Zoltar is my NFL prediction computer program. Here are Zoltar’s predictions for week 18 (wild card playoff games) of the 2016 NFL season:
Zoltar: raiders by 0 dog = texans Vegas: texans by 3.5 Zoltar: seahawks by 6 dog = lions Vegas: seahawks by 8 Zoltar: steelers by 6 dog = dolphins Vegas: steelers by 10 Zoltar: packers by 6 dog = giants Vegas: packers by 4.5
Zoltar theoretically suggests betting when the Vegas line is more than 3.0 points different from Zoltar’s prediction. For week 18 Zoltar has two suggestions.
1. Zoltar (sort of) likes the Vegas underdog Raiders against the Texans. Zoltar thinks the two teams are evenly matched but Vegas says the Texans will win by 3.5 points. The Raiders QB is out which means this game is very difficult to predict. An enhanced version of Zoltar I use that takes injuries into account says the Texans will win by 1.0 point, so no bet is recommended by enhanced Zoltar.
2. Zoltar likes the Vegas underdog Dolphins against the Bills. The basic Zoltar thinks the Steelers are just 6.0 points better than the Dolphins but Vegas says the Steelers will win by 10.0 points. The enhanced Zoltar thinks the Steelers will win by 8.0 points so that Zoltar does not recommend a bet.
In week 17, Zoltar went 6-3 against the Vegas point spread. There were many big point spread changes in mid-week (related to injuries and players sitting out).
For the 2016 regular season, Zoltar finished 43-28 against the Vegas spread, for 61% accuracy. Historically, Zoltar is usually between 62% and 72% accuracy against the Vegas spread over the course of an entire season, so this was only an OK season for Zoltar.
Theoretically, if you must bet $110 to win $100 (typical) then you’ll make money if you predict at 53% accuracy or better. But realistically, you need to predict at 60% accuracy or better, so from that perspective Zoltar was successful.
Just for fun, I track how well Zoltar and Cortana/Bing Predictions do when just trying to predict just which team will win a game. This isn’t useful except for parlay betting.
In week 17, just predicting winners, Zoltar was a good 13-3. Cortana/Bing was also 13-3 just predicting winners (I have no idea how Cortana knew the Eagles would beat the Cowboys).
For the 2016 season, just predicting winners, Zoltar finished 174-80 (69% accuracy). Cortana/Bing finished 162-92 (64% accuracy). There were two tie games in the season, which I didn’t include.
Note: Zoltar sometimes predicts a 0-point margin of victory. In those situations, to pick a winner so I can compare against Cortana/Bing, 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 ends up in a prediction that the home team will win).