Madden NFL 2005 Walkthrough

Fall is fast approaching, which means it's time to throw around the pigskin. This new walkthrough will teach you the ins and outs of using Madden 2005's new defensive features and help you on your way to a Super Bowl victory.

By Doug Radcliffe
Design by Marty Smith

EA Sports’ venerable Madden franchise has dominated the football video game landscape for 15-years. The latest, Madden 2005, places emphasis on defense, embodied by cover man Baltimore Ravens’ Pro Bowl linebacker Ray Lewis. Madden 2005 offers several new features on defense, including playmaker control and the hit stick. This game guide covers everything you need to know about Madden 2005, including team and player stats, offense and defense strategy, and tips on defeating online competition.

This GameSpot Madden 2005 game guide features:

  • Team Stats: Includes tables compiling overall, offensive, and defensive ratings for all current NFL teams as well as historical teams.
  • Team Overviews: This section provides offensive and defensive statistics, key player stats, and analysis of each NFL team’s strengths and weaknesses.
  • Offense: Check this section for coverage of offensive formations and packages, specific tips on managing an explosive passing and rushing attack, and lists of the best Madden 2005 NFL offensive personnel.
  • Defense: This section covers defensive formations, shifts, adjustments, and playmaker control. Madden 2005 offers several new defensive featured covered here, including defensive playmaker and the hit stick.
  • Online Strategies: Look here for strategies for playing Madden 2005 online against human opponents.

Chapter 1 - Team Stats

See how your favorite National Football League team stacks up against the other teams in the league. This section reveals the primary statistics revealed on the team selection screen. You’ll also find statistics for the historical teams available in Madden 2005. These statistics include a relative overall, offense, and defense rating. Each team’s 2003 record and division are also included.

Current NFL Teams

The following table reveals the team statistics for the current 2004 National Football League teams.

Arizona CardinalsNFC West4-12667067
Atlanta FalconsNFC South5-11848677
Baltimore RavensAFC North10-6907690
Buffalo BillsAFC East6-10827893
Carolina PanthersNFC South11-5938999
Chicago BearsNFC North7-9707076
Cincinnati BengalsAFC North8-8838674
Cleveland BrownsAFC North5-11656968
Dallas CowboysNFC East10-6786494
Denver BroncosAFC West10-6807789
Detroit LionsNFC North5-11798481
Green Bay PackersNFC North10-6879174
Houston TexansAFC South5-11738172
Indianapolis ColtsAFC South12-4949878
Jacksonville JaguarsAFC South5-11818880
Kansas City ChiefsAFC West13-3909672
Miami DolphinsAFC East10-6818688
Minnesota VikingsNFC North9-7859084
New England PatriotsAFC East14-2999099
New Orleans SaintsNFC South8-8768872
New York GiantsNFC East4-12706778
New York JetsAFC East6-10808572
Oakland RaidersAFC West4-12776986
Philadelphia EaglesNFC East12-4959389
Pittsburgh SteelersAFC North6-10747382
San Diego ChargersAFC West4-12627165
San Francisco 49ersNFC West7-9666971
Seattle SeahawksNFC West10-6909189
St. Louis RamsNFC West12-4869075
Tampa Bay BuccaneersNFC South7-9808186
Tennessee TitansAFC South12-4928985
Washington RedskinsNFC East5-11829086

Historic Teams

This table reveals relative statistics for the historical teams offered in Madden 2005.

All Chicago BearsN/A959297
88 Chicago Bears12-4929293
85 Chicago Bears15-1959595
77 Chicago Bears9-5908891
63 Chicago Bears11-1-2909089
All Cincinnati BengalsN/A949592
88 Cincinnati Bengals12-4919388
81 Cincinnati Bengals12-4929391
73 Cincinnati Bengals10-4919093
All Buffalo BillsN/A959594
93 Buffalo Bills12-4949494
92 Buffalo Bills11-5949592
91 Buffalo Bills13-3939492
90 Buffalo Bills13-3939393
All Denver BroncosN/A949692
98 Denver Broncos14-2949493
97 Denver Broncos12-4949593
96 Denver Broncos13-3949593
91 Denver Broncos12-4929193
89 Denver Broncos11-5929194
87 Denver Broncos10-4-1929391
96 Denver Broncos11-5919291
77 Denver Broncos12-2929094
All Cleveland BrownsN/A929292
87 Cleveland Browns10-5919092
86 Cleveland Browns12-4929391
70 Cleveland Browns7-7959696
65 Cleveland Browns11-3919289
All Tampa Bay BuccaneersN/A919092
02 Tampa Bay Buccaneers12-4868390
79 Tampa Bay Buccaneers10-6918893
All Arizona CardinalsN/A919290
75 Arizona Cardinals11-3899286
All San Diego ChargersN/A949594
94 San Diego Chargers11-5919092
81 San Diego Chargers10-6919389
All Kansas City ChiefsN/A929489
90 Kansas City Chiefs10-6949395
71 Kansas City Chiefs10-3-1969597
69 Kansas City Chiefs11-3939392
66 Kansas City Chiefs11-2-1919091
62 Kansas City Texans11-3898791
All Indianapolis ColtsN/A959694
77 Baltimore Colts10-4939194
70 Baltimore Colts11-2-1929192
68 Baltimore Colts13-1929389
58 Baltimore Colts9-3888690
All Dallas CowboysN/A959794
95 Dallas Cowboys12-4959494
94 Dallas Cowboys12-4939492
93 Dallas Cowboys12-4949592
92 Dallas Cowboys13-3949493
85 Dallas Cowboys10-6929191
81 Dallas Cowboys12-4939491
79 Dallas Cowboys11-5959694
78 Dallas Cowboys12-4939492
77 Dallas Cowboys12-2939492
75 Dallas Cowboys10-4929390
71 Dallas Cowboys11-3929589
70 Dallas Cowboys10-4919290
67 Dallas Cowboys9-5888592
66 Dallas Cowboys10-3-1878293
All Miami DolphinsN/A949593
85 Miami Dolphins12-4929392
84 Miami Dolphins14-2949492
82 Miami Dolphins7-2919290
81 Miami Dolphins11-4-1939293
78 Miami Dolphins11-5928895
74 Miami Dolphins11-3919191
73 Miami Dolphins12-2929292
72 Miami Dolphins14-0939393
71 Miami Dolphins10-3-1939394
All Philadelphia EaglesN/A939392
90 Philadelphia Eagles10-6919091
80 Philadelphia Eagles12-4949494
60 Philadelphia Eagles10-2919291
All Atlanta FalconsN/A939592
98 Atlanta Falcons14-2929192
91 Atlanta Falcons10-6919290
80 Atlanta Falcons12-4929391
All San Francisco 49ersN/A939691
98 San Francisco 49ers12-4959695
94 San Francisco 49ers13-3949593
92 San Francisco 49ers14-2939393
90 San Francisco 49ers14-2949493
89 San Francisco 49ers14-2959693
88 San Francisco 49ers10-6959694
84 San Francisco 49ers15-1939393
81 San Francisco 49ers13-3939294
57 San Francisco 49ers8-4898891
All New York GiantsN/A929293
90 New York Giants13-3939194
86 New York Giants14-2949295
58 New York Giants9-3898691
All Jacksonville JaguarsN/A899286
96 Jacksonville Jaguars9-7899185
All New York JetsN/A939591
85 New York Jets11-5939392
82 New York Jets6-3929292
68 New York Jets11-3909287
All Detroit LionsN/A929291
91 Detroit Lions12-4929291
80 Detroit Lions9-7919390
57 Detroit Lions8-4888690
All Green Bay PackersN/A979897
98 Green Bay Packers11-5959594
97 Green Bay Packers13-3939493
96 Green Bay Packers13-3949594
92 Green Bay Packers9-7949494
67 Green Bay Packers9-4-1899087
66 Green Bay Packers12-2909287
All Carolina PanthersN/A909089
96 Carolina Panthers12-4888987
All New England PatriotsN/A939492
01 New England Patriots11-5888788
96 New England Patriots11-5939493
85 New England Patriots11-4949493
76 New England Patriots11-3939492
All Oakland RaidersN/A949592
02 Oakland Raiders11-5858882
90 Los Angeles Raiders12-4929292
85 Los Angeles Raiders12-4929193
83 Los Angeles Raiders12-4939491
80 Oakland Raiders11-5939393
77 Oakland Raiders11-3929391
76 Oakland Raiders13-1929491
75 Oakland Raiders11-3939492
74 Oakland Raiders12-2979697
72 Oakland Raiders10-3-1929391
71 Oakland Raiders8-4-2888690
70 Oakland Raiders8-4-2909288
69 Oakland Raiders12-1-1909389
68 Oakland Raiders12-2909388
67 Oakland Raiders13-1909289
All St. Louis RamsN/A959694
01 St. Louis Rams14-2869281
99 St. Louis Rams13-3899484
84 Los Angeles Rams10-6929292
79 Los Angeles Rams9-7919092
75 Los Angeles Rams12-2939294
67 Los Angeles Rams11-1-2928896
All Baltimore RavensN/A929193
00 Baltimore Ravens12-4857991
All Washington RedskinsN/A959693
91 Washington Redskins14-2949494
87 Washington Redskins11-4949594
83 Washington Redskins14-2959693
82 Washington Redskins8-1949593
79 Washington Redskins10-6918894
72 Washington Redskins11-3929391
All New Orleans SaintsN/A929490
92 New Orleans Saints12-4918992
87 New Orleans Saints12-3909189
All Seattle SeahawksN/A939492
84 Seattle Seahawks12-4929291
All Pittsburgh SteelersN/A969695
95 Pittsburgh Steelers11-5939392
79 Pittsburgh Steelers12-4949493
78 Pittsburgh Steelers14-2939393
75 Pittsburgh Steelers12-2949395
74 Pittsburgh Steelers10-3-1949593
72 Pittsburgh Steelers11-3939292
All Tennessee TitansN/A939690
99 Tennessee Titans13-3939393
92 Houston Oilers10-6959495
88 Houston Oilers10-6939392
80 Houston Oilers11-5939292
78 Houston Oilers10-6939392
62 Houston Oilers11-3888989
All Minnesota VikingsN/A949592
98 Minnesota Vikings15-1959596
76 Minnesota Vikings11-2-1929391
75 Minnesota Vikings12-2979598
74 Minnesota Vikings10-4929391
73 Minnesota Vikings12-2929391
70 Minnesota Vikings12-2939294
69 Minnesota Vikings12-2949494

Chapter 2 - Team Overviews

This chapter provides in-depth analysis on your favorite National Football League teams. You’ll find 2003 offensive and defensive statistics, key player stats, and commentary on the team’s strengths and weaknesses. Note that these rosters and statistics are current as of the updated online rosters as of 8/18.

  • OVR - The overall rating for the player.
  • SPD - How fast the player can run.
  • STR - The player’s strength, which affects his ability to break tackles or make blocks.
  • AWR - A player’s ability to react and adjust. Affects a player’s ability to run routes for instance.
  • AGI - The player’s agility, enhancing his ability to switch directions--important statistic for special maneuvers.
  • ACC - How fast a player reaches full speed. Great for sprinting through open holes in your line or outrunning tacklers around a corner.
  • CTH - How well the player can catch. A higher rating means fewer drops.
  • CAR - How well the player holds onto the football. A higher rating means the less chance of a fumble.
  • JMP - The player’s ability to jump, such as for grabbing high passes or blocking high passes.
  • BTK - The player’s ability to break tackles.
  • THP - How far a player can throw the ball.
  • THA - How accurate a player throws.
  • PBK - How well a player pass blocks.
  • RBK - How well a player run blocks.
  • TAK - A player’s ability to tackle.
  • INJ - The likelihood of an injury. The higher the rating, the less likely a player will get injured.

Arizona Cardinals

Division: NFC West
2003 Record: 4-12
2003 Offensive Stats: 280.6 yards gained per game (27th overall)
2003 Defensive Stats: 344.0 yards allowed per game (26th overall)

Key Players:

Josh McCownQB79898272694581

Marcel ShippRB83868887668784

Anquan BoldinWR89899292909179

Larry FitzgeraldWR84899087889470

Although their 2003 season ended with a dramatic win against the Minnesota Vikings (the loss kept the Vikings out of the postseason), the Arizona Cardinals finished 2003 in their usual position: at the bottom of their division. The future looks brighter--it has to--with some new, exciting, young offensive talent and a new head coach, Dennis Green.

