Any other year, and I'd be calling for Barry Sanders to win the Madden 25 cover vote in a landslide. However, this is not any other year.
Adrian Peterson made sure of that as he returned early from a knee injury and rushed towards a season so unbelievable that we were all left to rethink the bounds of human possibility.
Anything less than Peterson's MVP season, and this vote wouldn't be close.
The lure of having the unique chance to place an all-time great on the cover of Madden 25, as EA Sports celebrates the 25th anniversary of its iconic franchise, is tough to resist.
And while quarterbacks steal the majority of the headlines during the season, it is fitting that this vote came down two running backs.
This edition of Madden will see upgrades to the running game that include, according to EA Sports via ESPN, a "run free ball carrier feature" that allows gamers “unprecedented ball-carrier control and precision.”
ESPN points out that this includes a "bigger emphasis on cutting, and of course, smacking defenders in the mouth with fierce stiff-arms."
What two better running backs to represent these skills than the shifty Sanders or the powerful Peterson?
This vote is going to be close, which makes setting the odds a difficult task. I'll handicap those hard-to-set odds on our two finalists below.
Also, take a look at the full bracket and/or vote for your choice at ESPN.com.
Adrian Peterson: 7/4
Peterson has been rolling through this competition. He started off as the second seed and quickly proved he was under-seeded.
He made it to the finals by taking 64 percent of the vote against Arian Foster, and that was his closest match of this voting process.
Going in order starting from his first match, Peterson has claimed 94, 90, 81 and 70 percent of the vote in his matches as he beat Carson Palmer, LeSean McCoy, Rob Gronkowski and the No. 1 seed in that portion of the New School region, Robert Griffin III.
Peterson has clearly been a fan favorite throughout this process and it is no surprise. He turned in one of the most unbelievable seasons in memory.
Not only did he look as good as ever less than a year after blowing out his knee, but he also put up the second-most rushing yards in a single season in the history of the NFL with 2,097.
He also did so without much help from a passing offense that finished 31st in yards.
This was a season for the ages, and it could very well land him on the cover.
Barry Sanders: 3/2
Barry Sanders is the kind player who only gains in mythical status the further removed we get from his playing career.
Sanders did things on the football field that should only be possible in video games. He would routinely leave defenders falling over as they lunged to the space where Sanders used to be. He could cut without seemingly ever slowing down.
His vision, balance and quickness are unrivaled.
Adding to the legend is the fact that we never saw Sanders on an NFL field when he was anything but dominant.
In his final season, 1998, he rushed for 1,491 yards at an average of 4.3 yards per carry, and that came following a season where he posted a career-best 2,053 rushing yards at 6.1 yards per carry.
He then abruptly retired after just 10 NFL seasons and resisted the urge to ever come out of retirement for a swan song that was not as good as the original.
Sanders retired with 15,269 rushing yards, and he'd likely be the all-time rushing leader had he not hung up his cleats in his prime.
His retirement left fans hungry for more. This was frustrating at the time, but now it just adds to the legend. That has been reflected in the voting.
Sanders did not advance with the same ease as Peterson, but he has faced some stiff competition.
In order, he beat Ron Rivera (we haven't got to the stiff competition yet) with 95 percent of the vote.
He then destroyed Marcus Allen with 92 percent and Ray Lewis with 67 percent. Next up were a pair of No. 1 seeds as he beat Joe Montana with 57 percent and Jerry Rice with 52 percent.
While that 52 percent is far closer than anything AP dealt with, we are talking about the great Jerry Rice.
Why Sanders is a Slight Favorite
We don't just have two players competing here, but a social test. What will win out: the player whose performance is fresh in everyone's mind, or a mythical legend whose status is growing over time?
We do have a little sample test as to how this will play out as Sanders beat Ray Lewis handily. Lewis had just retired as a Super Bowl champion and images of Lewis from this past season dominated postseason coverage.
Peterson's amazing run last year will make him a far tougher opponent for Sanders, but that vote showed me that fans are eager to get a legend on this cover after a string of current stars.
Sanders will win this one by claiming 52 percent of the vote, and we will then all see if the "Madden Curse" destroys Sanders' golf game, or whatever other activity the legend does in his free time.
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