NFL 2017 Week 19 (Division Playoffs) Predictions – Zoltar Says Flip a Coin

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 #19 (the Division Playoff games) of the 2017 NFL season:

Zoltar:     falcons  by    0  dog =      eagles    Vegas:     falcons  by  2.5
Zoltar:    patriots  by   10  dog =      titans    Vegas:    patriots  by 13.5
Zoltar:    steelers  by   10  dog =     jaguars    Vegas:    steelers  by  7.5
Zoltar:     vikings  by    6  dog =      saints    Vegas:     vikings  by    4

Zoltar theoretically suggests betting when the Vegas line is more than 4.0 points different from Zoltar’s prediction (for playoff games — 3.0 points difference for regular season). There are four games and Zoltar agrees with the Vegas point spread, to within 4 points, on all four games. So, Zoltar has no hypothetical suggestions.

But if forced to give advice, Zoltar would say:

1. Take the underdog Eagles against the Falcons.
2. Take the underdog Titans against the Patriots.
3. Take the favored Steelers against the Jaguars.
4. Take the favored Vikings against the Saints.


Zoltar went 2-0 against the Vegas point spread last week, correctly liking the Vegas underdog Falcons (who won outright against the Rams) and the underdog Bills who lost only by 7 points and thus prevented the Jaguars from covering the 8-point spread.

For the 2017 regular season, against the Vegas point spread, Zoltar finished a pretty good 51-32 (61% 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.

I tracked how well Zoltar, Bing Predicts, and the Vegas line do when just predicting which team will win. For the 2017 regular season, just predicting the winning team, Zoltar finished 178-78 (70% accuracy), Bing finished 168-88 (66% accuracy), and Vegas finished 162-86 (65% accuracy). The best humans are typically about 67% accurate predicting winners, so Zoltar is slightly better than the best human experts. Bing did OK too, beating Vegas by a percentage point.

Note: Some of my numbers could be off a bit because of some weirdness with games played outside the U.S. (London and Mexico) earlier this season.

My Zoltar system is named after the arcade fortune telling machine.

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