Zoltar is my NFL football prediction computer program. It uses reinforcement learning and a neural network. Here are Zoltar’s predictions for week #1 of the 2022 season. These predictions are tentative, in the sense that it usually takes Zoltar about four weeks to hit his stride.
Zoltar: rams by 5 dog = bills Vegas: bills by 2.5 Zoltar: saints by 0 dog = falcons Vegas: saints by 4.5 Zoltar: browns by 0 dog = panthers Vegas: browns by 4.5 Zoltar: fortyniners by 0 dog = bears Vegas: fortyniners by 6.5 Zoltar: bengals by 4 dog = steelers Vegas: bengals by 6 Zoltar: eagles by 1 dog = lions Vegas: eagles by 4.5 Zoltar: colts by 0 dog = texans Vegas: colts by 8.5 Zoltar: dolphins by 1 dog = patriots Vegas: dolphins by 2.5 Zoltar: ravens by 0 dog = jets Vegas: ravens by 5.5 Zoltar: commanders by 6 dog = jaguars Vegas: commanders by 3.5 Zoltar: cardinals by 1 dog = chiefs Vegas: chiefs by 1.5 Zoltar: packers by 0 dog = vikings Vegas: packers by 1.5 Zoltar: titans by 10 dog = giants Vegas: titans by 6.5 Zoltar: chargers by 1 dog = raiders Vegas: chargers by 4 Zoltar: cowboys by 1 dog = buccaneers Vegas: buccaneers by 2.5 Zoltar: seahawks by 3 dog = broncos Vegas: broncos by 4.5
Zoltar theoretically suggests betting when the Vegas line is significantly different from Zoltar’s prediction. In mid-season I use 3.0 points difference. For the first few weeks of the season, I go a bit more conservative and use 4.0 points difference or more as the advice criterion.
As usual at the beginning of the season, because of Zoltar’s initialization and other algorithms, Zoltar is strongly biased towards Vegas underdogs.
1. Zoltar likes Vegas underdog Rams against the Bills.
2. Zoltar likes Vegas underdog Falcons against the Saints.
3. Zoltar likes Vegas underdog Panthers against the Browns.
4. Zoltar likes Vegas underdog Bears against the 49ers.
5. Zoltar likes Vegas underdog Texans against the Colts.
6. Zoltar likes Vegas underdog Jets against the Ravens.
7. Zoltar likes Vegas underdog Seahawks against the Broncos.
For example, a bet on the underdog Rams against the Bills will pay off if the Rams win by any score, or if the favored Bills win but by less than 2.5 points (in other words, win by 2 points or fewer).
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. I’ll post results next week.
Zoltar sometimes predicts a 0-point margin of victory. There are six such games in week #1. 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 rating 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 Zoltar machine that appeared in the 1988 movie “Big”. I suspect that movie Zoltar was named after the 1960s arcade fortune teller machine Zoltan.