Four regular guys from the Detroit area won the $1 million first-place prize in the Circa Sports Million NFL handicapping contest thanks to their hometown Lions beating the Packers 20-16 on Sunday Night Football.
The contest came down to the final game of the NFL season as two contestants going by the aliases CHIEF-3 and Enut34-1 were tied for first place and on opposite sides of the game with CHIEF-3 on Lions +4.5 and Enut34-1 on the Packers -4.5.
Brian Koestering, a 38-year-old advertising salesman from Livonia, Mich., put in the CHIEF-3 entry and asked his brother-in-laws – Anthony Coratti, a 40-year-old software salesman/restaurant owner from Northville, and Zack Zoltowski, a 27-year-old in General Motors’ global purchasing department – and mutual friend John Miller, 31-year-old software salesman from Canton to be his partners.
“I couldn’t pick a better three guys to do this with,” Koestering said. “It starts out as something fun we were doing together and you get closer and closer to the finish line and it got more real every week.
“We were in 49th place [after NFL Week 13] and we all went to dinner and I was shocked when Zack said we were in 49th place. We went from 49th to 6th [after Week 15] and kind of said ‘why not us?’ We got in the Top 10 and decided to come out here and see how it went.”
Circa Sports MIllion, which drew a record 4,691 entries at $1,000 apiece and had a guaranteed $6 million prize pool with $1 million to the champion, requires players to pick 5 NFL games a week against Circa’s contest spread for the full 18 weeks of the regular season. Koestering said the foursome picked 1 game apiece each week and then would debate the final group play.
CHIEF-3 finished with a record of 59-26-5 (69.4%) for 61.5 contest points as wins are worth 1 point apiece with pushes worth 0.5.
They entered the final weekend tied for second place, one point behind Enut34-1, but went 4-1 to claim the title. When the Week 18 selections were released late Saturday afternoon, they all felt like the contest would come down to the final game when they saw Enut34-1 picked the Packers.
CHIEF-3 watched all of the weekend’s games in the VIP section with Circa owner Derek Stevens (also from Detroit). They started the day with wins in the early games on the Dolphins +1 in an 11-6 win vs. the Jets and the Bengals -7.5 in a 27-16 win vs. the Ravens, but dropped a game on the Browns +2.5 in their 28-14 loss at the Steelers. Meanwhile, Enut34-1 won with the Dolphins and Steelers, but lost on the Buccaneers +4 in their 30-17 loss at the Falcons and Saints -3.5 in their 10-7 loss to the Panthers.
CHIEF-3 needed the Rams +6 at the Seahawks in the afternoon game to move into the first-place tie. They were going out of their minds on every play as the Rams grabbed a 13-6 halftime lead and were still leading 16-13 late in the fourth quarter when the Seahawks tied it 16-16 on a 32-yard FG by Jason Myers with 2:19 to play. Myers also had a chance to win the game in regulation – and Koestering and Co. were actually cheering for him to make it even though it would eliminate the Lions from a playoff spot – but doinked it off the right upright.
After each team had a possession in overtime, Myers won the game with a 32-yard field goal for the Seahawks’ 19-16 win but the Rams’ covered to set up the final showdown.
“When the Lions picked up the final fourth down,” Koestering said as Stevens brought out champagne to toast the champions. “I knew it was over and looked for a ton of people to hug.”
A contestant using the Sean 1923-2 alias also had the Lions +4.5 and claimed the second-place prize of $500,000. Enut34-1 settled for the third-place prize of $400,000. Another former leader, KING BRUTUS-1, finished fourth for $350,000 with a five-way tie for fifth. Circa Sports Million pays the Top 100, plus quarterly prizes, which earned CHIEF-3 another $105,000 as they went 19-4-2 the last five weeks of the season to tie BIG DADDY 75-3 as both earned 20 contest points.