NFL 2022 Week 20 (Division Championships) Predictions – Zoltar Agrees Closely with Las Vegas

Zoltar is my NFL football prediction computer program. It uses reinforcement learning and a neural network. Here are Zoltar’s predictions for week #20 (division championship games) of the 2022 season.

Zoltar:      chiefs  by   10  dog =     jaguars    Vegas:      chiefs  by    8
Zoltar:      eagles  by    8  dog =      giants    Vegas:      eagles  by  7.5
Zoltar:       bills  by    5  dog =     bengals    Vegas:       bills  by    5
Zoltar: fortyniners  by    5  dog =     cowboys    Vegas: fortyniners  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.

For week #20 Zoltar agrees closely with the Las Vegas point spread. The largest difference of opinion is only 2 points for the Chiefs vs. Jaguars game. Zoltar thinks the Chiefs are 10 points better than the Jaguars but Vegas has the Chiefs better by 8 points.

If I was a human better, I’d bet on the Chiefs. My human brain says the Chiefs will win by more than 14 points. We’ll see. Update: My guess was wrong. The Chiefs won but only by a score of 27-20. An injury to the Chiefs starting quarterback may have affected the score.

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 #19, against the Vegas point spread, Zoltar went 0-0 using 4.0 points as the advice threshold because Zoltar’s predictions all agreed closely with Vegas predictions (just like this week).

For the season, against the spread, Zoltar is 57-31 (~64% accuracy). Note: I had a bug in weeks 10-14 so my overall accuracy is a bit different now.

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 #19, just predicting the winning team, Zoltar went 4-2 which is average. Vegas was also 4-2 at just predicting the winning team.

My prediction system is named after the Zoltar fortune teller machine you can find in arcades. In the 1920s through the 1940s, pulp magazines were an important form of entertainment, and fortune tellers and crystal balls were a common theme. I enjoy looking at old pulp art.

Left: Art by John Gould (1906-1996). Center: Art by Norman Saunders (1907-1989). Saunders was one of the primary artists for the infamous “Mars Attacks” trading cards of the 1960s — that horrified all parents but were loved by all children. Right: Art by Emmett Watson (1892-1955).

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