## Predicting NFL Football Scores using Simulated Roaches

Every year during pro football season, I use a prediction program I wrote in C# to predict the outcomes of games. The prediction system is called Zoltar (as a reference to the fortune telling machine). Zoltar needs a numerical optimization module to determine the values of constants such as how much the home field advantage is worth.

There are many numerical optimization algorithms. Most are based on calculus derivatives (gradients) but some are modeled on the behavior of biological systems. This year I used an obscure algorithm called roach infestation optimization for Zoltar’s optimization module.

Without further ado, here are Zoltar’s predictions for week 5 of the 2015 NFL season:

```                      Vegas   Zoltar
===================================================
Oct.  8  Indianapolis  -1      -1     Houston
Oct. 11  Tampa Bay     -3      -6     Jacksonville
Oct. 11  Buffalo       -3      -4     Tennessee
Oct. 11  Baltimore     -7      -9     Cleveland
Oct. 11  Atlanta       -8      -7     Washington
Oct. 11  Kansas City   -10     -6     Chicago
Oct. 11  Philadelphia  -5      -6     New Orleans
Oct. 11  Green Bay     -10     -11    St. Louis
Oct. 11  Cincinnati    -1      -6     Seattle
Oct. 11  Arizona       -3      -1     Detroit
Oct. 11  New England   -8      -1     Dallas
Oct. 11  Denver        -6      -8     Oakland
Oct. 11  NY Giants     -7      -4     San Francisco
Oct. 12  San Diego     -3      -1     Pittsburgh
```

In all 14 games, Zoltar agrees with the Las Vegas betting line with regards to which team is the favorite in each matchup. But there are three games that Zoltar identifies as betting opportunities.

1. Because Vegas says the Kansas City Chiefs will win by 10 or more points over the Chicago Bears, but Zoltar says the Chiefs will win by only 6 or more points, Zotar suggests betting on the underdog Bears. You’ll win if the Bears win the game, or if the Chiefs win, but by less than 10 points.

2. Zoltar says bet on the Cincinnati Bengals to beat the Seattle Seahawks by more than 1 point.

3. Zoltar says bet on the underdog Dallas Cowboys to beat the New England Patriots (or lose by fewer than 8 points).

== Update

Here are the actual results of week 5. Zoltar’s advice was correct (meaning you’d have won your bet) on two out of three games (the Bears did beat the Chiefs and the Bengals did beat the Seahawks) and incorrect on one game (the Cowboys lost by more than 8 points to the Patriots). These results are typical – Zoltar usually gets about 67% accuracy against the spread.

```                      Vegas   Zoltar                 Actual
============================================================
Oct.  8  Indianapolis  -1      -1     Houston        27 - 20
Oct. 11  Tampa Bay     -3      -6     Jacksonville   38 - 31
Oct. 11  Buffalo       -3      -4     Tennessee      14 - 13
Oct. 11  Baltimore     -7      -9     Cleveland      30 - 33
Oct. 11  Atlanta       -8      -7     Washington     25 - 19
Oct. 11  Kansas City   -10     -6     Chicago        17 - 18
Oct. 11  Philadelphia  -5      -6     New Orleans    39 - 17
Oct. 11  Green Bay     -10     -11    St. Louis      24 - 10
Oct. 11  Cincinnati    -1      -6     Seattle        27 - 24
Oct. 11  Arizona       -3      -1     Detroit        42 - 17
Oct. 11  New England   -8      -1     Dallas         30 -  6
Oct. 11  Denver        -6      -8     Oakland        16 - 10
Oct. 11  NY Giants     -7      -4     San Francisco  30 - 27
Oct. 12  San Diego     -3      -1     Pittsburgh     20 - 24
```