NFL 2021 Week 11 Predictions – Zoltar Likes Vegas Favorite Chiefs over the Cowboys

Zoltar is my NFL football prediction computer program. It uses reinforcement learning and a neural network. Here are Zoltar’s predictions for week #11 of the 2021 season. It usually takes Zoltar about four weeks to hit his stride and takes humans about eight weeks to get up to speed, so weeks six through nine are usually Zoltar’s sweet spot. After week nine, injuries start having a big effect.

Zoltar:    patriots  by    0  dog =     falcons    Vegas:    patriots  by  3.5
Zoltar:       bills  by    6  dog =       colts    Vegas:       bills  by  7.5
Zoltar:    panthers  by    4  dog =    redskins    Vegas:    panthers  by    2
Zoltar:      ravens  by    0  dog =       bears    Vegas:      ravens  by    6
Zoltar:      browns  by    9  dog =       lions    Vegas:      browns  by   10
Zoltar: fortyniners  by    0  dog =     jaguars    Vegas: fortyniners  by  6.5
Zoltar:     packers  by    2  dog =     vikings    Vegas:     packers  by  2.5
Zoltar:    dolphins  by    0  dog =        jets    Vegas:    dolphins  by  2.5
Zoltar:      titans  by   11  dog =      texans    Vegas:      titans  by   10
Zoltar:      saints  by    0  dog =      eagles    Vegas:      saints  by    1
Zoltar:     raiders  by    5  dog =     bengals    Vegas:     bengals  by  0.5
Zoltar:      chiefs  by    6  dog =     cowboys    Vegas:      chiefs  by  2.5
Zoltar:   cardinals  by    0  dog =    seahawks    Vegas:    seahawks  by  1.5
Zoltar:    steelers  by    0  dog =    chargers    Vegas:    chargers  by  3.5
Zoltar:  buccaneers  by    7  dog =      giants    Vegas:  buccaneers  by 12.5

Zoltar theoretically suggests betting when the Vegas line is “significantly” different from Zoltar’s prediction. In mid-season I usually use 3.0 points difference but for the first few weeks of the season I go a bit more conservative and use 4.0 points difference as the advice threshold criterion. In middle weeks I sometimes go ultra-aggressive and use a 1.0-point threshold.

Note: Because of Zoltar’s initialization (all teams regress to an average power rating) and other algorithms, Zoltar is much too strongly biased towards Vegas underdogs. I need to fix this.

For week #11:

1. Zoltar likes Vegas underdog Falcons against the Patriots
2. Zoltar likes Vegas underdog Bears against the Ravens
3. Zoltar likes Vegas underdog Jaguars against the 49ers
4. Zoltar likes Vegas underdog Bengals against the Raiders
5. Zoltar likes Vegas favorites Chiefs over the Cowboys
6. Zoltar likes Vegas underdog Steelers against the Chargers
7. Zoltar likes Vegas underdog Giants against the Buccaneers

For example, a bet on the underdog Falcons against the Patriots will pay off if the Falcons win by any score, or if the favored Patriots win but by less than the point spread of 3.5 points (in other words, by 3 points or less).

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.

In week #10, against the Vegas point spread, Zoltar went 3-2 (using the standard 3.0 points as the advice threshold). Overall, for the season, Zoltar is 38-29 against the spread (~56%).

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. In week #10, just predicting the winning team, Zoltar went 7-6 which is very poor — there were many upsets in week #10.

In week #10, just predicting the winning team, Vegas — “the wisdom of the crowd” also went 7-6 which is also terrible.

Zoltar sometimes predicts a 0-point margin of victory, which means the two teams are evenly matched. There are seven such games in week #11. In those situations, to pick a winner (only so I can track raw number of correct predictions) in the first few weeks of the season, Zoltar picks the home team to win. After that, Zoltar uses his algorithms to pick a winner.

My system is named after the Zoltar fortune teller machine that you can find in arcades. Arcade Zoltar is named after the machine from the 1988 movie “Big” where it grants the wish of a boy to become an adult. And movie Zoltar was named after an old arcade machine named Zoltan.

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