NFL 2017 Week 7 Predictions – Zoltar Likes the Underdogs Again

Zoltar is my NFL football machine learning prediction system. Here are Zoltar’s predictions for week #7 of the 2017 NFL season:

Zoltar:      chiefs  by    1  dog =     raiders    Vegas:      chiefs  by  2.5
Zoltar:       bills  by    4  dog =  buccaneers    Vegas:       bills  by    3
Zoltar:    steelers  by    8  dog =     bengals    Vegas:    steelers  by    6
Zoltar:      titans  by    7  dog =      browns    Vegas:      titans  by  6.5
Zoltar:    panthers  by    0  dog =       bears    Vegas:    panthers  by  3.5
Zoltar:    dolphins  by    6  dog =        jets    Vegas:    dolphins  by    3
Zoltar:   cardinals  by    0  dog =        rams    Vegas:        rams  by  3.5
Zoltar:     vikings  by    6  dog =      ravens    Vegas:     vikings  by  4.5
Zoltar:     packers  by    6  dog =      saints    Vegas:      saints  by    4
Zoltar:       colts  by    6  dog =     jaguars    Vegas:     jaguars  by    3
Zoltar:     cowboys  by   11  dog = fortyniners    Vegas:     cowboys  by    6
Zoltar:    seahawks  by    0  dog =      giants    Vegas:    seahawks  by    6
Zoltar:     broncos  by    0  dog =    chargers    Vegas:     broncos  by    2
Zoltar:    patriots  by    6  dog =     falcons    Vegas:    patriots  by  3.5
Zoltar:      eagles  by    6  dog =    redskins    Vegas:      eagles  by    5

Zoltar theoretically suggests betting when the Vegas line is more than 3.0 points different from Zoltar’s prediction. For week #7 Zoltar has five hypothetical suggestions. As in recent weeks, most (four) of the five are on underdogs, and just one suggestion is for a favorite. It seems like Zoltar-2017 has a bias for underdogs, but his accuracy is good, so I’m not sure if Zoltar has the bias or if Vegas has a bias towards favorites.

1. Zoltar likes the Vegas underdog Bears against the Panthers. Vegas believes the Panthers are 3.5 points better than the Bears, but Zoltar thinks the two teams are evenly matched. A bet on the Bears would pay you if the Bears win (by any score), or the Panthers win, but by 3 points or fewer.

2. Zoltar likes the Vegas underdog Packers against the Saints. Vegas has the Saints as 4.0 point favorites but Zoltar thinks the Packers are 6 points better than the Saints. This difference must be due to the injury to the Packers quarterback. Often, Vegas overreacts to a key injury, but in this case the pessimism is probably justified.

3. Zoltar likes the Vegas underdog Colts against the Jaguars. Vegas believes the Jaguars are 3.0 points better than the Colts, but Zoltar thinks the Colts are 6 points better than the Jaguars. This big difference in opinion is rather unusual.

4. Zoltar likes the Vegas favorite Cowboys against the 49ers. Vegas has the Cowboys as 6.0 points better than the 49ers but Zoltar thinks the Cowboys are 11 points better. So, a bet on the Cowboys will only pay you if the Cowboys win by 7 points or more. (If the Cowboys win by exactly 6 points, the bet is called off).

5. Zoltar likes the Vegas underdog Giants against the Seahawks. Vegas likes the Seahawks as 6.0 point favorites, but Zoltar believes that the two teams are evenly matched.

Note: There’s some weirdness with the Rams vs. Cardinals game — my output says the Vegas line is a pick ’em but my data file says Vegas favors the Rams by 3.5 points. I’ll have to walk through Zoltar’s code to find the problem — almost certainly related to the fact that the game is being played at a neutral site (London).


Week #6 was very unusual. Against the Vegas spread, which is what Zoltar is designed to do, Zoltar went a nice 4-2. Zoltar correctly liked Vegas underdogs Dolphins, Jets, Giants, and Vikings, but incorrectly liked Vegas underdog Lions and Vegas favorite Raiders.

For the 2017 season so far, against the Vegas point spread, Zoltar is a pretty good 17-8 (68% accuracy). If you must bet $110 to win $100 (typical in Vegas) then you must theoretically predict with 53% or better accuracy to make money, but realistically you must predict at 60% or better accuracy.

Just for fun, I also track how well Zoltar does when only predicting which team will win. This isn’t really useful except for parlay betting. For week #6, Zoltar was a hideously bad 4-10 just predicting winners.

For comparison purposes, I also track how well Bing and the Vegas line do when just predicting who will win. In week #6, Bing was slightly better (but still weak) than Zoltar at 5-9, and Vegas was also bad at 5-9 just predicting winners.

For the 2017 season so far, just predicting the winning team, Zoltar is 54-37 (59% accuracy), Bing is 50-41 (55% accuracy), and Vegas is 47-42 (53% accuracy). The Vegas accuracy number is the lowest I’ve seen in the last 10 years suggesting that most NFL teams are just about equal in strength.

Original Zoltar from the 1988 movie “Big”

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One Response to NFL 2017 Week 7 Predictions – Zoltar Likes the Underdogs Again

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