Madden NFL 2004 Walkthrough

Are you ready for some football? Our walkthrough covers all major editions of Madden NFL 2004, with summaries of all 32 NFL teams, tips on building your franchise, and strategies for the offensive and defensive sides of the ball.

by

By Doug Radcliffe
Design by Katie Bush

Are you ready for some football? EA Sports' 2004 edition of its classic Madden football franchise offers a new owner mode, playmaker control, updated player rosters, and (for PC and PlayStation 2 owners) online play capability. This game guide covers all major editions of Madden 2004, with a special chapter on the online multiplayer mode.

This Gamespot Game Guide to Madden NFL 2004 includes:

  • Team Stats: Vital statistics for all 32 National Football League teams.
  • Team Overviews: Strategic overviews of all 32 National Football League teams, including highlights of key players (with statistics) and tips on using the team effectively.
  • Managing a Franchise: Tips for franchise mode from running your mini-camp to managing your stadium.
  • Offensive Gameplan: This section focuses on offensive strategy with tips on reading defenses, knowing formations and packages, and implementing an effective passing and rushing game. Includes tips on using playmaker control to maximize success.
  • Defensive Gameplan: This section focuses on defensive strategy with tips on formation selection, player movements, and playmaker control.
  • Online Strategies: The PlayStation 2 and PC versions of Madden 2004 include online mode. Look here for tips on dominating the online competition.

Chapter 1: Team Stats

Can't decide on a team to use in franchise mode or to play against a friend or even a stranger online? The following table reveals the relative team statistics for all 32 NFL teams. Good players certainly help, but any team can defeat any other on any given Sunday.

TEAMCONFERENCE AND DIVISIONOVERALLOFFENSEDEFENSESPECIAL TEAMSQUARTER BACKSRUNNING BACKSWIDE RECEIVERS
Arizona CardinalsNFC West78777781788171
Atlanta FalconsNFC South84868387958383
Baltimore RavensAFC North82808487758678
Buffalo BillsAFC East85868476918783
Carolina PanthersNFC South82808491758580
Chicago BearsNFC North82818486798183
Cincinnati BengalsAFC North81837979799081
Cleveland BrownsAFC North80817989818282
Dallas CowboysNFC East81788580737881
Denver BroncosAFC West84868283829186
Detroit LionsNFC North80808088798378
Green Bay PackersNFC North87898483989282
Houston TexansAFC South80818071837981
Indianapolis ColtsAFC South83877889928686
Jacksonville JaguarsAFC South82838277868980
Kansas City ChiefsAFC West84887987879680
Miami DolphinsAFC East88859191849679
Minnesota VikingsNFC North82857963888684
New England PatriotsAFC East86858792908283
New Orleans SaintsNFC South83887894899186
New York GiantsNFC East85858489878786
New York JetsAFC East84868278888982
Oakland RaidersAFC West87908493978987
Philadelphia EaglesNFC East87878686958680
Pittsburgh SteelersAFC North86868584848389
San Diego ChargersAFC West83838484809582
San Francisco 49ersNFC West86888578938686
Seattle SeahawksNFC West84858476838983
St. Louis RamsNFC West86918179919487
Tampa Bay BuccaneersNFC South88849189878286
Tennessee TitansAFC South85868392938780
Washington RedskinsNFC East82818486767683

Chapter 2: Team Overviews

This section provides statistics, strategies, and tips for all 32 NFL teams. This should help give you a better idea on which team you want to select to lead in a franchise or in contests against the computer or a human opponent. Teams have tendencies, such as relying more heavily on defense or being a run-oriented or pass-oriented team. These overviews will help you decide on a team that best suits your style of play.

Arizona Cardinals

Division: NFC West
2002 Record: 5-11
Head Coach: Dave McGinnis (13-28 overall, 0-0 postseason)
2002 Offensive Stats: 296.1 yards per game
2002 Defensive Stats: 376.3 yards allowed per game

Key Players:

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLTHROW ACCURACYTHROW POWERAWARENESSAGILITYACCELERATION
Jeff BlakeQB787988796063

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLAWARENESSSPEEDACCELERATIONAGILITYCARRYINGBREAK TACKLES
Emmitt SmithRB81998181798681

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLRUN BLOCKPASS BLOCKSTRENGTHAWARENESSAGILITY
Leonard DavisRG959392978548

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLACCELERATION SPEEDCATCHINGTACKLEAWARENESS
Dexter JacksonFS838586706676

The Arizona Cardinals lost several key players in the off season. Jake "The Snake" Plummer, their longtime (though inconsistent) quarterback, left for the Denver Broncos; their leading receiver over the last few years (though he was hurt for most of last year), David Boston, headed out to the San Diego Chargers. Kwamie Lassiter, their excellent defensive back, also shipped out for the Chargers.

The Cardinals are a shell of what they were a year ago and they weren't even that successful then, going just 5-11 last season. Key signings in the off-season include Emmitt Smith, the NFL's leading rusher of all-time. He's certainly lost a step since his prime with the Dallas Cowboys but he's still a viable option for both the running game and a receiver out of the backfield. Emmitt's high awareness stat exemplifies his veteran status; expect him to follow routes properly and know what to do in specific situations. Don't hesitate to mix it up with Smith's backup, though. Marcel Shipp is a good option if Emmitt doesn't give you the spark you need.

Choose running plays to the right to utilize Leonard Davis, the Cardinals stellar right guard. There are no standouts on offense, so a balanced gameplan will be a key for success. If you pass every down against a human opponent, expect to see nothing but passing defenses and the Cardinals simply don't have the skill to win those battles. Run when they expect a pass and pass when they expect a run. The Cardinals' wide receivers are also below average with no real stars. Consider Freddie Jones, the Cardinals tight end, one of the best receiving options, particularly off the play action pass.

Atlanta Falcons

Division: NFC South
2002 Record: 9-6-1
Head Coach: Dan Reeves (187-155-2 overall, 11-9 postseason)
2002 Offensive Stats: 345.9 yards per game
2002 Defensive Stats: 357.6 yards allowed per game

Key Players:

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLTHROW ACCURACYTHROW POWERAWARENESSAGILITYACCELERATION
Michael VickQB958497809594

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLAWARENESSSPEEDACCELERATIONAGILITYCARRYINGBREAK TACKLES
Warrick DunnRB85859494968766

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLSPEEDACCELERATIONCATCHINGAGILITYAWARENESS
Peerless PriceWR919796899684

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLTACKLESTRENGTHAWARENESSACCELERATIONSPEED
Keith BrookingMLB949380908778

Playing the Atlanta Falcons is about using Michael Vick to his full potential. Just look at his agility and acceleration statistics! He's by far the fastest quarterback in the game and rivals even the fastest running backs. Atlanta's playbook is filled with plays utilizing Vick as a runner in sweeps and draws.

Michael Vick is one of the best players in this year's Madden. He's potent as a passer and as a runner.

Practice using Vick as a runner and get outside where Vick's speed will be able to outrun pursuing linebackers and defensive backs. He's also a great scrambler on passing plays where all your receivers are covered. Keep him around the line of scrimmage and if there are no defenders in your path, make a run for it. You'll be shocked how easily he can scamper for a 10 yard gain. Michael Vick is one of the best--if not the best--player in Madden 2004.

The Falcons aren't bad at running back and receiver either. The Falcons use a tandem of Warrick Dunn (the faster, better pass catcher) and T.J. Duckett (more powerful, straight ahead runner). Mix up your running attack with Dunn, Duckett, and Vick. An effective rushing attack will open up the pass with play action. Expect opponents to start stacking the line to stop Vick, which will open up routes for Peerless Price, the Falcons' new receiver (with high speed, he's also good for deep one-on-one coverage), and Alge Crumpler, the Falcon's top rated tight end.

Baltimore Ravens

Division: AFC North
2002 Record: 7-9
Head Coach: Brian Billick (37-27-0 overall, 7-9 postseason)
2002 Offensive Stats: 289.9 yards per game
2002 Defensive Stats: 334.6 yards allowed per game

Key Players:

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLTHROW ACCURACYTHROW POWERAWARENESSAGILITYACCELERATION
Kyle BollerQB758293606568

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLAWARENESSSPEEDACCELERATIONAGILITYCARRYINGBREAK TACKLES
Jamal LewisRB88868794887495

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLRUN BLOCKCATCHINGSTRENGTHAWARENESSBREAK TACKLE
Todd HeapTE905687698366

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLTACKLESTRENGTHAWARENESSACCELERATIONSPEED
Ray LewisMLB999981999285

The Baltimore Ravens, Super Bowl champions just three years ago, are rebuilding. The team drafted a quarterback--Kyle Boller--in the first round of this year's NFL draft; the Ravens expect him to be their leader in the near future. He's roughly equivalent to Chris Redman, the Ravens' other possible starter. Jamal Lewis leads the Ravens' rushing attack. He's a powerful running best used in dive, smash, and off tackle running plays. He doesn't quite have the speed for those sweeps and toss runs and instead excels at breaking tackles and running over linebackers.

The Ravens are weak at wide receiver, so you'll need to utilize Todd Heap, the Ravens' excellent tight end, to be effective in the passing game. Alter your passing packages to switch Todd Heap around in the various formations, so you can send him in as many different pass patterns as possible. If your opponent's defense keeps Heap well covered, Travis Taylor is your next best receiving option, or you could hit Jamal Lewis on screen passes in the flat.

Defense is what won the Ravens their Super Bowl and its strong enough to keep them close in most contests. Ray Lewis, with an overall rating of 99, leads the Ravens defense. He's arguably the best linebacker in the NFL (though Derrick Brooks of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers may say otherwise) and certainly the best in Madden 2004. High awareness and tackle rating means he's nearly always there for the stop.

Buffalo Bills

Division: AFC East
2002 Record: 8-8
Head Coach: Gregg Williams (11-31-0 overall, 0-0 postseason)
2002 Offensive Stats: 349.4 yards per game
2002 Defensive Stats: 324.3 yards allowed per game

Key Players:

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLTHROW ACCURACYTHROW POWERAWARENESSAGILITYACCELERATION
Drew BledsoeQB919398954042

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLAWARENESSSPEEDACCELERATIONAGILITYCARRYINGBREAK TACKLES
Travis HenryRB88839093896793

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLSPEEDACCELERATIONCATCHINGAGILITYAWARENESS
Eric MouldsWR939395919192

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLTACKLESTRENGTHAWARENESSACCELERATIONSPEED
Takeo SpikesROLB949380908380

The Buffalo Bills, despite their average 8-8 record, had one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL last year. Led by discarded quarterback Drew Bledsoe (formerly of the New England Patriots) and anchored by star running back Travis Henry, the Bills formed an excellent balance of the run and pass. Both Drew Bledsoe's arm and Travis Henry's legs could beat the defense on any given play.

The Bills did lose an excellent receiver, Peerless Price, to the Atlanta Falcons, but top rated Eric Moulds is still a standout, though expect opponents to cover him well as he's far and away, the best target for your quarterback. Bledsoe's excellent throw power, accuracy, and awareness encourage some deep balls and Moulds' straight 90s in key categories means defenses shouldn't leave him alone in man-on-man coverage--be careful with your blitzing! Don't be afraid to spread the field and let Bledsoe take control of the game. Call plays with Henry as an outlet option in case Moulds attracts too much attention. But don't neglect Josh Reed, Peerless Price's replacement; he's an emerging star and can certainly make opponents pay for their aggressive defense on Moulds.

The Bills defense hurt them in several games last year, but they're better this year. Takeo Spikes, from the Bengals, is a top notch linebacker (often compared to Ray Lewis of the Ravens) and London Fletcher form a solid linebacker group. Keep them on the field as much as possible except in four wide receiver sets. Nate Clements and Pierson Prioleau are both capable defensive backs.

Carolina Panthers

Division: NFC South
2002 Record: 7-9
Head Coach: John Fox (7-9 overall)
2002 Offensive Stats: 282.4 yards per game
2002 Defensive Stats: 290.4 yards allowed per game

Key Players:

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLTHROW ACCURACYTHROW POWERAWARENESSAGILITYACCELERATION
Rodney PeeteQB758384785553

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLAWARENESSSPEEDACCELERATIONAGILITYCARRYINGBREAK TACKLES
Stephen DavisRB87888791828593

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLSTRENGTHTACKLEAWARENESSAGILITYACCELERATION
Julius PeppersLE937879708291

The Carolina Panthers, one of the newest NFL teams (with Jacksonville Jaguars, Houston Texans, and the new Cleveland Browns being others), has been through the highs and lows of expansion. Just a year after their inception, the Panthers made it all the way to the NFC Championship game, only to lose to the eventual Super Bowl champions that year, the Green Bay Packers. But since then, the Panthers have fallen on hard times but appear to be slowly, but surely, rebuilding to prior form.

