The race for the 2013 Madden cover is heating up, and the winners of each semifinal will be announced tomorrow, setting the stage for the final vote.
This year’s bracket has featured several tense matchups, resulting in groups of sports nerds angrily commenting back and forth over the right to take the cover of the successful EA Sports franchise.
The first matchup has sparked the most debate, and for good reason. Cam Newton had a phenomenal rookie season at quarterback for the Panthers, and he has been hyped up as one of the great athletes to ever play the position.
He matches up against Willis, the speedy, hard-hitting linebacker who led the 49ers to a 13-3 regular season record last year and headlined a defense that ranked first in the league at defending the run.
To echo the thoughts of many ESPN commentators, what about Cam Newton makes him so deserving of the Madden cover? He had a nice rookie season, throwing for over 4,000 yards and 21 touchdowns, but the more important stats are his 17 interceptions and 10 losses as the Panthers starter. If averaging more than an interception per game gets you the Madden cover, I do not see why I could not vote for my favorite pick-thrower, Rex “Sexy Rexy” Grossman.
Not to compare the two as quarterbacks—Newton can really run the ball and has a lot of upside, while Grossman’s career as a starter is clearly over—but the point is that Newton does not qualify for the Madden cover. He may one day, but not until he has won something.
Willis, on the other hand, is arguably the best player at his position, and is coming off a career season that included 97 tackles, two sacks and four forced fumbles en route to a deep run in the playoffs.
Why then is the voting supposedly so close between the two? Also, why has Cam Newton been running through the bracket so easily?
There are two possible answers, the first of which is unfortunately the most likely to be true. In today’s league, quarterbacks are prized above all other players, and a star in the making like Newton is going to attract a lot of attention as the first overall draft pick and a standout in college. The hype surrounding him is just too much to contain, so fans who do not know the statistics (or do not care) vote for him because they have actually heard of him.
The second possible explanation, which is much more interesting, is that the educated voters of this year’s Madden cover challenge are setting Newton up to take on the Madden curse next season. In the same way that people are tired of hearing about Tim Tebow and want him to fail just to put a stop to the mania, voters may want Newton to fall off his pedestal a little before he ascends to stardom.
This may be the legitimate explanation for the second semifinal matchup between Rodgers and Megatron. Last year, Packers fans voted for his opponents in an attempt to steer Rodgers away from the curse, and this year is no different.
Megatron is certainly a worthy candidate, but expect him to dominate Rodgers as the experienced Packers fans vote to sit back and let someone else worry about the dreaded curse.
The cover will become a little clearer tomorrow when the winners of this round are announced, and fans and gamers alike will be one step closer to finding out who has won the coveted Madden cover challenge.