Anquan Boldin made a big splash in 2003 with impressive receiving numbers and the offensive rookie of the year award. He’s a solid target for young, inexperienced Josh McNown. The Cardinals drafted college superstar Larry Fitzgerald to complement Boldin. In a few years, this could be one of the top duos in the league. Mix it up on offense with throws to Boldin and Fitzgerald (the Cardinals’ third receiver isn’t bad either), the tight end, and Marcel Shipp out of the back field. Move Boldin around using motion or swaps to help keep him an open target for McNown. Use high percentage passing. McNown doesn’t have the ratings to test tight coverage.

Atlanta Falcons

Division: NFC South
2003 Record: 5-11
2003 Offensive Stats: 272.3 yards gained per game (29th overall)
2003 Defensive Stats: 381.8 yards allowed per game (32nd overall)

Key Players:

Michael VickQB92968278945476

Warrick DunnRB84959396786484

T.J. DuckettRB82868980589284

Alge CrumplerTE92835560846970

Keith BrookingROLB94835560846989

Some might argue that the Atlanta Falcons 2003 season ended well before it started: when their star (and Madden 2004 cover guy) Michael Vick went down with a broken leg in the preseason. The Falcons’ offense never really recovered and the defense fell apart as well (the squad ranked last in the league in yards allowed per game). Hopes are once again high in 2004--if Vick can remain healthy.

The Falcons’ Michael Vick can win games with his arm and his legs--he’s the fastest quarterback in the game.

This is a potent offense in Madden 2005. Once again Vick possesses explosive speed and mobility for a quarterback. A lot of Madden players utilize Vick’s legs. Expect to see four wide receiver sets and if there’s no one open at the snap, Vick scrambles behind the line and takes off. There are some new defenses to counter this maneuver so if you’re hoping to keep Vick on the ground, watch out for the outside containment.

Warrick Dunn and T.J. Duckett are a solid one-two punch. Dunn is the speedster excelling in outside runs and as a receiver (out running most linebackers and safeties, which typically cover him one-on-one); Duckett is the north-south runner with burly break tackle ability. Send Dunn in the pattern often; he creates a lot of mismatches against slower safeties and even slower linebackers. Mix in Alge Crumpler, one of the better tight ends in the game. Spread the ball around effectively, which should enhance Vick’s scrambling option even more.

Baltimore Ravens

Division: AFC North
2003 Record: 10-6
2003 Offensive Stats: 308.1 yards gained per game (21st overall)
2003 Defensive Stats: 271.3 yards allowed per game (3rd overall)

Key Players:

Jamal LewisRB97919790699982

Todd HeapTE96815560906774

Jonathan OgdenLT99989598926970

Ray LewisMLB99859287996099

Chris McAlisterCB97959897686894

Ed ReedSS97919290738088

The Baltimore Ravens’ gameplan remains the same. Punish defenses on the ground with pro bowler Jamal Lewis and play aggressive, take-away style defense with standout stars Chris McAlister, Ed Reed, and Madden 2005 cover man Ray Lewis leading a great all-around squad. Quarterbacking and wide receivers certainly aren’t the Ravens’ core talent. Apart from Todd Heap, a top tight end in the game, there really isn’t another standout pass catcher. Even Jamal Lewis is best kept on the ground (he has just a 69 catch rating).

Ravens’ running back Jamal Lewis is coming off a 2,000 yard season--and his 2005 Madden ratings reflect those skills.

Your focus on offense begins with Jamal Lewis; he’s seen a big boost in stats after his 2,000 yard season last year. His break tackle rating of 99 means he has the power to pound through linemen and over a lot of linebackers--use those stiff arms and special moves! Increased speed and acceleration over last season offers a better chance to implement outside runs.

Ray Lewis is nearly unstoppable on defense. His high awareness makes Lewis strongest in coverage not as much in blitz situations. Stick McAlister up against your opponent’s best receiver. Ed Reed has enough skills to play man-to-man or should be used to assist the Raven defenders not named Chris McAlister.

Buffalo Bills

Division: AFC East
2003 Record: 6-10
2003 Offensive Stats: 271.8 yards gained per game (30th overall)
2003 Defensive Stats: 269.6 yards allowed per game (2nd overall)

Key Players:

Drew BledsoeQB87988790454465

Travis HenryRB90909487679577

Eric MouldsWR92939590909190

Takeo SpikesROLB96828582935191

Lawyer MilloySS96858972886593

With a threesome like Bledsoe, Henry, and Moulds, it’s surprising to see the Bills fall off so far offensively in 2003. They dropped to just 272 yards per game from 349 in 2002--this is the 30th ranked offense in yards gained per game! Offensively the stats are certainly decent, despite their rather poor showing in 2003. Defensively the team is strong with an excellent linebacker squad and a solid secondary led by former Patriot Lawyer Milloy.

On offense, establish a running game with Henry, a good mix of speed and break tackle power. Eric Moulds is your primary receiver in the passing game. Bledsoe has been downgraded slightly but is a capable, strong armed signal caller that won’t have trouble zipping the ball to Moulds and the receiving squad. Look to insert second year player (though first for him as he was out all last season with a knee injury) Willis McGahee into two back formations for an intriguing one-two punch.

Carolina Panthers

Division: NFC South
2003 Record: 11-5
2003 Offensive Stats: 321.3 yards gained per game (16th overall)
2003 Defensive Stats: 295.3 yards allowed per game (8th overall)

Key Players:

Stephen DavisRB92879386659591

Steve SmithWR90969796908585

Julius PeppersLE94849387777773

Mike RuckerRE93758475857887

Kris JenkinsDT98668768919381

What a difference a year makes. At the end of the 2002 season, the Carolina Panthers had just concluded a 7-9 campaign with big questions at quarterback. In 2003, the quarterback question was answered early with the emergence of Jake Delhomme. And it didn’t take long into 2003 to realize a combination of strong defense, power running, and a blazingly fast receiver posed big problems for most NFC teams, including the favorite Philadelphia Eagles. The 2003 Carolina Panthers went from 7-9 to nearly winning the Super Bowl.

Stephen Davis is a powerful runner. He’s not especially fast but his high break tackle rating should provide plenty of yardage between the tackles. In the passing game, look to match up quick Steve Smith on slower corners or, even better, even slower safeties or linebackers by shifting him around the field. Swap him into the slot and use motion to create mismatches. Put him on crossing routes and don’t hesitate to test your opponent’s defense deep.

Carolina’s defense is one of the strongest in the game--particularly their defensive line.

Defense is the team’s strongest suit and led by an impressive defensive line. You should be able to win the battle of the trenches and find just four down linemen reaching your opponent’s quarterback on several occasions. You could lay off blitzing linebackers and defensive backs if you want to play a safer defensive coverage or enhance the line’s power with additional blitzes to force your opponent into hurried decisions and throws.

Chicago Bears

Division: NFC North
2003 Record: 7-9
2003 Offensive Stats: 273.8 yards gained per game (28th overall)
2003 Defensive Stats: 309.2 yards allowed per game (14th overall)

Key Players:

Rex GrossmanQB79908675544785

Thomas JonesRB83899287688383

Marty BookerWR88888988899089

Olin KreutzC98919492886090

Brian UrlacherMLB97879086956289

The Chicago Bears begin 2004 with a much different look than the 2003 squad. A one-year experiment with Pittsburgh castoff Kordell Stewart at quarterback didn’t end well; he’s already moved on the Baltimore. Instead, the Bears look to the future and have presented the reins to Florida Gator quarterback and first-round defeat pick Rex Grossman. He’s a young star and his stats show it; they certainly aren’t fantastic but he does have decent power and accuracy and suited for a pocket passer style of game.

Journeyman Thomas Jones (from the Cardinals to the Bucs now to the Bears) starts at running back--decent speed, acceleration, and break tackle ratings gives you some options in the running game (though running behind all-pro center Olin Kreutz isn’t a bad idea). Marty Booker is the best Chicago Bear receiver, though his ratings have slid a bit since last year’s game. Note that at the time of this writing, Booker had just been traded to the Miami Dolphins. A roster update could make this change.

Look for high percentage passes to offset Grossman’s meager statistics. Keep your play calling unpredictable with passes out of run sets and runs out of passing sets. Middle linebacker Brian Urlacher is the Bears’ leader on defense. He’s one of the top linebackers in the game next to the Ravens’ Ray Lewis and the Buccaneers’ Derrick Brooks.

Cincinnati Bengals

Division: AFC North
2003 Record: 8-8
2003 Offensive Stats: 333.1 yards gained per game (13th overall)
2003 Defensive Stats: 351.2 yards allowed per game (28th overall)

Key Players:

Carson PalmerQB82938872584488

Jon KitnaQB85928883513386

Rudi JohnsonRB86879285649189

Chad JohnsonWR93929495939286

The Cincinnati Bengals surprised a lot of teams in 2003--almost to the point where many will forget their nickname, the Bungles. From 2-14 in 2002 to a respectable 8-8 in 2003, the Bengals’ hopes are high for an even better 2004 campaign. During the NFL off season, Coach Marvin Lewis named first-overall draft pick Carson Palmer the starting quarterback over incumbent Jon Kitna. Checking the ratings, both quarterbacks are extremely close. Kitna gets the nod with awareness for his veteran status but Palmer is faster and has a slightly stronger arm. They’re virtually interchangeable the statistics are so close.

The Bengals are on the rise. Primary wide receiver Chad Johnson is one of the best in the game.

Having let long-time Bengal Corey Dillon move on to AFC rival New England, Cincinnati starts upstart Rudi Johnson at running back--good, but not superstar ratings--and even have a first-round draft pick Chris Perry behind him if needed. Chad Johnson is your star at wide receiver (he’s seen a good boost in rating over last year’s game); Johnson’s counterpart Peter Warrick is also a good, fast option that can test defenders deep.

Cleveland Browns

Division: NFC North
2003 Record: 5-11
2003 Offensive Stats: 281.5 yards gained per game (26th overall)
2003 Defensive Stats: 309.9 yards allowed per game (15th overall)

Key Players:

Jeff GarciaQB88859188675492

William GreenRB83909088678682

Lee SuggsRB79919388607879

Kellen WinslowTE85865256857055

The Cleveland Browns started 2003 with a quarterback controversy: would it be Kelly Holcomb or Tim Couch? The Browns finally answered that question definitively in 2004: it would be neither! Cleveland reached out to former San Francisco 49er Jeff Garcia to become the team’s new offensive leader. If ratings are any indication, the Browns made the right choice: Garcia provides veteran awareness, excellent accuracy, quick feet for a quarterback, and near tank-like durability (the high injury rating). Utilize his mobility with roll outs and even some scrambles.

William Green and Lee Suggs offer the Browns a new controversy: who to start at running back? Ratings are nearly indistinguishable from one another. Utilize both in two back sets for a duo of decent options as both runners and pass catchers. First round draft pick Kellen Winslow provides a decent option at tight end: expect his ratings to soar higher in coming releases.

Dallas Cowboys

Division: NFC West
2003 Record: 10-6
2003 Offensive Stats: 322.6 yards gained per game (15th overall)
2003 Defensive Stats: 253.5 yards allowed per game (1st overall)

Key Players:

Eddie GeorgeRB84858780668586

Keyshawn JohnsonWR87868586928790

Larry AllenLG93978695674296

La’Roi GloverDT97647664949089

Roy WilliamsFS95889084877481

Darren WoodsonSS93848272856295

Despite making the playoffs with a 10-6 record, the Dallas Cowboys revamped considerably on offense. They lost their starting quarterback, starting wide receiver, and starting running back. Those are major positions to replace; but if anyone is up to the task, it’s Coach Bill Parcells. It certainly won’t be an explosive offense, at least consistently. The quarterback position is led by former Parcell QB Vinny Testaverde. Options are limited; it’s either the aging veteran or the inexperienced rookie.

The Cowboys made significant changes on offense, including Vinny Testaverde at quarterback and Eddie George at running back.