Defense leads the Carolina Panthers; they're one of several teams with a defense higher rated than their offense. Julius Peppers is one of the defensive stars; the North Carolina standout is an outside, speed pass rusher with the ability to rack up a lot of sacks against an inferior offensive line. Look for ways of getting Peppers lined up against a weaker lineman or take control and use swim and spin maneuvers to burst into the backfield.

The Panthers' QB situation is tenuous. Rodney Peete is a couple bad games from the bench and the reserves waiting in the wings aren't exactly highly rated replacements. You won't be able to play Carolina like Buffalo and expect to have consistent success. Instead, ride your best offensive player as much as possible: running back Stephen Davis. He's an excellent power runner. Feed him the rock as much as possible on inside and off tackle runs. If your opponent begins stacking the line to stop the run, then shift to the pass using short, high-percentage passes to eat up yardage and leave short yardage situations for Davis' power running game.

Chicago Bears

Division: NFC North
2002 Record: 4-12
Head Coach: Dick Jauron (28-36-0 overall, 0-1 postseason)
2002 Offensive Stats: 278.5 yards per game
2002 Defensive Stats: 350.4 yards allowed per game

Key Players:

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLTHROW ACCURACYTHROW POWERAWARENESSAGILITYACCELERATION
Kordell StewartQB797885727579

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLAWARENESSSPEEDACCELERATIONAGILITYCARRYINGBREAK TACKLES
Anthony ThomasRB81808585817790

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLSPEEDACCELERATIONCATCHINGAGILITYAWARENESS
Marty BookerWR909190928889

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLTACKLESTRENGTHAWARENESSACCELERATIONSPEED
Brian UrlacherMLB989582899389

The Chicago Bears are just two years removed from a 13-3 season and a playoff appearance. But the lack of a good running game and consistent quarterback play sent the team into the cellar: the Bears posted a miserable 4-12 record in 2002. So the Bears went out and got a quarterback. The man once known in Pittsburgh as "Slash," Kordell Stewart, now leads the Bears. He's one of the most agile quarterbacks in the NFL so don't hesitate to utilize his scrambling style. Look for Marty Booker when you do decide to air it out. Shift him to the other side or into the slot to move him around the field and hopefully keep defenses from stacking defenders on him.

Anthony "A-Train" Thomas looked to be one of the premiere backs in the NFL when he emerged as the starter two years ago. But he had a poor showing last year and now boasts fairly average ratings. He's a power back and lacks the speed to get outside on most running plays. Mix up the runs with Thomas being the power, inside running and Stewart on inside and outside runs to keep an opponent guessing. Hopefully the change of pace may pose control problems for a human opponent tackler; used to charging the slower Thomas, it may be tougher to tackle the nimbler Stewart.

Defense is a brighter spot on the Bears. Brian Urlacher, one of the best players in the game, is a fierce run stopper and also possesses the skills to be effective in pass coverage. Free Safety Mike Brown is also a defensive standout.

Cincinnati Bengals

Division: AFC North
2002 Record: 2-14
Head Coach: Marvin Lewis (first season)
2002 Offensive Stats: 325.4 yards per game
2002 Defensive Stats: 329.1 yards allowed per game

Key Players:

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLTHROW ACCURACYTHROW POWERAWARENESSAGILITYACCELERATION
Carson PalmerQB798691716058

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLAWARENESSSPEEDACCELERATIONAGILITYCARRYINGBREAK TACKLES
Corey DillonRB93919292878795

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLSPEEDACCELERATIONCATCHINGAGILITYAWARENESS
Chad JohnsonWR859392868977

The Bengals haven't had much success in recent years and they've drafted another first round quarterback hoping to turn things around.

The Bengals have acquired an unflattering nickname in recent years: the "Bungles." Poor draft selections have kept the Bengals in the losing column for years. The Bengals have drafted quarterbacks several times hoping for one of them to emerge as a legitimate NFL star. But none of panned out. Why not try again? The Bengals used the number one draft pick overall on Heisman trophy winner Carson Palmer. Jon Kitna, the Bengals' other primarily quarterback, actually had a decent stretch at the end of last season but Carson Palmer is the future.

The Bengals aren't without stars, though, and a capable Madden player can certainly mount a potent offense (though quarterbacking will certainly be a challenge). Corey Dillon is an NFL star stuck on a bad NFL team (at least for now). He's an effective outside and inside runner with excellent speed and tackle breaking ability. Your offensive gameplan begins with Corey Dillon! Chad Johnson is emerging as a weapon at wide receiver. He's not a veteran, though, hence the low awareness score. Look for him on hook and out patterns.

Cleveland Browns

Division: AFC North
2002 Record: 9-7
Head Coach: Butch Davis (16-16-0 overall, 0-1 postseason)
2002 Offensive Stats: 314.2 yards per game
2002 Defensive Stats: 334.3 yards allowed per game

Key Players:

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLTHROW ACCURACYTHROW POWERAWARENESSAGILITYACCELERATION
Kelly HolcombQB819087805653

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLAWARENESSSPEEDACCELERATIONAGILITYCARRYINGBREAK TACKLES
William GreenRB83699092888186

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLSPEEDACCELERATIONCATCHINGAGILITYAWARENESS
Quincy MorganWR849392849175

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLSTRENGTHTACKLEAWARENESSAGILITYACCELERATION
Gerard WarrenDT889188676482

The Cleveland Browns squeaked into last year's playoffs and then participated in one of the most exciting playoff games in recent memory: a high-scoring shootout against the Pittsburgh Steelers. That was then, this is now. Kelly Holcomb now leads the Cleveland Brown offense; this leaves former first overall draft pick Tim Couch carrying the clipboard. Both have similar ratings but if you're playing the Browns realistically this season, put Kelly Holcomb in the starting job.

William Green emerged as a solid starting running back and the Browns are certainly eager to see what he's made of as a full time starter for the 2003 season. His ratings aren't stellar (very low awareness rating to reflect Green's almost rookie status) but he's a solid inside runner with the ability to burst outside for a long gain. He's also excellent in the flat. Look for shotgun and single back multi-receiver sets that send Green in the flat as a dump off option if your primary receivers are covered.

The Browns have a good group of receivers, though no particular superstars. Dennis Northcutt is extremely fast (great on punt returns also) so look to free him up in single coverage on three, four, and five receiver sets. The Browns' playbook has several wide open formations with the ability to mix in the run and the pass effectively. Run Green at double tight end sets or pass out of the same formation with two tight ends running patterns.

Dallas Cowboys

Division: NFC East
2002 Record: 5-11
Head Coach: Bill Parcells (138-100-1 overall, 11-6 postseason)
2002 Offensive Stats: 273.4 yards per game
2002 Defensive Stats: 329.2 yards allowed per game

Key Players:

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLTHROW ACCURACYTHROW POWERAWARENESSAGILITYACCELERATION
Quincy CarterQB727488646970

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLAWARENESSSPEEDACCELERATIONAGILITYCARRYINGBREAK TACKLES
Troy HambrickRB77688287768288

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLSPEEDACCELERATIONCATCHINGAGILITYAWARENESS
Joey GallowayWR849492868982

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLSTRENGTHTACKLEAWARENESSAGILITYACCELERATION
La'Roi GloverDT979094896476

It's been a long time since the Dallas Cowboys dominated the NFL in the 1990s. The team barely resembles those championship teams. Even the NFL's all-time leading rusher and former Super Bowl MVP Emmitt Smith is no longer a Cowboy and instead runs the ball for the Arizona Cardinals. The Dallas Cowboys, in an effort to regain their prior glory, have hired one of the best NFL coaches ever: Bill Parcells. He, along with you, will have plenty of work ahead to turn the Cowboys back into a Super Bowl contending team.

Defense is definitely the team's strong suit. La'Roi Glover anchors a good defensive line and Roy Williams is a standout at safety. The Cowboy's offense is certainly in flux and lacks the game breaking stars of yesteryear. Quincy Carter was given the starting nod during 2003's training camp. He has average rating but does have mobility, which is certainly a plus in Madden. Use Quincy on rollouts and QB scrambles to keep defenses guessing.

Joey Galloway, Terry Glenn, and Antonio Bryant aren't a bad trio of receivers. Utilize Galloway and Bryant's speed on deep balls (though don't expect consistent success given the Cowboy's inconsistent quarterbacking). Also, use them on crossing routes for shorter, higher percentage passing.

Denver Broncos

Division: AFC West
2002 Record: 9-7
Head Coach: Mike Shanahan (89-59-0 overall, 7-2 postseason)
2002 Offensive Stats: 380.6 yards per game
2002 Defensive Stats: 301.6 yards allowed per game

Key Players:

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLTHROW ACCURACYTHROW POWERAWARENESSAGILITYACCELERATION
Jake PlummerQB828486796768

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLAWARENESSSPEEDACCELERATIONAGILITYCARRYINGBREAK TACKLES
Clinton PortisRB92839597977987

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLSPEEDACCELERATIONCATCHINGAGILITYAWARENESS
Rod SmithWR909195928992

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLACCELERATION SPEEDCATCHINGTACKLEAWARENESS
Deltha O'NealCB869595706375

Apparently Brian Griese wasn't the second coming of John Elway. He's no longer the Broncos quarterback and now backs up Jay Fiedler for the Miami Dolphins. So the Broncos try a new experiment: they've signed Jake "The Snake" Plummer of the Arizona Cardinals. Now the questions about Plummer will finally be answered. Was it the Cardinals' system or is Plummer as inconsistent as his statistics would indicate?

In Madden, Plummer has fairly average ratings. He does possess some mobility, ideally used in rollouts and not necessarily as a dependable runner like Vick. He has a good group of receivers to work with at Denver. Rod Smith, Ed McCaffrey, and the emerging Ashley Lelie are all capable targets. And don't forget Shannon Sharpe, one of the best tight ends ever.

Speaking of dependable runners, Clinton Portis emerged in 2002 as a dominant force for the Broncos (who always seem to draft awesome running backs). Portis' speed, acceleration, and agility make him very dangerous as an outside runner. Follow the blockers and get beyond linebackers and Portis could take it to the house. Watch your special moves and don't get too fancy; Portis' carrying rating is not too great so he can put the ball on the turf if you aren't careful.

Detroit Lions

Division: NFC North
2002 Record: 3-13
Head Coach: Steve Mariucci (57-39-0 overall, 3-4 postseason)
2002 Offensive Stats: 279.4 yards per game
2002 Defensive Stats: 382.3 yards allowed per game

Key Players:

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLTHROW ACCURACYTHROW POWERAWARENESSAGILITYACCELERATION
Joey HarringtonQB798589735957

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLAWARENESSSPEEDACCELERATIONAGILITYCARRYINGBREAK TACKLES
James StewartRB83868583808987

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLSPEEDACCELERATIONCATCHINGAGILITYAWARENESS
Charles RogersWR849392868970

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLSTRENGTHTACKLEAWARENESSAGILITYACCELERATION
Robert PorcherLE908786897080

The Detroit Lions may be in rebuilding mode but the pieces are being put in place to form a solid formation. Second year starter Joey Harrington continues to improve, though he's not rated that highly in this year's Madden. Rookie Charles Rogers is a speed threat at receiver and James Stewart is a well-rounded, though not exceptional starting running back. The defense also has its question marks; it was one of the most porous in the NFL last year giving up over 380 yards per game on average.

A balanced attack will be important to maintain offensive success. Stay out of situations where the defense knows exactly what's coming. Third and long will not be Detroit or Joey Harrington's strong suit! Defensive issues will force you to keep in the game on offense; not an easy task. Consider not taking too many risks on defense. Heavy blitzing will put a lot of pressure on your defensive backs and they're just not good enough to be dependent on man-to-man coverage play in and play out. Mix in zone coverage to take the heat off of the outside corners.

Green Bay Packers

Division: NFC North
2002 Record: 12-4
Head Coach: Mike Sherman (33-15-0 overall, 1-2 postseason)
2002 Offensive Stats: 347.5 yards per game
2002 Defensive Stats: 311.6 yards allowed per game

Key Players:

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLTHROW ACCURACYTHROW POWERAWARENESSAGILITYACCELERATION
Brett FavreQB989499985958

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLAWARENESSSPEEDACCELERATIONAGILITYCARRYINGBREAK TACKLES
Ahman GreenRB92889599937689

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLSPEEDACCELERATIONCATCHINGAGILITYAWARENESS
Donald DriverWR889290909084

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLACCELERATION SPEEDCATCHINGTACKLEAWARENESS
Darren SharperFS989587757690

Brett Favre is the top rated quarterback in Madden.

