Zoltar is my NFL prediction computer program. It uses a deep neural network and reinforcement learning. Here are Zoltar’s predictions for week #2 of the 2019 NFL season:
Zoltar: panthers by 6 dog = buccaneers Vegas: panthers by 6.5
Zoltar: bengals by 4 dog = fortyniners Vegas: bengals by 1
Zoltar: chargers by 4 dog = lions Vegas: chargers by 2.5
Zoltar: vikings by 0 dog = packers Vegas: packers by 2.5
Zoltar: texans by 9 dog = jaguars Vegas: texans by 9
Zoltar: patriots by 2 dog = dolphins Vegas: patriots by 18.5
Zoltar: bills by 0 dog = giants Vegas: bills by 2
Zoltar: titans by 4 dog = colts Vegas: titans by 3
Zoltar: seahawks by 0 dog = steelers Vegas: steelers by 3.5
Zoltar: ravens by 10 dog = cardinals Vegas: ravens by 13.5
Zoltar: cowboys by 0 dog = redskins Vegas: cowboys by 4.5
Zoltar: chiefs by 4 dog = raiders Vegas: chiefs by 9.5
Zoltar: bears by 3 dog = broncos Vegas: bears by 1
Zoltar: rams by 2 dog = saints Vegas: rams by 3
Zoltar: eagles by 0 dog = falcons Vegas: eagles by 0
Zoltar: browns by 0 dog = jets Vegas: browns by 2.5
Zoltar theoretically suggests betting when the Vegas line is more than 3.0 points different from Zoltar’s prediction. For week #2 Zoltar has five hypothetical suggestions. All of them are highly questionable because Zoltar doesn’t have much data yet.
1. Zoltar likes the Vegas underdog Dolphins against the Patriots. Zoltar thinks the Patriots are just 2 points better than the Dolphins but Vegas has the Patriots favored by 18.5 points. So, Zoltar believes that the Patriots will not cover the spread. No human would bet this way — in week #1 the Dolphins were obliterated by Baltimore 59 – 10 while the Patriots destroyed a good Steelers team 33 – 3. Update: The version of Zoltar that deals with big mismatches using transitivity recommends betting the farm on the Patriots.
2. Zoltar likes the Vegas underdog Seahawks against the Steelers. Zoltar believes the two teams are evenly matched but Vegas has the Steelers better by 3.5 points. A bet on the Seahawks will pay if the Seahawks win by any score, or if the Steelers win by 3 points or less.
3. Zoltar likes the Vegas underdog Cardinals against the Ravens. Zoltar thinks the Ravens are 10 points better than the Cardinals but Vegas thinks the Ravens are 13.5 points better.
4. Zoltar likes the Vegas underdog Redskins against the Cowboys. Zoltar thinks the teams are evenly matched but Vegas thinks the Cowboys are 4.5 points better than the Redskins.
5. Zoltar likes the Vegas underdog Raiders against the Chiefs. Zoltar thinks the Chiefs are 4 points better than the Raiders but Vegas thinks the Chiefs are 9.5 points better.
Theoretically, if you must bet $110 to win $100 (typical in Vegas) then you’ll make money if you predict at 53% accuracy or better. But realistically, you need to predict at 60% accuracy or better.
Just for fun, I track how well Zoltar does when just trying to predict just which team will win a game. This isn’t useful except for parlay betting.
Zoltar sometimes predicts a 0-point margin of victory. There are six such games in week #2
Vikings at Packers
Bills at Giants
Seahawks at Steelers
Cowboys at Redskins
Eagles at Falcons
Browns at Jets
In these situations, just to pick a winner so I can track raw number of correct predictions, in the first four weeks of the season, Zoltar picks the home team to win. After week 4, Zoltar uses historical data for the current season (which usually, but not always, ends up in a prediction that the home team will win). Update: The Jets starting quarterback will be out, which Zoltar values as 3 points, so the Browns are predicted to win.
Zoltar did so-so in week #1. Against the Vegas point spread, Zoltar was 3-3. Zoltar correctly liked underdogs Titans, Bengals, and Redskins but incorrectly picked favorites Bears and Buccaneers, and underdog Dolphins.
Just predicting winners, Zoltar was a decent 10-5 which is pretty good for the first week. (There was one tie game – Lions at Cardinals).
By coincidence, I was speaking at a conference in Las Vegas on September 5 for the first game of the 2019 season, featuring the Green Bay Packers at the Chicago Bears. I went to the sports book at the Mandalay Bay where my conference was. I picked up a sheet of proposition bets (side bets). The final score was Packers 10 – Bears 3. A proposition bet on Total Points = 11-17 paid off 18 to 1.