The Cowboys added former Titan Eddie George in hopes he still has something left in the tank. Don’t expect much burst outside; keep him between the tackles and behind strong Larry Allen. Keyshawn Johnson, another former Parcell player, replaces Galloway at receiver in an off season trade with the Bucs. He’s a dependable pass catcher but lacks the speed to stretch defenses.

A conservative passing game--given the lack of standouts in key positions--will likely produce the most consistent results. Rely more on the Cowboys top ranked defense. La’Roi Glover anchors a solid line and Williams and Woodson are one of the best secondary duos in the game.

Denver Broncos

Division: AFC West
2003 Record: 10-6
2003 Offensive Stats: 349.9 yards gained per game (7th overall)
2003 Defensive Stats: 277.1 yards allowed per game (4th overall)

Key Players:

Jake PlummerQB87888782715292

Quintin GriffithRB74909292706670

Dan NeilRG95898594886089

Trevor PryceLE95707867919186

Al WilsonMLB95878983946088

Champ BaileyCB99999992627994

The Broncos made noise in the off season by trading star running back Clinton Portis to the Washington Redskins for arguably the best cover cornerback in the game, Champ Bailey (the ‘Skins also threw in a draft pick as well). Champ Bailey’s statistics tell the story: 99 in speed and acceleration, 92 in jump, and 94 in awareness. Place Bailey on your opponent’s best receiver and shift all other coverage to the other side of the field.

Losing Portis means a significant downgrade at the running back position. The Broncos’ added ex-49er Garrison Hearst into their committee of running backs. Speedy Quintin Griffith is a front runner for the starting position, though the Broncos also drafted Tatum Bell as further insurance. Griffith is a good outside running with excellent catching skills; just don’t expect him to bowl over defenders. Run behind excellent right guard Dan Neil.

Utilize inconsistent quarterback Jake Plummer’s speed as his primary asset. Roll out of the pocket and give time for your receivers to break open (don’t forget about Griffith or Hearst out of the backfield). His lower power and accuracy scores means you’ll need to look for the open man instead of trying to force the ball to covered receivers.

Detroit Lions

Division: NFC North
2003 Record: 5-11
2003 Offensive Stats: 266.4 yards gained per game (32nd overall)
2003 Defensive Stats: 335.0 yards allowed per game (24th overall)

Key Players:

Joey HarringtonQB83918678594188

Kevin JonesRB78939593607471

Charles RodgersWR84939289859072

Roy WilliamsWR83939489859265

Dre’ BlyCB91939789548085

The Detroit Lions are a young football team. If Coach Steve Mariucci can turn potential into points then the Lions will be a force to be reckoned with in the very near future. Second year player Charles Rodgers and rookie Roy Williams are a fast one-two punch at the receiver position. Move them around the field, put them in motion, and work to get them matched up against slower defenders.

The Lions drafted Kevin Jones to replace James Stewart at running back; utilize Jones’ speed and agility in outside runs. With Harrington’s meager stats, rely on a balanced offense and use hot routes and swaps to get Rodgers and Williams open and an easier target for the Lions’ quarterback.

Green Bay Packers

Division: NFC West
2003 Record: 10-6
2003 Offensive Stats: 362.4 yards gained per game (4th overall)
2003 Defensive Stats: 318.8 yards allowed per game (17th overall)

Key Players:

Brett FavreQB94979098535199

Ahman GreenRB95979892779177

Javon WalkerWR84929291849273

Bubba FranksTE88646165807170

Darren SharperFS98879586767590

The Green Bay Packers 2003 season ended in disappointing fashion in a tightly contested NFC playoff game against the Philadelphia Eagles. The good news is that the Pack have returned nearly every starter; aging future Hall of Famer Brett Favre looks to make his last (he’s always using the word "retire" in the off season) run at the Super Bowl. He’s one of the best quarterbacks in Madden: excellent throwing power, accuracy, awareness, and the best injury rating in the game.

Future hall of famer Brett Favre is one of the most popular players in the NFL. He’s also a top quarterback in Madden 2005.

Behind Favre is Ahman Green, one of the top running backs in the game. Near top ratings in both speed and acceleration, Green excels inside and outside the tackles and should be a big part of your pass offense as well. The receiving group lacks super stars but is a solid bunch; Javon Walker is an emerging star and offers the best speed on the team. Don’t neglect Bubba Franks either; he’s a capable tight end and offers Favre another downfield target.

Focus your offense on spreading the ball around. Hand off to Green inside then outside then work play action to Walker, Franks, or Green and repeat. Remain unpredictable. There’s enough talent on offense to run out of pass situations and pass out of run situations. The Pack’s defense is its weaker component. Contain your opponent and don’t allow the big play.

Houston Texans

Division: AFC South
2003 Record: 5-11
2003 Offensive Stats: 269.1 yards gained per game (31st overall)
2003 Defensive Stats: 380.1 yards allowed per game (31st overall)

Key Players:

David CarrQB85958778604091

Dominick DavisRB85919292767884

Andre JohnsonWR85959590849269

Jamie SharperMLB94808279965790

Aaron GlennCB94969691667092

The Houston Texans failed to make significant strides in 2003. The team ranked near the bottom of the league in both yards gained per game and yards allowed per game. But the Texans are a young squad and are in place to improve in the upcoming season. David Carr has respectable ratings; good throwing power and decent accuracy. The Texans running game gained focus in 2003 with the emergence of Dominick Davis. He’s a fast, agile runner with great hands. Make sure he’s an option for you out of the backfield on passing downs.

Andre Johnson leads the receiver squad with excellent speed and jumping ability. Stretch defenses with Johnson while maintaining a strong ground game behind Davis (and the fast Hollings when Davis needs a breather). Defensive stars remain the same in this year’s Madden. Jamie Sharper is one of the better middle linebackers and Aaron Glenn can be placed on your opponent’s best receiver.

Indianapolis Colts

Division: AFC South
2003 Record: 12-4
2003 Offensive Stats: 367.1 yards gained per game (3rd overall)
2003 Defensive Stats: 299.3 yards allowed per game (11th overall)

Key Players:

Peyton ManningQB97969798495797

Edgerrin JamesRB92899287789190

Marvin HarrisonWR98979897998798

Marcus PollardTE90755760817476

Dwight FreeneyRE94849386787378

Mike VanderjagtK99949783

The Indianapolis Colts and Peyton Manning cleared a big hump in the 2003 season: they won a playoff game. Unfortunately, they still lost a playoff game. The Colts were unable to beat the tenacious New England Patriot defense and failed to reach the Super Bowl. But the Colts should remain strong in 2004 and are certainly one of the best squads in Madden 2005.

Peyton Manning boasts impressive stats. He’s near the top in throwing power, accuracy, awareness, and he’s durable to boot. Edgerrin James may have lost a step after a knee injury a few year’s back but he’s still a solid running back and an excellent pass catcher. Utilize him in the flat and as a dump option when the downfield receivers are tightly covered.

The Colts’ Marvin Harrison is one of the top receivers in the game--he’s got great hands with the 99 catch rating.

Marvin Harrison remains one of the best receivers in the game: he’s nearly maxed out in speed, acceleration, agility, and awareness. Harrison also has a 99 catch rating. Spread him around the field so you aren’t always moving him into your opponent’s best coverage. Call Harrison option routes; he’ll run them well given his 98 awareness rating. Mike Vanderjagt is also a legitimate offensive weapon. He can nail those 50 yard field goals.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Division: AFC South
2003 Record: 5-11
2003 Offensive Stats: 334.9 yards gained per game (12th overall)
2003 Defensive Stats: 291.1 yards allowed per game (6th overall)

Key Players:

Byron LeftwichQB84968778525084

Fred TaylorRB92929490679188

Jimmy SmithWR89889088938794

Marcus StroudDT93648066899080

Glance quickly at the Jacksonville Jaguars’ 2003 offensive and defensive statistics and you might be surprised at their 5-11 finish. The Jags finished 12th in yards gained per game and 6th in yards allowed per game. Those numbers should have translated into more wins. But the Jags lost several games by less than a touchdown, which can quickly turn a possible playoff run into a disappointing season finish.

With long-time starter Mark Brunell gone to the Redskins, the Jaguars’ future is now with second year quarterback Byron Leftwich. He offers a strong arm but only moderate accuracy and awareness. Fred Taylor is still one of the game’s elite running backs; he’s fast, agile, and offers excellent break tackle. You can send Fred on the outside or up the gut for decent yardage. The wide receivers are young but led by veteran Jimmy Smith. He’s lost some speed so don’t expect open go routes against good corners. Instead, look to hit Smith in openings in the zone or on out routes.

Kansas City Chiefs

Division: AFC West
2003 Record: 13-3
2003 Offensive Stats: 369.4 yards gained per game (2nd overall)
2003 Defensive Stats: 356.7 yards allowed per game (29th overall)

Key Players:

Trent GreenQB91899593504879

Priest HolmesRB98929695799295

Tony GonzalezTE98825557907586

Dante HallWR/KR7998999974707099

Willie RoafLT95969296834695

Will ShieldsRG98929395855095

Tony Gonzalez is the best tight end in the game. He’s essentially another receiver and matches up well against safeties or linebackers.

The 2003 Kansas City Chiefs were the tale of two teams. On one side you have an offensive juggernaut led by the best running back in the game today: Priest Holmes. He can accelerate through the hole or around the end, can break tackles through the middle, and is a potent force as a pass catcher. He also has a great line to run behind. Tony Gonzalez, the best tight end in the game, offers a superb option--not just as a dump off but as your primary target. Move him around the field and work him into your game.

Dante Hall is the best kick returner available but he’s also the Chief’s third receiver. Utilize his speed and look for opportunities to mismatch him up against a slower safety or linebacker. If the defense presses up or looks like they’re in a safety blitz, use a hot route to send Dante downfield for a bomb.

Let’s not forget the other side. What the Chiefs have in offense, the Chiefs lack in defense. They ended 2003 with the 29th ranked defense in yards allowed per game. Fortunately the Chiefs have the offensive tools to win shootouts: expect high scoring games.

Miami Dolphins

Division: AFC East
2003 Record: 10-6
2003 Offensive Stats: 288.1 yards gained per game (24th overall)
2003 Defensive Stats: 299.2 yards allowed per game (10th overall)

Key Players:

Chris ChambersWR87949391869778

Randy McMichaelTE89825557797573

Jason TaylorRE98829280837885

Zach ThomasMLB94727972954896

Patrick SurtainCB96939392688193

After another disappointing second half of the season, the Dolphins looked to improve at key offensive positions. They added A.J. Feeley, former backup at Philadelphia, as their expected new starting quarterback and signed David Boston, a strong but injury plagued receiver that couldn’t make a strong connection in San Diego. These new "weapons" on offense combined with the running of Ricky Williams and their usual strong defense made 2004 seem hopeful.

That is until Ricky Williams suddenly retired right before training camp and David Boston was lost for the season with a knee injury. At least there’s still A.J. Feeley. Madden 2005 includes Ricky Williams but if you download a roster update, he’ll be replaced by backup Travis Minor. Chris Chambers is another strong Dolphin receiver. Chambers and Boston make a nice combo in Madden 2005. Mix in Randy McMichael as another down field selection.

The Dolphins remain strong on defense. Jason Taylor anchors the line, Zach Thomas is one of the best middle linebackers, and Patrick Surtain can cover nearly everyone in the game in single coverage. There are many other stars as well. Play aggressive defense and keep scoring low and allow a conservative offense to stay in the game.

Minnesota Vikings

Division: NFC North
2003 Record: 9-7
2003 Offensive Stats: 393.4 yards gained per game (1st overall)
2003 Defensive Stats: 334.8 yards allowed per game (23rd overall)

Key Players:

Daunte CulpepperQB93988579814283

Michael BennettRB87989889647884

Randy MossWR98999997959988

Matt BirkC96919390855595

Chris HovanDT93689065888678

The Vikings started 2003 strong and looked to be the NFC favorite...but the season ended in disaster on a last second touchdown at Arizona. Despite the strong start, the Vikings failed to make the playoffs. The team mirrored the Chiefs: explosive offense but vulnerable defense. Culpepper is one of the top quarterbacks in the game. He’s extremely mobile (81 speed) and also has a powerful arm. Accuracy is Culpepper’s main weakness.

The Minnesota Vikings have one of the best quarterback-wide receiver combos in the game. Test defenses deep with Culpepper’s arm and Randy Moss’ speed.

