The release of Madden 15 is nearly upon us, and the full player and team ratings have already been made public. As they do each and every year, these ratings bring about plenty of debate from both NFL and gaming communities.
Each of the league's 32 teams have a corresponding rating from the folks at EA Sports, and these practically serve as another version of NFL power rankings. So, how accurate are the game's ratings compared to the expected production from their associated teams?
While many of these ratings make plenty of sense—the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos lead the NFC and AFC, respectively—others may turn out to be way off. That said, let's take a look at a few of the most underrated teams in Madden 15.
Washington Redskins: 75 OVR
The Redskins come in with the lowest rating in the NFC. Sure, that may seem fair, considering the team's 2013 record of 3-13 was the worst in the conference, but despite Washington's improvements over the offseason, the team was only given one point of progression.
We can start with quarterback Robert Griffin III. The third-year signal-caller has plenty going for him this season. He's now a full year removed from injury and is under the tutelage of former Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden.
Griffin struggled with mobility last season, and now that he's healthy, expect that added dimension to become quickly apparent on the team's offense. With Griffin viewed as a running threat, expect Alfred Morris' production to increase as well.
Having Gruden in the fold gives the quarterback an opportunity to improve as a passer. This is the same coach that helped Andy Dalton become the Bengals' all-time season leader in passing yards and touchdowns last season.
Gruden already had some lofty praise for his quarterback, via John Keim of ESPN.com:
Speaking of Washington's aerial attack, the idea of a wide receiver duo comprising Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson would make most of the league's quarterbacks salivate. That's a reality for Griffin.
These offensive upgrades alone are worthy of a far larger point progression from last season.
Pittsburgh Steelers: 78 OVR
Like the Redskins, the Steelers only saw one progression point since the end of last season—the team finished with a 77 OVR in Madden 25, only to begin Madden 15 at 78. That rating puts Pittsburgh in the bottom half of the ratings, and that's not where this team belongs.
By the end of the 2013 season, the Steelers were surging and appeared to be one of the league's most dangerous teams. Over the second half of the season, Pittsburgh went 6-2 and just barely missed out on the playoffs.
Ben Roethlisberger went from throwing 12 touchdowns and nine interceptions over his first eight games to tossing 16 touchdowns and just five interceptions over the back half of the season.
Dick LeBeau's defense came around as well. His unit recorded 13 sacks and four interceptions while allowing 208 points in the first eight games. During the second half of the year, the defense came away with 25 sacks and six interceptions—three of them for touchdowns—while allowing 162 points.
The combination of a surging Roethlisberger and a stout Pittsburgh defense has led to Super Bowls in the past. Even if this team isn't destined for the big dance in the coming season, it should be considered a contender.
Andy Benoit of TheMMQB.com certainly thinks Pittsburgh is ready for a return to the playoffs:
A rating putting the Steelers well into the top half of the league would be much more accurate.
Atlanta Falcons: 79 OVR
The Falcons are coming off of a disastrous 2013 season in which they accumulated a record of just 4-12. However, Atlanta didn't represent a shadow of a shadow of its former self, given the excessive amount of injuries suffered by the team.
Matt Ryan continues to be one of the NFL's most productive quarterbacks; however, after taking away talented weapons such as Julio Jones and Roddy White, it's easy to see any signal-caller struggling.
While Ryan didn't have his top weapons—and routinely saw his offensive line fall apart—he still put up 4,515 yards and 26 touchdowns for a passer rating of 89.6.
Now, Jones and White will be starting the 2014 season healthy, and Atlanta has made key additions to its offensive line in the likes of rookie Jake Matthews and guard Jon Asamoah and will see the return of Sam Baker.
James Walker of ESPN already noted a flawless Ryan in his first appearance in the preseason:
The offensive side of the ball isn't the only place the Falcons have improved.
Atlanta struggled on the defensive front in 2013, producing very little pressure in the backfield. The team addressed that issue in a big way over the offseason, adding Paul Soliai and Tyson Jackson in free agency, as well as drafting Ra'Shede Hageman out of Minnesota.
If this team's linebackers can keep it together this season, the Falcons could prove to be one of the more complete teams in the NFC. That seems worthy of a rating much higher than 79.