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Surviving Thanksgiving weekend tricky task in Circa’s $9.2M contest

The Masters doesn’t really start until the back nine on Sunday, and the Circa Survivor contest doesn’t really start until Thanksgiving.

That’s when entrants in the $1,000 entry contest, which pays $9,267,000 to the winner, must survive the first of two holiday weeks — Thanksgiving/Black Friday and Christmas Day.

Only 372 of 9,267 entries remain in the contest, in which contestants pick one straight-up NFL winner each week but can use each team only once.

Professional sports bettor Jeff Whitelaw, one of 35 winners in the inaugural Circa Survivor in 2020 who chopped a $2.39 million pot, has two entries remaining.

“I’m going to go with one on Detroit and one on Dallas,” he said. “In the beginning of the year, you try to map it out. I looked at Thanksgiving and Christmas and tried to keep Dallas, Detroit and Philadelphia available.”

The Eagles play the Giants in a Christmas Day tripleheader that also features Chiefs-Raiders and Ravens-49ers.

All four games Thursday and Friday feature favorites of seven points or more in the Cowboys (-12½ over the Commanders), Lions (-7½ over Packers), 49ers (-7 over Seahawks) and Dolphins (-9 over Jets).

The four favorites will almost be as popular as turkey legs Thursday among bettors banking on a four-leg money-line parlay that pays +113.

“Pretty big numbers on all the favorites parlayed together,” Westgate SuperBook vice president of risk Ed Salmons said. “We sure could use one ’dog to win outright. That would be gigantic for us.”

Two years ago, the Raiders ruined dessert on Thanksgiving night for countless bettors and Survivor entries when they beat the Cowboys in overtime as 7-point underdogs. Dallas is on a 1-11 slide against the spread on the holiday.

Of the 372 remaining entries, 224 have Detroit available, 96 have Dallas, 44 have San Francisco and 35 have Miami. Also, 313 appear to be saving Philadelphia for Christmas.

Those who survive the separate holiday week will be faced with a much more difficult slate of games Sunday/Monday, when every line is 3½ or less except for the Chiefs (-9) over the Raiders.

Only 91 entries still have Kansas City available. Whitelaw already used the Chiefs and said he’s narrowed down his choice to three teams.

“It’s difficult because you’re going to have to select a 3- or 4-point favorite, and that’s the best of the litter,” he said. “But everybody’s going to be in the same boat.

“I love the contest. I think it’s a lot of fun.”

Best bets

Whitelaw has made two NFL bets this week: Seattle +7 and Philadelphia -3 over Buffalo.

“I’m expecting Geno Smith to play, and the Niners haven’t played that great on the road,” he said. “I just think seven is too many points. Seattle typically plays them very tough up there.

“The Eagles look like the best team in football. The Bills have been sputtering. I don’t give much weight to them beating the Jets. At three (points), you’re basically saying the Eagles and Bills are a pick’em on a neutral (field). I don’t buy that. I’m not sure Jalen Hurts is 100 percent, but neither is Josh Allen.”

Salmons made two college football bets: Purdue -2½ (now -3½) over Indiana and Jacksonville State +4 (now -2½) over New Mexico State.

“The quarterback is going to be back for Purdue this week. Purdue has been a much better team than Indiana, and the spread should be more towards five,” he said. “New Mexico State beat Auburn last week, but I think they got carried away with that score and opened them -4. That was a bad line.

“Jacksonville State, all year, has been a better team than New Mexico State.”

Sharp plays

Salmons said the SuperBook took some sharp money on the Seahawks +7, the Chargers +4 (now +3½ over the Ravens) and on Texas Christian over Oklahoma. The Sooners dropped from -13 to -10 over the Horned Frogs amid the questionable status of quarterback Dillon Gabriel, who is expected to play.

The picks in this column went 4-5-1 ATS last week and are 58-34-1 (63 percent) this season.

NFL Challenge picks

Several contestants in the Review-Journal NFL Challenge made selections on Thanksgiving/Black Friday games.

I took the Seahawks +7½, Brent Musburger has the Lions -7½, Dave Tuley has the Commanders +12½, and Lou Finocchiaro took the Jets +9.

Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@reviewjournal.com. Follow @tdewey33 on X.

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