Zoltar is my NFL prediction computer program. It uses a deep neural network and Reinforcement Learning. Here are Zoltar’s predictions for week #3 of the 2018 NFL season:
Zoltar: jets by 1 dog = browns Vegas: browns by 3 Zoltar: falcons by 4 dog = saints Vegas: falcons by 3 Zoltar: panthers by 6 dog = bengals Vegas: panthers by 3 Zoltar: texans by 6 dog = giants Vegas: texans by 6 Zoltar: jaguars by 6 dog = titans Vegas: jaguars by 7 Zoltar: chiefs by 8 dog = fortyniners Vegas: chiefs by 6 Zoltar: dolphins by 6 dog = raiders Vegas: dolphins by 3 Zoltar: vikings by 9 dog = bills Vegas: vikings by 16.5 Zoltar: eagles by 11 dog = colts Vegas: eagles by 6.5 Zoltar: ravens by 6 dog = broncos Vegas: ravens by 5 Zoltar: redskins by 1 dog = packers Vegas: packers by 3 Zoltar: rams by 6 dog = chargers Vegas: rams by 7 Zoltar: cardinals by 5 dog = bears Vegas: bears by 5.5 Zoltar: cowboys by 0 dog = seahawks Vegas: seahawks by 1.5 Zoltar: patriots by 2 dog = lions Vegas: patriots by 6.5 Zoltar: steelers by 0 dog = buccaneers Vegas: steelers by 2
Zoltar theoretically suggests betting when the Vegas line is more than 3.0 points different from Zoltar’s prediction. For week #3 Zoltar has six hypothetical suggestions.
1. Zoltar likes the Vegas underdog Jets against the Browns. Zoltar thinks the Jets are better than the Browns by 1 point but Vegas has the Browns as 3-point favorites. The Browns haven’t won a game in two years but looked very good in their two losses so far this season, while the Jets looked bad in a loss last week. Classic example of human vs. computer analysis.
2. Zoltar likes the Vegas underdog Bills against the Vikings. Zoltar believes the Vikings are a big 9 points better than the Bills but Vegas has the Vikings as huge 16.5-point favorites. Such situations are a weakness of Zoltar because he just doesn’t handle enormous point spread differences well because they happen so rarely in the NFL.
3. Zoltar likes the Vegas favorite Eagles against the Colts. Zoltar thinks the Eagles are 11 points better than the Colts but Vegas has the Eagles as favorites by only 6.5 points, therefore, Zoltar thinks the Eagles will cover the spread.
4. Zoltar likes the Vegas underdog Redskins against the Packers. Zoltar believes the Redskins are a slim 1 point better than the Packers but Vegas has the Packers favored by 3 points. So, a bet on the Redskins will pay if the Redskins win outright or if the Packers win, but by less than 3 points (in other words, by 2 points or by 1 point).
5. Zoltar likes the Vegas underdog Cardinals against the Bears. Zoltar thinks the Cardinals are 5 points better than the Bears but Vegas thinks the Bears are 5.5 points better than the Cardinals. This is a huge 10.5-point difference in opinion — the largest I can ever remember seeing. I need to check my data and Zoltar’s logic to make sure I didn’t mess something up.
6. Zoltar likes the Vegas underdog Lions against the Patriots. Zoltar thinks the Patriots are just 2 points better than the Lions but Vegas has the Patriots as 6.5 points better. Historically, Zoltar has done very, very poorly when picking Vegas underdogs against the Patriots (0-9 over the past three years) so my advanced version of Zoltar doesn’t recommend a bet.
Theoretically, if you must bet $110 to win $100 (typical in Vegas) 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 does when just trying to predict just which team will win a game. This isn’t useful except for parlay betting.
Zoltar sometimes predicts a 0-point margin of victory. There are two such games in week #3: Cowboys vs. Seahawks and Steelers vs. Buccaneers. In the first four weeks of the season, Zoltar picks the home team to win. So, Zoltar “sort of” picks the Seahawks and the Buccaneers to win.
After week 4, Zoltar uses historical data for the current season (which usually, but not always, ends up in a prediction that the home team will win).
Zoltar did rather so-so in week #2. Against the Vegas point spread, Zoltar was 3-3. Zoltar correctly predicted two underdogs and one favorite, but incorrectly predicted underdogs Panthers, Bills, and Cardinals would prevent the favorites from covering the spread.
Just predicting winners, Zoltar was a decent 10-5 (the Vikings vs. Packers game was a tie). Vegas went 9-5 (Vegas had Ravens vs. Bengals as a “pick-em” game).