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Madden 21: Teams That Will Dominate Online with Elite NFL Player Ratings

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistAugust 23, 2020

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes warms up during an NFL football training camp practice Friday, Aug. 21, 2020, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

The online landscape of Madden NFL 21 should shape up in interesting fashion right after the game's release Friday.

Madden NFL 21, after all, features Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson on the cover and hints at more finely tuned control over superstar offensive players than ever thanks to the new Skill Stick.

That Skill Stick puts a variety of moves at the disposal of players via the mere flick of a stick while reacting to what happens on the screen.

But the developers haven't only made this an offensive-minded affair. Some of the bigger changes also reside on the defensive side of the ball, where the Skill Stick pertains to pass-rushing moves off the edge, and tackle location has a bigger emphasis on how plays end. There are also purported upgrades to defender awareness, pre-snap alignment and more.

Keeping all that in mind, it isn't too difficult to project which teams might run the competitive Madden online scene for a while.

First up is the Kansas City Chiefs with last year's Madden coverboy, Patrick Mahomes. Scanning the complete Madden NFL 21 player ratings, he's one of the rare guys in the 99 club, with notable items like 97 throw power and even a 93 deep-throw accuracy.

The deep-throw rating is notable given players Mahomes will get to target, such as the 96-rated Tyreek Hill, never mind tight end Travis Kelce, a 97. The defense supporting these stars is much improved too after a scheme change and big moves a few years back, hence three of the top eight players falling on that side of the ball, including Tyrann Mathieu, Chris Jones and Frank Clark.

This year's cover star also has a team sure to dominate online. Jackson, paired with the new skill stick, might be the most dominant Madden player on the virtual field since Michael Vick.

Jackson's sitting on a 94 overall rating, though more important might be the 96 speed. He's going to run roughshod as a ball-carrier online, but it's also important to remember one of the bigger talking points about quarterback play in this year's game is the ability to throw out of sacks. While a risky proposition, the wider audience is sure to see some ridiculous Jackson highlights pretty quickly after launch.

When players have a superstar like Jackson at their disposal, the cast of weapons around him seems to hardly matter. But what's notable for Jackson's Ravens is the staggering amount of talent on defense. The Baltimore front office made a big move for Calais Campbell this offseason, and he's the team's highest-rated player at 95. He joins Marlon Humphrey (89), Earl Thomas III (88), Brandon Williams (86), Marcus Peters (85) and others on one of the NFL's outright best defenses.

While online figures to be a little top-heavy with those two teams this year, it wouldn't be too shocking to see the Seattle Seahawks often employed as a counter.

Russell Wilson was dominating Madden online well before Mahomes or Jackson entered the conversation. He's got another smooth 97 rating this year with blazing 86 speed for a quarterback, and all the accuracy ratings are as high as expected.

Wilson's surroundings seem to keep improving in a way that benefits Madden players too. Wideout Tyler Lockett is a dynamic, multi-spot weapon with an 88 rating and 93 speed, and running back Chris Carson is quietly an 86. And another year older or not, those in charge of the game's ratings clearly like tight end Greg Olsen, an 86.

And Wilson's complementary defense just keeps getting better in the wake of trading for star safety Jamal Adams, who joins Bobby Wagner—arguably the game's best linebacker and a 98 overall—on a unit that can bend but not break.

Besides that heavyweight top three sure to run the online brackets, keep in mind a team like the Arizona Cardinals. Kyler Murray (77) is a dynamic playmaker with 91 speed and just saw his team acquire wideout DeAndre Hopkins (98). Baker Mayfield and the Cleveland Browns remain interesting, with Nick Chubb, Odell Beckham Jr. and Austin Hooper all checking in at an 89 or better, and everybody should know about the star-studded cast of weapons in Dallas.

These are just initial post-release thoughts, however. Madden will again tweak player ratings to reflect real-life happenings, and this year developer EA Sports is even going as far as adjusting playbooks for similar reasons. Add in meta-changing gameplay tweaks as players get going, and the Madden online competitive scene is bound to morph over the course of the regular season.

For now, the online ladder—much like the NFL—belongs to the next wave of great quarterbacks.

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