Randy Moss is the best receiver in the game: maximum rating in speed, acceleration, and jump ability. Moss also has high awareness; use him on option routes and allow him to find the open space. Bennett is an extremely fast back and can be dangerous in pass patterns man-on-man against slow linebackers. But Moss is your primary weapon. It’s not a matter of if you’re going to go to him but when. Move him around the line to hopefully open him up. Use hot routes on him when you spot a mismatch. Don’t be afraid to send him deep several times a game to test your opponent’s defense.

New England Patriots

Division: AFC East
2003 Record: 14-2
2003 Offensive Stats: 314.9 yards gained per game (17th overall)
2003 Defensive Stats: 291.6 yards allowed per game (7th overall)

Key Players:

Tom BradyQB95919695575693

Corey DillonRB89909185649088

Richard SeymourRE96698770879085

Ty LawCB98959589687996

Rodney HarrisonSS97829371936095

Adam VinatieriK96949092

The 2003 New England Patriots won their second Super Bowl in three years. And in a move that probably made other AFC teams more nervous, the Patriots bolstered their one "weak" position by adding long-time Cincinnati Bengal Corey Dillon to their backfield as the featured ball carrier. Tom Brady, one of the most underrated quarterbacks ever (if you can call a two-time Super Bowl MVP underrated), leads the Patriots. Spread the ball around to the Patriots capable receiving group; use two tight-end sets to get both solid Patriot tight-ends into the game.

The Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots have one of the stingiest defenses in the game--both run and pass defense.

The Patriots have the best defense in the game (rated 99 overall) and are pretty much solid across the board. Ty Law and Rodney Harrison are the primary superstars. Their coverage skills allow you to play any defensive coverage you wish--including an array of blitzes. The secondary is strong enough to play single coverage. The special teams unit is also a strong suit; Adam Vinatieri is one of the game’s best kickers.

New Orleans Saints

Division: NFC South
2003 Record: 8-8
2003 Offensive Stats: 339.9 yards gained per game (11th overall)
2003 Defensive Stats: 327.1 yards allowed per game (18th overall)

Key Players:

Aaron BrooksQB89938778734585

Deuce McAllisterRB94939689779486

Joe HornWR92909491938891

Donte StallworthWR82979789818870

The New Orleans Saints seem to have the talent in place but can’t seem to rise above a mediocre record (last year’s team finished an average 8-8). Deuce McAllister is one of the best running backs available in the game; he’s a lethal mix of speed, acceleration, catching, and break tackle abilities.

Joe Horn and Donte Stallworth provide two weapons at wide out. Horn is the better overall receiver but Donte possesses the speed and acceleration to help stretch defenses, which should hopefully open more running lanes for McAllister. Boo Williams is a rising star at the tight-end position. Defense will be the Saints’ weak area; the squad lacks big time superstars. Expect a high scoring affair.

New York Giants

Division: NFC East
2003 Record: 4-12
2003 Offensive Stats: 308.4 yards gained per game (20th overall)
2003 Defensive Stats: 332.5 yards allowed per game (22nd overall)

Key Players:

Kurt WarnerQB86939292403549

Eli ManningQB81918874585595

Tiki BarberRB87929493877866

Amani ToomerWR90919291908989

Jeremy ShockeyTE95855054888267

Michael StrahanRE98728471888895

The New York Giants enter 2004 with a controversy at quarterback. The Giants sent Kerry Collins packing (he ended up at the Oakland Raiders) but acquired two capable signal callers. Ex-Ram and Super Bowl champion Kurt Warner and first-round draft pick Eli Manning (brother of all-pro Colts quarterback Peyton Manning).

The Giants enter the season with a quarterback controversy: veteran Kurt Warner or rookie Eli Manning.

Their Madden 2005 ratings are quite close. Warner has a slight edge in throw power, accuracy, and awareness (Eli is a rookie after all) but Manning is more mobile and durable (Warner is the injury rating equivalent of a toothpick). The Giants do possess some weapons on offense. Tiki is fast, agile, and one of the top pass catching running backs available. Toomer is a solid receiver and Shockey is one of the game’s premiere tight ends.

New York Jets

Division: AFC East
2003 Record: 6-10
2003 Offensive Stats: 308.9 yards gained per game (19th overall)
2003 Defensive Stats: 332.4 yards allowed per game (21st overall)

Key Players:

Chad PenningtonQB90869690554965

Curtis MartinRB88878682768596

Santana MossWR88979898888280

Kevin MawaeC97909490875395

John AbrahamRE93798776847978

The Jets had high hopes in 2003 but lost starting quarterback Chad Pennington to a broken wrist during the preseason. He didn’t make it back until late in the year when the Jets season was already essentially over. Pennington is highly accurate but lacks the arm strength to consistently hit the deep ball. If you do test a defense deep, Santana Moss is your primary target; he’s one of the fastest wide receivers available in the game.

The veteran Curtis Martin has lost a step or two but still retains respectable stats (just nothing explosive). He’s a dependable ball carrier that should pick up consistent yardage. Just don’t expect Holmes-like breakaway runs. Kevin Mawae at center provides excellent blocking. Use dives and blast plays to get Martin through the line.

Oakland Raiders

Division: AFC West
2003 Record: 4-12
2003 Offensive Stats: 285.8 yards gained per game (25th overall)
2003 Defensive Stats: 369.0 yards allowed per game (30th overall)

Key Players:

Rich GannonQB89829295646078

Jerry RiceWR86858184947899

Jerry PorterWR85919390859176

Warren SappLE93678567858692

Charles WoodsonCB93939493627588

The Oakland Raiders suffered through one of the worst seasons for a team that was just one year removed from going to the Super Bowl. It was as if their lopsided defeat at the hands of the Tampa Bay Bucs lingered well into the next season. To compound matters, the Raiders opened the season without wide receiver Jerry Porter and quarterback Rich Gannon also missed most of the season with a shoulder injury.

Jerry Rice, the best receiver of all-time, lacks speed at 41 years old but he’s a dependable target and rated the highest awareness possible in the game. Porter is a good secondary receiver. Both are similarly rated; neither will pose much of a deep threat. The Raiders’ running back situation is cluttered--several average backs and no real standouts. Use Wheatley to punch through the line.

Philadelphia Eagles

Division: NFC East
2003 Record: 12-4
2003 Offensive Stats: 314.7 yards gained per game (18th overall)
2003 Defensive Stats: 331.7 yards allowed per game (20th overall)

Key Players:

Donovan McNabbQB95968587815285

Brian WestbrookRB83929390758078

Terrell OwensWR97939893939594

Tra ThomasLT95949696824890

Jevon KearseLE94859388767574

Corey SimonDT95658764888984

Brian DawkinsFS98909482846791

The Philadelphia Eagles have reached the NFC Championship three seasons in a row--and haven’t reached the Super Bowl. The Eagles addressed two big concerns in the off season: a playmaker wide receiver and a legitimate pass rusher on the defensive line.

The Eagles needed a playmaker wide receiver: so they signed one of the best in the league, former 49er Terrell Owens.

The Eagles added flamboyant wide receiver Terrell Owens, one of the best wide outs available in the game, to give McNabb an explosive target in the passing game and signed Jevon Kearse away from the Titans to provide much needed pressure on the opposing quarterback.

This is a solid squad and certainly one of the favorites to reach the NFC Championship game yet again. McNabb is a great quarterback with excellent speed for scrambles and mobility (he’s a tad weak in accuracy). Westbrook and Buckhalter are the two backs; Westbrook offers better speed and pass catching ability while Buckhalter is superior in short yardage situations.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Division: AFC North
2003 Record: 6-10
2003 Offensive Stats: 299.5 yards gained per game (22nd overall)
2003 Defensive Stats: 291.6 yards allowed per game (9th overall)

Key Players:

Duce StaleyRB85858783808485

Jerome BettisRB82808574559290

Hines WardWR94899094968693

Alan FanecaLG97949198794592

Casey HamptonDT95576861959782

Joey PorterROLB95859182916584

Although the Steelers still have one of the better defenses (anchored by all-pro linebacker Joey Porter), the offense fell off considerably in 2003. Inconsistency at the quarterback and running back position created the biggest problems. The Steelers signed ex-Eagle Duce Staley to energize the running attack. Staley and Bettis provide a strong one-two punch. Use Staley to run outside and to catch passes; Bettis is the better inside runner and should be used in short yardage situations.

The Steelers’ receiving group remains strong with Hines Ward the primary target. Establish a strong running game by swapping out Staley and Bettis for specific situations. Hit Staley out of the backfield to loosen the defense and open up your options at wide receiver.

San Diego Chargers

Division: AFC West
2003 Record: 4-12
2003 Offensive Stats: 322.9 yards gained per game (14th overall)
2003 Defensive Stats: 349.6 yards allowed per game (27th overall)

Key Players:

Phillip RiversQB79869372525497

LaDainian TomlinsonRB98959996879287

Lorenzo NealFB92556685546870

Donnie EdwardsMLB92858988886694

LaDainian Tomlinson is one of the best running backs in the game and by far the best player on the San Diego Chargers.

The San Diego Chargers have one of the best players in the game...but few other superstars. LaDainian Tomlinson is a dominant mix of speed and power. He’s also lethal out of the backfield--if you can get him the ball. The Chargers’ quarterback situation isn’t strong. Former starter Drew Brees is a forgotten man so the Chargers drafted Philip Rivers as their new future star. Lorenzo Neal is another star on offense; he’s one of the top fullbacks in the game and should open holes that Tomlinson can accelerate through.

San Francisco 49ers

Division: NFC West
2003 Record: 7-9
2003 Offensive Stats: 355.4 yards gained per game (5th overall)
2003 Defensive Stats: 308.0 yards allowed per game (13th overall)

Key Players:

Kevan BarlowRB86899386659278

Fred BeasleyFB93725264757277

Julian PetersonLOLB97889088905787

Tony ParrishSS94858482808085

The 2004 San Francisco 49ers bear little resemblance to the 2003 Niners. It was like an off season fire sale. The 49ers lost their starting quarterback, starting running back, and both starting receivers. Kevan Barlow started at running back late in the season and proved he deserved the position. He’s one of the best players on the team (though certainly not rated as an elite back) with high break tackle ability. Utilize highly rated Fred Beasley to open up holes.

Seattle Seahawks

Division: NFC West
2003 Record: 10-6
2003 Offensive Stats: 351.7 yards gained per game (6th overall)
2003 Defensive Stats: 327.4 yards allowed per game (19th overall)

Key Players:

Matt HasselbeckQB90939387565779

Shaun AlexanderRB92909888719287

Darrell JacksonWR88889190918889

Koren RobinsonWR87929392879382

Walter JonesLT96939894885192

The Seattle Seahawks should enter 2004 as one of the favorites in the NFC. Matt Hasselbeck has come into his own over the last season and a half and should be considered one of the top quarterbacks in the league. Shaun Alexander is one of the best all-around running backs in the game--potent acceleration to combine with high break tackle ability. Run behind strong offensive lineman Walter Jones at left tackle.

Darrell Jackson and Koren Robinson present two solid targets at receiver. Plus Bobby Engram is solid in three-receiver sets. Utilize a lot of singleback, three-receiver sets for both run and pass situations to keep defenses on guard.

St. Louis Rams

Division: NFC West
2003 Record: 12-4
2003 Offensive Stats: 341.1 yards gained per game (9th overall)
2003 Defensive Stats: 315.8 yards allowed per game (16th overall)

Key Players:

Marc BulgerQB88929283585466

Marshall FaulkRB93949495838285

Torry HoltWR96979692969095

Issac BruceWR90939395928692

Orlando PaceLT98969893905495

Leonard LittleLE94839281807674

Aeneas WilliamsCB94939282586795

Torry Holt had a breakout season last year--his new Madden 2005 ratings reflect his great year.

The St. Louis Rams still have one of the most explosive offenses in the game. Bulger is rated pretty well and shouldn’t have a problem dishing out the rock to the Rams’ true stars: Marshall Faulk, Torry Holt, and Issac Bruce. These are your playmakers. Any of their Madden ratings could put them in a starting position on any other team. Play a wide open offense and spread the ball around to your big stars. Both Holt and Bruce could beat defenders deep, though Holt definitely has the speed and catching advantage.

