By Tim Graham
Some folks can't get into quantitative analysis as applied to games. Granted, calculations can be tedious to read. And with so many variables, reality sometimes doesn't match probability.
But reading the mathematical formulations for why you always should split your 8s at the blackjack table and never split your 6s isn't exactly a blast. And those moves often don't work out in the end.
Still, somebody did the math at some point, and it was insightful and statistically correct. You accept it as worthwhile information.
Now let's talk about the Predictalator, created by Paul Bessire (@predictmachine on Twitter) to help you win your sports bets. The concept is similar to AccuScore's, using mathematical computations to predict games, by running them through a computer 50,000 times to create the most likely results.
From the website: "The technology has the ability to account for all of the statistical interactions of the players (playing or not playing/injured), coaches, officials, fans (homefield advantage) and weather in each game."
Bessire has a master's degree in quantitative analysis from the University of Cincinnati. He's also behind the mathematical computations used at Fox Sports Interactive and WhatIfSports.com.
Bessire ran the NFL season 50,000 times through the Predictalator to see which teams were most likely to make the playoffs and win the Super Bowl.
Such a cold process takes emotion out of it, so Buffalo Bills fanatics should be interested to know the computer thinks they'll break their 12-year playoff drought, too.
The Predictalator computed the Bills will score an average of 20.7 points per game and allow 19.3 points. In the 50,000 simulations, they won an average of 8.6 games, comfortably above Las Vegas' over-under number.
The Bills' toughest matchup is against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium in Week 10. The Bills won that game only 28.3 percent of the time. The Bills' most likely victory was at home in Week 13 over the Jacksonville Jaguars, a robust 77 percent of simulations.
The Bills won a majority of the simulations in each of their last seven games. For the season, they swept the Miami Dolphins, split with the New York Jets and got swept by the Patriots.
In most simulations the Bills finished second in the division to the top-seeded Patriots and earned the second AFC wild-card berth. The Baltimore Ravens took the first wild-card spot.
The Houston Texans won the AFC South and had a first-round bye. The third-seeded Pittsburgh Steelers claimed the AFC North. The fourth-seeded San Diego Chargers won the AFC West.
Buffalo's postseason run didn't last long, the Predictalator said. Buffalo lost by an average score of 23-16 at Heinz Field in the first round.
The most likely Super Bowl matchup was the Philadelphia Eagles over the Patriots. The Eagles won 54.3 percent of the time by an average score of 28-26.
The Bills won the Super Bowl in 2.1 percent of the simulations. Not bad for a team that a lot of people used to give no shot of winning on any given Sunday.
None of this is set in stone, of course, but if you used this information against the spread you might win money more often than you lose it.
It's like splitting aces and doubling down on 11. Just because it doesn't work out every single time doesn't mean you should dismiss the data.