The Green Bay Packers are led by the highest rated quarterback in Madden 2004: the exemplary NFL iron man (he's well-known for his durability) Brett Favre. He's one of the most exciting and hard-throwing quarterbacks of all-time--and that's reflected in his stats. Check out the throw power of 99. He also boasts excellent accuracy and awareness scores. He's a gunslinger, a great pocket passer, and also effective on rollout situations. He can stretch the field on long bombs and has the power to gun a ball into tight coverage.

Ahman Green complements Favre perfectly. He's a powerful running back with an acceleration rating of 99. Use the sprint button to burst into holes and use the spin and juke moves to get around linebackers and into the secondary. Ahman Green can break long runs easily. Don't give up on the run when playing as the Packers. The team's great balance of Green and Favre mean opponents can't play all pass defense or all run defense. Mix up your play calling. Pass from running formations and run from passing formations to open up the defense.

Favre has some solid targets at the wide receiver position. Donald Driver emerged last year as the number one Green Bay target but don't neglect Bubba Franks, a quality tight end. Call plays for Ahman Green out of the backfield; you should try and dump off the ball to Green around four to five times a game and use his speed and your special maneuvers to break long gains.

Houston Texans

Division: AFC South
2002 Record: 4-12
Head Coach: Dom Capers (34-46-0 overall, 1-1 postseason)
2002 Offensive Stats: 223.3 yards per game
2002 Defensive Stats: 326.9 yards allowed per game

Key Players:

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLTHROW ACCURACYTHROW POWERAWARENESSAGILITYACCELERATION
David CarrQB838793755960

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLSPEEDACCELERATIONCATCHINGAGILITYAWARENESS
Andre JohnsonWR829595828865

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLTACKLESTRENGTHAWARENESSACCELERATIONSPEED
Jamie SharperMLB919276898280

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLACCELERATION SPEEDCATCHINGTACKLEAWARENESS
Aaron GlennCB949696706692

The Houston Texans are coming off a typical first-year expansion team start: 4-12, not a terrible record. The building blocks are being put in place for a solid team in the years to come. Second year player David Carr is a strong-armed quarterback and was able to shake off a long year of rookie quarterback blues (a lot of sacks!) and given a few new weapons to use in his arsenal: the Texans used their first draft pick on Andre Johnson, a speed receiver to help Carr stretch defenses, which should give Jabar Gaffney and Corey Bradford more looks.

When playing as the Texans, utilize Andre Johnson's speed and try to get him matched up in the slot with a linebacker or slower corner. If you're successful, your opponent may have to respect your passing game more, which should open up shorter routes to your other receivers, tight end, and running back.

Dom Capers is a defensive-minded coach and he's built a sturdy defense in Houston. The linebackers, led by Jamie Sharper, are solidly rated. Keep them on the field as often as possible. Aaron Glenn at cornerback is one of the best in the game and can handle single coverage on most team's primary wide receiver.

Indianapolis Colts

Division: AFC South
2002 Record: 10-6
Head Coach: Tony Dungy (64-48-0 overall, 2-5 postseason)
2002 Offensive Stats: 351.0 yards per game
2002 Defensive Stats: 306.8 yards allowed per game

Key Players:

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLTHROW ACCURACYTHROW POWERAWARENESSAGILITYACCELERATION
Peyton ManningQB929296945244

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLAWARENESSSPEEDACCELERATIONAGILITYCARRYINGBREAK TACKLES
Edgerrin JamesRB88868988878387

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLSPEEDACCELERATIONCATCHINGAGILITYAWARENESS
Marvin HarrisonWR999697999797

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLSTRENGTHTACKLEAWARENESSAGILITYACCELERATION
Dwight FreeneyDT877174678291

The Indianapolis Colts have one of the most powerful trios in the NFL: Peyton Manning at quarterback, Edgerrin James at running back, and Marvin Harrison at wide receiver. Peyton is the quintessential pocket passer with good accuracy and throwing power. Edgerrin James may have lost a step since his knee injury a couple years ago but he's still a force to be reckoned with, especially as an outlet receiver in the flat for Manning. Also call plays to hit James in the middle should the linebackers drop into zone coverage.

But the real weapon is Marvin Harrison: rated 99 overall with 99 catching ability. He's also extremely fast, agile, and should run routes cleanly and accurately. Get him the ball as often as possible. Expect opponents to keep a close eye on Harrison's whereabouts.

When calling multiple-receiver formations, shift Harrison around into the slot or put him in motion so he can get off the line cleanly. Use him in all types of routes: slants, hooks, fly, post, and go routes. Don't hesitate to test your opponent's defense with a bomb or two to Harrison. Your opponent will be forced to respect the long ball, which opens more holes for James. If Harrison is routinely covered, look for Reggie Wayne, Marcus Pollard (a great tight end), or Edgerrin James out of the backfield.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Division: AFC South
2002 Record: 6-10
Head Coach: Jack Del Rio (first season)
2002 Offensive Stats: 303.2 yards per game
2002 Defensive Stats: 333.4 yards allowed per game

Key Players:

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLTHROW ACCURACYTHROW POWERAWARENESSAGILITYACCELERATION
Mark BrunellQB868987876061

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLAWARENESSSPEEDACCELERATIONAGILITYCARRYINGBREAK TACKLES
Fred TaylorRB90859293898890

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLSPEEDACCELERATIONCATCHINGAGILITYAWARENESS
Jimmy SmithWR898789938894

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLSTRENGTHTACKLEAWARENESSAGILITYACCELERATION
Hugh DouglasDE978687947383

The Jacksonville Jaguars have had the weapons in place for a championship run but haven't put together a solid season since their loss in the AFC Championship game to the Tennessee Titans a few years ago. Now their stars are beginning to age and it shows in their decline in statistics. Mark Brunell is a capable passer but this looks to be one of his last--if not his last--season as the Jaguars' signal caller. Byron Leftwich, drafted seventh overall in this year's collegiate draft, is the Jaguars' future at the quarterback position.

Fred Taylor is an exciting running back with a good mix of speed and tackle breaking ability. Jimmy Smith was consistently one of the best receivers in the NFL and still receives star treatment with above average ratings. Newly signed J.J. Stokes serves as the Jaguars' second receiver. Expect opponents to give Jimmy Smith a lot of attention so be prepared to look for Taylor or the Jags' tight end Kyle Brady as second and third options on the pass.

The Jaguars upgraded considerably on defense and it could be one of the better defensive squads in the NFL. Hugh Douglas is a dominant pass rusher at defensive end and Mike Peterson anchors a retooled linebacker group.

Kansas City Chiefs

Division: AFC West
2002 Record: 8-8
Head Coach: Dick Vermeil (90-91 overall, 6-4 postseason)
2002 Offensive Stats: 388.3 yards per game
2002 Defensive Stats: 408.4 yards allowed per game

Key Players:

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLTHROW ACCURACYTHROW POWERAWARENESSAGILITYACCELERATION
Trent GreenQB879288895748

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLAWARENESSSPEEDACCELERATIONAGILITYCARRYINGBREAK TACKLES
Priest HolmesRB97919297949791

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLRUN BLOCKCATCHINGSTRENGTHAWARENESSBREAK TACKLE
Tony GonzalezTE975790719175

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLRUN BLOCKPASS BLOCKSTRENGTHAWARENESSAGILITY
Will ShieldsRG989593959550

Kansas City's stars are apparent by just looking at the player stats: Priest Holmes and Tony Gonzalez lead the way. This dominant duo leaves little doubt what your offensive gameplan should be woven around. Steady doses of Priest Holmes on inside and outside runs then play action passes to Tony Gonzalez when your opponent decides he won't let Priest Holmes control the game. Run Priest behind highly rated right guard Will Shields for optimum success.

Trent Green and the Kansas City receiving squad are certainly not the best rated in Madden but they can certainly get the job done. Holmes and Gonzalez should always be your first and second options, but when your opponent takes those away, call a ball control passing game to support the low-rated receivers. Call plays with Priest Holmes going out of the backfield as often as possible even if you don't plan to toss the rock to him. Priest's presence will force your opponent to guard him or else, which should open up lanes for the receivers.

Miami Dolphins

Division: AFC East
2002 Record: 9-7
Head Coach: Dave Wannstedt (71-73 overall, 2-3 postseason)
2002 Offensive Stats: 337.0 yards per game
2002 Defensive Stats: 291.0 yards allowed per game

Key Players:

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLTHROW ACCURACYTHROW POWERAWARENESSAGILITYACCELERATION
Jay FiedlerQB848785856564

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLAWARENESSSPEEDACCELERATIONAGILITYCARRYINGBREAK TACKLES
Ricky WilliamsRB97949198938097

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLTACKLESTRENGTHAWARENESSACCELERATIONSPEED
Zach ThomasMLB959580938275

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLTACKLESTRENGTHAWARENESSACCELERATIONSPEED
Junior SeauROLB969676988676

If you're going to play as the Miami Dolphins then practice your running game because Ricky Williams is by far and away your best offensive player.

The Miami Dolphins are poised for a Super Bowl run. An injury to Jay Fiedler last year put their season in a tail spin and the Dolphins missed the playoffs despite Ricky Williams' NFL leading rushing performance. Ricky Williams is arguably the best running back in the NFL coming into this season and his statistics certainly reflect his power and speed. Ricky Williams boasts ratings of 98 acceleration and 97 break tackles. Jay Fiedler is a competent quarterback but the Miami Dolphins' offense revolves around Ricky Williams. Get him the ball as often as possible, even on short passing plays; he's one of the best receivers on the team as well.

Future hall of famer Junior Seau joins the Dolphins defense, already one of the best in the NFL, and now forms one of the top linebacking squads in the league. Seau plays right along side Zach Thomas, likely another future Hall of Famer. Make sure these players are on the field as often as possible. Both boast great awareness and coverage abilities. Jason Taylor on the defensive line should be able to apply plenty of pressure on the quarterback.

Minnesota Vikings

Division: NFC North
2002 Record: 6-10
Head Coach: Mike Tice (6-11-0 overall)
2002 Offensive Stats: 387.0 yards per game
2002 Defensive Stats: 360.6 yards allowed per game

Key Players:

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLTHROW ACCURACYTHROW POWERAWARENESSAGILITYACCELERATION
Daunte CulpepperQB888197747576

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLAWARENESSSPEEDACCELERATIONAGILITYCARRYINGBREAK TACKLES
Michael BennettRB86849898898379

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLSPEEDACCELERATIONCATCHINGAGILITYAWARENESS
Randy MossWR989999949788

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLSTRENGTHTACKLEAWARENESSAGILITYACCELERATION
Chad HovanDT948789786590

The Randy ratio dictates that a certain number of plays should involve Randy Moss, the Minnesota Vikings' incredible, and often controversial, wide receiver. Just look at his blinding statistics: 99 speed and 99 acceleration. You aren't playing the Vikings properly if you aren't going to Randy Moss on a deep fly, post, or go pattern at least a couple times during the game. He's skilled enough to grab the ball out of double coverage and should be able to burst past most corners. Watch him at the snap of the ball and if he's got a step on the defender, lob him the ball and he'll do the rest. Move Randy around the formations and you may get him lined up against a linebacker if your opponent isn't careful.

Michael Bennett (although hurt, possibly for the year, at the beginning of the 2003 season) is a great option at running back and highly effective as both a runner (once again, check out that speed and acceleration) and as a receiving option. Look for him when Randy is well-covered. Byron Chamberlain also gives Culpepper a solid target at tight end.

Speaking of Culpepper, he's a weapon with his arm and his feet. Though not as nimble as Michael Vick, Culpepper is still agile enough for you to call his number on quarterback draws and runs. You'll certainly want to use him in rollout situations to buy more time for Randy to get open or to open a scrambling lane for Daunte to scamper for a handful of yardage or a first down. Call a lot of single back, three or four receiver formations to get Randy on single coverage or look for him on short crossing and slant routes.

