The NFL season will kickoff in just over a week when the Bears and Packers meet in the Thursday night opener. When that occurs, the 100th season of NFL football will be upon us.
As such, we, like so many others, fired up the latest edition of Madden 20 to let the virtual NFL world predict what it thinks will happen this upcoming season. When we first ran this exercise a couple weeks back with the idea of holding it for the week before the season, the Saints and Colts met in the Super Bowl with the Saints winning, but since running that simulation, well, some things have happened in Indianapolis. Andrew Luck announced his sudden retirement from the NFL at 29, leaving the Colts to enter the season with Jacoby Brissett as their quarterback.
With that in mind, we broke Madden 20 back out and fired it up again, this time moving Luck to third-string in Indy behind Brissett and Chad Kelly to see how the game sees the league shaking out in a Luck-less year. For the Colts, they still managed to win the division and make the playoffs at 10-6, as Brissett completed 72 percent of his passes for over 4,000 yards, 28 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions. Madden is clearly high on Indy’s new QB.
The rest of the league leaders in passing, rushing, and receiving shook out as follows.
Cam Newton was awarded MVP despite the Panthers finishing at 7-8-1, as he threw for 3,939 yards, 29 touchdowns, 10 interceptions, and completed 75 percent of his passes. He also rushed for 391 yards and nine touchdowns. I’m not sure how virtual MVP voting works, but it’s fairly shocking a non-playoff QB that wasn’t in the top-10 in any passing category other than completion percentage would win the award, but good for Cam. It’s also funny because Patrick Mahomes won Offensive Player of the Year, yet lost MVP to another QB. Aaron Donald won DPOY, and Freddie Kitchens got COY.
As for how the divisions shook out, here are the standings at the end of the regular season.
The Browns (12-4) and Chiefs (11-5) would earn first round byes in the AFC, while the Cowboys (12-4) and Bears (11-5) got a week off in the NFC. That left us with a Wild Card round that looked like this:
Ravens at Colts (41-35)
Cardinals at Saints (24-21)
Chargers at Patriots (42-35)
Eagles at 49ers (20-7)
The Colts would bow out in an absurdly high scoring affair, with the Cardinals somehow knocking off the Saints in New Orleans, the Patriots beating the Chargers at home, and Philly downing the Niners. That left us with a Divisional round featuring:
Ravens at Browns (27-24)
Cardinals at Cowboys (24-17)
Patriots at Chiefs (35-14)
Eagles at Bears (17-10)
The top-seeded Browns couldn’t avoid the fact that they are the Browns and lost to a Ravens franchise they spawned in the late 1990s when the team was unceremoniously moved from Cleveland. The rest of it went chalk, although the Chiefs taking down the Patriots to avenge last year’s AFC title game loss is noteworthy. The conference championship game picture that resulted was:
Ravens at Chiefs (24-18)
Bears at Cowboys (36-19)
Ah, there’s the gutting home loss in the playoffs Chiefs fans know so well. The Cowboys dispatched of the Bears with ease leaving us a Ravens-Cowboys Super Bowl.
Oh my. The Cowboys absolutely bludgeon the Ravens, as they hold Baltimore to 172 yards of offense while Dak Prescott tosses three touchdowns along with 310 yards. It’s a rather gross Super Bowl, with the Ravens not scoring a touchdown until garbage time in the fourth quarter and Dallas dominating from the opening kick.
The game also has Drew Brees and Eli Manning both retiring at season’s end — Manning started all year for the Giants over Daniel Jones. There were plenty of surprises in the season simulation — like the Cardinals making the playoffs, the Ravens and Cowboys making the Super Bowl, and Cam Newton winning MVP on a sub-.500 team — and it’s one of millions of outcomes the game can spit out, but if we get that Dak-Lamar Super Bowl matchup, don’t say no one predicted it.