Predicting the results of NFL football games is a fascinating problem. I wrote a computer program called Zoltar (named after the arcade fortune telling machine) to do just that. Unlike many prediction programs that use classical statistics techniques, Zoltar uses an information-theoretic approach.
Zoltar’s point spread predictions for the third round of the playoffs (week 20, conference championships) of the 2015 NFL season are:
Zoltar favorite = broncos by 5 underdog = patriots Zoltar favorite = panthers by 2 underdog = cardinals
The Las Vegas point spreads are:
Vegas favorite = patriots by 3 underdog = broncos Vegas favorite = panthers by 3 underdog = cardinals
So, Zoltar strongly disagrees with the Las Vegas prediction for the Broncos vs. Patriots game, and very closely agrees with Vegas on the Panthers vs. Cardinals game.
Zoltar theoretically recommends a bet on the Vegas underdog Broncos, thinking that the Broncos will win outright, or that the Patriots won’t cover the 3 point spread. I’m a bit dubious but Zoltar generally knows what he’s doing.
For last week’s predictions, Zoltar was correct in all four games when predicting just the winner.
Last week against the Vegas point spread, Zoltar was 0-0, because he didn’t recommends any bets (all Zoltar predictions were very close to the Las Vegas point spreads).
For the 2015 season, through week 19 (second round of playoffs), in head-to-head predictions, meaning just predicting the winner of a game (which isn’t particularly useful except for parlay betting), Zoltar has gone 192-72 for 73% accuracy. I couldn’t find any week 18 or 19 predictions for Bing Predictions. For the regular season Bing Predictions was 161-95 for 63% accuracy.
If you just picked the Las Vegas point spread favorite to win each game, for the regular season you’d have gotten about 63% accuracy.
Update, Monday, Jan. 26, 2016: Zoltar correctly predicted both winners (Broncos beat the Patriots 20-18, and the Panthers beat the Cardinals 49-15). Zoltar was 1-0 against the Vegas point spread, correctly advising a bet on the Vegas underdog Broncos.