'Madden 19' Review, Simulation: Browns make playoffs while Jaguars win the Super Bowl (!)

Yet another NFL benchmark has been crossed, because Madden is officially in my capable review hands, and as such we're that much closer to the start of the 2018 NFL regular season. "Madden 19" is one of the most ambitious renditions of the classic EA Sports football game in years, a version featuring a number of very intelligent upgrades to an already excellent gameplay. 

Two years ago, my simulation stunned the world by predicting the Falcons would make it to the Super Bowl. Last year, it predicted the Falcons would win the Super Bowl, which, well, 1) get a new team, Xbox and 2) not so stunning. (My XBox just picked the wrong NFC team with a bird mascot is all. Seems that was a problem in my house.)

This year, the results will be just as shocking. And I'll tell you what they are, but not before we run through some of the interesting things in the game. 

A smarter introduction

When you're young, you don't care about ease of entry into video games. Fire up the console, hand me the sticks and get out of the way. Once you're my age and you're just hanging out in your khakis getting disappointed when the Madden soundtrack doesn't feature some Wilco or Phish, you need a little structure and you want some helpful hints. This year, for the first time, Madden makes you set up how you want to play. For the first time as well, I believe, you get to pick your play style. 

There's Arcade, which features "over the top field action," Simulation, which let's you "play true to teams and players based on their ratings," and Competitive, where "user stick skills are king." I like this concept because different people want different things out of a video game. I'm a straightforward Sim type of guy but to each his own. 

The skill level is also right up front for what I believe is the first time and that's a good thing. There's no default -- you pick whether you're Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced or Expert and there's a breakdown to let you know where you qualify. (I chose Advanced, because I refuse to acknowledge I'm washed.) 

Recently the default game featured the Rams in your face with Los Angeles. Now the default intro game is the Jaguars and Eagles ... playing in London. The NFL is nothing if not completely lacking in subtlety. 

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What's new

Real Player Motion: Described as an "unmatched responsiveness and fluidity," the new way players move is basically designed, as far as I can tell, to make people better runners. Or to give better runners more of an advantage running the ball. There's the "One Cut" feature, which coupled with acceleration/turbo can let you burst through a hole, avoid a defender and pick up big yardage.

via EA Sports

User Controlled Celebration: It's entirely fitting to debut this feature with Antonio Brown on the cover, but you can now choose your own celebrations, in line with the NFL allowing them on the field, and do said celebrations by yourself or with your teammates. 

Create Your Own Draft Class: SAY WHAAAAAAAAAT? Described as "the No. 1 requested feature requested" by the Madden franchise community, you can now basically build your own draft class to import into the draft by "creating fictional characters from the past, present and future" or by bringing in draft classes available out in the Madden community. This is a crazy level of control.

Longshot Is Back: A second season with Devin Wade and Colt Cruise after the popular debut in "Madden 18," you can now be a character and take on the challenge of trying to make it to the NFL. Devin you'll find is "hanging on" in training camp. I wonder if he makes it! 

Bonus MUT Features: Now you can play Madden Ultimate Team against CPU-controlled versions of other MUT squads, which lets you figure out how you compare with other players. And you can team up with your friends to play online (or in person if kids these days still do that sort of thing, jk, lol) against CPU run squads. 

Franchise Scheme Fits: You can now pick the different offensive and defensive schemes you want to run in your franchise mode and it will tell you what players fit best in those modes and you can train players to be better fits to your schemes.  Aaaaaaaahhhhh. Where was this when I was skipping all of my third junior year classes back in the early 2000s? 

There's also the option to scout college players in franchise mode, to negotiate during the season, to install a game plan for the week and much, much more. Franchise mode looks just loaded in this edition. 

The Official 2018 CBS Sports Madden Simulation

As is my annual tradition, I select the worst team in football in order to make sure I don't influence the computer simulations. Congratulations Buffalo Bills, you're my team this year. 

Halfway through the year, the Bills are 3-5, which is actually really surprising and not great for their under backers. They're facing the 2-5 Bears, who are probably not thrilled with their lot in life either. Checking the standings eight weeks into the season and the Bills aren't last in the division, however, because the Patriots are 2-6??? STAY TUNED. 

After simming the other half of the season ... the Patriots still won the AFC East?!??! They went 7-1 down the stretch to seal the division. Unbelievable. Somehow AJ McCarron threw for 4,000 yards and the Bills didn't make the playoffs. Sure why not. 

