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.
There are a number of killer match-ups this weekend, but nothing will come close to the face-off between the Indianapolis Colts and the New England Patriots. Their rivalry is nothing short of legendary, and the addition of wily quarterback Andrew Luck will no doubt make things interesting, forcing New England QB Tom Brady to keep up the pace – and maybe even surpass it.
Let's see what each team has to offer.
New England Patriots – Madden NFL 25 Team Rating: 88
Although it isn't the best year for the team, New England finished an impressive 12-4. The team won the AFC East division with ease, even with Gronk (Gronkowski) missing in action.
Part of that goes to Brady, who has a huge record in the playoffs with a 17-7 mark, including five trips to the Super Bowl. Three resulted in championships, while two created the famous Patriots/Giants match-up, where New York won by just a hair both times. Brady's record this season has been impressive, with a high number of receptions and yards.
Obviously, he had the help of different receivers, including Julian Edelman with his 105 receptions over the course of the season and over 1,050 yards. The running game in New England also picked up behind LeGarrette Blount, who managed to get four touchdowns and over 200 yards in the final four games of the season. Bottom line, this team means business.
Playing as the Patriots
When it comes to thinking defensively, Bill Belichick's playbook is pretty sound, with a number of plays that should be able to stop the Colts' offense, depending where you set up players. It's vital to keep an eye on Luck, as he not only has a tendency to complete passes with razor-sharp accuracy, but also occasionally run when yardage is needed. The important thing here is to fill the gaps and make sure you have defensemen shadowing the receivers, looking for that key opportunity to swipe the ball under the young quarterback's nose.
Now, on offense, you've got a lot to work with. As we indicated, both running and passing are covered. Blount has a way of eating up yardage, especially with a good mixture of spins and jukes. He can get to the first-down marker with ease, depending how the Colts' defense is lined up. As for Brady, hey, go for broke. He achieved a terrific passer rating over the years, and continues to be a well-defined quarterback, both on short and long pass plays.
That said, analyze the Patriots' playbook and decide on a few key plays that work best for you. Mix up Blount's running and Brady's passing, but don't settle. Try some new plays with your favorites.
Indianapolis Colts – Madden NFL 25 Team rating: 83
Following the departure of veteran quarterback Peyton Manning to the Broncos and a slightly unsettled first year with rookie QB Andrew Luck, EA Sports didn't have the utmost confidence in the Colts when it handed down its rating for the team this season. However, the team remained determined, and managed to eke out a tremendous win last week against the Chiefs after being 28 points down.
Most of this came from Luck. After taking a beating in his last visit to New England (final score was 59-24), Luck helped the team push on with a last-second heroic drive to topple the Chiefs last week. Luck has been doing consistently well this season, and even managed to beat Manning and his Broncos when they came to town weeks ago.
In addition, T.Y. Hilton, a receiver for the Colts, had a stellar year, with a number of catches and yards that made him one of the prime players this season. The running game has been on and off– Trent Richardson has seen better days – but the defense is on the money, allowing only 20 points over the last three games, and Robert Mathis achieving a huge number of sacks with each game, including a critical ball strip from last week.
Playing as the Colts
With the Colts, you have to be a little wary because they have a weaker rating than the Patriots. While Luck is capable of completing passes, he's also susceptible to interceptions. When you get started on his passing game, you'll want to use Ask Madden the first time around, just to see what's recommended from the playbook. After that, you should be able to settle in with low to medium grade passes before going for the long ball in the second half. Also, don't forget he can rush a bit – but don't go crazy with it, because he may get injured.
Rely on your rusher as well. Hilton is a good option when you want to rest Luck. In addition, see what Richardson can do if you can get him open.
As far as defense, you'll have your hands full. Brady is a beast on the field, as he proved over the course of the season, and Belichick's offense is hardly anything to laugh about. The best thing we can advise is watch for opportunities. The team isn't perfect, and if you can capitalize on a good sack or interception, you can easily turn the game in your favor.
So Who Wins?
In our simulated contest on Madden NFL 25, New England cleaned up with a 38-17 win. However, keep in mind this is based on statistics that EA Sports put together over the course of the season that don’t include last week's heroic comeback.
The only question is if the Colts can maintain this momentum. After all, they are headed into New England, and the Patriots are determined to emerge victorious. Don't be surprised if the Patriots return to familiar territory, i.e. the Championship game.
Madden NFL 25 is available now for Xbox One, Xbox 360, PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 3.