Zoltar is my NFL football prediction computer program. It uses reinforcement learning and a neural network. Here are Zoltar’s predictions for week #3 of the 2022 season. These predictions are fuzzy, in the sense that it usually takes Zoltar about four weeks to hit his stride.
Zoltar: steelers by 0 dog = browns Vegas: browns by 5 Zoltar: saints by 0 dog = panthers Vegas: saints by 3 Zoltar: bears by 6 dog = texans Vegas: bears by 3 Zoltar: chiefs by 0 dog = colts Vegas: chiefs by 7 Zoltar: bills by 0 dog = dolphins Vegas: bills by 4 Zoltar: vikings by 6 dog = lions Vegas: vikings by 7 Zoltar: patriots by 6 dog = ravens Vegas: ravens by 3 Zoltar: bengals by 2 dog = jets Vegas: bengals by 5 Zoltar: titans by 6 dog = raiders Vegas: raiders by 1 Zoltar: eagles by 0 dog = commanders Vegas: eagles by 4 Zoltar: chargers by 8 dog = jaguars Vegas: chargers by 7 Zoltar: cardinals by 2 dog = rams Vegas: rams by 4 Zoltar: seahawks by 2 dog = falcons Vegas: seahawks by 2 Zoltar: buccaneers by 4 dog = packers Vegas: buccaneers by 2.5 Zoltar: fortyniners by 0 dog = broncos Vegas: fortyniners by 2 Zoltar: cowboys by 4 dog = giants Vegas: giants by 2.5
Zoltar theoretically suggests betting when the Vegas line is “significantly” different from Zoltar’s prediction. In mid-season I use 3.0 points difference but for the first few weeks of the season I am a bit more conservative and use 4.0 points difference as the advice threshold criterion.
At the beginning of the season, because of Zoltar’s initialization (all teams regress to an average power rating) and other algorithms, Zoltar is very strongly biased towards Vegas underdogs. I probably need to fix this. For week #3 Zoltar likes six Vegas underdogs:
1. Zoltar likes Vegas underdog Steelers against the Browns.
2. Zoltar likes Vegas underdog Colts against the Chiefs.
3. Zoltar likes Vegas underdog Patriots against the Ravens.
4. Zoltar likes Vegas underdog Titans against the Raiders.
5. Zoltar likes Vegas underdog Cardinals against the Rams.
6. Zoltar likes Vegas underdog Cowboys against the Giants.
For example, a bet on the underdog Steelers against the Browns will pay off if the Steelers win by any score, or if the favored Browns win but by less than 5.0 points (in other words, by 4 points or less). If the favored Browns win by exactly 5 points, the wager 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.
In week #2, against the Vegas point spread, Zoltar went a very good (but lucky) 3-1 (using 4.0 points as the advice threshold). Zoltar’s predictions against the point spread were correct except for sadly recommending the underdog Titans against the Bills (the Bills won by a score of 41-7 and easily covered the 10.0 point spread).
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 #2, just predicting the winning team, Zoltar went 10-6 which is OK but not great. Vegas was slightly better just predicting winners in week #2, going 11-4.
Zoltar sometimes predicts a 0-point margin of victory. There are six such games in week #3. 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.