Also unbelievable: THE BROWNS MAKE THE PLAYOFFS. They were a wild card in the AFC at 7-9 (hahahaha) finishing pretty close to the 8-7-1 Steelers. The Ravens fell to 6-10, while the Bengals ended up at 5-9-2 (and likely a contract extension for Marvin Lewis). 

The Jaguars were a stout 12-4, with the Texans kind of close behind at 9-7, securing the other wild card. Blake Bortles was fourth in the MVP vote, cracking the top 10 for the second straight year.

The Patriots, as mentioned, took the East.

And the Chargers won the West, behind 2018 NFL MVP PHILIP RIVERS

Your AFC playoff seeds:

1. Jaguars 12-4
2. Chargers 10-4-2
3. Patriots 9-7
4. Steelers 8-7-1
5. Texans 9-7
6. Browns 7-9

Over in the NFC, things got WEIRD. The Lions won the NFC North at 9-7, while the Packers finished 8-8 and the Vikings went 4-11-1.

The NFC South looked much more normal: the Saints went 14-2, while the Falcons were a wild card at 9-6-1. Sean Payton earned Coach of the Year honors for New Orleans riding high as football's best team. 

The Eagles won a three-way tie (!) in the NFC East over the Cowboys and Redskins at 9-7, with neither of the other two getting into the playoffs. 

So you're probably guessing that the Rams and the 49ers made the playoffs. WRONG. The Seahawks (12-4) and Cardinals (11-4-1) were the two reps out of the NFC West. That would blow some people's minds. 

Your NFC playoff seeds:

1. Saints 14-2
2. Seahawks 12-4
3. Eagles
4. Lions 9-7
5. Cardinals 11-4-1
6. Falcons 9-6-1

David Johnson, who was third in the MVP voting, helped, rushing 305 times for 1,606 yards to lead the league. He beat out Kareem Hunt (1,419), Ezekiel Elliott (1,411) and Leonard Fournette (1,280). I swear this game loves some weird backs: Ty Montgomery ran for 1,052 yards and LeGarrette Blount ran for 1,039. 

The receiving leaders were much weirder. Leading the league in receiving yards was Aaron Rodgers' top target, Davante Adams. I get that. But Quincy Enunwa at No. 2 (1,324 yards) and Taylor Gabriel (1,294) at No. 3 are just nuts. Danny Amendola (1,276) and Dede Westbrook (1,237) were next. If those five guys finish as the top five receivers in the NFL next year I'll print out this article and eat it. James Washington had more receiving yards than Antonio Brown. I probably shouldn't have given my Xbox a bottle of whiskey before doing this. 

Dont'a Hightower led the NFL with 21 sacks, OK sure. Calais Campbell was next at 15, while Myles Garrett had 13.5. Some of that is believable. Anyway ...

The playoffs

I'm a little scared of what might happen here after seeing all that, to be honest. Fortunately logic sort of prevailed. 

The Patriots stopped Cleveland from getting revenge against Bill Belichick, beating the Browns 19-14. The Falcons beat the Eagles 28-21, the Texans toppled the Steelers 13-7 and the Lions destroyed the Cardinals 35-14 in the wild-card round.

The Jaguars then took down Houston 28-14 in the divisional round, while the Falcons edged the Saints 25-22 in New Orleans (division spice!). The Seahawks snuck past the Lions 19-16 and the Chargers beat the Patriots (35-31) to set up the possibility of my worst nightmare, where my Xbox is like a Westworld robot stuck on a Falcons-Chargers Super Bowl prediction.


Instead it's ... Jaguars vs. Seahawks. Just like everyone will predict in a few weeks. 

And boy oh boy did the Jaguars absolutely annihilate them. 31-3, Jacksonville rolls the Seahawks in the Super Bowl. Things got so bad that Cody Kessler, now Jacksonville's backup apparently, attempted 11 passes after Blake Bortles threw for 298 yards and two touchdowns. 

Leonard Fournette ran 21 times for 111 yards and Marqise Lee led the Jaguars in receiving yards, catching six passes for 95 yards and a score. Malik Jackson brought it on defense, picking up 1.5 sacks. Myles Jack joined in the other half, although he didn't record a pick or a fumble recovery with which he could have avoided being down. 

Oh well, Jaguars fans will just have to settle for winning the freaking Super Bowl. For once, this simulation doesn't feel that wild. 

CBS Sports Senior Writer

Will Brinson joined CBS Sports in 2010 and enters his seventh season covering the NFL for CBS. He previously wrote for FanHouse along with myriad other Internet sites. A North Carolina native who lives... Full Bio

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