Zoltar is my NFL football machine learning prediction system. It’s a hybrid system that uses a custom “reinforcement learning” algorithm plus a neural network. Here are Zoltar’s predictions for week #11 of the 2017 NFL season:
Zoltar: steelers by 6 dog = titans Vegas: steelers by 7 Zoltar: packers by 6 dog = ravens Vegas: ravens by 2 Zoltar: saints by 6 dog = redskins Vegas: saints by 8 Zoltar: vikings by 6 dog = rams Vegas: vikings by 2.5 Zoltar: dolphins by 6 dog = buccaneers Vegas: dolphins by 2.5 Zoltar: lions by 4 dog = bears Vegas: lions by 3 Zoltar: chiefs by 5 dog = giants Vegas: chiefs by 10.5 Zoltar: texans by 2 dog = cardinals Vegas: cardinals by 1.5 Zoltar: jaguars by 5 dog = browns Vegas: jaguars by 7.5 Zoltar: bills by 0 dog = chargers Vegas: chargers by 4 Zoltar: broncos by 6 dog = bengals Vegas: broncos by 2.5 Zoltar: patriots by 3 dog = raiders Vegas: patriots by 0 Zoltar: cowboys by 4 dog = eagles Vegas: eagles by 3 Zoltar: seahawks by 4 dog = falcons Vegas: seahawks by 3
Zoltar theoretically suggests betting when the Vegas line is more than 3.0 points different from Zoltar’s prediction. Typically, Zoltar has only three or four hypothetical recommendations, but for week #11, Zoltar has eight suggestions — just like last week. This is probably due to the very large number of injuries in mid-season.
1. Zoltar likes the Vegas underdog Packers against the Ravens. Vegas has the Ravens as a slight 2.0-point favorite but Zoltar thinks the Packers are 6 points better than the Ravens. Therefore, a bet on the Packers will pay off if the Packers win by any score, or if the Ravens win but by less than 2.0 points (in other words, 1 point — if the Ravens win by exactly 2 points, the bet is a push).
2. Zoltar likes the Vegas favorite Vikings against the Rams. Vegas lists the Vikings as 2.5 points better than the Rams but Zoltar thinks the Vikings are 6 points better. So if you bet on the Vikings, you will win your bet only if the Vikings win by more than 2.5 points (in other words, 3 points or more — notice that when the Vegas point spread has a “.5”, no push is possible).
3. Zoltar likes the Vegas favorite Dolphins against the Buccaneers.
4. Zoltar likes the Vegas underdog Giants against the Chiefs.
5. Zoltar likes the Vegas underdog Texans against the Cardinals.
6. Zoltar likes the Vegas underdog Bills against the Chargers.
7. Zoltar likes the Vegas favorite Broncos over the Bengals.
8. Zoltar likes the Vegas underdog Cowboys against the Eagles.
I actually watched many of the games last week, and I notice that this week Zoltar likes six teams that looked absolutely terrible last week — Dolphins, Giants, Texans, Bills, Broncos, Cowboys. This means Zoltar believes that bettors are overreacting to those teams’ terrible play.
Zoltar had a so-so showing last week. Against the Vegas spread, which is what Zoltar is designed to predict, Zoltar went only 5-3 (a last minute point spread change on the Seahawks – Cardinals game made a difference between a 4-4 and a 5-3 record).
For the 2017 season so far, against the Vegas point spread, Zoltar is a pretty good 29-14 (67% accuracy). If you must bet $110 to win $100 (typical in Vegas) then you must theoretically predict with 53% or better accuracy to make money, but realistically you must predict at 60% or better accuracy.
Just for fun, I also track how well Zoltar does when only predicting which team will win. This isn’t really useful except for parlay betting. For week #10, Zoltar was a good 13-1 just predicting winners.
For comparison purposes, I also track how well Bing and the Vegas line do when just predicting who will win. In week #10, Bing was a good 11-3, and Vegas was also good at 9-3 (two pushes) when just predicting winners.
For the 2017 season so far, just predicting the winning team, Zoltar is 96-50 (65% accuracy), Bing is about the same at 94-52 (64% accuracy), and Vegas is 88-52 (63% accuracy). The best humans are typically about 67% accurate predicting winners, so neither Zoltar nor Bing not Vegas is as good as the best humans when just predicting which team will win.