Are "Madden Simulations" an Accurate Predictor of NFL Games?

Todd McGregor@@mcgregor_toddCorrespondent IOctober 9, 2009

This article is for all you gamers and NFL fans alike.ย 

It's easy to see, more now than ever, that much emphasis is put on pre-game predictions.

Traditionally, most predictions that "count", have been made by pundits, commentators on television and radio, and the Vegas "smart money" picks we see everywhere. However, a new type of predictor has hit the sports scene with a vengeance in just the last few years. It's the "Madden Forecast", or more appropriately this year, the "Madden 2010 Forecast".

ESPN is obviously one of the largest sports media outlets in the world, and one of the most respected. Every week, eight major sports analysts make their predictions for what they believe the outcome will be in every game that weekend. Their records are impressive this year, with "Mort" leading the pack at 48-14 to date (12-2 last week). Not far behind in third place, is Accuscore at 45-17 (11-3 last week). On the same page as the analysts predictions, you can find an inconspicuous link called "Madden Simulation." Well, it looks like ESPN has committed a tremendous amount of time and effort into this year's "Madden Simulation" section.

So, this poses the question, are "Madden Simulations" an accurate predictor of NFL games? It seems as if these simulations picked up steam on ESPN after the popular services like Accuscore and whatifsports.com started becoming involved in intricate and detailed game predictions. Both of these services offer a "paid" subscription for a more in-depth game analysis. On the flip-side, access to all "Madden 10" predictions or simulations are free through espn.com. ย 

The first time I visited the "Madden Simulation" page, I was astounded at just how much information was available to me. But what sports nut is going to trust the outcome of a video game? This year, along with the two previous NFL seasons, ESPN is including full commentary on the outcome of the simulation, and why certain teams won or lost the game. They also include player analysis and predictions, as if they were sitting back for an hour, watching the computer do battle against itself. Actually in essence, that's what they do!

To answer the question I posed, over a three year period, these "Madden Simulations" hold an accuracy rate of close to 72 percent! That's above and beyond what Accuscore and whatifsports.com do in a single season. Maybe that's why every Sunday morning, when you tune into "Sunday Countdown", you see Tom Jackson lining up virtual football players to illustrate a play, or to break it down. Those same "illustrated" players come right out of the "Madden 10" video game.

Not to get too technical, but with Artificial Intelligence (AI) now smarter than ever, computers are able to take into consideration player tendencies, injuries, weather, and even the crowd. Games like "Madden 10" have long been built on factual, historical statistics. So that alone, helps to give some validity to their accuracy over the years.

With the Madden gaming franchise now boasting "The smartest Artificial Intelligence ever seen in a video game", maybe we should pay more attention to these simulations. I don't think, however, we should take them too seriously. After all, this new "Madden 10" content was intended just to bulk up ESPN's website, and make predicting the outcomes of NFL games just a little more fun.

So, even though predictions from this video game franchise seem to be increasingly accurate over the past several years, I'd keep my money on the live experts that analyze these games every week!

If you have the chance though, be sure to check out this year's Madden content on espn.com.ย  It's fun, and it gives some lighthearted insight into every single game, every week. You also might like what they say about your favorite team!

Image courtesy of easports.com


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.