New England Patriots

Division: NFC East
2002 Record: 9-7
Head Coach: Bill Belichick (61-67 overall, 4-1 postseason)
2002 Offensive Stats: 317.8 yards per game
2002 Defensive Stats: 336.1 yards allowed per game

Key Players:

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLTHROW ACCURACYTHROW POWERAWARENESSAGILITYACCELERATION
Tom BradyQB909392885455

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLSPEEDACCELERATIONCATCHINGAGILITYAWARENESS
Troy BrownWR889193949292

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLTACKLESTRENGTHAWARENESSACCELERATIONSPEED
Rosevelt ColvinLOLB908781838582

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLACCELERATION SPEEDCATCHINGTACKLEAWARENESS
Lawyer MilloySS989585678893

The New England Patriots stumbled last season after their Super Bowl winning season in 2001. The coaching staff spent the offseason retooling the defense by adding former Chicago Bear standout Rosevelt Colvin, a fierce outside linebacker and pass rushing specialist. Line up in the 3-4 defense and send Colvin at the quarterback frequently; shift him along the line of scrimmage as needed to plug holes and, hopefully, break around a lineman and get the quarterback.

The offense remains mostly the same. Tom Brady still leads the team and Troy Brown remains the standout at wide receiver (though Patten and Branch aren't shabby either). The running back situation is by committee. Antowain Smith typically handles the power rushing duties (goal line, short yardage) and Kevin Faulk handles third down situations and is more of a potent threat out of the backfield.

New Orleans Saints

Division: NFC South
2002 Record: 9-7
Head Coach: Jim Haslett (26-22 overall, 1-1 postseason)
2002 Offensive Stats: 325.3 yards per game
2002 Defensive Stats: 362.3 yards allowed per game

Key Players:

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLTHROW ACCURACYTHROW POWERAWARENESSAGILITYACCELERATION
Aaron BrooksQB898692807576

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLAWARENESSSPEEDACCELERATIONAGILITYCARRYINGBREAK TACKLES
Deuce McAllisterRB92829295938591

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLSPEEDACCELERATIONCATCHINGAGILITYAWARENESS
Joe HornWR929294929190

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLSPEEDACCELERATIONCATCHINGAGILITYAWARENESS
Donte StallworthWR849796859370

The New Orleans Saints started off last season with a great win over their division rival, and future Super Bowl winner, Tampa Bay but fizzled down the stretch. Their defense, still a question mark in 2003, just failed to stop anyone, including a poor offense like Carolina. Offensively, the Saints are stacked with stars, including an above average, mobile quarterback in Aaron Brooks and one of the league's emerging stars at running back, Deuce McAllister.

A pair of good receivers should really open up the passing lanes. Use Donte Stallworth as your deep speed threat (97 speed) and Joe Horn as the underneath target (though his straight 90s in the important ratings makes him a threat anywhere on the field). Mix in a steady dose of Deuce and spread the ball around, including plenty of screen passes in the flat to McAllister.

Defensively you'll need a bend but don't break philosophy. Using a lot of blitzers will put a lot of pressure on the Saints' defense. Stick with zone coverage for the most part, unless you're up against a team with a solid running back. In that case, use an additional player in the box to help contain the opponent's rushing game.

New York Giants

Division: NFC East
2002 Record: 10-6
Head Coach: Jim Fassel (54-41-1 overall; 2-3 postseason)
2002 Offensive Stats: 364.1 yards per game
2002 Defensive Stats: 309.3 yards allowed per game

Key Players:

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLTHROW ACCURACYTHROW POWERAWARENESSAGILITYACCELERATION
Kerry CollinsQB879095884548

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLAWARENESSSPEEDACCELERATIONAGILITYCARRYINGBREAK TACKLES
Tiki BarberRB88899291927891

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLRUN BLOCKCATCHINGSTRENGTHAWARENESSBREAK TACKLE
Jeremy ShockeyTE925288747777

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLSTRENGTHTACKLEAWARENESSAGILITYACCELERATION
Michael StrahanLE988687957287

San Francisco put a heartbreaking end to the 2002 New York Giants season. It was one of the greatest comebacks and one of the greatest playoff games of all time. And it also ended in controversy (was it pass interference or not?). The 2003 New York Giants hope to wash the bitter taste of that loss out of their mouth as they gear up for the long season ahead. Offensively, the team remains intact. Kerry Collins still calls the shots at quarterback; he's solidly rated and can even mix in the deep ball effectively with his 95 throw power rating.

Controversial and exciting, Jeremy Shockey has emerged as a top tight end and one of the Giants' best offensive targets.

Tiki Barber leads the charge at running back; a new face, veteran Dorsey Levens, adds depth to the position. Watch your special moves with Tiki as he's not the best ball handler (78 carrying rating) but remains a great option out of the backfield. Stick in Ron Dayne in goal line and short yardage situations for more of a powerful push.

Outspoken tight end Jeremy Shockey is one of the best receiving options (along with stellar wide out Amani Toomer). Shockey, in just his second season, is a highly rated tight end and a great weapon in play action situations.

New York Jets

Division: AFC East
2002 Record: 9-7
Head Coach: Herman Edwards (19-13 overall, 1-2 postseason)
2002 Offensive Stats: 314.8 yards per game
2002 Defensive Stats: 341.4 yards allowed per game

Key Players:

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLTHROW ACCURACYTHROW POWERAWARENESSAGILITYACCELERATION
Chad PenningtonQB889686866250

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLAWARENESSSPEEDACCELERATIONAGILITYCARRYINGBREAK TACKLES
Curtis MartinRB91938887869689

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLRUN BLOCKPASS BLOCKSTRENGTHAWARENESSAGILITY
Kevin MawaeC979492959052

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLSTRENGTHTACKLEAWARENESSAGILITYACCELERATION
John AbrahamRE938083797486

The New York Jets lost a handful of players to the Washington Redskins this offseason; among them was their top receiver Laveraneus Coles. The Jets hope to bounce back on the arm of Chad Pennington, a second year, highly accurate starter. He may lack the throwing power, but Pennington excels with the ball control, short passing game. New receiver Curtis Conway, veteran Wayne Chrebet, and speedy Santana Moss must step up for the team to be effective. Stretch the field with Moss and use Conway and Chrebet for your short passing game.

Curtis Martin is one of the best rated backs in the game, despite a mediocre, injury-filled 2002 campaign. LaMont Jordan is a viable backup and good enough to spell Martin should the need arise. Use Martin as a power runner sticking with inside and off tackle runs (Curtis Martin isn't too fast). Run behind highly rated center Kevin Mawae.

Oakland Raiders

Division: AFC West
2002 Record: 11-5
Head Coach: Bill Callahan (11-5 overall, 2-1 postseason)
2002 Offensive Stats: 389.8 yards per game
2002 Defensive Stats: 320.2 yards allowed per game

Key Players:

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLTHROW ACCURACYTHROW POWERAWARENESSAGILITYACCELERATION
Rich GannonQB979886966770

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLAWARENESSSPEEDACCELERATIONAGILITYCARRYINGBREAK TACKLES
Charlie GarnerRB90878995918684

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLSPEEDACCELERATIONCATCHINGAGILITYAWARENESS
Jerry RiceWR908788958999

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLACCELERATION SPEEDCATCHINGTACKLEAWARENESS
Charles WoodsonCB949495746391

The ageless Oakland Raiders finally made it to the Super Bowl only to be manhandled by the superior Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But the core of the Raiders still remains. Rich Gannon is one of the best quarterbacks in Madden 2004. He has added agility and acceleration that provides the ability to rollout when hunting for the open receiver. He's also extremely accurate, with high awareness; just don't depend on him to win the game with the deep ball.

The greatest receiver of all time, Jerry Rice, is one of your primary receiving targets. He may not be as fast or agile as he was in his prime but he's an excellent possession receiver and a veteran 99 awareness rating. Jerry Porter has emerged as the Raiders' second receiving target; spread the ball around liberally and don't forget future Hall of Famer Tim Brown in three receiver formations.

Charlie Garner is a burst of speed out of the backfield. Use him on both inside and outside runs and count on him often as a receiver in the flat. For short yardage and goal line situations, switch out to Tyrone Wheatley, the team's power back.

Philadelphia Eagles

Division: NFC East
2002 Record: 12-4
Head Coach: Andy Reid (39-25 overall, 4-3 postseason)
2002 Offensive Stats: 350.3 yards per game
2002 Defensive Stats: 297.1 yards allowed per game

Key Players:

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLTHROW ACCURACYTHROW POWERAWARENESSAGILITYACCELERATION
Donovan McNabbQB958496887783

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLAWARENESSSPEEDACCELERATIONAGILITYCARRYINGBREAK TACKLES
Duce StaleyRB86848590878984

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLACCELERATION SPEEDCATCHINGTACKLEAWARENESS
Bobby TaylorCB939292707196

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLACCELERATION SPEEDCATCHINGTACKLEAWARENESS
Brian DawkinsFS999791718494

Even with Donovan McNabb's absence in the second half of last year, the Philadelphia Eagles still won their division and posted a 12-4 record. McNabb made it back for the playoffs but wasn't able to overcome the Buccaneers' stubborn defense. Donovan McNabb is one of the league's best quarterbacks and his Madden ratings certainly reflect it. He's also highly mobile with an acceleration score of 83; not quite Michael Vick but mobile enough to scamper on QB draws or when all the receiving options are covered.

Duce Staley and Correll Buckhalter form the running back duo. Correll is the straight ahead, power runner while Duce is counted on as the receiver out of the backfield. The Eagles possess an average group of receivers. McNabb is good enough to get them the ball but don't expect them to make plays like a Harrison, Owens, or Moss.

Defensively, the Eagles are strong, especially in the secondary. Bobby Taylor and Troy Vincent at cornerback and Brian Dawkins at free safety are all highly rated and able to shut down the league's top receivers. Taylor is capable of being left on man coverage against most of the league's receivers and Brian Dawkins is a hard-hitting free safety that possesses the speed to reach his zone (or man) assignment quickly.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Division: AFC North
2002 Record: 10-5-1
Head Coach: Bill Cowher (109-66-1, 7-8 postseason)
2002 Offensive Stats: 372.0 yards per game
2002 Defensive Stats: 302.2 yards allowed per game

Key Players:

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLTHROW ACCURACYTHROW POWERAWARENESSAGILITYACCELERATION
Tommy MaddoxQB849089854955

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLSPEEDACCELERATIONCATCHINGAGILITYAWARENESS
Hines WardWR938990959492

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLSPEEDACCELERATIONCATCHINGAGILITYAWARENESS
Plaxico BurressWR909192889484

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLTACKLESTRENGTHAWARENESSACCELERATIONSPEED
Joey PorterROLB958977889484

The Pittsburgh Steelers are balanced on both sides of the ball: an explosive offense and a hard-hitting defense. Running backs Jerome Bettis and Amos Zereoue share their position's duties. Jerome Bettis is the power runner, used primarily in goal line and short yardage situations (though he still has the skills to be the featured back in other running situations. Amos Zereoue is the more agile runner and a great back for multiple receiver passing situations. Send Zereoue in the pattern as a dump off option should your primary receivers be covered.

The Steelers boast one of the best receiving duos in Hines Ward and Plaxico Burress.

Speaking of receivers, the Steelers boast one of the best one-two punches in the league. Both Hines Ward and Plaxico Burress are threats every time they get their hands on the ball. And don't forget about Antwaan Randle-El, Pittsburgh's third explosive target at receiver. Use lots of shotgun and spread single back formations. Expose the holes in zone defenses or call crossing routes against man coverage.

Defensively, Pittsburgh's linebacking squad remains the most important component to success. Joey Porter leads the way; he's a solid all-around linebacker that can rush the power or remain in coverage.

San Diego Chargers

Division: AFC West
2002 Record: 8-8
Head Coach: Marty Shottenheimer (161-101-1 overall, 5-11 postseason)
2002 Offensive Stats: 332.8 yards per game
2002 Defensive Stats: 377.1 yards allowed per game

Key Players:

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLTHROW ACCURACYTHROW POWERAWARENESSAGILITYACCELERATION
Drew BreesQB808884785962

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLAWARENESSSPEEDACCELERATIONAGILITYCARRYINGBREAK TACKLES
LaDainian TomlinsonRB95819398968691

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLSPEEDACCELERATIONCATCHINGAGILITYAWARENESS
David BostonWR909495898983

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLTACKLESTRENGTHAWARENESSACCELERATIONSPEED
Donnie EdwardsMLB918869948685

LaDainian Tomlinson has emerged as one of the best running backs in the NFL and he's just as good in Madden. With 98 acceleration and 96 agility, Tomlinson can excel on outside runs and shake tackles rather easily with spin and juke maneuvers. The Chargers added former Arizona Cardinal wide receiver David Boston (who missed most of 2002) to the receiving group. He's a big presence with good speed and catching ability. Open up the passing lanes with a steady running game. The better your running game is working, the more options you'll have for Boston.

