NFL 2022 Week 13 Predictions – Zoltar Likes the Raiders to Beat the Chargers

Zoltar is my NFL football prediction computer program. It uses reinforcement learning and a neural network. Here are Zoltar’s predictions for week #13 of the 2022 season.

Zoltar:    patriots  by    1  dog =       bills    Vegas:       bills  by    5
Zoltar:    steelers  by    0  dog =     falcons    Vegas:     falcons  by    1
Zoltar:     packers  by    0  dog =       bears    Vegas:     packers  by    3
Zoltar:       lions  by    4  dog =     jaguars    Vegas:       lions  by    1
Zoltar:      browns  by    0  dog =      texans    Vegas:      browns  by  7.5
Zoltar:     vikings  by    6  dog =        jets    Vegas:     vikings  by    3
Zoltar:  commanders  by    0  dog =      giants    Vegas:  commanders  by  2.5
Zoltar:      titans  by    0  dog =      eagles    Vegas:      eagles  by  5.5
Zoltar:      ravens  by    4  dog =     broncos    Vegas:      ravens  by    8
Zoltar:        rams  by    6  dog =    seahawks    Vegas:    seahawks  by    8
Zoltar: fortyniners  by    5  dog =    dolphins    Vegas: fortyniners  by    3
Zoltar:      chiefs  by    0  dog =     bengals    Vegas:      chiefs  by  2.5
Zoltar:     raiders  by    4  dog =    chargers    Vegas:    chargers  by    2
Zoltar:     cowboys  by    6  dog =       colts    Vegas:     cowboys  by  9.5
Zoltar:  buccaneers  by    6  dog =      saints    Vegas:  buccaneers  by  3.5

Zoltar theoretically suggests betting when the Vegas line is “significantly” different from Zoltar’s prediction. For this season I’ve been using a threshold of 4 points difference but in some previous seasons I used 3 points.

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 #13 Zoltar likes five Vegas underdogs:

1. Zoltar likes Vegas underdog Patriots against the Bills.
2. Zoltar likes Vegas underdog Texans against the Browns.
3. Zoltar likes Vegas underdog Titans against the Eagles.
4. Zoltar likes Vegas underdog Rams against the Seahawks.
5. Zoltar likes Vegas underdog Raiders against the Chargers.

For example, a bet on the underdog Patriots against the Bills will pay off if the Patriots win by any score, or if the favored Bills win but by less than 5 points (i.e., 4 points or less). If a favored team wins by exactly the point spread, the wager is a push. This is why point spreads often have a 0.5 added — called “the hook” — to eliminate pushes.

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 #12, against the Vegas point spread, Zoltar went 2-3 using 4.0 points as the advice threshold, but went 6-4 using a 3.0 threshold. Weeks 12 to 18 are the most difficult for Zoltar.

For the season, against the spread, Zoltar is 41-22 (~65% accuracy).

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 #12, just predicting the winning team, Zoltar went 12-4 which is OK but not great. Vegas was similar with 11-5 at just predicting the winning team.

Zoltar sometimes predicts a 0-point margin of victory. There are six such games in week #13. 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 you can find in arcades. That machine is named after the Zoltar machine from the 1988 movie “Big”. And the 1988 Zoltar was named after the “Zoltan” arcade fortune teller from the 1960s.

I’ve always been fascinated by electro-mechanical arcade devices. Center: The “Mystic Ray” machine (circa 1950) actually wrote out a fortune using a pen. Amazing tech for the time.

Right: The “Zodi” machine (circa 1940) actually typed out a fortune using a pneumatic powered typewriter. Also amazing.


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