Run Faulk behind all-pro left tackle Orlando Pace. Also make sure you use Faulk as a receiver as well. Use hot routes to send him out on every passing play so you have the option if needed. The Rams aren’t as strong defensively. Leonard Little is the best on the line while veteran cornerback Aeneas Williams can still stack up against the league’s best receivers.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Division: NFC South
2003 Record: 7-9
2003 Offensive Stats: 340.8 yards gained per game (10th overall)
2003 Defensive Stats: 279.1 yards allowed per game (5th overall)

Key Players:

Brad JohnsonQB87879392494585

Mike AlstottFB93824753659574

Keenan McCardellWR89878689958493

Simeon RiceLE97819379807792

Anthony McFarlandDT94668466899080

Derrick BrooksROLB98839081926595

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers completed a disappointing 2003 season after winning the Super Bowl the year before. The Bucs suffered from inconsistent play on both sides of the ball as well as some major off the field distractions by the name of Keyshawn Johnson. The Bucs made some moves in the off season trading Keyshawn Johnson to Dallas for Joey Galloway and adding Charlie Garner at running back.

Mix in Garner and Alstott as a speed versus power combination. Alstott excels in short yardage situations with a near maximum rating in break tackle ability. Utilize Garner as a receiver option out of the backfield. Galloway will stretch defenses while McCardell is a dependable possession receiver.

The Bucs’ defense remains one of the stronger squads in the game. Despite losing Sapp to the Raiders, the defensive line can create havoc in the opposing team’s backfield. Left end Simeon Rice and defensive tackle Anthony McFarland are both highly rated linemen. Derrick Brooks is still one of the best linebackers available.

Tennessee Titans

Division: AFC South
2003 Record: 12-4
2003 Offensive Stats: 343.8 yards gained per game (8th overall)
2003 Defensive Stats: 306.3 yards allowed per game (12th overall)

Key Players:

Steve McNairQB96949089746382

Derrick MasonWR91909292948592

Kevin CarterDT92687870858787

Keith BullickROLB96879087906584

Samari RolleCB93949492557990

Titans quarterback Steve McNair shared last season’s most valuable player award with Colts’ signal caller Peyton Manning. You could make a strong case for either quarterback but most would argue that McNair is the heart and soul of the Tennessee Titans. During the off season, the Titans let former Heisman trophy winner Eddie George go (he later signed with the Dallas Cowboys). The Titans will now lean on last season’s backup Chris Brown.

Derrick Mason should be McNair’s primary target. Mix in passes to the Titans’ stellar tight-end group as well. McNair still has some legs; although not on par with Vick, Culpepper, or McNabb, McNair’s speed rating still provides plenty of chances for rollouts and scrambles. Defensively the Titans remain strong with solid stars at each position level. Kevin Carter anchors the line, Keith Bullick is a standout linebacker, and Samari Rolle can shutdown many receivers.

Washington Redskins

Division: NFC East
2003 Record: 5-11
2003 Offensive Stats: 291.2 yards gained per game (23rd overall)
2003 Defensive Stats: 338.2 yards allowed per game (25th overall)

Key Players:

Mark BrunellQB86878888625867

Clinton PortisRB95979996708887

Laveraneus ColesWR91999895918386

LaVar ArringtonROLB98889687905485

Under owner Daniel Snyder, the Washington Redskins have made major changes to the team every season. This season, Snyder coaxed former Redskins’ coach Joe Gibbs (winner of three Super Bowl titles) out of retirement to lead the team back to its glory days. Other off season moves included signing veteran, ex-Jaguars quarterback Mark Brunell and completing a blockbuster trade that sent cornerback Champ Bailey to the Broncos for all-pro running back Clinton Portis.

The Redskins made a huge off season trade acquiring premiere running back Clinton Portis.

The always-dangerous Portis should be your primary focus on offense. Brunell doesn’t possess the rating for a consistently successful passing attack. Testing defenses deep will certainly help open holes for Portis. Look for primary wide out Laveraneus Coles--given a 99 rating for speed--on the deep go routes. Maneuver him around the line and use hot routes to take advantage of mismatches.

Chapter 3 - Offense

Most of Madden 2005’s gameplay tweaks are on the defensive side of the ball. For the most part, strategies and features on offense remain largely the same. But whether you’re a new Madden player or a seasoned veteran, this chapter will provide tips to hone and improve your offensive gameplan.

A successful offense moves the ball efficiently and effectively. Predict what the defense is doing so you can gain positive yards on every down. Avoid backpedaling and putting the team in long yardage situations where your course of action becomes much more predictable. Avoid turnovers and look to exploit the opposing defenses’ weaknesses and mismatches. This section will provide explanations of offensive formations and packages, offer specific tips on managing an explosive passing and rushing attack, and reveal the best Madden 2005 NFL players at key offensive positions.

Offensive Formations and Packages

When selecting your play on offense, you must first selection a formation. The formation inserts specific personnel onto the field in specific spots. For instance, the shotgun formation typically includes more speedy wide receivers since it’s generally a pass formation while the goal line formation includes more big linemen and tight ends because it’s generally a run formation.

You can adjust formations and packages on the play selection screen. Change a shotgun formation to four wide receivers and even insert your running back into the slot position.

Note that formations other than goal line also include "sub-formations" that further alter the players’ positions. For instance, there’s a standard shotgun formation (one running back, three wide receivers) but then there’s also a four wide receiver shotgun formation or even a five wide receiver shotgun formation. You can further adjust formation personnel through packages, such as using a jumbo backfield for short yardage, moving the tight end to the slot position, or giving your starting running back a rest. These package substitutions are covered later in this chapter.

The following list covers the basics of each formation, their strengths and weaknesses, and appropriate usage. Certain sub formations of each formation are also covered. Use this section as a guide during your offensive play selection.

  • Goal Line: The aptly named goal line formation would be used most often in very short yardage (three yards or less) or goal line situations. It’s a compact formation with big linemen blocking for a fullback and running back lining up behind the quarterback. Use playmaker control to switch the direction of your running play depending on how the defense stacks the line. Use package substitution to insert a jumbo backfield for, possibly, better break tackle ability (depending on your team). Switch to the Miami package to exchange the receiver for a better blocking tight end. Mix up your play with a pass out of goal line, which can be very effective. Use a hot route to ensure one of your receivers is running a quick pattern in case the defense has called a heavy blitz.
  • I Form: The I Form formation features a fullback then a running back lined up directly behind the quarterback. The formation’s name is derived from the backfields resemblance to an "I". It’s usually a run formation--the fullback provides a lead block for the running back. But it can be a powerful pass formation as well, especially against aggressive opponents thinking run. For instance, the I Form-Big formation inserts two tight ends and just one receiver. Certainly a good running formation with all that blocking but also a surprising pass formation. In any I Form formation, utilize the running back and fullback (or two running backs if you use the Dual HB package) as options in the flat. If your opponent aggressively blitzes, one of those options is likely to be wide open.
  • Strong I, Weak I: These formations are 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). The uses are similar to the I Form. It’s an expected run formation but does offer some pass option sub formations and hitting the two backs in the flat or across the middle can be dangerous against an aggressive defense expecting run.
  • Far, Near: These formations are similar to Strong and Weak, but the fullback and running back are positioned close to one other behind the quarterback. Look for these formations in San Francisco’s playbook.
  • Split Backs: This is another two-back set but the two backs are lined up along the same line in a split formation. Both backs are just offset from the quarterback. It holds similar advantages and disadvantages to the other two back sets. It’s a decent run formation (though the I Form, Strong, and Weak seem to be consistently better in Madden for running the ball) and is a solid pass formation when you work the backs into the patterns.

The Falcons’ playbook includes the full house formation: three backs in the backfield.

  • Full House: The full house formation includes three backs in the backfield: one full back and two running backs. The position of the backs resembles a cross between the I Form and the Strong or Weak formation. It’s another strong run formation that provides several options. You can hand off to the primary back, the secondary back, the full back, or use it as a passing formation and send three backs into the pattern. The dual HB package moves the secondary running back behind the quarterback; the spell HB package moves the secondary running back to the primary’s position and uses a tight end in the full back’s spot.
  • Jumbo-T: The Packers playbook includes the Jumbo-T, which resembles the full house formation with multiple backs (two running backs, one fullback) behind the quarterback. Like full house, it allows for several run options and can be effective in passing plays with effective back and tight end routes.
  • Singleback: The singleback formation is extremely varied. In fact, some of the sub formations don’t even include a single back--such as Singleback-Empty 4WR and 5WR. Most, though, feature a single running back and a set of receivers, tight ends, or a mixture of both. Using the sets with a running back, three receivers, and a tight end can be unpredictable and pose match-up problems. If the defense calls nickel, then you have the advantage in the running game. If the defense calls 4-3 or 3-4, then you could have an advantage in the passing game.
  • Shotgun: The shotgun formation is a typical passing formation because it allows extra time for the quarterback to read the defense and hit the open receiver before the rush closes in. It’s certainly possible and often effective to run out of the shotgun formation as well.

The following table covers each NFL team’s playbook and the included offensive formations and sub formations.

