Hi there, if you’ve clicked on this article, you probably play the Madden NFL video games, and you want to… well…. suck less. Fear not, help is on the way. This article is here to help you stop being so terrible at the Madden video games in a few easy steps.
How to Stop Being Terrible at Madden
Stop Playing Rookie and Pro
I know, I know, it’s fun to see if you can score 200 points in a game of Madden by just pummelling your least favorite team on Rookie or Pro, the easiest difficulties. If that’s all you want to get out of your Madden experience, then by all means, continue. Just come out in the Hail Mary set every single play and lob it to your best receiver, have a good night. However, if you do this, you’ll never get better at Madden and that 12 year old with the high pitched voice will keep beating you by 30 points.
As Madden Challenge winner Yoda once said, “the best teacher, failure is”. Now, while I find Yoda’s pistol-based offense to be a little gimmicky and contrived, the little green guy has a point. If you play enough games on a higher difficulty, you will improve over time. Simply learn from your mistakes.
Start off small. Focus on moving the ball up and down the field and preventing big plays. Try utilizing runs out of heavy formations or throwing quick slant passes, and then stay away from blitzing for the time being. Just focus on trying to win the game. As winning the game becomes easier, you’ll find that bigger plays are easier to come by.
Just like steadily increasing the weight you lift at the gym will make you stronger, repeatedly playing against the hardest difficulty will make you a better Madden player. Once you’ve gotten to the point where you’re regularly blowing out the Patriots on All-Madden, you move onto the next tip.
Keep It Simple, Stupid
Look, we all have our favorite plays. For some, it’s just a certain route, like everyone running deep, for others, it’s a specific play or formation. PA X Burst Cross and PA Fk Quick are a couple of beauties that I like to bust out once or twice a game. However, if you’re playing against a skilled Madden player, these plays won’t always be there. The best advice I can give you, I basically already have. Just keep it simple, stupid.
Sure, we love the big plays, but that’s now how championships are won. You can be incredibly confident in your ability to connect on these huge plays, but they just aren’t a reliable form of offense. I don’t have any evidence of this, but I’d be willing to bet hard cash that big money plays are far more successful after a bunch of smaller, more efficient plays.
Imagine that all game, I’ve been running your standard I Form power runs with success. Every single time I’ve handed the ball off, I’ve picked up five or six yards. That’s terribly frustrating for someone calling defensive plays. As the game goes on, the opposing play-caller gets more and more frustrated until one play, I look up and notice there’s only one safety deep. At this point, I might throw in a play-action bomb, we’ll say PA Ctr Shot. With everyone and their mother expecting a run, I bet that play is far more successful than if I’d been throwing it deep all game long.
Just like in real life, the team that is fundamentally better will win nine out of ten times. Be patient, be smart, and take what the defense gives you. If you force plays offensively, you’re going to run into an opponent that blows you out of the water.
It’s a different side of the ball, but the same philosophy applies. It’s nice to get out there and blitz the quarterback, but sometimes that’ll kill you. Firstly, it would make sense to think that a blitz would shut down the run, but that’s actually far from the truth. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve blitzed on an obvious rushing down, only for the offensive line to pick up the rushers, allowing to back to break off on a touchdown run.
See, if you blitz and the rushers don’t get to the back, there’s usually nobody to stop him from scoring. The safeties usually cover someone man-to-man to pick up the slack for the blitz, leaving a giant gap in the middle of the field. You won’t have as many stops for a loss, but you won’t give up as many huge runs if you keep guys in coverage over the middle.
Honestly, as far as defense goes, I always like to have at least one safety deep just in case. It’s important to come out with the right personnel for the opposition, and to play it safe. If they come out with multiple tight ends, then you should keep your 3-4/4-3 set in. When they have three receivers, it might not be a bad idea to drop into a nickle or dime defense. Just make smart personnel decisions. Speaking of which…
Know Your Personnel
If you’re playing with your favorite team, then you probably know a bit about your players. Know what they do well and what they don’t do well before starting a game. That seems obvious, but I have a friend who loves to throw the deep ball to Julian Edelman, and is then surprised when the passes are intercepted. Know what your players do best, and then incorporate that into your offense. Don’t worry, I’m gonna give you some examples.
I’m a Raiders fan (Hey! If you’re a Raiders fan too, go check out the RaiderRamble.com as well as other Sports-Stack.com articles!). So when I come out, I know what the Raiders do well, and what they don’t do well on both sides of the ball. Here’s a quick breakdown.
