Detroit Lions quarterback Matt Stafford late last month when [he agreed to a new contract] that made him the highest paid player in NFL history, including $92 million in guaranteed money. With the big extension comes hopes that Stafford can lead the Lions to some long-overdue glory. But a hive mind of more than 40 NFL fans aren’t feeling great about Stafford’s week one chances, predicting the Lions will lose at home against the Arizona Cardinals.
Both the Lions and the Cardinals rank among the NFL’s most star-crossed franchises. The Lions are one of only four teams to never even make the Super Bowl, and arguably the two best players in franchise history — running back Barry Sanders and wide receiver Calvin Johnson — retired early because they were sick of the team’s futility. Arizona at least made the Super Bowl in 2008, but they haven’t won a championship since 1947, two relocations ago. If any two teams outside Cleveland have learned to put value in every precious victory, it’s these two.
To predict the result of this and other games, Unanimous A.I. used what’s known as swarm intelligence to forecast the week’s slate. More than 40 NFL fans worked together as a hive mind to make picks. As you can see in the animation below, each participant controlled a little golden magnet and used it to drag the puck toward the answer they thought was the most likely outcome. As the users saw the puck move toward a particular outcome, it triggers a psychological response. They readjust their decision-making, building toward a consensus.
Unanimous A.I. has made some scarily accurate predictions in the past using swarm intelligence, as our previous article explains.
The swarm likes Arizona to come away with the win in Detroit, but only barely. They picked the Cardinals to win only with low confidence, and the collective brainpower behind the decision was only 70 percent — not a hugely impressive number when the whole point is to build to an overall consensus.
The bookmakers in Las Vegas see this one as similarly close, considering the Cardinals are only favored to beat the Lions by two points. The fact the line favors the road team is itself telling — all other things being equal, the feeling is the Cardinals are the better team, and that counts for something — but this isn’t an outcome the swarm recommends you look on with too much certainty. The “any given Sunday” edict is very much in effect for this one.