Arizona CardinalsSingleback-Normal, Singleback-Big, Singleback-4WR, Singleback-Empty 4WR, Singleback-Trips TE, Singleback-Slot Strong, I Form-Normal, I Form-Twin WR, I Form-3WR, Strong I-Normal, Strong I-3WR, Weak I-Normal, Weak I-Twins WR, Shotgun-4WR, Shotgun-Slot Strong, Shotgun-Trips Bunch, Shotgun-Trips
Atlanta FalconsSingleback-Normal, Singleback-Tight, Singleback-Big, Singleback-4WR, Singleback-Trips Bunch, Singleback-Slot Strong, I Form-Normal, I Form-Twin WR, Split Backs-Normal, Split Backs-3WR, Shotgun-Trips Bunch, Shotgun-2RB 3WR, Weak I-Normal, Full House-Normal, Full House-Strong, Full House-Weak
Baltimore RavensI Form-Normal, I Form-Big, I Form-Twin TE, I Form-Twin WR, I Form-3WR, Singleback-Normal, Singleback-Big, Singleback-Slot Strong, Singleback-4WR, Singleback-Tight, Shotgun-Normal Offset Wk, Shotgun-2RB 3WR, Strong I-Normal, Strong I-Twin TE, Strong I-Big
Buffalo BillsI Form-Normal, I Form-Twin TE, Singleback-Normal, Singleback-Big, Singleback-Empty 4WR, Singleback-Trips TE, Singleback-Trips Bunch, Shotgun-Normal, Shotgun-4WR, Shotgun-5WR, Shotgun-2RB 3WR, Shotgun-Trips, Strong I-Normal, Strong I-3WR, Weak I-Normal, Weak I-Twin WR
Carolina PanthersSingleback-Normal, Singleback-Big, Singleback-Twin TE, Singleback-Trips Bunch, Singleback-4WR, Singleback-Empty 5WR, I Form-Normal, I Form-Big, I Form-Twin TE, I Form-Twin WR, Shotgun-Normal, Strong I-Normal, Strong I-Twin TE, Strong I-Big, Weak I-Normal, Weak I-Twin TE
Chicago BearsSingleback-Normal, Singleback-Big, Singleback-4WR, Singleback-Trips WR, Singleback-Trips Bunch, Shotgun-Normal, Shotgun-5WR, Shotgun-Empty 4WR, Shotgun- Trips TE, I Form-Normal, I Form-Twin WR, I Form-Twin TE, Split Backs-Normal, Split Backs-3WR, Strong-Normal, Strong-3WR
Cincinnati BengalsI Form-Normal, I Form-Twin WR, I Form-3WR, Singleback-Normal, Singleback-Big, Singleback-4WR, Singleback-Trips WR, Singleback-Empty 5WR, Shotgun-2RB 3WR, Shotgun-4WR, Shotgun-Trips, Strong I-Normal, Strong I-Big, Strong I-Twin WR, Split Backs-Normal, Split Backs-3WR
Cleveland BrownsSingleback-Normal, Singleback-Big, Singleback-Twin TE, Singleback-Twin TE WR, Singleback-Slot Strong, Singleback-Big 3TE, I Form-Normal, I Form-Twin TE, I Form-Big, Shotgun-Normal, Shotgun-4WR, Shotgun-5WR Bunch, Shotgun-2RB 3WR, Strong I-Normal, Strong I-Big, Weak I-Normal, Weak I-Twin TE
Dallas CowboysI Form-Normal, I Form-3WR, I Form-Twin TE, Singleback-Normal, Singleback-Big, Singleback-4WR, Singleback-Twin TE, Singleback-Slot Strong, Split Backs-3WR, Weak I-Normal, Weak I-Twin WR, Shotgun-4WR, Shotgun-Trips, Shotgun-2RB 3WR
Denver BroncosSingleback-Normal, Singleback-Big, Singleback-4WR, Singleback-Twin TE WR, Singleback-Big Twin WR, Singleback-Empty 4WR, I Form-Normal, I Form-Twin WR, I Form-Big, Strong I-Normal, Strong I-Twin WR, Strong I-Big Tight, Weak I-Twins, Weak I-Big, Shotgun-5WR, Shotgun-Trips TE
Detroit LionsSingleback-Normal, Singleback-4WR, Singleback-Big, Singleback-Trips Bunch, Singleback-Empty 4WR, Singleback-Trips WR, Split Backs-Normal, Split Backs-Twin WR, I Form-Normal, I Form-Twin WR, Strong I-Normal, Strong I-3WR, Shotgun-Normal Offset Wk, Shotgun-4WR, Shotgun-Trips TE, Weak I-Normal, Weak I-3WR
Green Bay PackersI Form-Normal, I Form-Twin WR, I Form-Twin TE, Strong I-Normal, Strong I-Twin TE, Strong I-3WR, Singleback-Normal, Singleback-4WR, Singleback-Big, Singleback-Trips Bunch, Singleback-Twin TE WR, Shotgun-Normal, Shotgun-2RB 3WR, Shotgun-4WR, Jumbo T-Big, Full House-Wide, Full House-Weak, Full House-Strong
Houston TexansI Form-Normal, I Form-Twin WR, I Form-3WR, I Form-Twin TE, Singleback-Normal, Singleback-Big, Singleback-Big Twin WR, Singleback-4WR, Singleback-Tight, Singleback-Big 3TE, Shotgun-Normal, Shotgun-2RB 3WR, Shotgun-4WR, Shotgun-Tight, Strong I-Normal, Weak I-Normal, Weak I-Twins WR
Indianapolis ColtsSingleback-Dice, Singleback-Deuce, Singleback-Slot Strong, Singleback-Big Twin WR, I Form-Normal, I Form-Twin WR, Split Backs-Normal, Split Backs-3WR, Split Backs-Twin WR, Shotgun-Normal, Shotgun-4WR, Shotgun-2RB 3WR, Strong I-Normal, Strong I-3WR
Jacksonville JaguarsI Form-Normal, I Form-Twin WR, I Form-Big, Singleback-Normal, Singleback-Big, Singleback-Trips Bunch, Singleback-Slot Strong, Shotgun-Normal, Shotgun-5WR, Shotgun-5WR Bunch, Shotgun-Empty 4WR, Shotgun-2RB 3WR, Weak I-Big, Weak I-Twin WR, Strong I-Normal, Strong I-3WR
Kansas City ChiefsSingleback-Normal, Singleback-Big, Singleback-Slot Strong, Singleback-4WR, Singleback-Empty 5WR, Singleback-Trips WR, I Form-Normal, I Form-Big, I Form-Twin WR, I Form-3WR, Strong I-Normal, Strong I-3WR, Strong I-Big, Shotgun-4WR, Shotgun-5WR, Shotgun-Trips TE
Miami DolphinsI Form-Normal, I Form-Big, I Form-Twin WR, I Form-Twin TE, Singleback-Normal, Singleback-Big, Singleback-Twin TE, Singleback-Tight, Shotgun-Normal, Shotgun-4WR, Shotgun-Empty 4WR, Shotgun-Slot Strong, Weak I-Normal, Weak I-3WR, Strong I-Normal, Strong I-Twin WR
Minnesota VikingsSingleback-Normal, Singleback-Big, Singleback-4WR, Singleback-Trips WR, Singleback-Big Twin WR, Shotgun-Normal, Shotgun-4WR, Shotgun-Slot Strong, Shotgun-Trips TE, Shotgun-Tight, I Form-Normal, I Form-Twin WR, Weak I-Normal, Weak I-Twin TE, Strong I-Normal, Strong I-Big
New England PatriotsSingleback-Normal, Singleback-Big, Singleback-Twin TE, Singleback-Big 3TE, Singleback-Trips WR, Singleback-Trips Bunch, Singleback-Empty 5WR, I Form-Normal, I Form-Twin WR, Weak I-Normal, Weak I-Twin TE, Shotgun-Normal, Shotgun-5WR, Strong I-Normal, Strong I-Big, Split Backs-Normal, Split Backs-3WR
New Orleans SaintsI Form-Normal, I Form-3WR, I Form-Big, Singleback-Normal, Singleback-Big, Singleback-4WR, Singleback-Trips WR, Shotgun-Normal, Shotgun-4WR, Shotgun-Slot Strong, Shotgun-Trips, Shotgun-Empty 4WR, Shotgun-5WR Bunch, Strong I-Normal, Strong I-Twin WR, Strong I-Normal, Strong I-Twin WR, Weak I-Normal, Weak I-3WR
New York GiantsI Form-Normal, I Form-Twin WR, I Form-3WR, Singleback-Normal, Singleback-4WR, Singleback-Empty 4WR, Singleback-Big, Singleback-Twin TE, Singleback-Slot Strong, Shotgun-Normal, Shotgun-2RB 3WR, Shotgun-4WR, Strong I-Normal, Strong I-Twin WR, Weak I-Normal, Weak I-Twin TE
New York JetsSingleback-Normal, Singleback-Big, Singleback-Slot Strong, Singleback-Trips Bunch, Singleback-4WR, Singleback-Empty 4WR, I Form-Normal, I Form-Big, I Form-Twin WR, Strong I-Normal, Strong I-3WR, Strong I-Twin WR, Weak I-Normal, Weak I-Twins WR, Split Backs-Normal, Split Backs-3WR
Oakland RaidersSingleback-Normal, Singleback-Empty 4WR, Singleback-Empty 5WR, Singleback-Trips WR, Singleback-Tight, Singleback-Trips Bunch, I Form-Normal, I Form-Twin WR, I Form-3WR, Split Backs-Normal, Split Backs-3WR, Shotgun-5WR, Shotgun-Trips, Strong I-Normal, Strong I-3WR, Strong I-Big, Weak I-Normal, Weak I-3WR
Philadelphia EaglesSingleback-Normal, Singleback-4WR, Singleback-Slot Strong, Singleback-Empty 4WR, Singleback-Trips WR, Singleback-Trips Bunch, Singleback-Trips TE, Singleback-Tight, I Form-Normal, I Form-3WR, I Form-Twin WR, Split Backs-Normal, Split Backs-3WR, Strong I-Normal, Strong I-3WR, Weak I-Twins WR
Pittsburgh SteelersI Form-Normal, I Form-Twin WR, I Form-Twin TE, I Form-3WR, Singleback-Normal, Singleback-Trips Bunch, Singleback-4WR, Singleback-Twin TE WR, Singleback-Empty 4WR, Singleback-Trips WR, Shotgun-Normal, Shotgun-4WR, Shotgun-Trips, Shotgun-Empty 4WR, Strong I-Normal
San Diego ChargersSingleback-Normal, Singleback-Big, Singleback-Slot Strong, Singleback-Twin TE, Singleback-Twin TE WR, I Form-Normal, I Form-Big, I Form-Twin TE, Strong I-Normal, Strong I-Twin WR, Split Backs-3WR, Weak I-Normal, Weak I-Twin WR, Shotgun-Normal, Shotgun-2RB 3WR, Shotgun-4WR
San Francisco 49ersI Form-Normal, I Form-Twin WR, I Form-3WR, I Form-Big, Singleback-Normal, Singleback-Big, Singleback-4WR, Singleback-Slot Strong, Singleback-Twin TE WR, Singleback-Big Twin WR, Split Backs-Normal, Split Backs-3WR, Weak I-Normal, Strong I-Twin WR, Far-Normal, Near-Normal
Seattle SeahawksI Form-Normal, I Form-3WR, I Form-Big, Singleback-Normal, Singleback-Big, Singleback-4WR, Singleback-Slot Strong, Singleback-Twin TE, Split Backs-Normal, Split Backs-3WR, Split Backs-Big, Strong I-Normal, Strong I-3WR, Weak I-Normal, Weak I-Twin WR
St. Louis RamsSingleback-Normal, Singleback-Big, Singleback-Trips WR, Singleback-Trips Bunch, Singleback-4WR, Singleback-Empty 5WR, Shotgun-4WR, I Form-Normal, I Form-3WR, I Form-Twin WR, I Form-Twin TE, Split Backs-Normal, Split Backs-3WR, Weak I-Big, Weak I-3WR, Strong I-3WR, Strong I-Normal,
Tampa Bay BuccaneersSingleback-Normal, Singleback-Big, Singleback-Empty 4WR, Singleback-Trips Bunch, Singleback-Tight, Singleback-Slot Strong, Singleback-Empty 5WR, Singleback-Trips TE, I Form-Normal, I Form-Twin WR, I Form-Twin TE, Strong I-Normal, Strong I-3WR, Weak I-Normal, Weak I-Twins WR, Split Backs-Twin WR, Split Backs-3WR
Tennessee TitansSingleback-Normal, Singleback-Big, Singleback-Empty 5WR, Singleback-Slot Strong, Singleback-4WR, Singleback-Big Twin WR, Shotgun-Normal, Shotgun-4WR, Shotgun-Slot Strong, Shotgun-Tight, I Form-Normal, I Form-Big, I Form-Twin TE, Weak I-Normal, Weak I-Twin WR, Strong I-Normal, Strong I-3WR
Washington RedskinsSingleback-Normal, Singleback-Big, Singleback-4WR, Singleback-Twin TE, I Form-Normal, I Form-Twin TE, I Form-3WR, I Form-Twin WR, Shotgun-Normal, Shotgun-4WR, Shotgun-Trips TE, Strong I-Normal, Strong I-3WR, Weak I-Normal, Weak I-Twins WR, Weak I-Big

Alter the personnel in a specific formation with package substitutions. Using packages you can easy insert two running backs instead of using a fullback, swap wide receiver positions, or move a running back to the wide out slot. The following list details some of the package substitutions and how to use them effectively.

  • Dual HB: In formations with two running backs (including Form, Strong, Weak, and Shotgun-2RB 3WR), this package switches the fullback for the team’s secondary running back. This can be an effective substitution for teams with two decent running backs (for instance, Atlanta, Cleveland, Minnesota, Denver, etc) for pass plays to the backs. Also if you want a quick way to utilize the secondary running back on plays designed for the fullback.
  • Jumbo Backfield: Substitutes your running back for the fullback for dual fullbacks. Good for short yardage situations and for teams with good fullbacks (San Francisco, San Diego, for instance) for use in runs designed for running backs.
  • WR Swap: Swap the primary and secondary receiver positions to alter their assigned pass routes. Could create mismatches against a defense that hasn’t made defensive assignments for man coverage.
  • WR Swap Strong: Places your best two receivers on the strong side then swaps their position (essentially placing your top receiver in the slot position).
  • Spell HB: If your primary running back is fatigued, use this package to quickly swap in your secondary back for some fresh legs. Return to normal package after a play or two once your primary back has rested.
  • HB Slot: Substitution your running back into the slot position in a three or more receiver set. A great way to get a stellar pass receiving running back into the passing game. For instance, pass a ball deep to the Minnesota’s speedy Michael Bennett.
  • Strong Slot: Substitutes your best receiver into the slot position. Excellent for helping get your best receiver open and up against new defenders, possibly a mismatch against a safety or even a linebacker.
  • Slot Swap: Swap the receivers in the slot position.
  • HB Wideout: Substitutes your running back into the wideout position. Much like HB Slot, useful if your favorite team has a running back with great hands.

Use the TE Slot package on teams with a great receiving tight end, such as Shockey on the New York Giants.

