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Ear to the Ground

Nate Silver’s Super Bowl Pick Falls Short

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Posted on Jan 14, 2013
Screenshot via ESPN.com

Nate Silver, who writes The New York Times’ popular FiveThirtyEight blog, makes his living by predicting events. Oftentimes, he’s right, like he was during the 2012 presidential election when he correctly forecast how every state would vote (in 2008, he went 49 for 50 ... not too shabby, indeed).

But even experts can make bad predictions occasionally, as the data analyst demonstrated in his Super Bowl picks. Last week, Silver forecast that the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks would meet in New Orleans for Super Bowl XLVII. Although the Patriots crushed their opponents, the Houston Texans, the same cannot be said for the Seahawks, who suffered a last-minute loss to the Atlanta Falcons.

In fairness to Silver, Seattle should have won the game. In fact, the team would have prevailed had head coach Pete Carroll not called a timeout just a hair before Matt Bryant’s first field goal kick, which went wide to the right of the goal post. Bryant wouldn’t miss a second time, and the Falcons pulled out the 30-28 victory at home.

But, there are no should haves, could haves, would haves in sports—the Seahawks lost and the Falcons are moving on in the playoffs.

In other predictions that fell flat, Silver said the Patriots would face the Denver Broncos—a team he called one of the top two in the NFL—in the AFC Championship game. That won’t be happening either. The Broncos lost a heartbreaking double-overtime game in Denver to the Baltimore Ravens.

The takeaway from these events? Perhaps this headline from The Atlantic Wire puts it best: “Nate Silver Can Accurately Predict an Election, but Not a Super Bowl.”

—Posted by Tracy Bloom.

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