Although the Chargers lost their best linebacker, Junior Seau, to the Dolphins, they still have a solid defense with Donnie Edwards at middle linebacker and Kwamie Lassiter added to the defensive backfield. Ball control offense is important. Churn out yardage, use the clock, and keep your ball out of your opponent's offensive hands. Tomlinson is the perfect back for ball control offense. While the Chargers defense can stop teams, it's best to just keep them on the sidelines and let Tomlinson control the game.

San Francisco 49ers

Division: NFC West
2002 Record: 10-6
Head Coach: Dennis Erickson (31-33 overall)
2002 Offensive Stats: 356.3 yards per game
2002 Defensive Stats: 322.4 yards allowed per game

Key Players:

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLTHROW ACCURACYTHROW POWERAWARENESSAGILITYACCELERATION
Jeff GarciaQB939388926566

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLSPEEDACCELERATIONCATCHINGAGILITYAWARENESS
Terrell OwensWR999798979595

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLSTRENGTHTACKLEAWARENESSAGILITYACCELERATION
Bryant YoungDT969092925976

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLTACKLESTRENGTHAWARENESSACCELERATIONSPEED
Julian PetersonLOLB928874819085

Five-time Super Bowl Champions San Francisco 49ers look to make another run at a title, though the road to the Super Bowl is likely to go though Tampa Bay once again (where it ended for the 49ers last year). Jeff Garcia is one of the league's best quarterbacks and the running back tandem of Garrison Hearst and Kevan Barlow (both rated almost identically) are both solid runners and options out of the backfield. Use them both in split back formations and have them both in the pattern and receiving options.

Terrell Owens is your powerhouse on offense with a 95+ rating on all vital statistics. Owens' speed, agility, and catching ability makes him a target anywhere on the field on any route. Test your opponent's defense with a deep ball to Owens and use him over the middle in crossing and hook routes. Shift him around the line of scrimmage using packages and motion.

Seattle Seahawks

Division: NFC West
2002 Record: 7-9
Head Coach: Mike Holmgren (106-70 overall, 9-6 postseason)
2002 Offensive Stats: 363.6 yards per game
2002 Defensive Stats: 365.8 yards allowed per game

Key Players:

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLTHROW ACCURACYTHROW POWERAWARENESSAGILITYACCELERATION
Matt HasselbeckQB839088825554

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLAWARENESSSPEEDACCELERATIONAGILITYCARRYINGBREAK TACKLES
Shaun AlexanderRB91858996908792

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLSPEEDACCELERATIONCATCHINGAGILITYAWARENESS
Koren RobinsonWR869294869379

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLRUN BLOCKPASS BLOCKSTRENGTHAWARENESSAGILITY
Walter JonesLT959596939251

Seattle finished last season strong but the Seahawks are still underperforming. This team has a lot of talent, led primarily by Shaun Alexander. Though he started last season a bit slow, he still ended with solid rushing, receiving, and touchdown numbers. He's a great power runner, so use him outside and off tackle.

Work the play action to get Koren Robinson, the Seahawk's speedy receiver, into the mix. Darrell Jackson, Seattle's second receiver, is a viable target as well. Running plays should focus to the left behind the highly rated left tackle Walter Jones.

Seattle has a good set of linebackers on defense. Chad Brown is good as a pass rusher and in coverage. Don't take too many defensive risks. Seattle's defense is solid but not outstanding. The Seahawks' offensive firepower should be able to score points taking some pressure off of the defense. Stick with zone coverage unless you're playing a team with a weaker receiving squad.

St. Louis Rams

Division: NFC West
2002 Record: 7-9
Head Coach: Mike Martz (31-17 overall, 2-2 postseason)
2002 Offensive Stats: 347.4 yards per game
2002 Defensive Stats: 314.1 yards allowed per game

Key Players:

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLTHROW ACCURACYTHROW POWERAWARENESSAGILITYACCELERATION
Kurt WarnerQB919794944140

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLAWARENESSSPEEDACCELERATIONAGILITYCARRYINGBREAK TACKLES
Marshall FaulkFB97989498969186

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLSPEEDACCELERATIONCATCHINGAGILITYAWARENESS
Torry HoltWR929796918991

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLRUN BLOCKPASS BLOCKSTRENGTHAWARENESSAGILITY
Orlando PaceLT979398969554

The St. Louis Rams are still loaded on offense: a great quarterback, one of the best running backs in the game, and two top 10 receivers. And they have a good offensive line led by Orlando Pace, the highly rated left tackle. The St. Louis Rams were once deemed "The Greatest Show on Turf" and they look to be back in form after a disappointing 2002.

Marshall Faulk is a weapon as a runner and a pass catcher.

Kurt Warner is one of the most accurate quarterbacks in the game; he won't offer much in the way of rollouts and mobility maneuvers but he can toss the deep ball and excels in the short passing game, especially to his running back Marshall Faulk.

Faulk should comprise a good 60%+ of your offense. Passing plays should almost always have Faulk in the mix unless you're worried about incoming pass rushers and need the additional protection (though blitzing the Rams is a risky affair). Mix up Faulk's inside and outside runs with short dumpoffs in the flat and across the middle. Once your opponent is keyed on Faulk, bring the extremely quick Torry Holt in the mix with deep post routes. And don't forget Isaac Bruce.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Division: NFC South
2002 Record: 12-4
Head Coach: Jon Gruden (50-30 overall; 5-2 postseason)
2002 Offensive Stats: 312.6 yards per game
2002 Defensive Stats: 255.1 yards allowed per game

Key Players:

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLTHROW ACCURACYTHROW POWERAWARENESSAGILITYACCELERATION
Brad JohnsonQB879488934340

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLAWARENESSSPEEDACCELERATIONAGILITYCARRYINGBREAK TACKLES
Mike AlstottFB93908190746895

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLSPEEDACCELERATIONCATCHINGAGILITYAWARENESS
Keyshawn JohnsonWR918689958993

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLTACKLESTRENGTHAWARENESSACCELERATIONSPEED
Derrick BrooksROLB999473979486

The Super Bowl Champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers have the best defense in Madden 2004. Its top-notch players include Derrick Brooks at right outside linebacker, Warren Sapp and Simeon Rice on the defensive line, and Ronde Barber and John Lynch in the defensive backfield. All are superstars and form one of the best defensive units of all time.

Scoring on this squad will be extremely tough. If you're forced into passing situations, the Bucs will be able to tee off on your quarterback. The quality of defensive backs gives the Bucs the opportunities to blitz at will without putting much pressure on the secondary.

Brad Johnson, an accurate, quality quarterback, leads the offense. If the Bucs have one weakness, it's at running back. Michael Pittman is good but not great; he's a good option for a dumpoff out of the backfield, though, when necessary. Mike Alstott is the game's best fullback. He has good speed for his size and a 95 rating to break tackles offers the chance to punish enemy linebackers for extra yardage. Switch out packages to give Alstott the ball frequently.

Tennessee Titans

Division: AFC South
2002 Record: 11-5
Head Coach: Jeff Fisher (76-58-0 overall, 4-3 postseason)
2002 Offensive Stats: 329.5 yards per game
2002 Defensive Stats: 310.3 yards allowed per game

Key Players:

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLTHROW ACCURACYTHROW POWERAWARENESSAGILITYACCELERATION
Steve McNairQB938793867476

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLAWARENESSSPEEDACCELERATIONAGILITYCARRYINGBREAK TACKLES
Eddie GeorgeRB88888689868491

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLSTRENGTHTACKLEAWARENESSAGILITYACCELERATION
Jevon KearseRE917576658393

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLTACKLESTRENGTHAWARENESSACCELERATIONSPEED
Keith BulluckROLB908775788584

After a slow start last season, Tennessee made a run for the Super Bowl losing to the AFC Champion Oakland Raiders. Steve McNair is one of the NFL's most underrated quarterbacks, though he's highly rated (in the top 10) in Madden. His agility and acceleration offer the chance for rollout passes and quarterback scrambles.

Wear and tear is slowing Eddie George; a top five back just a few years ago, George is still a good running back but not one of the NFL's elite. His lack of speed and acceleration mean he's more of a power running back so keep him on the inside. Use Eddie to establish the run and open up the passing lanes for Derrick Mason and Frank Wycheck.

The Titans have a decent defensive unit led primarily by Jevon "The Freak" Kearse on the defensive line and Keith Bulluck at right outside linebacker.

Washington Redskins

Division: NFC East
2002 Record: 7-9
Head Coach: Steve Spurrier (7-9 overall)
2002 Offensive Stats: 321.4 yards per game
2002 Defensive Stats: 299.2 yards allowed per game

Key Players:

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLTHROW ACCURACYTHROW POWERAWARENESSAGILITYACCELERATION
Patrick RamseyQB768491715453

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLSPEEDACCELERATIONCATCHINGAGILITYAWARENESS
Laveraneus ColesWR889796889282

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLTACKLESTRENGTHAWARENESSACCELERATIONSPEED
LaVar Arrington (LB 51)LOLB978981889697

PLAYERPOSITIONOVERALLACCELERATION SPEEDCATCHINGTACKLEAWARENESS
Champ BaileyCB989999746294

Steve Spurrier hopes his "fun n' gun" offense has more success in 2003 and the off season moves should certainly assist in that effort. The Redskins signed Laveraneus Coles, a speedy receiver from the New York Jets, and Trung Candidate, a former backup to Marshall Faulk. Both give the Redskins something they lacked last year: a legitimate speed, deep ball threat and an agile pass catching running back.

Patrick Ramsey is only a second year player so his stats aren't stellar. The Redskins' playbook reflects Spurrier's wide open offense with several four and five receiver sets. Spread the ball around and use patterns with Trung as an option out of the backfield. Keep your opponent in a pass defense mode then call audibles to run plays with Trung scampering off tackle.

Defensively the Redskins may have lost their defensive coordinator (he now coaches the Bengals) but the squad is still loaded with talent. The linebackers are some of the best in the league and Champ Bailey is the best corner in Madden with 99 acceleration and 99 speed: the ability to go man on man with any receiver in the game.

Chapter 3: Owner Mode

Looking to take an NFL franchise to the Promised Land with multiple Super Bowls, incredible fan attendance, and low priced hot dogs? Madden 2004 gives you the chance to step into the shoes of an owner and control the business of a football team. Control of your franchise begins with training camp.

Training Camp

Training camp is like the mini-camp game mode. It allows you to participate in a series of drills; if you perform effectively, you can upgrade a player by adding a point or more to key statistics. You can only upgrade nine players during training camp. So if you used your starting quarterback in Pocket Presence, you'll have to use the backup (or third or fourth string) in the Precision Passing mode. Training camp includes the following drills.

You don't need to run around in the small pocket. Use short movements to dodge the "sacker".

  • Pocket Presence: Remain in the circular pocket, avoid the sack (the ball that's shot through the pocket) and hit the designated receiver. The receiver buttons switch throughout the drill so they change throughout. You don't have to move much to avoid the sack. Don't start running or you'll stumble out of the pocket and not get the score.
  • Chase and Tackle: Upgrade one of your poorly rated defenders in this chase and tackle drill. You get more points for being the tackler. Don't dive at the ball carrier. Work on containment first. Force the ball carrier outside and toward you. Watch out for special moves, though; the CPU won't hesitate to burn you with a spin.
  • Swat Ball: Boost a corner's abilities by doing the swat ball drive. Move your defender (use the sprint button if necessary) just in front of the designated spot. Use the catch button. If you just run into the ball you receive points but you receive the most points on an interception. String along INTs for a better score.
  • Trench Fight: Go one-on-one against several linemen. Get past them and to the flags in the shortest amount of time possible. This is all about using your lineman's swim and spin moves. Just get to the flags.
  • Clutch Kicking: Test your kicker. Get the ball in the red for the best score. Remember that you don't have to kick the ball with full power. If you do, you may just kick the ball over the scoring zone. Don't forget to adjust for the wind. You should also lower the trajectory but not too much or you may miss it low. This will make faster kicks giving you an extra kick or two in the allotted time.
  • Corner Punt: Adjust your punt angle and let it fly. Note at what power level you perform the first punt and adjust the second as needed. You will score if you put the ball out of bounds as long as it passes over the scoring zone on its way (though not through the end zone).
  • Precision Passing: Pass the ball through the rings and manually catch the ball with the receiver. This is a tough drill. Don't forget you're leading the receiver so don't throw the ball too late.
  • Ground Attack: Use your special moves to score TDs, which give you the most points in this drill. Follow your blocker so you only have to deal with the remaining defenders. Use sprint to burst around defenders and utilize the juke and hurdle moves to dodge and break through tackles.
  • Catch Ball: Similar to the swat ball drill but you're catching the ball now.