Here are a few things I know about the Oakland Raiders that I love to exploit. I know that Derek Carr can extend the play with his legs, giving receivers more time to get open. I know that Jared Cook is one of the faster tight ends in football. Marshawn Lynch is a bruising back that almost always falls forward. Amari Cooper is exceptionally quick, especially moving across the field.
What do these things mean? Well, it means that I know I can run crossing routes with guys like Cooper or Cordarrelle Patterson and they’ll outrun most corners, and if my opponent is playing in a zone, I can use Carr’s legs to extend the play until they get open. If not, I know that Jared Cook going up the seam against a linebacker is almost always money. And if I come out in the aforementioned I Form, I can lean on the power run, exploit linebacker mismatches, and create big plays down the field with my quicker receivers. Know your personnel and scheme accordingly.
Know How To Read Defenses
I can’t stress this enough. If you can’t read defenses, you won’t beat great Madden players. I’m not saying you have to know exactly what play they’re calling or even the formation, you just have to recognize a few things. Namely, what players are on the field, and where they are.
If a defense comes out with a lot of big guys close to the line of scrimmage, you’re facing a defense predicated on stopping the run. If the defense comes out with more than the standard four defensive backs, they’re trying to stop the pass. Again, for anyone with a basic knowledge of football, this is elementary, but I’m covering all the bases.
If you come out against a defense that is trying to stop the run, take advantage and pass the ball. If you come out against a defense that is trying to stop the pass, vice versa. However, there’s more to the story than just identifying formations, you also have to be able to recognize coverages and the positioning of the defensive backs.
For the uninitiated, the difference between man and zone coverage is this. With man coverage, a defensive player is assigned one specific offensive player and tasked with following him, preventing him from making a play. In a zone, a player is given a certain part of the field to protect. Both coverages have pros and cons, but without getting into the complexities of coverages, here’s what’s important for madden.
When a receiver is in man coverage, it’s one versus one. If you look out wide and see that someone fast, say Tyreek Hill, is one on one with a corner and it’s man coverage, you can take a shot deep, expecting him to outrun his man. When a defense is in zone, you’ve gotta find the hole. It’s impossible for a defense to cover the entire field in zones, so you’ve gotta find the parts of the field they’re missing. These plays will take longer to develop, but have a higher payoff.
So how do you identify a zone or a man? Just look at where the corners are. In a man, they’re almost always directly across from their receiver. The best way to check is to put a receiver in motion before the play. If the corner follows them, it’s man, if they don’t, it’s a zone! It’s that easy.
Another quick tip? Look at where the safeties are. If both safeties are deep, then it’s your standard every day defensive play. But if one safety creeps up towards the line of scrimmage, take notice. They might be blitzing, which would A. slow down the run game, and B. create opportunities for big pass plays. If there’s no deep safety, he can’t be running zone, which means one way or another, there’s a one on one opportunity.
Omaha It Up
You know what made Peyton Manning great? Not his lazer-rocket arm or elite quickness because, ha, that’s a laugher. What made Peyton Manning great was his ability to recognize defenses at the line of scrimmage and audible accordingly. In order to be a great Madden player, you have to be able to change plays at the line of scrimmage.
You can change pretty much everything before you snap the ball. You can change the formation, the play, which way you run the ball, and which routes the receivers run. Read the defense at the line of scrimmage, make the right changes, and if you come out with the right personnel, you could run a dozen different plays without taking single huddle. Speaking of which…
No Huddle Can Be Your Best Friend
Let’s say you run a play on first down, and it works amazingly. For instance, you come out, see they have a ton of defensive backs on the field, and break off a big run. Every Madden game has a “no huddle” option. If you don’t know, a no huddle just means your offense rushes back up to the line, in the same formation, with the same playcall. You can change the play at the line, like we discussed before, but the real benefit is that it prevents your opponents from changing the defense. You can kill an opponent by spamming the same play until either they learn to stop it or they waste a time out.
Don’t get too repetitive, because if they know what’s coming, they’ll be prepared to stop it, but especially with runs, it’s a great tool to have. I like to pick a formation, usually a shotgun set, and completely customize the play at the line of scrimmage based on what the defense is giving me.
To Be Continued
This was only a beginner’s course. I’ve played a lot of Madden, and I’d like to think I’m pretty good (Hit me up on twitter @RyanSmithNFL if you have Madden 18 on the PS4 or Madden 17 on the Xbox One or Tecmo Bowl on the NES). I just want to make the Madden community better so fewer opponents “lose connection” during our games. This is all football 101, and I hope you’ve learned something from this.
If not, just run Spider 2Y Banana every play, am I right, Raider Nation?