Two computer models predict who will win the NFL divisional playoff games

  • Elo and Cortana have made their picks for the divisional round of the NFL playoffs.
  • Cortana correctly picked 65% of the games this season and Elo was not far behind at 62%.
  • Both models struggled in the first round of the playoffs.
  • Elo and Cortana agree that most of the divisional-round games have a clear favourite.

The second round of the NFL playoffs is here, and Cortana is back to make picks in a head-to-head showdown with Elo.

We looked at two popular systems used to pick NFL games: Cortana, Microsoft’s digital assistant, and Elo, the modelling system used by Nate Silver’s data-journalism site, FiveThirtyEight.

In both cases, the computers are picking outright winners and not against the spread. Each gives a likelihood that a team will win, which in theory could help measure the strength of certain lines.

Cortana had another strong season, correctly picking 65% of the games, while Elo nailed 62% overall. However, both struggled in the Wild Card round as Elo went 1-3 and Cortana was 0-4.

Here are the picks for the divisional playoff games, with each team’s per cent chance of winning in parentheses. Point spreads are for reference, via Vegas Insider as of Friday morning.


Saturday early game (4:35 ET on NBC)

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  • Indianapolis Colts at Kansas City Chiefs (-5.5) –CHIEFS (Elo 66%, Cortana 61%)

Saturday late game (8:15 ET on Fox)

  • Dallas Cowboys at Los Angeles Rams (-7) –RAMS (Elo 66%, Cortana 70%)

Sunday early game (1:05 ET on CBS)

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  • Los Angeles Chargers at New England Patriots (-4) – PATRIOTS (Elo 58%, Cortana 61%)

Sunday late game (4:40 ET on Fox)

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  • Philadelphia Eagles at New Orleans Saints (-8) –SAINTS (Elo 64%, Cortana 70%)

Now check out more NFL playoffs coverage:

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