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bingnfl12Microsoft Bing wants to help you win your fantasy football league.

Starting this season, Bing is using its prediction algorithms to project how NFL players will perform each week. The search engine already predicts winners and losers of NFL games, but now Bing is offering up individual projections meant to help people set their fantasy football lineups.

bing11“Our goal with Bing’s professional football predictions experience is to help fans feel like seasoned experts,” Walter Sun, Principal Applied Science Manager at Bing, told GeekWire.

Bing first launched Bing Predicts back in April 2014 when it predicted the outcomes of popular TV shows like The Voice, American Idol and Dancing with the Stars. It also expanded to the Academy Awards and U.S. elections.

Microsoft then used the technology in the sports world, too, applying it to everything from the World Cup to Wimbledon and throughout the NFL season last year.

Now it is expanding to individual player projections, which are made by analyzing information from the web and social signals. The predictions also take into account recent games, match-ups, roster changes, and even coaching staff updates — anything that may influence how a player performs that particular week.

“Bing will be able to advise you on who you should start each week on your team based on our fantasy point projections,” Sun said.

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Yahoo and ESPN already use similar prediction engines to show their fantasy football team owners a projected point amount for specific players. Yahoo, in fact, uses a company called Pro Football Focus to generate the data.

Using the same scoring settings (with 1 point per reception), I just compared projections from Bing and Yahoo for the quarterback, running back, and wide receiver positions during Week 1, and here’s how it turned out:

Bing QBs:

  1. Aaron Rodgers
  2. Ben Roethilsberger
  3. Matt Ryan
  4. Eli Manning
  5. Russell Wilson

Yahoo QBs:

  1. Aaron Rodgers
  2. Matt Ryan
  3. Peyton Manning
  4. Drew Brees
  5. Andrew Luck

Bing RBs:

  1. Matt Forte
  2. C.J. Anderson
  3. Jamaal Charles
  4. Eddie Lacy
  5. Andre Ellington

Yahoo RBs:

  1. Adrian Peterson
  2. Jeremy Hill
  3. Eddie Lacy
  4. Jamaal Charles
  5. Marshawn Lynch

Bing WRs:

  1. Julian Edelman
  2. Antonio Brown
  3. Julio Jones
  4. Marques Colston
  5. Calvin Johnson

Yahoo WRs:

  1. Antonio Brown
  2. Julio Jones
  3. Demaryius Thomas
  4. Dez Bryant
  5. Randall Cobb

As you can see, the two services actually differ quite a bit on their top picks for Week 1. Granted that no games have been played yet, they are clearly using different algorithms — it will be interesting to see which prevails after Week 1 and throughout the season.

Along with helping you pick the right starting lineup, one unique way Microsoft is using its prediction engine this season is to recommended which free agents are best to pick up each week.

“Every Tuesday morning, we will provide lists of players who may be available for you to pick up as a free agent in your fantasy league after the Monday night game of the night before,” Sun said. “This is a high value scenario for anyone who plays fantasy football.”

The individual player predictions also help improve how well Microsoft can predict the outcomes of games, Sun explained. In addition, the company has fine-tuned its models since last year to better interpret key signals to project outcomes for sports. This year, it will not only provide a confidence percentage for picking winners of each game, but also explain its reasoning and outline what needs to happen for an upset to take place.

Bing will also debut a new “Power Rankings” list every Tuesday week that ranks each NFL squad and offers predictions for division winners and potential playoff teams. Here are its early picks for the 2015 playoffs:

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With its NFL predictions, Bing wants to create more of a one stop shop for football fans, who can also easily access game location, time, broadcast network, scoring updates, and post-game highlights while using the search engine.

Bryan Saftler, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Bing, and Walter Sun, Principal Applied Science Manager at Bing. Photo via Microsoft.
Bryan Saftler, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Bing, and Walter Sun, Principal Applied Science Manager at Bing, pose with Bing’s March Madness picks earlier this year. Photo via Microsoft.

“Since we launched Bing, we always believed that search was more than just blue links — it’s about gaining knowledge and taking action,” Sun said. “Our predictions are created to offer unique and intelligent insights to help people find the information they are looking for and act on that information with confidence.”

Last season, Bing Predicts finished 172-84 for its NFL game predictions, which came in at a 67.2 percent clip — ahead of Vegas’ picks. During the NCAA men’s basketball tournament in March, it finished in the upper 30 percent of brackets, which was “ahead of many of the brackets created by computer algorithms,” noted Sun, who added that Bing also went 15 for 15 in the knockout-round for its World Cup predictions.

The larger idea here for Microsoft is to expose sports fans and others to Bing, with the hope that they’ll stick around to conduct more searches, helping Microsoft gain more traction against market leader Google. In its most recent quarterly earnings report, Microsoft’s search revenue rose 21 percent to $922 million. The company credited the increase to growing Bing search market share and higher revenue per search.

As far as its NFL predictions, it seems like a smart move from Microsoft — which inked a $400 million sponsorship contract with the NFL in 2013 — to move beyond just predicting winners and losers. The fantasy sports industry itself is lucrative, with The Fantasy Sports Trade Association reporting 41.5 million fantasy sports players in 2014 who spent an average of $111 on games and league costs.

Microsoft isn’t the only tech giant looking to get involved with fantasy sports. Yahoo, which already runs a massive fantasy sports service, announced in July that it would offer a new daily games platform — part of a fast-growing daily fantasy sports industry which includes companies like FanDuel and DraftKings that both have raised huge funding rounds this year.

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