The Dallas Cowboys and Washington have both had moments of brilliance this season, but both find themselves way on the outside looking in for a playoff spot. Who will emerge victorious in this clash of the past two NFC East division champs? A hive mind of 30 NFL fans predicts Washington will win Thursday, but it’ll be close.
The obvious difference-maker here is Ezekiel Elliott — or, more precisely, the lack of Ezekiel Elliott. The Cowboys running back had 150 yards and two touchdowns in a 33-19 road win for Dallas a few weeks back. But Elliott is gone for the rest of the season, serving a much-contested suspension for an offseason domestic violence incident. With both teams dealing with injuries and the realization their seasons are over with five games left, will Elliott’s absence be enough to tip the scales back toward Washington?
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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. About 30 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. Here’s Unanimous A.I. founder Louis Rosenberg explaining swarm intelligence at a recent TEDx Talk.
Unanimous A.I. has made some scarily accurate predictions in the past using swarm intelligence, as our previous article explains. For instance, the swarm went a perfect 7-0 in its most recommended picks for a recent English Premier League slate.
The hive mind doesn’t feel great about picking anyone for this game, but it eventually settles on Washington with low confidence. There’s only 70 percent brainpower behind the pick, which is low.
The swarm sees an understandably narrow margin of victory given how little confidence it has in either team to win. It predicts Washington will win by one to three points, with 85 percent brainpower behind that choice — at least it feels fairly certain it has no idea who will win. Vegas has Washington by 1.5 points.
The game kicks off 8:25 p.m. Eastern Thursday on NBC, the NFL Network, and Amazon Prime Video.