  • TE Slot: Substitutes your tight end into the slot position. Use this package if your team has a good receiving tight end (Kansas City, Baltimore, New York Giants) or plan to run in the formation toward the tight end--the tight end is usually a better blocker.
  • TE Swap: Switch tight end positions in formations with two tight ends.
  • WR Strong: Places your top receivers on the strong side of the formation.
  • WR Strong Weak: Places your best two receivers on the same side in a multiple receiver set--for instance in a five receiver set.
  • WR Bunch: Positions the top receivers into the "bunch" area of the formation.
  • Big: Substitutes wide receivers for tight ends and fullbacks for a "big" formation. This could turn a bunch formation passing play into a solid running play with the increased blocking abilities of the tight ends and fullbacks.
  • Strong Solo: In formations with multiple receivers on one side and one receiver on another, places your top receiver in the solo position.
  • Stack Strong: Stacks your best receivers on the strong side of the formation.
  • Stack Weak: Stacks your best receivers on the weak side of the formation.
  • Miami: On goal line, substitutes your receiver for a tight end and a defensive lineman for your tight end.

Top Ranked Offenses

The following chart reveals the top ranked offenses in Madden 2005 by overall rating.

Indianapolis ColtsAFC South98
Kansas City ChiefsAFC West96
Philadelphia EaglesNFC East93
Green Bay PackersNFC North91
Seattle SeahawksNFC West91
Minnesota VikingsNFC North90
New England PatriotsAFC East90
St. Louis RamsNFC West90
Washington RedskinsNFC East90

The Passing Game

There are a number of variables that affect a successful passing play. It’s not as simple as mashing the pass button and hoping the intended target catches the ball for positive yardage. It might work here and there but there’s more that goes into a consistently effective passing game in Madden 2005. This section offers tips on reading pass defenses, using playmaker control, and moving the ball on offense on your quarterback’s arm.

Reading the Pass Defense

You’ve called a pass play and are approaching the line of scrimmage. Immediately you can tell what formation the defense has selected. If there are seven players in the box--either three defensive linemen and four linebackers or four defensive linemen and three linebackers--then the defense is in the 3-4 or 4-3 respectively. If there’s one extra defensive back, the defense is in the nickel; two extra defensive backs is the dime; and three is the quarter.

Scan the defense as your offense approaches the line of scrimmage and see how the defense matches up against your called pass play.

The greater the number of defensive backs, the more difficult your pass play becomes. It’s certainly possible to connect on a pass play against a dime or quarter defense but the defense is geared to stop the pass and will likely win that battle more times than not. Pass plays, especially those with multiple receivers and backs out of the backfield, against 3-4, 4-3, 46 or goal line will be more effective because of match up problems.

Match ups are important in the passing game. Defensive cornerbacks are best at covering wide receivers. Safeties and linebackers are not as skilled in coverage. If you can match one of your better receivers against a safety or linebacker then you have the advantage. Shift your top receivers around the line of scrimmage using different packages and flipped plays.

You can determine if the defense is in man coverage or zone coverage through a number of methods. Put a man in motion and see if he’s followed; if so, he’s in man coverage. Though keep in mind that the defense can use "man lock" to keep defensive players in place even though they’re in man coverage; the coverage simply shifts to another defender.

There are holes in the cover 2 defense, especially flag patterns toward the side line between the cornerback and safety.

In zone defenses, defenders cover a specific area of the field. They’ll cover any offensive player that enters the zone but will hand off coverage to another defender once the offensive player leaves the zone. Against a zone, look for holes in the zone. For instance, against the cover 2, look for the deep angled out pattern, called the flag. There’s a hole between the coverage of the cornerback and the safety.

In man defenses, defenders cover a specific player. Effective routes would include crossing routes, especially if you have a fast receiver matched up against a slower cornerback.

As you approach the line of scrimmage, see how the defense is lined up against your formation. In a 3-WR set, do you have a receiver that isn’t directly covered by a cornerback? Watch the linebacker on that side; if he blitzes then hit that receiver quickly. If the defense is in a pass-oriented defense, consider calling an audible to a run play. And don’t neglect your hot routes. Alter pass patterns based on the defensive lineup. If you believe you’ll have single coverage on a receiver, send him deep. Deep pass plays are rarely successful against two or more defenders; but in single-coverage, the receiver frequently has the advantage.

Watch how the defenders react as you approach the line. Which defenders have approached the line of scrimmage in a "blitz" stance? Use hot routes to open up a quick pattern so you can get rid of the ball quickly. Also, against linebacker blitzes hitting backs out of the backfield is often open, particularly against man coverage. Send the back in the direction of the blitzer and hit him once he clears the line of scrimmage.

Playmaker Control

You have a couple playmaker options in the passing game. Before the snap, use the right analog stick to alter the primary receiver’s pass route. Press the right analog stick up to send the primary receiver on a go route; move the stick left for a crossing route/out pattern left; move the stick right for a crossing route/out pattern right; and move it down for a screen. If you want to alter other receivers’ routes, use the hot route button. Send a receiver deep if he’s in single coverage or adjust his route to a crossing pattern against double coverage, which could free up other receiver patterns on the same side.

Use playmaker control to alter a receiver’s route before or during the play--specifically when you need to get rid of the ball quickly.

Utilize playmaker control during the pass play to adjust a receiver’s current pattern. For instance, if you’re scrambling and in trouble, push the right analog stick down to call a receiver back toward the line of scrimmage. Since the defender is likely behind the receiver, the pass should connect as long as there are no other defenders in the ball’s path.

Use the right trigger and directional pad to shift your formation along the line of scrimmage. The pass patterns remain the same but your player’s positions shift. Call a formation shift to spread out of the offense against tight defensive coverage.

Passing Tips and Tricks

This section offers a collection of general passing tips and tricks for Madden 2005.

  • An effective passing attack certainly begins with team selection. If you want to emphasize the pass then it’s wise to select a team that will assist in your effort. Teams like St. Louis, Indianapolis, Minnesota, Seattle, Philadelphia, and others that offer a strong quarterback and good receivers will have a much easier time in the passing game than weaker passing teams.
  • Hitch or curl patterns are an effective way of moving the ball consistently. Often your receiver will find an open spot in the zone (or the zone defender may move off when another receiver enters the zone) and you’ll have a chance to hit your target. If a defender is behind your receiver, who’s now facing your quarterback, it’ll be a high percentage pass. Use a "bullet pass" (hold down the pass button) to get the ball to the receiver quickly.

Throwing on the run hurls more inaccurate passes.

  • A quarterback throws more accurately with planted feet. Throwing on the run, while certainly sometimes successful, is generally less accurate than planting your feet. If you’re consistently inaccurate, watch your quarterback’s movement as you through the ball. You might be moving around the pocket and not realize it.
  • Use bullet passes (press the pass button firmly) to hit wide open receivers or those on a hitch or curl route. A receiver might not stay open forever so it’s best to get the ball there quickly. Use a lob pass (tap the pass button) to reach receivers on deep patterns or slightly covered receivers to give them a chance to outrun the pursuing defender. In either instance, it’s important to spot other defenders in the area that might be approaching your receiver. Against a lob pass this approaching defender could pick off your pass.
  • Audibles and hot routes are extremely powerful. You don’t need to retain the play called on every down--or any down for that matter. Assess the defense as you approach the line and adjust your receivers’ pass patterns as desired. Send a receiver in single-coverage deep. In trips, send two deep and one in a crossing route; the deep receivers may clear out defenders opening the crossing route. Send your backs into the pattern for additional options. Flood one side of the field with crossing routes and hit the open man.
  • Consistent aerial success also depends on quick reads against the mobilized defense. Look for open passing lanes when hurling the pigskin. Avoid tossing the ball if there’s a defender between your quarterback and the intended receiver. There are a lot of tips and, even worse, interceptions that can happen in crowded passing lanes.

Speedy quarterbacks can gain a lot of yardage with effective scrambling.

  • Quarterback scrambles are still fairly effective in Madden 2005. Michael Vick dominated Madden 2004 with his legs. Thankfully some defenses have been added to contain the quarterback more effectively. However, if the downfield coverage is strong and there’s an open running lane and you have the wheels (Vick, Culpepper, McNabb, McNair), take off and gain positive yardage.
  • Plays with "PA" in their name are play-action passes. These pass plays simulate a run play, which can trick defenders (and human opponents) and open up some of your receivers’ pass patterns. Be careful calling play action against an expected blitz. If the blitz gets through, your quarterback’s rather slow play action motion will likely be caught and sacked.
  • It can pay to select the receiver and catch the ball using the catch button. For instance, your receiver is on a post or crossing route. The ball looks slightly overthrown. Select the receiver and intercept the ball; hit the catch button as the ball arrives. It’s often the little things that win games and making a big catch on a bad pass can turn a game around.
  • Madden 2005 includes new receiver "option" routes in some pass plays. In these plays, the receiver decides which route to run based on the defensive coverage. Note that a player’s awareness rating greatly affects the receiver’s decision making skills. High awareness receivers like Rice or Harrison make the correct decisions; rookies might make a mistake. These plays can be highly effective in a pinch. Also, look for running back option routes, particularly for high awareness, high catch abilities backs.

Top Ranked Quarterbacks

The following chart reveals the top rated quarterbacks in Madden 2005.

Peyton ManningIndianapolis Colts97969798495797
Steve McNairTennessee Titans96949089746382
Tom BradyNew England Patriots95919695575693
Donovan McNabbPhiladelphia Eagles95968587815285
Brett FavreGreen Bay Packers94979098535199
Daunte CulpepperMinnesota Vikings93988579814283
Michael VickAtlanta Falcons92968278945476
Trent GreenKansas City Chiefs91899593504879
Matt HasselbeckSeattle Seahawks90939387565779
Chad PenningtonNew York Jets90869690554965

Top Ranked Wide Receivers

The following chart reveals the top rated wide receivers in Madden 2005.

Randy MossMinnesota Vikings98999997959988
Marvin HarrisonIndianapolis Colts98979897998798
Terrell OwensPhiladelphia Eagles97939893939594
Torry HoltSt. Louis Rams96979692969095
Hines WardPittsburgh Steelers94899094968693
Chad JohnsonCincinnati Bengals93929495939286
Joe HornNew Orleans Saints92909491938891
Eric MouldsBuffalo Bills92939590909190
Derrick MasonTennessee Titans91909292948592
Laveraneus ColesWashington Redskins91999895918386
Issac BruceSt. Louis Rams90939395928692
Steve SmithCarolina Panthers90969796908585
Amani ToomerNew York Giants90919291908989

Top Ranked Tight Ends

The following chart reveals the top rated tight ends in Madden 2005.

Tony GonzalezKansas City Chiefs98825557907586
Todd HeapBaltimore Ravens96815560906774
Jeremy ShockeyNew York Giants95855054888267
Alge CrumplerAtlanta Falcons92835560846970
Marcus PollardIndianapolis Colts90755760817476
Randy McMichaelMiami Dolphins89825557797573
Bubba FranksGreen Bay Packers88646165807170

The Running Game

Managing an effective running game is similar to managing a passing attack: there are numerous variables to consider that turn a running play’s loss into a running play’s gain. This section will help you gain consistent positive yardage with your favorite running back.

Reading the Defense

The genesis of a strong running game begins with knowing when to run and when to audible out of the run. Achieving consistent run success against "eight in the box" (meaning eight defenders positioned along the line and linebacker spots) is difficult. It’s certainly possible to break through these defenders and pick up an astoundingly long gain but often you’ll be tackled after a short gain or even a loss.

Running against a nickel defense will often be more effective. This defense exchanges a linebacker, who typically excels at tackling the running back, for a cornerback, who typically doesn’t excel at tackling the running back. Call three wide receiver sets and your opponent will often call nickel to protect against the pass. Run out of these sets to mix up your game. Continue to mix it up (passing out of run formations, running out of pass formations) to keep the advantage to your offense.

Shift your receivers along the line of scrimmage against man coverage. This moves defenders to the opposite side of the field. Run toward where the defenders were; now there are fewer defenders there. That’s fewer defenders you need to dodge or break tackle to pick up a solid gain.

Playmaker Control

Use playmaker control pre-snap on a rushing play to quickly switch the play’s direction.

