Zoltar is my NFL football machine learning prediction system. It’s a hybrid system that uses a custom reinforcement learning algorithm plus a neural network. Here are Zoltar’s predictions for week #15 of the 2017 NFL season:
Zoltar: broncos by 0 dog = colts Vegas: broncos by 2 Zoltar: lions by 10 dog = bears Vegas: lions by 6.5 Zoltar: chiefs by 6 dog = chargers Vegas: chiefs by 1 Zoltar: bills by 2 dog = dolphins Vegas: bills by 3 Zoltar: ravens by 12 dog = browns Vegas: ravens by 7.5 Zoltar: jaguars by 6 dog = texans Vegas: jaguars by 11.5 Zoltar: saints by 10 dog = jets Vegas: saints by 16 Zoltar: redskins by 2 dog = cardinals Vegas: redskins by 4.5 Zoltar: vikings by 10 dog = bengals Vegas: vikings by 10.5 Zoltar: panthers by 5 dog = packers Vegas: panthers by 2.5 Zoltar: eagles by 5 dog = giants Vegas: eagles by 8 Zoltar: seahawks by 6 dog = rams Vegas: seahawks by 1 Zoltar: steelers by 1 dog = patriots Vegas: patriots by 2 Zoltar: titans by 5 dog = fortyniners Vegas: titans by 2 Zoltar: cowboys by 0 dog = raiders Vegas: cowboys by 2.5 Zoltar: falcons by 4 dog = buccaneers Vegas: falcons by 6
Zoltar theoretically suggests betting when the Vegas line is more than 3.0 points different from Zoltar’s prediction. In previous years, Zoltar would typically have hypothetical suggestions for only two or three games per week. But this season Zoltar and the Las Vegas line have differed greatly, and so Zoltar has been recommending six to eight games per week. The difference this season is the unusually large number of injuries to key players, especially quarterbacks.
This week, Zoltar has six hypothetical suggestions — more than the usual two or three.
1. Zoltar likes the Vegas favorite Lions over the Bears. Vegas has the Lions as a big favorite by 6.5 points, but Zoltar believes the Lions are a very large 10 points better than the Bears. A bet on the Lions will only pay off if the Lions win by more than 6.5 points (in other words, 7 points or more).
2. Zoltar likes the Vegas favorite Chiefs over the Chargers. Vegas has the Chiefs as a tiny favorite by 1.0 point, but Zoltar believes the Chiefs are 6 points better than the Chargers.
3. Zoltar likes the Vegas favorite Ravens against the poor Browns.
4. Zoltar likes the Vegas underdog Texans against the Jaguars. Vegas has the Jaguars as a whopping 11.5 points better than the Texans, but Zoltar thinks the Jaguars are only 6 points better. A bet on the Texans will pay if the Texans win outright, or if the Jaguars win but by less than 11.5 points (11 points or fewer). I think there’s an injury in this game (I haven’t run my advanced Zoltar yet — he takes injuries into account).
5. Zoltar likes the Vegas underdog Jets against the Saints. Vegas has the Saints as 16.0 point favorites — one of the biggest spreads I can remember this season.
6. Zoltar likes the Vegas favorite Seahawks against the Rams. (Historically, the Seahawks have done very poorly against the Rams, which may be affecting the point spread).
Zoltar had a decent but not great week last week. Against the Vegas spread, which is what Zoltar is designed to predict, Zoltar went 2-1. (Advanced Zoltar went 1-0 in week #14).
For the 2017 season so far, against the Vegas point spread, Zoltar is a pretty good 42-25 (62% 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 #14, Zoltar was a pretty good 12-4 just predicting which team would win
For comparison purposes, I also track how well Bing Predicts and the Vegas line do when just predicting which team will win. In week #14, Bing was 8-8, and Vegas was also 8-8 when just predicting winners. This isn’t a surprise, because as far as I can tell, Bing almost always picks the Vegas favorite.
For the 2017 season so far, just predicting the winning team, Zoltar is 143-65 (68.7% accuracy), Bing is 134-74 (64.4% accuracy), and Vegas is 128-73 (63.7% accuracy). The best humans are typically about 67% accurate predicting winners, so currently, Zoltar is slightly better than the best human experts. Bing is doing OK too, being slightly better than Vegas.
Note: Some of my numbers could be off a bit because of some weirdness a few weeks ago with games played outside the U.S.