Zoltar is my NFL prediction computer program. Here are Zoltar’s predictions for week 20 (conference championships) of the 2016 NFL season:
Zoltar: falcons by 4 dog = packers Vegas: falcons by 4 Zoltar: patriots by 6 dog = steelers Vegas: patriots by 6
Zoltar theoretically suggests betting when the Vegas line is more than 3.0 points different from Zoltar’s prediction. For week 20, Zoltar has no suggestions because Zoltar’s predictions and the Vegas point spread line are exactly the same (this is the first time that’s ever happened).
Zoltar’s early Super Bowl LI prediction is the Patriots by 3 points over the Atlanta Falcons.
In week 19, Zoltar went 2-1 against the Vegas point spread. Zoltar correctly recommended a bet on the Vegas favorite Falcons (who covered their 4.5 points against the Seahawks), and he correctly recommended a bet on the Vegas favorite Patriots (who covered their 14.0 points against the Texans). Zoltar incorrectly recommended a bet of the Vegas favorite Chiefs (who didn’t even win, much less cover their 1.0 point against the Green Bay Packers).
For the 2016 regular season plus the eight playoff games so far, Zoltar is 45-29 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 for 2016 Zoltar is doing only OK.
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.
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 19, just predicting winners, Zoltar was poor 2-2. Cortana/Bing was also 2-2. (And so was the Las Vegas point spread).
For the 2016 season, just predicting winners, Zoltar is 180-82 (69% accuracy). Cortana/Bing is 167-95 (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).