Upon completing a drill, you can use the awarded points to upgrade your player or risk the points on a higher difficulty level. The higher levels pay out more points for each trophy but, as you'd expect, are much more difficult. If you're having trouble with a particular drill, it's best to just take your points and move on.

Fair Weather Fans

Filling the seats is all about winning. If you have a winning team, the fans will support you (I guess all those cheering computer-controlled fans are a bit fair weather). If you maintain a winning record, you don't have to invest as much in advertising and fan appreciation. But if you're a struggling team, pour some funds into these investments to get people in the stands to help pay for those players and keep your franchise alive.

It's all about getting those fans. Stadium improvements seem to have a marginal effect on fan attendance if you have a losing team. Invest the money elsewhere, such as improving your roster or coaching staff. Or lower concessions, tickets, and other pricing considerably to encourage the fan base to attend the games!

Listen to your advisors. They will definitely help point the path to improving your attendance and getting

Concessions, Tickets, and Parking

A chunk of your income will come from concessions and souvenirs--naturally the more fans you have, the more items you'll sell on average. If you're a losing team, you better keep the pricing in the green (the league average) or attendance will begin to suffer. Fans don't want to suffer through a losing team and high prices! Jack up prices as much as possible as long as they remain in the green. If you begin to win games, you can increase them into the red but reduce them once you lose or if attendance starts to fall.

Raise those prices to their maximum acceptable level. And if you're winning, raise them a bit more!

Teams have specialty food items (such as the San Francisco Hot Dogs). You can charge more for these items, even in the red, since they can't be purchased elsewhere.

When you raise ticket and parking prices, start with the most expensive areas of your stadium. Don't raise the general price that affects all fans. Start with a small segment of your fan base and watch its effects. Listen to your advisors after a game or two and see what the gripes are and adjust accordingly. Winning will keep them happy above all else and they'll likely be willing to spend a few more dollars to see their favorite team dominate the competition.

Contract Negotiations

Remember in franchise mode you'll be dealing with the same players (most of them anyhow) for several years. So you want to sign those promising young players to multi-year contracts so you can improve them year after year and turn them into the next Ricky Williams or Donovan McNabb.

Weight young player contracts with signing bonuses and keep salary as low as possible to give you cap room for more high priced veterans. On the flip side, keep veterans signing bonuses as low as possible and make the bulk of their contract their salary. That way you can cut or trade them without as much of a hit.

New Blood

Don't forget you're playing for the future of your franchise. Get young talent and sign them to five year contracts. This is a good amount of time to begin their improvements. If they become stars, expect to pay out big contracts once their current deal expires. But you can also rebuild again and sign a younger player to take over.

Chapter 4: Offensive Gameplan

Running an effective offense is dependent on many factors. You should mix up your play calling to keep your opponents guessing on which defensive formation to select. Then you must execute the play properly and find the open man on a pass or burst into the hole on a run. Utilize the player's special moves to dodge tackles and hopefully complete a game breaking play.

In Madden 2004, all teams have their own playbook consisting of several formations. There is overlap between playbooks, but in general each team's playbook reflects their style. For instance, the Vikings and Rams have a lot of passing formations and multiple receiver sets and the Falcons have many QB sweep and draw plays to utilize Michael Vick's abilities.

This section provides general offensive play calling tips, provides a rundown of formations and packages, and offers strategies on improving your running, passing, and special teams.

General Offensive Tips

The following are some general offensive play calling tips to help get you started against the CPU or an online opponent.

If the defense has stacked the line and you've called a run up the middle, it's time to call an audible!

  • Though you should certainly play to your team's strengths, don't hesitate to mix it up. You may be a run-first team like the Miami Dolphins but you'll likely have to pass sooner or later to win the game. Opponents will likely also play to your team's strengths so you'll have to adjust accordingly.
  • Make your opponent expect the unexpected. And when he's expecting the unexpected, give him the expected. This means being diverse with your play calling strategy. Call a tight I-Form formation, a typical run formation, and pass out of it. Or call a four WR, single back formation and run the ball up the gut. Many players wait to see the offensive formation package before selecting their defense. That means they're trying to guess what play you're going to call. Mix it up effectively and you'll force them to rethink their choice every single time.
  • An effective offense means preparing your audibles properly and utilizing hot routes. If you've just called a run play and your opponent has stacked the line with linebackers and moved up the safeties for additional support then don't hike the ball! Odds are great that you won't get anywhere and might even lose yardage. This is the perfect time for an audible. Call an audible to a passing play then assign a hot route to one of your receivers to a quick slant or out pattern. That way you can get the ball off quickly and avoid the stacked line and its rush.

Reading Defenses

When your quarterback approaches the center in preparation for hiking the ball, use that time to survey your opponent's defense. A clever player can spot certain clues on what's about to happen on defense. Using this can help you decide where to pass the ball, if you should call an audible or not, or if you need to use a hot route. Also, listen to the play-by-play announcer Al Michaels; he also provides clues on what to expect from the defense. For instance, if your opponent moves up the coverage toward the line, Al Michaels will point out that the corners have moved into bump and run coverage.

  1. Use motion on your receivers to detect if the defense is in zone or man-to-man. If a corner follows your receiver to the other side of the play, then the defense is in man coverage. If no one follows then the corners are in zone. If they're in zone, look to exploit the holes in the zone just beyond the corners and before the safeties. Exploit holes either to the inside, if the linebackers move up or out, or along the sidelines, if the linebackers cover the middle zone.
  2. If you're in a two-receiver set and the safeties remain deep, then tossing a deep ball will be very dangerous. Those safeties are likely in deep zone coverage and will double your outside receivers if the corners are also in man-to-man. The highest percentage deep ball pass is against one-on-one coverage.
  3. Watch for defensive players approaching the line in blitz formation. Though they won't always blitz, you'll know where to look right at the snap. If they charge the line, they're blitzing. Note their location and any of your nearby receivers. You may be able to get off a quick pass to the uncovered man or even use a hot route before the snap to send the receiver on a quick slant or out route. Here's a good example: you're in a four WR set and the nickel back covering your right slot receiver moves to the line for a blitz. Now no one is on your right slot receiver. Call a hot route for quick pass and hit him quickly. You may only gain six to eight yards but it's a high percentage pass and may discourage your opponent from blitzing in the future!
  4. Tight ends are great targets when countering the blitz. If the linebacker across from the tight end blitzes, then your tight end may get off the line cleanly. Now the safety is responsible for tight end coverage. If the safety is in a zone, he'll remain back and your tight end will be open underneath. To counter blitzing linebackers, call a play with your tight end running go routes down the middle of the field or have the tight end run a seven yard hook pattern.
  5. Watch the defensive line and linebackers before the snap to watch for defensive shifts. If you're running outside to the left and your opponent shifts linebackers in that direction, your outside run may be easily stuffed. Use playmaker control to switch the direction of your run so the play moves to the more open side. And don't hesitate to call inside run audibles if the defensive line shifts out or an outside run if the defensive line pinches to the inside.

Offensive Formations

This section covers some of the offensive formations and package changes you can expect in your team's playbook. Keep in mind that not every formation is in each playbook. Formations also have a variety of "sub-formations" such as switching to three or four wide receivers or perhaps a two tight end set.

  • Goal Line: Just like goal line defense, goal line is best used in short yardage and on the goal line situations. When you need less than a yard, call goal line and quarterback sneak for an almost guaranteed first down. Change the play with playmaker control left or right depending on where the open hole lies. A handoff to the FB through the gut is also very hard to stop in one yard situations.
  • I-Form: In I-Form, the running back, fullback, and quarterback line up in what looks like an "I". On running plays, the fullback helps open a hole for the running back by taking on a linebacker on a block. You can put the fullback in motion to move him closer to the line and, hopefully, the blitzing linebacker. I-Form Big is a great rushing sub-formation but also pretty powerful as a play action. Defenses will expect run with those two tight ends; if you have a good set of tight ends, they make ideal play action targets if the defense decides to rush in the linebackers.
  • Strong, Weak: Similar to I-Form, but the fullback is offset either to the strong side (the side of the offensive line with the tight end) or the weak side (the side of the offensive line without the tight end). Like I-Form, these are good rushing formations but are also effective for screen passes or tossing a dump off to the fullback.
  • Far, Near: Like Strong and Weak but the fullback and running back are positioned close to each other behind the quarterback.
  • Split Backs: This is also called the Pro Form formation. The running back and full back align next to each other, though not directly side by side. Outside runs are tough in Madden so this isn't a great pitch formation, though it can be good for inside runs. It's a good formation for hitting the backs in the flat or over the middle.
  • Single Back: This formation uses only one running back in the backfield and typically uses three wide receivers (though there are big single back formations with two tight ends and two receivers and four receiver single back sets). This is one of the best all-purpose formations. When your opponent sees 3 WR-1 TE-1 RB, it's difficult to tell exactly what your plan will be.
  • Shotgun: This is a typical passing formation where the quarterback stands in "shotgun formation," roughly five yards behind the line of scrimmage instead of under center. This gives the passer a bit more time to find the open receiver. If you're feeling the rush, call shotgun plays where the running back remains behind to block. Otherwise, send him out into the flat as a dump off option if your receivers are covered.

Shotgun formation is one of the best passing formations but don't hesitate to mix it up with a QB or RB draw.

There are some unique formations that are used by certain teams. For instance, the Atlanta Falcons have the "Full House" formation in their playbook, which keeps three running backs (or receivers) behind the quarterback. It's a good running formation and ideal for exploiting Michael Vick's scrambling abilities.

Offensive Packages

All of the formations give you the ability to switch out certain players without making substitutions. You can change the formation's "package," which could switch around the wide receiver or put in fullbacks instead of running back. The following list describes some of the packages used in the game and when you might want to use them.

  • Dual HB: Use on I-Form, Strong, Weak and other two running back sets. This will switch out the fullback for your backup running back. Great for teams with two good backs, like the 49ers, Falcons, Steelers, and Patriots. Get them out into the pass pattern!
  • Jumbo Backfield: Switches out your running back for bruising fullbacks. Good for short yardage situations when you need a powerful back and not a speedy running back.
  • Spell HB: Use this when you notice your primary running back is getting winded. Put in the backup and let your starter rest for a play.
  • Strong Slots: Shifts your primary receiver into the slot position. This is a good idea to do from time to time so your primary receiver has some new patterns to run and can possibly get a mismatch against a linebacker or safety.
  • TE Slot: Shifts out a receiver for a tight end in the slot position. Great if you have a good receiving tight end or plan to run in the formation as the tight end is usually a better blocker.
  • RB Slot: Moves your running back into the slot receiver position. Again, great if you have a good receiving running back.
  • WR Swap: Switches your primary and secondary receiver positions. Good for exploiting bad match-ups or utilizing your better receiver on the opposite side of the field.

Passing Tips

This section provides some general tips on excelling in Madden's passing game.

