Zoltar is my NFL prediction computer program. The 2016 season ended a couple of weeks ago when the New England Patriots beat the Atlanta Falcons 34-28 in overtime in Super Bowl 51.
Zoltar predicted that the Patriots were 3.0 points better than the Falcons so the prediction was fairly accurate. The Las Vegas point spread also had the Patriots as 3.0 point favorites.
Zoltar theoretically suggests betting when the Vegas line is more than 3.0 points different from Zoltar’s prediction. For the Super Bowl, Zoltar had no suggestion because his prediction and the Vegas point spread line were exactly the same.
For the 2016 regular season plus the 11 postseason games, Zoltar was 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 was OK but not great.
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.
For the final game of the season, just predicting the winner, Zoltar was 1-0. Cortana/Bing was also 1-0. (And so was the Las Vegas point spread).
For the 2016 season, just predicting winners, Zoltar finished 183-82 (69% accuracy). Cortana/Bing finished 170-95 (64% accuracy). There were two tie games in the season, which I didn’t include.
Well, that’s a wrap for the 2016 season. I hope I can find some time to work on Zoltar – there are many improvements that I’d like to explore.
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).