Zoltar is my NFL prediction computer program. It uses a deep neural network and reinforcement learning. Here are Zoltar’s predictions for week #11 of the 2018 NFL season:
Zoltar: seahawks by 5 dog = packers Vegas: seahawks by 2.5 Zoltar: falcons by 4 dog = cowboys Vegas: falcons by 3.5 Zoltar: vikings by 0 dog = bears Vegas: bears by 3 Zoltar: titans by 1 dog = colts Vegas: colts by 2.5 Zoltar: panthers by 2 dog = lions Vegas: panthers by 4 Zoltar: saints by 6 dog = eagles Vegas: saints by 8 Zoltar: buccaneers by 0 dog = giants Vegas: giants by 1 Zoltar: ravens by 4 dog = bengals Vegas: ravens by 4.5 Zoltar: redskins by 6 dog = texans Vegas: texans by 3 Zoltar: cardinals by 6 dog = raiders Vegas: cardinals by 4 Zoltar: chargers by 10 dog = broncos Vegas: chargers by 7 Zoltar: steelers by 4 dog = jaguars Vegas: steelers by 5.5 Zoltar: rams by 1 dog = chiefs Vegas: rams by 2.5
Zoltar theoretically suggests betting when the Vegas line is more than 3.0 points different from Zoltar’s prediction. For week #11 Zoltar agrees closely with Las Vegas and so Zoltar has only two hypothetical suggestions.
1. Zoltar likes the Vegas underdog Titans against the Colts. Zoltar thinks the Titans are 1 point better than the Colts but Vegas has the Colts as favorites by 2.5 points. A bet on the Titans will pay off if the Titans win outright or if the Colts win but by less than 2.5 points (in other words, 1 or 2 points).
2. Zoltar likes the Vegas underdog Redskins against the Texans. Zoltar thinks the Redskins are 6 points better than the Texans but Vegas has the Texans favored by 3.0 points. This delta of opinion of 9 points is very large for Zoltar, which often means there’s a key injury on one of the teams. I have an advanced version of Zoltar that takes injuries into account. I usually run advanced Zoltar on Wednesday or Thursday.
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 are two such games in week #11: Vikings vs. Bears and Buccaneers vs. Giants. 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 didn’t do very well in week #10. Against the Vegas point spread, Zoltar was an even 3-3. For the season so far, against the Vegas spread Zoltar is 33-18 which is just under 65% accuracy.
Just predicting winners, Zoltar was a so-so 9-5. Vegas was about the same at 8-6. For the season, just predicting which team will win, Zoltar is 104-42 (approximately 71% accuracy) and Vegas is 100-44 (about 69% accuracy).
My system is named after the fortune teller machine you can find in arcades. That Zoltar is named after the machine that appeared in the 1988 movie “Big” starring Tom Hanks. And that Zoltar is named after “Zoltan”, a machine from the 1960s.