  • Match-ups! Match-ups! Match-ups! A lot of the success in the passing game depends on how your receivers match up with your opponent's corners and safeties. Knowing which players are skilled certainly helps but it's obviously nearly impossible to memorize the stats of every player in the game. Watch for patterns. If you're consistently beating a particular corner, keep going after him until your opponent adjusts. Look for situations when you have a receiver matched up against a linebacker or even a safety, which typically don't cover as well as cornerbacks.
  • Throwing into coverage will get you picked off--it's often as simple as that. You must watch your passing lanes carefully. This means making sure there isn't a defender between your quarterback and the receiver. If there is, the ball will be batted down or possibly even intercepted. Avoid throwing into double coverage unless you're tossing to an elite receiver like Owens, Harrison, or Moss.
  • It's important to realize that it's not very effective to throw bullet passes on every single pass play. Bullet passes are most effective on curl routes when your receiver is standing still with defenders converging. It's also effective on slant routes when you need to get the ball out quickly on a short pass. However, tossing a bullet pass on a post pattern might not be the best maneuver. For instance, the bullet pass is much lower in trajectory than a lob pass. That means any defender in the passing lane may be able to easily pick off the low ball. Also, the lob pass gives your receiver a chance to break away from the pursuing defender. That isn't to say bullet passes aren't good; if there's no defender in the passing lane, it will be effective in getting the ball to the receiver quickly.
  • Get the ball in the hands of your team's play makers. If you're playing as the Ravens, Giants, or the Chiefs, don't forget about your highly rated receiving tight end! If you're the Colts, 49ers, or Vikings then you have one of the elite receivers in the NFL. Use them!
  • Quarterback scrambles can be very effective, especially if you're controlling Michael Vick. But they're also effective for the Bears (Kordell Stewart), Eagles (Donovan McNabb), and Vikings (Daunte Culpepper). They can even work on plays designed as passes. Call a four wide receiver set and if your opponent sticks back in man coverage with no blitzers, then rollout and either hit an open receiver or scramble along the sideline.
  • Sacks are punishing. Being in 2nd down and long situations means the defense can pretty much rest assured what your next play will be. Use the "Throw the Ball Away" button to toss the ball out of bounds and avoid the sack. Remember though that you must be outside of your tackles or you will receive an intentional grounding penalty.
  • There are two extremely useful playmaker control options for the passing game. The first is before the snap. Move the right analog stick to adjust the play's primary receiver's pass pattern. Pressing it to the left sends him on a left crossing route, pressing right sends him on a right crossing route, and up sends him on a go route. This is very powerful when you have single coverage (call the bomb) or want to expose the zone underneath with a crossing route. The second playmaker control is calling receivers back toward the quarterback. It's most used when the quarterback is in trouble and needs the receivers to come back for the ball. However, you don't have to be in trouble to use it. Just press the control stick down during the play and a nearby receiver will break off the pattern and run toward you. Often there won't be anyone between you and the receiver--that's the time to pass!
  • Taking control of the receiver and pressing the catch button does help grab the ball out of the air. Use it when tossing bombs.
  • You throw much more accurately standing still than on the run for the most part, but of course it's all dependent on your quarterback's accuracy rating. Try to plant your feet before a throw or you may overthrow the intended target.
  • As mentioned before, passing lanes are extremely important. Watch where the defenders are positioned and don't throw the ball to a receiver if there are defenders waiting patiently in their zone between you and the receiver. You can lob the ball over these defenders usually but it's often better, if you have the time, to wait until your receiver clears past them.

Top 10 Rated Quarterbacks

The following chart reveals the top rated quarterbacks in Madden 2004. If you're looking to have success with the pass, start with these quarterbacks!

RANKPLAYERTEAMGAMES PLAYEDYEARS PROTENDENCYOVERALLTHROW ACCURACYTHROW POWERAWARENESSAGILITYACCELERATION
1Brett FavrePackers17712Pocket989499985958
2Rich GannonRaiders14716Scrambling979886966770
3Michael VickFalcons232Scrambling958497809594
4Donovan McNabbEagles544Scrambling958496887783
5Steve McNairTitans1038Scrambling938793867476
6Jeff Garcia49ers614Scrambling939388926466
7Peyton ManningColts805Pocket929296945244
8Kurt WarnerRams515Pocket919794944140
9Drew BledsoeBills14010Pocket919398954042
10Tom BradyPatriots323Pocket909392885455

Top 10 Rated Wide Receivers

The following chart reveals the top rated wide receivers in Madden 2004.

RANKPLAYERTEAMGAMES PLAYEDYEARS PROTENDENCYOVERALLSPEEDACCELERATIONCATCHINGAGILITYAWARENESS
1Terrell Owens49ers1067Balanced999798979595
2Marvin HarrisonColts1087Balanced999697999797
3Randy MossVikings795Balanced999999949788
4Hines WardSteelers805Balanced938990959492
5Eric MouldsBills1107Balanced939395919192
6Joe HornSaints977Balanced929294929190
7Torry HoltRams644Balanced929796918991
8Issac BruceRams1259Balanced929393939592
9Amani ToomerGiants1037Balanced919192919189
10Keyshawn JohnsonBucs1097Speed918689958993

Top 10 Rated Tight Ends

The following chart reveals the top rated tight ends in Madden 2004.

RANKPLAYERTEAMGAMES PLAYEDYEARS PROTENDENCYOVERALLRUN BLOCKCATCHINGSTRENGTHAWARENESSBREAK TACKLE
1Tony GonzalezChiefs956Receiving975790719175
2Jeremy ShockeyGiants151Receiving925288747777
3Todd HeapRavens272Receiving905687698366
4Shannon SharpeBroncos18813Receiving905685739475
5Marcus PollardColts1198Balanced876376758070
6Bubba FranksPackers483Balanced866576738371
7Frank WycheckTitans14510Receiving845978728966
8Chad LewisEagles775Balanced846480707867
9Randy McMichaelDolphins161Receiving825575737075
10Alge CrumplerFalcons322Receiving825977726770

Running Game Tips

This section offers some tips for the player that wishes to pound out yardage in the running game. An effective running game is very powerful in Madden. If a defense is forced to respect the run, that will open up the passing game because the defense will have to move up defensive backs or linebackers to help stop the run. Use the play action pass to exploit these linebackers and look for the open man.

You aren't going to break long gains on every play. The running game is about patience and seizing the opportunity when it arrives.

  • Call running plays that use your ball carrier's strengths. For example, Mike Alstott is a power fullback. Don't call outside runs! Clinton Portis is a speedster but not that powerful inside; use off tackle or sweeps to utilize Portis' acceleration and speed.
  • Be patient with the running game. Four yards per carry is generally the NFL average. That definitely does not seem like a lot on a single carry but if you run for that many yards on every single down, you'll always convert third downs!
  • Follow the running play's design. If you notice the blocking breaking down then shift direction and look for another hole. Save your sprint button for when you need a speed burst around a tackler (for instance, you're moving around him to the outside or inside).
  • Practice your special maneuvers, particularly spin and juke. Spin move is excellent against a diving tackler. Be careful trying to use it when gang tackled because it does move you backward and could cause you to lose some yardage. Juke is effective when approaching a single tackler. Juke to the left or right then sprint ahead to avoid the tackle. Be careful using too many special moves because it causes your running back to be more susceptible to fumbling.
  • There are a couple playmaker control options for the running game: one before the snap and another after the snap. Before the snap, use playmaker control to shift the direction of the running play. If you see the line stacked to a certain side, switch the direction of the play to the other side. Or if the hole is better to the left than the right then switch the direction of the run! It's like a quick, easy audible. The second playmaker control is after you snap the ball and have handed the ball off to the running back. Use playmaker control to order blockers to move in a particular direction to block a defender. It's tough to do in the heat of battle but it can help gain an extra yard or two at the least.

Top 10 Rated Running Backs

The following chart reveals the top rated running backs in Madden 2004. If you're looking to excel in the rushing game, start with these highly rated running backs!

RANKPLAYERTEAMGAMES PLAYEDYEARS PROTENDENCYOVERALLAWARENESSSPEEDACCELERATIONAGILITYCARRYINGBREAK TACKLES
1Ricky WilliamsDolphins544Balanced979491989380-
2Priest HolmesChiefs786Balanced979192979497-
3Marshall FaulkRams1359Balanced979894989691-
4LaDainian TomlinsonChargers322Balanced958193989686-
5Corey DillonBengals946Balanced939192928787-
6Clinton PortisBroncos161Balanced928395979779-
7Deuce McAllisterSaints312Balanced928292959385-
8Ahman GreenPackers765Balanced928895999376-
9Shaun AlexanderSeahawks483Balanced918589969087-
10Curtis MartinJets1248Balanced919388878696-

Special Teams

Though not technically offense, there are a few special team tips you should keep in mind that could prove effective against the CPU or against human opponents.

  1. You can use playmaker control on kickoff and punt returns to set up blockers.
  2. Call the punt block formation on occasion. It's surprisingly effective if the punting team doesn't call maximum protection.
  3. Likewise, don't hesitate to call maximum protection as the punting team to avoid the punt block. You won't defend the punt quite as well but it's better than it getting blocked!
  4. When receiving a punt, call a fair catch if defenders are bearing down on you. It's very easy to fumble a punt if you're nailed right after catching the ball!

Chapter 5: Defensive Gameplan

There's something to be said for a dominant defense. Just ask the fans of Tampa Bay and Baltimore; these are two teams that have won recent Super Bowls on the coattails of their defenses. A solid defense can keep games close, giving you much more options on offense. If you're giving up points easily, you'll be forced into a shootout and those inside runs you want to use to set up the pass may not get the job done if you're playing catch up.

In Madden 2004, you can use your team's default defensive playbook or shift to another set. There are many overlap formations throughout all playbooks. This section will go over the general defensive formations and provide suggestions on when to use them and when not to use them. You'll also find information on special playmaker options, adjusting your defense before the snap, and controlling your particular defender when trying to defend the pass or tackle a running back.

Before and After the Snap

Madden 2004's new playmaker control gives gamers the chance to make before the snap adjustments to the defense.

Right Analog Stick Left or Right: Move the right analog stick left or right when you want the zone defenders to cheat to one side of the field. For instance, your opponent's best receiver is lined up on the right side of the field. It may be a good decision to shift your zone coverage over to his area so he's better covered. You could also do this in three receiver sets where one side features two receivers and the other side has only one.

Playmaker control on defense is a powerful tool--as long as you guess correctly.

Right Analog Stick Down (immediately after the snap): Though not used before the snap, it's right at the snap and applicable to this area. Pushing the right analog stick down at the snap is used if you anticipate a running play and want your defenders to cheat against the run. Use with caution, though! If your opponent has called a pass, particularly a play action pass, your defenders could be left hung out to dry.

Right Analog Stick Up (immediately after the snap): Like the previous playmaker control, pushing the right analog stick up right after the snap orders your defenders to cheat against the pass. Use in obvious passing situations or when you're nearly certain your opponent will pass. If your opponent called a running play, it will take your defenders longer to reach the ball carrier leaving more room for special moves, jukes, and broken tackles.

Shifting

Along with playmaker control, you can also shift your defensive line, linebackers, and defensive backs before the snap. The following are some reasons why you would want to shift your defenders.

Defensive Linemen: You can shift your defensive linemen to the left, right, tighten them up or spread them out. Shift the linemen to the left or right when you're expecting an outside run to that area of the field or if you want to jam the tight end off the line with your defensive end. Tighten your linemen up at the line when you're expecting a run up the middle (beware of outside runs, though!) and spread them out when expecting an outside run or if you want to free up room for blitzing linebackers up the gut.

Linebackers: Like linemen, linebackers can be shifted to the left, right, tightened, or spread out. Shift linebackers to the left or right when expecting an outside run to that lane or if you want to disguise or shift into a particular coverage (for instance, moving the linebackers right so one of them is across from the other team's receiver). You could also use the left and right shift to open up the outside pass rush. Tighten the linebackers when expecting an inside run and spread them out when expecting an outside run or a screen pass.

Defensive Backs: You can shift the secondary closer to the line of scrimmage and further away from the line of scrimmage. Shift your secondary closer to the line when you're expecting a run. The safeties will be closer to the point of attack and be, hopefully, in better position to tackle the ball carrier. As with everything, it's important to use with caution. Should your opponent pass deep, your safeties may be out of position when moved up to protect the run. Moving the coverage up also puts the corners in bump and run coverage; they'll attempt to jam the receivers off the line of scrimmage, which could disrupt your opponent's timing and give an opportunity for blitzers to reach their target. Shift the secondary back in long yardage situations. Don't use just when you are expecting a pass. Moving the secondary back can really open up the middle of the field.

Choosing Defensive Plays

It's important to know what's going on when you select a particular defensive play. If the defensive player has an arrow moving toward the bottom of the screen (or toward the line of scrimmage and offensive team), this indicates that the defensive player is blitzing the quarterback. This defensive player is ignoring any pass or run coverage duties and attempting to go straight for a quarterback sack. If the defensive player is represented simply by an icon with no arrows around him, then he's in man-to-man coverage with a specific player. If a player has an arrow moving away from the line of scrimmage then he's in zone coverage, which means he's not responsible for a particular offensive player but a specific zone of the field.

Generally man coverage is good when your corners can compete against your opponent's primary receivers. If, however, your opponent has superior wide receivers to your corners then consider using zone or man defenses that double up on particular receivers (Double X and Double Z for instance). Man coverage is also good for covering a running back coming out of the backfield. Be careful when selecting the defensive player you wish to control; he could be assigned to a certain man coverage duty. If you don't follow his assignment, it will leave the offensive player wide open. This happens frequently on running back flat patterns so be careful. Use the coach's cam to see match up assignments.

