The dog days of summer are tough on the sports world, but with football season quickly approaching, speculation and debate fill our time.
Like it or not, Madden is very much a part of that.
Whether you first played the popular video game on the Sega Genesis or the Xbox One, the football franchise is a national phenomenon. A wide audience anticipates its release every summer, and over the last couple of years, that has started with the release of the player ratings.
So far, the kind people at Madden have released the ratings of the top five players at each position along with the full rosters of every team in the AFC South, the NFC South, the AFC North and the NFC North. You can find them all here, but for now, let's take a look at the most intriguing teams—not necessarily the best—that have already been announced.
No matter how you like to play on offense, the Cincinnati Bengals will let you do it.
You can air it out. Say what you want about Andy Dalton and his new fat contract, but he's solid enough across the board (85 overall, 86 throw power, 83 throw accuracy deep) to get it to A.J. Green. Hell, Matt Scott is solid enough to get it to A.J. Green.
The explosive fourth-year wide receiver is 6'4" and has 91 speed, 94 catching, 97 jumping and 98 spectacular catch. In other words, if you throw it to him as high and as far as you can, good things are going to happen. And your friends will be annoyed because there's nothing they can do to stop it.
If you want to run the ball, you have one of the most exciting young backs in the league. Giovani Bernard is as fast as a cheetah with a rocket strapped to its back and as slippery as an eel covered in butter. Although he's "only" an 84 overall, he has 91 speed, 96 acceleration, 96 agility, 90 elusiveness, 89 spin move and 95 juke move. Just get him the ball in space and press the "B" button a lot.
Offensive coordinator Hue Jackson, via Rotoworld's Adam Levitan, spoke glowingly about Gio:
Hue Jax on Gio: "He's had an outstanding camp. He's so explosive, he can catch the ball, he's a tough son of a gun. He protects. He blocks."— Adam Levitan (@adamlevitan) July 31, 2014
With that kind of talk going on all summer, the electrifying 22-year-old should see a bigger role and continue to make significant strides forward in his sophomore campaign. That means a boost in ratings as the season goes on.
Also, bonus points for Cincy if this is in the playbook:
Throw in a dominant defensive line paced by Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap, and the Bengals have video game-friendly weapons all over the field.
The Minnesota Vikings' quarterback situation is messy, although you at least get options with Matt Cassel (78), Teddy Bridgewater (77), and Christian Ponder (77). But when you have Adrian Peterson, it doesn't really matter who's handing him the ball.
Ranked as the top running back, Purple Jesus (98 overall) can get it done in a variety of ways. He has 97 speed, 97 agility, 97 acceleration, 95 elusiveness, 96 stiff arm and 88 strength. With a right side of the line that features John Sullivan (92 overall), Phil Loadholt (90 overall) and Brandon Fusco (84 overall, 92 run blocking), you can give it to All Day, well, all day.
Don't forget about Cordarrelle Patterson, either. The shifty playmaker has 95 elusiveness, 93 spin move and 98 juke move. While he's still a little raw in real life, he has a tantalizing skill set and rare talent, as Greg Jennings, via NFL.com's Chris Wesseling, alluded to:
Greg Jennings: "At some point, I'm going to tell my kids, 'I played with Cordarrelle Patterson'" http://t.co/Cqk3LHEliU— Chris Wesseling (@ChrisWesseling) August 1, 2014
And he has the kind of skill set that translates to the virtual world.
The Vikes were bad last season, and their overall team rating is just 76, but it doesn't get more satisfying than winning with a low-ranked squad. Minnesota has the offensive options to do just that.
The first two teams on this list exhibit the advantages of having speed and playmaking ability on offense. Another good way to be successful in the Madden world, though, is to create pressure on the opposing quarterback.
The Houston Texans are only rated 76, but if there's one thing they can do, it's cause chaos in the backfield.
It starts, obviously, with J.J. Watt. The most dominant individual defensive player over the past two years, he is, unsurprisingly, one of three players in the game to receive a 99 rating:
Wade Phillips, who has coached Bruce Smith, Reggie White and DeMarcus Ware, recently offered Watt some of the finest praise possible, via Grantland's Robert Mays:
Two years ago was the best defensive line play in the history of football. He had more tackles, blocked passes, pressures on the quarterback. The conglomeration of all that was the best that anybody has ever played. I’ve had some great ones, but they’ve never made that many great plays in one year.
Watt is frightening by himself. Add No. 1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney (88 speed, 92 acceleration, 94 power move, 90 pursuit) to the mix, and that's an unblockable duo.
The ability to create instant pressure without blitzing your linebackers is a massive advantage in Madden.