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NFL Experts Cannot Predict - Except One, But Algorithms Can
The NFL Playoffs are starting this week. Many of the usual suspects are hunting for the Super Bowl. Before we get to AccuScore’s playoff predictions, let’s take a look at football experts’ prediction accuracy during the 2019 regular season.
Nflpickwatch.com has tracked more than 80 NFL experts, listing all game winner predictions for each expert all season long. AccuScore was the most accurate predictor this year, according to NFLpickwatch. Was this just luck or is there some more qualified answers why AccuScore’s simulations did so well?
Thanksfully, nflpickwatch,com has tracked NFL experts since 2014. During these six seasons, there have been 32 experts (or fan groups like ESPN fans) that have predicted over 1500 games. This sample size can be considered big enough to make some conclusions about accuracy.
Out of top 10 predictors, two were actual persons (Jamey Eisenberg, CBS and K.J. Joyner ESPN), three were generated by crowdsourcing (Pickwatch fans, Expert consensus and ESPN Fans) - Yahoo Users were number 11, one was Vegas favorite based on betting markets and four were algorithm based prediction companies (TeamRankings, Numberfire, Accuscore and Fivethirtyeight).
After Yahoo users at 11th place, all the other 21 experts were traditional experts, i.e. people seen on TV or read from the internet. Maybe we based our bets or fantasy football team selections on these experts’ comments and advice. During this season, an interesting fact is that the NFL Networks’ top expert quartet--Rich Eisen, Michael Irwin, Kurt Warner and Steve Mariucci--were among the bottom 5 experts being tracked. For their purposes, the topics they discuss are far more important to their jobs than the predictions they provide.
It is interesting to note that companies that provide predictions and picks for individuals are doing much better compared to individual experts. Also, it’s not exactly a surprise that the betting market is one of the best indications of the game winners in the NFL. It is rewarding to hit big on an underdog, but in the long run, dull favorites with side value bring wins to your pocket in sports betting.
How much do you end up winning by picking straight up winners correct in the NFL? During the current season, Accuscore was the most accurate picker of the winners. If you would bet 100 for every game during the season, you would end up having $454 in your pocket at the end of the season. Not a fortune, but better than nothing.
Naturally, the better approach is to compare win probabilities and betting odds from bookmakers side-by-side to find value opportunities to take advantage of. Based on AccuScore’s simulations, $100 bets for every game based on moneyline side value generated $3,097 profit at the end of the season. That’s dramatically better than the $454 profit from straight moneyline betting and ignoring which moneyline odds actually offer value.
Based on these numbers, the best approach to win in the NFL betting is to follow the algorithm based predictions and compare those probabilities to the best odds from sportsbooks. Forget the “experts” -- except maybe one.
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