Over the next few weeks, we'll analyze the NFL playoffs using EA Sports' powerhouse football simulation, Madden NFL 25, determining the pros and cons of each team and picking an overall winner.
This match-up takes a look at the Wild Card game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Green Bay Packers. Both teams are no strangers to the playoffs, but this year is crucial, as Green Bay looks to get back on top, while the 49ers bid Candlestick Park adieu on the heels of hot new quarterback, Colin Kaepernick.
On that note, here’s a look at each team, and tips to win with both. Keep in mind the high will be zero degrees on game day.
San Francisco 49ers – Madden NFL 25 Team Rating: 91
With one of the highest team ratings in Madden NFL 25, the 49ers have been full of promise this year. With a solid winning record and a strong overall performance, they've done remarkably well.
After overcoming a lull in the beginning of the season, the 49ers picked up the pace, led by Kaepernick's 21 touchdown passes and a rushing tally of 524 yards – uncommon for a quarterback. He also racked up eight interceptions over the course of the season, a low number compared to other QBs.
He didn't act alone. Several players earned big numbers, like Frank Gore, who achieved over 1,100 yards rushing; Anquan Boldin with 85 receptions; and Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree, both of whom have had huge catches for touchdowns. The offense as a whole scored over 25 points a game, with over 320 yards on average.
As for defense, a number of stars stood out, with NaVorro Bowman, Tremaine Brock and Aldon Smith getting a large amount of tackles and sacks. In all, they allowed 316.9 yards per game, and 17 points – lower than the average.
Playing With the 49ers
Kaepernick is one of the hottest quarterbacks on the market right now – but he backs up his hype with plenty of quality play. Don't be afraid to try out various pass plays with him, as he can really get the ball to Davis and Crabtree with very little trouble. That's due to a solid defense backing him up. Keep an eye on these receivers and use the right routes – short or long – to keep movement going. Scoring early – and often – is the key to success against the Packers.
Likewise, defense is a monster, so you'll want to use either Bowman, Brock or Smith to bust through the line and attempt the sack or, better yet, fumble. It may be a little tough going at first – the Packers offensive blockers mean business – but if you're persistent enough, you'll find the gap and give Rodgers a nice little post-season shake-up.
Green Bay Packers – Madden NFL 25 Team Rating: 88
Throughout the season, the Packers had plenty of scares. Aaron Rodgers suffered an injury midway through the season, but managed to return and secure a superb passing performance to put them back in the playoffs.
Backing up Rodgers are a number of equally talented offensive players, including Eddie Lacy, who racked up 1,175 rushing yards over the course of the season – a feat that the team hasn't seen in years. In addition, Jordy Nelson, James Jones and Jarrett Boykin all played a huge part into the playoffs. Randall Cobb, who sat on the sidelines most of the season, eventually came back to help the team earn a Wild Card playoff spot the previous week. Overall, the offense averages around 26 points a game, with just over 400 yards.
Defensively, the Packers aren't half bad. A.J. Hawk leads the charge with 118 tackles and an average of five sacks a game, while Morgan Burnett and Sam Shields show no slack in backing him up. The team only allows roughly 27 points a game, and 372 yards.
Playing With the Packers
Rodgers may have been shaken up this season with his injury, but that certainly doesn't show on Madden NFL 25's virtual field. His passing continues to be dead-on accurate, both with long and short plays. Don't always stick with one sort of play, be creative. Browse through the Packers' playbook and improvise a little. His results are better than most, and he's got the receivers to back him up.
Likewise, the running game is just as excellent, particularly with Lacy's fast-moving feet. Get him the ball, find the open route, and get moving down the field. Don't forget to use your juke and spin moves as well – these can throw off those 49ers defenders and make 'em wish they gave a better effort to catch you.
So Who Wins?
This is a tough game to call, mainly because both teams bring a monstrous offense and defense to the playoffs. The Packers will have an advantage playing in Lambeau Field, but that's not always a guaranteed success, so Rodgers, still coming off of his injury, will have to keep up his last-minute heroics to avoid losing the game. Hopefully, his defense will stay on the ball to keep 49ers off his back.
The teams met during the first week of the season, in which San Francisco emerged victorious by a hair, 34-28. Most of that was due to the amassed penalties Green Bay racked up, though they did complete 100 percent of their red zone attacks, compared to San Francisco's 60 percent.
From the simulation we played, the Packers ended up on top 31-27. It's still anyone's game, though, and we wouldn't be surprised if the 49ers managed to take the first round, even with Green Bay breathing down its neck.
One thing's for sure – it's going to be a heck of a game.
Madden NFL 25 is available now for Xbox 360, Xbox One, PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4.