The NFL sets its schedule for Week 17 to ensure the last game of the year provides maximum drama, pitting playoff contenders against one another to create the most meaningful finale possible. But the schedule-makers never could’ve known that last week’s Wild Card deciding contest between the Indianapolis Colts and the Tennessee Titans would decide a nearly million-dollar swing for two football handicappers in the 2018 SuperContest.
When the Colts finished off a 33-17 defeat of the Titans on Sunday Night Football, the result officially clinched a $1.42 million payout for “Personal Gourmet” in the Westgate Las Vegas 2018 SuperContest. The screenname “Personal Gourmet” was that of Eric Kahane, a 44-year old out of Irvine, California who works as the director of business development for a fine foods delivery service of the same name.
Before the 2018 NFL season kicked off back in September, Kahane paid $1,500 to enter the SuperContest – an annual football handicapping contest hosted by the Westgate SuperBook which challenges entrants to pick five games against the spread per week. By season’s end, the player who accumulates the most points – covers are worth 1 point, pushes 0.5 points, and losses 0 points – collects the lion’s share of a massive multimillion-dollar prize pool.
By virtue of the Colts victory as (-3) road favorites, Kahane clinched a 5-0 record in Week 17, vaulting his “Personal Gourmet” entry over “@PigskinJunkies” and into the top spot in the standings.
The “@PigskinJunkies” entry held by 31-year old Scott Panza of Stamford, Connecticut had led the pack through most of the season, but stumbled to a 2-3 finish including a loss on Tennessee (+3) in the decisive game.
Kahane entered Week 17 in a tie for third place overall with 54.5 points, while Panza held pole position with a 57-point total. Two improbable plays from the early Sunday slate, however, sent both players in different directions.
Kahane began Sunday morning sweating the Dallas Cowboys as (+6.5) road underdogs over the New York Giants, but by the fourth quarter Dallas was down 35-28 to give New York the closest of covers.
On fourth and 15 from the Giants 32-yard line, Dallas QB Dak Prescott threw a dart to the back of the end zone, where receiver Cole Beasley dove and came down with an acrobatic grab.
Initially, the refs ruled Beasley to be out of bounds, but replay review reversed the call to give Dallas a miraculous touchdown. The ‘Boys finished things off with a successful two-point conversion to win the game outright, and just like that Kahane scored an invaluable SuperContest point.
As he later told Dave Tuley of VSiN, Kahane considers the million-dollar catch – in a game where Dallas ostensibly had nothing to play for – one of the best of all-time:
“That was being called a meaningless game and it probably meant a lot more to me than 99 percent of the players on the field.
For the time and place and what it meant to me, Beasley’s catch was the greatest in NFL history.”
Kahane went on to score covers from the Chiefs, Eagles, Browns, and Bears to wrap up a perfect Week 17, winding up with a 59-25-1 record for a gaudy 70.2 percent win percentage.
Meanwhile, Panza watched the Denver Broncos (+6.5) claw back against the L.A. Chargers, scoring a touchdown to cut the deficit to 14-9. A cover to that point was a virtual lock, but on the subsequent two-point conversion attempt, Denver QB Case Keenum threw an interception that was returned for a two-point score in L.A.’s favor. The swing made it 16-9, erasing Panza’s cover for good as the Chargers went on to a 23-9 win.
As he told Tuley in the same VSiN interview, Panza immediately realized the import of the improbable return:
“I knew I was doomed when the Broncos pulled within 5 but then Case Keenum was picked off on the 2-point conversion and the Chargers ran it back.”
From there, Panza needed Tennessee to cover against the Colts, but the latter’s easy win left him with 59 points – or a half-point out of first place.
Panza wound up with a 59-26 mark, putting him in a tie for second place with “Rush YYZ 2112” and leaving both players with $409,425 payouts.
Before the 2018 NFL season kicked off, the SuperBook tallied 3,123 entries to establish a new highwater mark for the SuperContest, beating the previous record of 2,748 set one year before.
The turnout continued a torrid growth spurt for the 2018 SuperContest, which counted 1,854 entries in 2016 and just 345 in 2010.