a list of the games when Bruschi was honored by the Patriots.
  1. Bruschi’s first honor was at halftime of the Patriots’ 25-24 win over the Buffalo Bills on Sept. 14, 2009, when members of the 50th Anniversary team were recognized.
  2. He had an opportunity to thank the fans at halftime as part of “Tedy Bruschi Night” in a 45-3 “Monday Night Football” win over the New York Jets on Dec. 6, 2010.
  3. Bruschi was an honorary game captain in the Patriots’ 23-20 2011 AFC Championship Game win over Baltimore on Jan. 22, 2012.
  4. Bruschi was honored in a halftime ceremony to celebrate his induction into the team’s Hall of Fame in the Patriots’ 13-10 win over the New York Jets on Sept. 12, 2013.
  5. Bruschi was honored at halftime of the Patriots’ 43-21 victory over Denver on Nov. 2, 2014, when the Patriots honored the players that won three Super Bowls with the team.
  6. Bruschi served as an honorary captain in the Patriots’ 45-7 AFC Championship Game win vs. Indianapolis on Jan. 18, 2015.

Picture this: Super Bowl XLIX week

January, 31, 2015
Jan 31
Thousands of fans have congregated in the Phoenix area to celebrate and prepare for Super Bowl XLIX, featuring the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks.

Check out these fan photos from numerous events being held at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona:

CHANDLER, Ariz. -- With New England Patriots players available to reporters for three straight days leading up to Super Bowl XLIX, and with those sessions between 45 minutes to an hour, there was much to digest. Little nuggets were picked up along the way, and we've pieced a lot of them together for a few upcoming "cleaning out the notebook" updates.

For example, here's one thing -- receiver Danny Amendola on the dynamics of the receivers -- that struck as good insight into the inner workings of one aspect of the team:

“Start with [Brandon] “JoJo” LaFell. Great guy from Houston. We’re both from Houston. We remember watching each other play in high school. JoJo’s funny. He’s always quoting movies, singing songs, keeping the mood light.

"[Julian] Edelman and I have been good friends for four or five years now. We’re always joking around. We’re always ripping on each other.

"[Matthew Slater] is like The Equalizer. I don’t know if you’ve seen the movie with Denzel [Washington], but Slate is like the father figure in our group. He gets us all right. If we mess up, he’s going to get us right.

"B.T., Brian Tyms, he’s like our loose cannon. He’s a great player, fast, can take the top off coverages. Great guy to be around.

"[Practice squad player] Jonathan Krause, young cat, Vanderbilt, rookie. Just kind of wide-eyed but works hard every day, plays the game the right way, great athlete.

"Josh Boyce, great athlete from TCU. He’s been like a little brother to me since he’s come here. We’re both from Texas. He’s from Dallas, from central Texas, Dallas area. I’m from Houston, so we can relate that way.

"That’s it, really.”

Eric Allen breaks down the advantages for the Seahawks and Patriots going into the Super Bowl.