Zoltar is my NFL prediction computer program. It uses a deep neural network and Reinforcement Learning. Here are Zoltar’s predictions for week #7 of the 2018 NFL season:
Zoltar: cardinals by 5 dog = broncos Vegas: broncos by 2.5 Zoltar: chargers by 3 dog = titans Vegas: chargers by 6.5 Zoltar: patriots by 4 dog = bears Vegas: patriots by 3.5 Zoltar: bills by 2 dog = colts Vegas: colts by 6.5 Zoltar: jaguars by 6 dog = texans Vegas: jaguars by 4.5 Zoltar: chiefs by 6 dog = bengals Vegas: chiefs by 6 Zoltar: dolphins by 2 dog = lions Vegas: lions by 1 Zoltar: vikings by 4 dog = jets Vegas: vikings by 3 Zoltar: eagles by 5 dog = panthers Vegas: eagles by 4.5 Zoltar: buccaneers by 6 dog = browns Vegas: buccaneers by 3 Zoltar: saints by 0 dog = ravens Vegas: ravens by 2.5 Zoltar: redskins by 2 dog = cowboys Vegas: redskins by 1.5 Zoltar: rams by 9 dog = fortyniners Vegas: rams by 11 Zoltar: falcons by 10 dog = giants Vegas: falcons by 6
Zoltar theoretically suggests betting when the Vegas line is more than 3.0 points different from Zoltar’s prediction. For week #7 Zoltar has four hypothetical suggestions.
1. Zoltar likes the Vegas underdog Cardinals against the Broncos. Zoltar thinks the Cardinals are 5 points better than the Broncos but Vegas has the Broncos as favorites by 2.5 points. A bet on the Cardinals will pay off if the Cardinals win, or if the Broncos win by less than 2.5 points (in other words, by 1 or 2 points).
2. Zoltar likes the Vegas underdog Titans against the Chargers. Zoltar thinks the Chargers are 3 points better than the Titans but Vegas has the Chargers favored by 6.5 points. Classic human vs. computer example here: the Titans looked absolutely terrible last week, but Zoltar believes the market has overreacted.
3. Zoltar likes the Vegas underdog Bills against the Colts. Zoltar thinks the Bills are 2 points better than the Colts, but Vegas has the Colts favored by 6.5 points. Big difference of opinion is due to an injury to the Bills quarterback. I have an advanced version of Zoltar that takes injuries into account, but I haven’t run those numbers yet. Update: Advanced Zoltar says the Bills QB change is valued at -6 points, so the Bills are no longer recommended.
4. Zoltar likes the Vegas favorite Falcons against the Giants. Zoltar thinks the Falcons are 10 points better than the Giants but Vegas thinks the Falcons are only 6.0 points better than the Giants. A bet on the Falcons will pay off only if the Falcons “cover the spread” and win by more than 6 points (i.e., 7 or more). If the Falcons win by exactly 6 points the bet is a push.
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 (not by how many points). This isn’t useful except for parlay betting.
Zoltar sometimes predicts a 0-point margin of victory. There is one such game in week #7: Saints vs. Ravens. 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, but not always, ends up in a prediction that the home team will win).
Zoltar did very well in week #6. Against the Vegas point spread, Zoltar was 5-1. For the season so far, against the Vegas spread Zoltar is 22-11 which is 67% accuracy.
Just predicting winners, Zoltar was a good 13-2. Vegas went 12-3 just predicting which team would win. For the season, Zoltar is 65-26 (71% accuracy) and Vegas is 63-27 (70% accuracy).
My system is named after the Zoltar fortune teller machine you can find in arcades. The arcade machine is named after the machine that appeared in the 1988 movie “Big” starring Tom Hanks. This is the movie Zoltar.