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Sports The computer model that nailed the NFL's regular season is still on fire in the playoffs

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Two models predict who will win the games during the divisional round of the playoffs.

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tom brady

(Jim Rogash/Getty)
  • After a slow start to the season, Cortana stormed back and was on fire the final ten weeks.
  • Cortana correctly picked 68% of the games overall and 75% of the games over the final ten weeks.
  • Cortana also went 3-1 during the Wild Card round.
  • Elo also had a strong showing during the regular season, correctly picking 64% of the games.


The NFL regular season is now over, and despite a slow start, Microsoft's Cortana stormed back and won the head-to-head showdown with Elo.

We took a look at two popular systems used to pick NFL games: Cortana, Microsoft's digital assistant, and Elo, the modeling system used by Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight. In both cases, the computers pick outright winners and not against the spread. However, each gives a likelihood of a team's winning, which, in theory, could help measure the strength of certain lines.

Cortana won the regular season matchup, going 162-78 (68%) overall, and 111-38 (75%) over the last ten weeks (we did not track Week 17 because of the wonky nature of the final week). Elo was not far behind, going 154-86 (64%) overall.

Cortana kept up the hot streak during the Wild Card round, going 3-1, missing only the Titans' upset of the Chiefs. Meanwhile, Elo was 2-2.

Here are the picks for the divisional round, with each model's percent chance of winning in parentheses. Games in bold are where the two models disagree on who has the best chance to win. Point spreads are just for reference, via Vegas Insider as of Thursday morning.

Saturday

  • Atlanta Falcons (-3) at Philadelphia Eagles — EAGLES (Elo 57%), FALCONS (Cortana 58%)
  • Tennessee Titans at New England Patriots (-13.5) — PATRIOTS (Elo 85%, Cortana 74%)

Sunday

  • Jacksonville Jaguars at Pittsburgh Steelers (-7) — STEELERS (Elo 76%, Cortana 67%)
  • New Orleans Saints at Minnesota Vikings (-5) — VIKINGS (Elo 63%, Cortana 58%)
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