Zone should be used when you think your corners need the additional help. It's also a safer defense in general, though can be dangerous on long passes when zone defenders remain in their zone and leave a fast wide receiver alone against a safety. Zone also offers the best opportunity for interceptions, which are quite frequent in this year's version of Madden. Zone defenders will often stand in the middle of passing lanes forcing your opponent to know how best to get the ball into the receiver (should I throw a lob pass or a bullet pass?).

Defensive Formations

Madden 2004 includes a wide variety of defensive formations with many having multiple sets and package options. For instance, the nickel defense includes its normal variation, a 3-3-5 option, and a blitz package.

The following chart reveals which defensive formation is included in each specific defensive playbook. All defensive playbooks include the goal line formation.

PLAYBOOK4-3 DEFENSES3-4 DEFENSES46 DEFENSESNICKEL DEFENSESDIME DEFENSESQUARTER DEFENSES
4-3Normal, OverNoneNoneNormal, Strong, 3-3-5Normal, FlatNormal
3-4NoneNormal, PressureNoneNormal, 3-3-5Normal, FlatNormal, 3 Deep
Cover 2NormalNormalBearNormal, 3-3-5Normal, FlatNormal
46NormalNoneNormal, BearNormal, Strong, 3-3-5Normal, FlatNormal
Balanced DNormal, OverNormalNormal, BearNormal, 3-3-5, BlitzNormal, FlatNormal, 3 Deep

This section helps reveal the strengths and weaknesses of each formation. But remember that nothing is given. You may call a goal line defense against a running play hoping to stop the ball carrier short of the first down marker only to have the ball carrier bust out a 50 yard gain. Like many things in Madden, you must play the tendencies and try and put the odds in your favor.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are one of the NFL's top 3-4 defensive teams.

  • Goal Line: This aptly named formation is primarily for short yardage and goal line situations. It stuffs the line of scrimmage with linemen and linebackers hoping to plug all available holes for a runner to get through. Everyone at the line does make you very vulnerable to a passing play (be prepared to audible to another defensive formation) and even a long run should the ball carrier get past the line of scrimmage and into your secondary, which really only has a safety that's probably not very deep.
  • 3-4: Three refers to the number of linemen and four refers to the number of linebackers. The 3-4 defense is best used against outside runs and the short passing game. This can be a powerful defense with a quality set of linebackers (such as Pittsburgh and Miami). It's also a good short zone defense as the linebackers will clog the passing lanes and be in position for interceptions. Variations of the 3-4 include the pressure scheme. This is a blitz heavy formation and should be used when you want a lot of pressure on the quarterback. You'll be very vulnerable to the quick pass.
  • 4-3: Four refers to the number of down linemen and three refers to the number of linebackers. This is a base defense for most teams and good against inside runs (the extra lineman helps stuff the inside lane) and offensive formations with two receivers. If the offense is in a three receiver set, consider going to nickel instead (though 4-3 can still be effective if you have good safeties). In four receiver sets, you definitely want to avoid 4-3 because you can be exploited by several mismatches with your linebackers against speedy receivers. The 4-3 includes the over scheme, which includes more linemen and leaves just two linebackers. This helps counter outside runs but is very vulnerable to three receiver sets.
  • 46: The 46 is a run stopping defense like goal line but is more effective against the pass, at least in two receiver offensive formations. Don't use this defense against three or more receiver sets or you will be exploited. 46 variants include the bear scheme, which adds more pressure to the line of scrimmage and helps protect the outside running lane and gives the opportunity for the outside pass rush.
  • Nickel: The nickel defense translates to five defensive backs. In the normal nickel, there are four down linemen, two linebackers, and five defensive backs. The extra defensive back helps protect in passing situations. This is ideal for three receiver sets as it places a cornerback against the receiver instead of one of your safeties. Though if you're playing as a team with a quality cover safety, you could be fine in a 3-4 or 4-3 against three receiver sets. Nickel variations include strong, which shifts the formation to further protect the strong side (tight end or additional receiver side), the 3-3-5, which is three linemen, three linebackers, and five defensive backs for better run support, and the blitz package, ideal for passing situation blitzing.
  • Dime: The dime defense translates to six defensive backs. This is ideal for certain passing situations (3rd and long, for instance) and to counter four receiver sets (though realize that your team's fourth best corner back, on the field during dime coverage, might not be as good as your safety at coverage). The dime formation includes the flat scheme, which is best used when you expect underneath passing and not deep balls.
  • Quarter: When you are certain your opponent is going to pass, call the quarter defense: it translates to seven defensive backs! This is perfect for certain passing situations but beware of the run; the lack of linemen and linebackers leaves the defense very vulnerable to an inside run. Also, be wary of quarterback scrambles, especially if you're in man coverage. Your defensive backs may get pulled off the line of scrimmage following receivers leaving a scrambler like Vick free reign along the sideline.

General Tips

This section provides some defensive tips for maintaining a solid defense against the computer or human opponent.

Instead of going for the diving tackle, keep your defensive player in front of the ball carrier and allow your teammates to come in and assist on the stop.

  • A good defense certainly begins with the quality of players on hand. If you're playing as the Vikings and can't figure out why you're unable to stop the Rams even with the best defensive play calling possible, then realize your defense is simply outmatched. If you want a dominant defensive experience, it begins with team selection. Check the team ratings and choose a highly rated defensive team before heading onto the field.
  • Anticipate your opponent's play call using before-the-snap defensive adjustments. For example, shift linebackers to protect the outside running lane or tighten up your defensive line if you expect an inside run. You should shift your defensive backs accordingly as well. Move them up before the snap if you expect a run and move them back when the offense needs a huge chunk of yardage to get a first down.
  • Don't forget playmaker control right at the snap. If you guess correctly, it can be a powerful ally but a wrong guess can send your opponent's receivers into one on one coverage or in a big mismatch. Move the right analog stick after the snap if you expect a run and move it up after the snap if you expect a pass.
  • Don't underestimate an offensive player's speed! The days of linemen catching up to running backs 50 yards down the field seem to be a thing of the past. It's much better to give up 5 yards than 50. Instead of going for the monster tackle, consider opting for containment. Force the ball carrier to try and go around you by heading east and west toward the side line. If the ball carrier is moving east or west then he's not gaining yards--that's a good thing! It also gives the other defensive players time to reach the position and assist in the play. If you go for the monster tackle and miss or get juked, you may have been the last line of defense against the long run down the sideline. This can be extremely important against a QB scrambler, especially one controlling Michael Vick!
  • When defending long passes, select the defender as soon as the ball is about to arrive. Upon selecting the defender, use the swat button to bat the ball down. You could also try and go for the interception but it's safer to bat the ball down and away from the receiver's grasp.
  • Selecting which defensive player you're going to control can have huge consequences if done poorly. For instance, don't select a cornerback that's assigned to cover Randy Moss then use the cornerback to blitz the quarterback. In general, it's best to let the cornerbacks follow their assignments. Instead, you may choose to pick a safety assigned to zone coverage and use him to double your opponent's favorite target encouraging him to look elsewhere. You could pick a lineman and use swim moves to try and rush the quarterback or even pull him back to cover the center zone. Mix up your selections but avoid selecting defensive players assigned to man coverage. And watch running backs out of the backfield. Your choice of linebacker could be assigned to that offensive player and a mistake could leave a screen pass in the flat wide open for a big gain.
  • As it's important for an offense to have a prepared set of audibles, it's just as important for the defense to do so. You'll need to audible out of run defenses when you see the offense do so as well. Though remember, especially online, that it can be a mind game and turn into an audible war. The best you can do is put the best formation possible for what play you believe the offense will run. You don't want to be stuck in the 46 against the pass or a Quarter defense in prevent against a run.

Top 10 Rated Defensive Players

The following chart reveals the top 10 rated defensive players in Madden 2004. If you're looking to control a defensive star, check out these players and their teams.

RANKPLAYERTEAMPOSITIONGAMES PLAYEDYEARS PROTENDENCYOVERALLTACKLESTRENGTHAWARENESSCATCHINGACCELERATIONAGILITYSPEED
1Ray LewisRavensMLB977Coverage9999819942928585
2Brian DawkinsEaglesFS1037Hard-Hitting9984669471979191
3Derrick BrooksBucsROLB1288Coverage9994739769948486
4Champ BaileyRedskinsCB644Coverage9862549474999899
5Lawyer MilloyPatriotsSS1127Hard-Hitting9888699367958685
6Darren SharperPackersFS916Hard-Hitting9876659075958687
7Michael StrahanGiantsLE15110Pass Rushing9887869523877273
8Jason TaylorDolphinsRE926Pass Rushing9883788536928082
9Warren SappBucsDT1258Pass Rushing9888879242916665
10Brian UrlacherBearsMLB483Coverage9895828964938689

Chapter 6: Online Strategies

The PlayStation 2 and PC versions of Madden 2004 offer online play (the PlayStation 2 version requires the Sony Network Adapter). EA Sports keeps track of your win and loss record, game history, and even how many times you quit a game before its completion. This section provides some strategies for the mind games that come along with challenging a human opponent to online Madden 2004 play.

Study your team's skill positions so you know what the players are capable of. Throwing deep balls to a receiver with sub-par speed won't get the job done.

  • Often the most important decision for online play is opponent selection. If you find that you're getting quit on repeatedly, you may want to be more selective on whom you play. For instance, challenge other Madden players that have a low disconnection rate (especially if they've played a lot of games). Players with low disconnection rates are obviously less likely to quit on you during the game. You could also host a password protected game and screen opponents (by checking their statistics) before giving them the means to enter your game. Disconnections can be frustrating but if you're an honorable player, there are plenty of likeminded players out there that will give you a competitive, fair game.
  • Play to your team's strengths. This may seem obvious but it's also extremely important. If you're playing as the San Francisco 49ers, don't keep throwing deep balls to Tai Streets--Terrell Owens is your superstar at wide receiver! Obviously you may need to use Tai if Terrell is continually covered but realize who your best players are so you can utilize them effectively. Likewise, know if your running back is more of a power, inside runner or a speedy outside runner and call plays that reflect this. A speedy back may be able to hit the inside hole quickly but could lack the power to break a linebacker's tackle.
  • It's extremely important to use unpredictable play-calling when playing against an online opponent. If you pass every time you call a formation with three or more receivers, your opponent will pick up on it and start ignoring your running game completely. It's nearly impossible to be successful using a ratio of 90% pass and 10% run. It just won't happen against an average online opponent. Your opponent can sit back in Dime or Quarter defense and dare you to throw into a well covered defensive minefield. Call running plays from passing formations and call passing plays from running formations. If your opponent is guessing run and has stacked the line, it'll be fantastic if you just called pass instead.
  • Audibles and hot routes are very powerful online. Prepare a good set of audibles so you have something for typical situations. For instance, it's 3rd and 2 and you just called a running play. However, your opponent called a 46 defense and moved up the safeties to the line of scrimmage. Your chance of gaining those two yards just went down considerably. Audible to a pass, particularly a quick slant pattern to the outside (or anything you can get off very quickly). If your opponent fails to adjust, your receiver could be wide open. But with that many people on the line, you won't have much time to throw so don't expect to get off a long ball. Likewise, you may want to audible to runs when your opponent sits back in Quarter or Dime defense. A good time for a hot route would be when you see the safety on that side cheat up against the run. Now the receiver on that side may be in man-on-man coverage with the corner. Instead of his current route, switch it to a go pattern straight down the sideline. One-on-one coverage is your best opportunity on long bomb plays.
  • As John Madden so eloquently puts it during part of his commentary, "90% of the game is half mental." The same can be said for online play. It's as much a mental game as it's a twitch game with your game controller or keyboard. It's about making the right decisions on a key 3rd down play; it's about making your opponent guess what you're going to do and then doing the opposite; it's about calling an audible to a run, forcing your opponent to adjust then reversing the play back to the pass. You are as much a coach as an active participant in the game.
  • One way to keep your opponent off guard would be to always call the same formation, especially a balanced formation like a three wide receiver, one tight end, one running back set. As you mix up your plays, your opponent will be unsure if you plan to run or pass out of that formation and you can exploit any wrong decisions. Likewise, you could prepare a good set of audibles and call an audible at the line on every single play. Have a run, longer pass, and shorter pass audible handy. Use the run against a pass defense, the longer pass against a run defense, and the shorter pass if you're expecting the blitz.
  • Check out the offensive and defensive gameplan chapters of this game guide for additional passing, rushing, and defensive tips to apply to online play.

Keep your online opponent on his or her toes with audibles and hot routes.

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