Over the next few days, millions of shaky bets and empty boasts will be exchanged by football fans and other soothsayers who think they know in advance the outcome of Super Bowl XLVI (or XXXXVI to all you Roman numeral purists). Only a few of those millions of opinions and wagers on the New England Patriots and New York Giants will be accurate. But taken as a group, there conceivably could be some collective insight to be gleaned.
This raises the obvious question of whether the game’s outcome can be predicted by crowdsourcing—that is, by collecting a large number of predictions from the “crowd” online, and analyzing the results.
Instead of going stir crazy waiting for kickoff, I went online and randomly gathered 100 predictions from a variety of sources: Twitter, Facebook, football discussion boards, newspaper comments, and so on. Casual, generalized predictions—“Pats will prevail! Gints gnash Gronk!”—were skipped in favor of those who actually bothered to predict a definite score. (I also omitted predictions made by dolphins, camels, cats, gorillas, and the like, only because these species rarely predict actual scores as opposed to just scratching the eyes out of a picture of Eli Mannning or Tom Brady.)
For what it’s worth, her are the results aggregated from these random 100 members of the crowd:
• Predictions of who will win were split exactly 50-50.
• The average score predicted was 27.56 for the Patriots vs. 27.05 for the Giants—or 28-27 in favor of the Pats, if, like this New England partisan, you don’t mind rounding.
• Overall, those picking the Giants were slightly less optimistic than those backing the Patriots, with the former anticipating an average margin of victory of 7.5 for New York, as opposed to 8.5 for New England. However, pro-Giants prognostications tended to vary much more than pro-Patriots ones.
• The margin of victory most commonly picked for the Giants was 3 (15 times), whereas the margin of victory most commonly picked for the Patriots was 6 (8 times).
• The scores most commonly picked for the Giants were 27 (17 times), 28 (12 times), and 31 (10 times).
• The Patriots scores most commonly picked among those expecting a New England win were 24 (16 times), 34 (11 times), and 21 (10 times).
• In the event of a blowout, the largest margin of victory that anyone predicted for the Giants was 30, as opposed to 25 for the Patriots.
• The highest score predicted for the Patriots was 47, as opposed to 45 for the Giants; the lowest score predicted for either team was 7.
• The Giants scores most commonly picked among those expecting a New York win were 24 (16 times), 34 (11 times), and 21 (10 times).
• The most frequent predicted outcomes were 34-28 Patriots (4 times), 27-21 Giants (4 times), and 27-24 Giants (4 times).
All of this is, naturally, pseudoscientific at best. But if the opinion of 100 random internet denizens counts for anything, this game can be expected to be a dead heat, with the Patriots just a half-point favorite.