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Thanksgiving Day critical in $1.39M Circa Survivor contest

The Circa Survivor contest entrants who didn’t submit a pick on the Ravens-Steelers game originally scheduled for Thursday have a lot to be thankful for on Thanksgiving.

Namely, that they’re still in the running for the $1.39 million grand prize.

If any of the 209 of the original 1,390 entrants who survived NFL Week 11 made a pick on Ravens-Steelers, there’s not enough pumpkin pie and whipped cream in the world to ease their pain.

That’s because, in a wrinkle in Survivor — in which entrants pick a winning team straight up every week or get eliminated — Thanksgiving Day is its own contest week. And, per contest rules, games that aren’t completed within the “contest week” will be graded a loss and the $1,000 entry will be eliminated.

The contest week that includes Thanksgiving Day began at 2 p.m. Tuesday and ends at 1:59 a.m. Friday. That means only the other two Thursday games — Texans-Lions and Cowboys-Washington — will serve as Thanksgiving picks.

On Circa’s contest website (circasports.com/circa-survivor), there’s a reminder to plan for Thanksgiving, noting “Since you can’t use the same team twice during the contest, be careful using Thanksgiving Day teams early in the season or you’ll be out!”

But neither Circa nor the contestants could have planned for the coronavirus pandemic wreaking havoc.

The Survivor entry deadline was 10 p.m. Wednesday.

“The ‘think out of the box’ idea was awesome of Circa,” said professional sports bettor Cris Zeniuk (@lasvegascris). “Unfortunately, if you pick a game and they move the game, you are out. That’s rough.”

$1 million bonus

Circa sportsbook operations manager Jeff Benson said adding an extra week to the contest on Thanksgiving — along with an increased degree of difficulty — allowed the book to add a $1 million undefeated bonus prize if an entrant goes 18-0 for the season.

“Given that Survivor is so much centered around game theory and strategy and really planning out how you want to utilize certain teams during the course of the 17-game NFL season, we thought adding that additional week was kind of creative,” Benson said. “It made the contest a little bit different and more fun and kind of put a Circa Sports spin on it.”

Survivor strategy

Pro sports bettor Jeff Whitelaw has three live entries in Survivor (five entries max) and didn’t make a pick on Steelers-Ravens. His strategy was to save the Cowboys for Thanksgiving Day.

“I looked at that week and tried to keep Dallas available, because originally Dallas was an 11½-point favorite over Washington, and that was going to be a real good spot,” he said. “However, since all the Dallas injuries, etc., it no longer carries any weight.”

Based on Circa’s Thanksgiving Day team availability matrix, Washington was 100 percent available, meaning no entry had used the Football Team.

Detroit was 99.5 percent available, followed by Dallas (93.3 percent), Houston (75.6 percent), Baltimore (42.6) and Pittsburgh (20.6).

The day was hard enough before the postponement, as both games are virtual tossups, with the Texans 3-point favorites over the Lions and the Cowboys 2½-point favorites over Washington.

COWBOYS (-2½) over Washington

Whitelaw’s best bet is Dallas, which lost 25-3 at Washington on Oct. 25. But the Cowboys are coming off a 31-28 win at Minnesota and have veteran Andy Dalton back at quarterback.

“I typically like teams that lost the previous division game to their opponent,” Whitelaw said. “Dallas looks like they’ve righted the ship a bit. They played a hot Minnesota team and played probably their best game of the year.

“It’s a short week, and that certainly doesn’t help the team that’s traveling.”

LIONS (+3) over Texans

Zeniuk’s best bet is Detroit, which lost 20-0 at Carolina on Sunday. He noted a trend that applies to Houston: Away favorites, after being a home underdog the week before, are 31-45 ATS (40.8 percent) since 2012 and 110-143-6 ATS (43.5) since 1989.

“Detroit +3 looks good off a humiliating loss,” Zeniuk said. “The Lions are playing their last national TV game of the year. They’ve been bitten by the injury bug, but they hope to be healthier this week.”

NFL Challenge pick

Joe D’Amico made Washington (+3) one of his Review-Journal NFL Challenge Week 12 picks.

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

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