Jay Kornegay won the Review-Journal NFL Challenge with a 50-33-2 ATS record (60.2 percent). But the Westgate sportsbook vice president has no plans to switch sides of the betting counter.
“At the book, I work with a lot of sharp people and I ask for their opinions and get their thoughts,” Kornegay said. “I get input from all different corners. Still, if I had some really good information, I probably wouldn’t be punching in and out every day.”
Kornegay went 4-1 on Sunday to hold off handicapper Doug Fitz (49-34-2), who also went 4-1, by a point in the RJ contest (one point per win, half point per push).
Handicapper Hank Goldberg placed third (48-34-3), and VSiN host Brent Musburger finished fourth (47-36-2).
“We have our own set of rankings we look at each and every week and adjust them accordingly,” Kornegay said. “There are times when the market line will come out a little off versus what we think the number should be. Do I lean toward those? At times. But there’s other times I look at emotional factors that I look to use myself.
“The NFL is just so difficult to handicap. The bottom line is I was just very fortunate and lucky to win it because I know there’s a lot of really good handicappers out there, including those in this contest.”
His 51 points would have finished in the money in the Westgate SuperContest, which paid the top 100 finishers from a record field of 3,328 entries who paid $1,500 apiece and made five weekly picks.
Kornegay’s record would have been good for a 24-way tie for 79th place and paid $2,181.50.
We asked Kornegay for his best bets for this week’s NFL wild-card playoff games.
He likes the Seahawks (-1½) over the Eagles and Titans (+5) over the Patriots.
“The Seahawks will have to rebound from a physical and emotional loss to the 49ers, but you can’t ignore all the injuries Philly is dealing with,” he said. “The Titans are the team nobody wanted to face. They’re rolling with Ryan Tannehill, and the Pats just can’t find that mojo.”
The SuperContest and Circa Sports Million Pro Football Contest winners also shared their best bets.
It Ain’t Breezy, the alias of two Nebraska childhood friends who won the SuperContest and $1.47 million with a 58-25-2 ATS record (69.9 percent), concur with Kornegay on the Seahawks.
The duo of Eric Jensen, 38, of Grand Island, and Matt Kucera, 38, of Omaha, also like the Texans (-2½) and Saints (-7½), mostly because of the quarterback matchups.
SAINTS (-7½) over Vikings
“The obvious reason is Drew Brees. He’s a hell of a lot better than Kirk Cousins,” Jensen said. “Sean Payton is a little bit better coach (than Mike Zimmer), and they’re at home in a dome.
“But it all comes down to the Vikings keeping up with the Saints, and I don’t think Cousins has it in him.”
Said Kucera: “New Orleans is kind of hitting its stride toward the end of the year, and the Vikings are kind of limping in.
“Plus, with the name Breezy, we can’t go against (Brees).”
Seahawks (-1½) over EAGLES
“The Eagles are banged up on offense, and it’s hard to bet against a mobile quarterback like Russell Wilson,” Kucera said. “In what’s essentially a pick’em game, we trust Russell Wilson more than Carson Wentz.”
TEXANS (-2½) over Bills
“We both like Houston, mostly because they’re at home,” Kucera said. “And (Deshaun) Watson’s a better quarterback than (Josh) Allen.”
Said Jensen: “Houston’s strength of schedule is way stronger than the Bills’ this year. The Bills only beat one playoff team in the Titans, and that was without Tannehill starting.”
Circa vs. Westgate
Booty Blockers, the alias of Los Angeles portfolio manager Isaac Meier, won the Circa contest and $1 million with a 57-25-3 spread record (69.5 percent).
Meier’s best bets conflict with Kornegay’s play on the Titans and It Ain’t Breezy’s play on the Texans. He likes New England (-5) and Buffalo (+2½), with a caveat.
“Patriots will win in their first-half margin, will be able to control time of possession, play more efficiently and force Tannehill to make difficult throws on third downs,” said Meier, 34.
“The Bills are better coached, healthier and will force more turnovers. But if Will Fuller is actually healthy and plays, it’s harder to pick the Bills.”
Fuller suffered a groin injury in a Dec. 21 win at Tampa Bay, and his status is listed as day to day.
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