Man vs Machine: Pickswise expert vs the computer model NFL Week 18 best bets

New Orleans Saints quarterback Taysom Hill (7) runs the ball against the Tennessee Titans during the second half at Nissan Stadium.
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Andrew Ortenberg


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I'm an NFL handicapper here at Pickswise who was raised in a household full of sports fanatics. Since I unfortunately never had LeBron James' jumping ability I wasn't able to make it to the NBA, and chose writing about sports as the next best thing. An avid sports bettor myself, I'm excited to get to write about the industry as it gets set to take off across the country. Buckle up. For Andrew Ortenberg media enquiries, please email
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Man vs Machine

Welcome to the 2021 edition of Man vs Machine. This NFL season, I have been making my 5 best NFL bets each week. Our Pickswise supercomputer has also produced its best five bets. May the best man (or machine) win.

Our computer model gives probabilities and projections for the main NFL betting markets (spread, total & money line), best bets for spread, total, money line, and same game parlays. It also features prop bet probabilities for first and anytime touchdown scorer, plus individual player projections for passing, rushing, receiving yards, and touchdowns for betting and fantasy use.

For more information on how the supercomputer works and how it generates picks, scroll down to the bottom of this page. Now let’s look at the picks.

My 5 best bets

Vikings -4 over Bears

One last chance for the Vikings to let me down, why not? Jokes aside, Minnesota is the far more talented team, and the Bears have very little juice without Justin Fields. Don’t give them too much credit for beating up on the Mike Glennon-led Giants last week.

Texans +10.5 over Titans

Everyone is acting like the Titans are going to roll just because they have ‘more to play for’ here. But the Texans would surely like to spoil Tennessee’s chances of getting the top seed in the AFC. Houston has already beaten the Titans once outright as a big ‘dog.

Ravens -3.5 over Steelers

I’m not really a Tyler Huntley believer, but I’m even more bearish on Ben Roethlisberger. Even in the Steelers’ win last week, Big Ben somehow managed to average only 2.7 yards per attempt.

Falcons +3.5 over Saints

This is a similar case as the Texans. The Falcons aren’t going to just roll over at home against a bitter division rival. Atlanta already won the teams’ first matchup in New Orleans, and they were up 17 with 8 minutes to go in that one.

Chargers -3 over Raiders

This is the most highly anticipated game of Week 18, and I’ll take Justin Herbert over Derek Carr all day long. Los Angeles dominated the first meeting between these teams, and Las Vegas doesn’t have the weapons to keep up.

Computer picks

Browns -6 over Bengals, Packers -3 over Lions, Texans +10.5 over Titans, Dolphins +6 over Patriots, Chargers -3 over Raiders

The computer and I are both on the Texans and Chargers this week. That makes me feel pretty good since the system has been a lot better than me with these. Clearly, the machine has heard about Matt LaFleur’s contention that the Packers starters are going to play a good amount! The computer went 4-1 last week, and is looking to wrap up a stellar year.

2021 season results

Pickswise Expert (38-47)
Pickswise Computer (49-35-1)

Don’t forget to check out our free picks on the side and total for every NFL game. You can also view all of our computer picks.

How are the pre-game win probabilities calculated?
The Pickswise supercomputer creates pre-game probabilities using machine learning techniques as inputs to a Monte Carlo approach. This means we simulate a sporting event 10,000 times, catering for the deep range of outcomes and probabilities within a given event. We first predict the performance of each individual player based on hundreds of algorithmic variabilities, which we use to run our event simulations.

Why do the win probabilities and predictions change over time?
The probabilities are dynamic in nature and get updated as new information becomes available. This includes but is not limited to team news, weather conditions, and moves in the betting market.

What does a ‘value bet’ mean?
A value bet is where we have identified that the probability of the event occurring is more likely than the listed sportsbook odds. Taking these bets gives you an increased chance of being a successful gambler.

How is the change in win probability calculated during a live game?
Live win probability is a statistical metric that projects the team’s likelihood of winning at any given point by simulating the remainder of the game. Based on the performance of historical teams in the same situation and the current state of the game, the model updates in real-time following every major event during the game.

Pickswise is the home of free NFL Picks and NFL Odds. Check out the latest NFL Prop Bets and NFL Parlays as well as expert NFL Underdog Picks and NFL Computer Picks.

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