When the final whistle blew to conclude Week 11 action in the NFL, the Washington Redskins had just finished off a 42-24 pasting of the Green Bay Packers.
That loss plummeted the Packers, a perennial playoff team during quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ tenure under center, into an ignominious 4-6 hole. With the world watching on Sunday Night Football, the Packers suffered their second straight blowout defeat, so bettors who jumped off their bandwagon at that point can’t be blamed.
But for a pair of 40-something pals from Bayside, New York, watching Rodgers and the Packers fall from grace only motivated them to hop aboard.
Although not Packers fans in any conventional sense, Brian Yankelevitz and Russ Axelrod liked the idea of backing the team to follow their embarrassing loss with an extended winning streak. The schedule looked to be soft and Green Bay was underperforming, but a proclamation by Rodgers the day before Thanksgiving sealed the deal:
“I feel like we can run the table, I really do.”
With that, Yankelevitz and Axelrod decided to fire $300 on the Packers, placing a moneyline wager on them beating the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 12.
Speaking with reporter Brett McMurphy of ESPN, Axelrod described how Rodgers’ boast influenced their decision:
“He said, ‘We’re just going to win out.’ I sent it to the guys and said, ‘Let’s do it again.'”
The year before, Yankelevitz and Axelrod decided to try the same gambit with the Dallas Cowboys, joining with two other friends to plunk $2,500 on America’s Team when they sat at 3-7. That wager flamed out in the next game, a fact that motivated the other two bettors to abandon ship this season.
Following up on the fledgling tradition, Yankelevitz and Axelrod knew going into the Eagles game that any profits generated by a win would simply be rolled over to the Packers’ next game. The goal would be to ride the team as far as possible, either winning a major sum following a Super Bowl win, or losing it all in the process.
Sure enough, the Packers downed the Eagles 27-13, as +140 underdogs on the road no less, and Yankelevitz and Axelrod were off and running. Their strategy of letting it ride continued to pay off as the Packers fulfilled Rodgers’ promise, running the table to end the regular season with six straight victories.
The accumulated winnings were wagered on Green Bay as big favorites over the Giants for Wild Card Weekend, and once again as underdogs against the Cowboys in the Divisional Round.
Now the lifelong friends are holding a betting slip worth $28,213.60 – but rather than hedge, Yankelevitz and Axelrod have already let it all ride on this Sunday’s NFC Championship Game against the Atlanta Falcons.
That ticket has the Packers as +170 underdogs – meaning a Green Bay upset in the Georgia Dome will pay out a whopping $76,176.70.
And should Green Bay reach the Super Bowl, the friends have already decided to see their quest through, so every penny will be bet on the Packers to win it all. In effect, the friends will either share between $150,000 and $200,000 – depending on Super Bowl lines – or go bust.
But as Axelrod told ESPN, they’re not sweating the situation all that much, choosing to savor the ride instead:
“Brian and I are lifelong gamblers, the story is as good as winning the money. We won’t pull a dime off the table, and there’s no hedging on Super Bowl.”