The most important playmaker control in the running game is before the ball is snapped. You can alter the direction of the run play by moving the right analog stick left or right (opposite of the original run play direction). This can make a huge different depending on defensive alignment. If you’ve picked a run play toward the left and the defense as stacked the left side of the field, use playmaker control to shift the running play to the right by moving the right analog stick to the right.

You can also use the right analog stick during a running play for further playmaker control. Moving the right analog stick can adjust the movements of nearby blockers. It’s difficult to put into motion but can be effective when you need just one single block to break a big gain. Note that you can also use this playmaker control on kick returns.

Running Tips and Tricks

The following list offers some tips on managing an effective rushing attack in Madden 2005.

Squeeze out as much yardage as possible on a run by utilizing the special move buttons.

  • Examine your favorite running back’s statistics. Faster runners (greater speed and acceleration) can excel in outside runs because they can outrun the pursuing ends and linebackers; slower runners may likely be better in churning out yardage in inside runs, especially if they have a strong break tackle rating.
  • Learn the special move buttons, such as spin, stiff arm, and juke. All of these should be used to pick up an extra couple yards or even create a big gain. Press left or right when hitting the spin button to spin in that direction; spin away from would be tacklers. Utilize stiff arm for running over defenders, particularly weak tackling defenders like cornerbacks. Perform a juke move to dodge an incoming defender. You should also use juke to pop through a hole. For instance, you sprint toward a hole in the line and it’s collapsing along the left side. As you enter the hole, perform a juke to the right to squeeze through the hole.
  • It’s often best to follow the running play as designed. Your blockers are opening a specific hole for your running back; your goal is to hit that hole and sprint through into the linebackers or secondary. Naturally the play could break down. Observe how the blocking is holding up and adjust to another direction if necessary. Keep your back moving north and south rather than east and west so you’re gaining positive yardage.
  • Don’t forget the "protect ball" button, especially when your opponent is lining up a defender to use the hit stick, a new feature in Madden 2005. It’s not a bad idea to practice protecting the ball whenever a tackler approaches.
  • This is a general offensive tip but highly applicable to running plays. Monitor your players’ fatigue levels. When you select a play, note the shade of your players’ symbols’ colors. The more yellow the symbol, the more fatigued the player. Running backs can get fatigued quickly from long runs or rough tackles. Use the spell HB package to send in a fresh body. Or if your whole team is fatigued after a lot of hurry up, you may want to burn a time out.

Top Ranked Running Backs

The following chart reveals the top rated running backs in Madden 2005.

Priest HolmesKansas City Chiefs98929695799295
LaDainian TomlinsonSan Diego Chargers98959996879287
Jamal LewisBaltimore Ravens97919790699982
Clinton PortisWashington Redskins95979996708887
Ahman GreenGreen Bay Packers95979892779177
Deuce McAllisterNew Orleans Saints94939689779486
Marshall FaulkSt. Louis Rams93949495838285
Shaun AlexanderSeattle Seahawks92909888719287
Stephen DavisCarolina Panthers92879386659591
Fred TaylorJacksonville Jaguars92929490679188
Edgerrin JamesIndianapolis Colts92899287789190
Travis HenryBuffalo Bills90909487679577

Top Ranked Fullbacks

The following chart reveals the top rated fullbacks in Madden 2005.

Fred BeasleySan Francisco 49ers93725264727577
Mike AlstottTampa Bay Bucs93824753956574
Jim KleinsasserMinnesota Vikings92745468667468
Richie AndersonDallas Cowboys92805053718271
Lorenzo NealSan Diego Chargers92556685685470
Matt StrongSeattle Seahawks91766068676868
Tony RichardsonKansas City Chiefs91785256847280
James HodginsArizona Cardinals91676478606560

Top Ranked Offensive Linemen

The following chart reveals the top rated offensive linemen in Madden 2005.

Jonathan OgdenBaltimore RavensLT99925495989895
Orlando PaceSt. Louis RamsLT98905498939695
Olin KreutzChicago BearsC98886094929190
Will ShieldsKansas City ChiefsRG98855093959295
Alan FanecaPittsburgh SteelersLG97794591989492
Kevin MawaeNew York JetsC97875394909095
Walter JonesSeattle SeahawksLT96885198949392
Matt BirkMinnesota VikingsC96855593909195

Chapter 4 - Defense

The emphasis in Madden 2005 is defense; in fact Baltimore Ravens’ stellar linebacker Ray Lewis dons this year’s cover. There are several new defensive enhancements, including a series of defensive playmaker options, adjustments, and the hit stick, used to deliver a punishing blow to lodge the ball loose. This section covers defensive formations and packages, new Madden 2005 defensive playmaker control, utilizing the hit stick, and managing a stubborn defense.

Defensive Formations and Packages

Each NFL team features a specific playbook. This table reveals the available defenses within each defensive playbook.

4-3Normal, OverNormalNoneNormal, Strong, 3-3-5Normal, FlatNormal
3-4NormalNormalNoneNormal, Strong, 3-3-5Normal, FlatNormal, 3 Deep
Cover 2NormalNormalBearNormal, 3-3-5Normal, FlatNormal
46NormalNoneNormal, BearNormal, Strong, 3-3-5Normal, FlatNormal
Balanced DNormal, OverNormalNormal, BearNormal, 3-3-5Normal, FlatNormal, 3 Deep
QB ContainNormal, OverNormalNoneNormal, 3-3-5, StrongNormal, FlatNormal, 3 Deep

The table below reveals the default defensive playbook for each NFL team.

Arizona Cardinals4-3
Atlanta Falcons4-3
Baltimore Ravens3-4
Buffalo Bills4-3
Carolina Panthers4-3
Chicago BearsCover 2
Cincinnati Bengals4-3
Cleveland Browns4-3
Dallas Cowboys4-3
Denver Broncos4-3
Detroit Lions4-3
Green Bay Packers4-3
Houston Texans3-4
Indianapolis ColtsCover 2
Jacksonville Jaguars4-3
Kansas City Chiefs4-3
Miami Dolphins4-3
Minnesota Vikings4-3
New England Patriots3-4
New Orleans Saints4-3
New York Giants4-3
New York JetsCover 2
Oakland Raiders3-4
Philadelphia Eagles46
Pittsburgh Steelers3-4
San Diego Chargers3-4
San Francisco 49ers3-4
Seattle Seahawks4-3
St. Louis RamsCover 2
Tampa Bay BuccaneersCover 2
Tennessee Titans4-3
Washington Redskins4-3

The following table covers each defense, provides a description, lists available packages, and provides commentary on advantages and disadvantages.

Goal LineTight formation for short-yardage situations.Safety Swap, Jumbo, 3 DT, LB EndsExcellent in short yardage situations (three yards or less) when you can expect a run play. Adjust the line and linebackers to pinch the expected run route.Vulnerable to pass plays, especially if you blitz the linebackers and it’s blocked. Be ready to switch out of goal line if the offense calls an audible and you now expect a pass.
4-3 NormalFour defensive linemen, three linebackers, four defensive backs.CB Swap, Safety Swap, Coverage Flip, LB FlipThis is the base defense for more NFL teams. A solid all-around defense, particularly against inside runs and short to medium passes.Vulnerable to multiple wide out sets, especially if you’re in man coverage. Can be susceptible to the outside run if you blitz linebackers.
4-3 OverMoves outer linebackers to the line for six defensive linemen, two linebackers, and four defensive backs.CB Swap, Safety Swap, Coverage Flip, LB FlipStrong against the run and outside run as linebackers move up on the line. Can be an effective blitz package.Beware of the inside run if the back gets through the line. There are only two linebackers there now. Like 4-3 Normal, very open to the passing game, including crossing routes over the middle.
3-4Three defensive linemen, four linebackers, and four defensive backs.CB Swap, Safety Swap, Coverage Flip, OLB Flip, MLB FlipSeveral NFL teams now use the 3-4 defense (Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Houston, for instance). Better against outside runs and in middle coverage pass coverage.Weaker pass rush unless you blitz linebackers or defensive backs. Can be vulnerable against multiple receiver sets, especially four or more.
46 NormalFour defensive linemen, three linebackers, four defensive backs but shifts one safety up to the linebacker position leaving one safety deep.Speed, OLB SwapSimilar to the 4-3 but one safety plays closer to the line of scrimmage for increased run stopping. Strong blitz defense. Beware of deep passes, especially if the closer safety is forced into man coverage against a faster receiver.
46 BearSix defensive linemen (some are linebackers on the line), one linebacker, three defensive backs with one safety playing in a linebacker spot leaving one deep safety.46 Swap, LB/DE Swap, LB CoverageCombines the 46 Normal and 4-3 Over defenses. Increased pressure along the line for stronger run defense.Stronger run defense often means weaker pass defense. The inside run is also more vulnerable with only two players in a linebacker position and one safety deep.
Nickel NormalFour defensive linemen, two linebackers, five defensive backs.Strong Nickel, Strong Shift, CB Swap, Safety Swap, LOLB Right, LOLB Left, LB SwapAn additional defensive back helps protect against the pass. Be sure the "nickel back" is lined up against the slot receiver. Optimum against 3 WR sets.More susceptible to running plays. Also beware of the offense moving their best receiver around. Your "nickel back" isn’t as skilled as your best corner and might be unable to cover the opposing team’s best WR one-on-one.
Nickel StrongSame as nickel but shifts the safety toward the strong side.Strong Nickel, Strong Shift, CB Swap, Safety Swap, MLB Right, MLB LeftIncreased safety help on the strong side. Helps provide additional coverage on a stacked formation (where more receivers and/or tight ends are on one side).Similar to the standard nickel. Also the safety shifted over could leave the other side open, especially if there are backs on pass patterns.
Nickel 3-3-5Three defensive linemen, three linebackers, and five defensive backs.4th CB, OLB FlipFive defensive backs cover the pass in standard nickel formation and the three linebackers help protect against the run and medium pass.Not much pass rush from the three man line without additional blitzing.
Dime NormalFour defensive linemen, one linebacker, six defensive backs.ROLB, LOLB, CB Swap, LB Pass RushThe addition of six defensive backs is strongest against the pass, particularly four or five receiver sets. Call in certain passing situations.Being a heavily pass-oriented defense, it’s weaker against an unexpected run. Also beware of quarterback scrambles, especially if you’re in man-to-man.
Dime FlatSame as dime but closes safeties in and backs off corners. It’s a tighter coverage.ROLB, LOLB, CB SwapSimilar personnel to dime so it’s still strong against the pass but it’s tighter so not as weak against the run.Can be vulnerable to deep pass routes.
Quarters NormalThree defensive linemen, one linebacker, seven defensive backs.Linebackers, LB Pass Rush, LOLB, ROLBSeven defensive backs to flood the defensive zone with pass protectors.Use it certain pass situations since it’s easy to run against.
Quarters 3 DeepSame as quarters but shifts a defensive back into a deep safety position for three deep safeties.ROLB Swap, CB Swap, Safety Swap, Coverage Swap, Slot Swap, LB Pass Rush, LOLB SwapShifts three safeties deep. Useful on very long yardage situations.Don’t call when the offense might run!

Defensive Shifts

The following table reveals defensive adjustments that can be made before the ball is snapped.

Defensive LineShift outside tackles, shift tight between tackles, shift line left, shift line rightAgainst an expected inside run, shift line tighter; against an expected outside run, spread line out. Shift line toward a left or right run or toward a tight end to bump him at the line.
LinebackersSpread linebackers out, shift linebackers in tight, shift linebackers left, shift linebackers rightAgainst an expected inside run, shift linebackers tighter; against an expected outside run, spread linebackers out. Shift linebackers left or right against corresponding run or to help free up blitzing linebackers.
CoveragePut defensive backs into bump and run (tighter coverage at line), put defensive backs in loose coverage, shift safeties and linebackers into better position to cover assignmentPlay tight coverage when your defensive backs have an advantage over opponent’s receivers; play looser against expected deep passes. Shift coverage into better position for tighter coverage against expected shorter routes.

Defensive Adjustments

Madden 2005 features new defensive pre-snap adjustments that can be made to any defensive unit. The following table covers each adjustment with analysis.

Defensive LineMake line crash in, make line rush outside, make line crash left, make line crash rightThese adjustments cause the defensive line to rush at angles. Crashing in angles toward the center (use against inside runs), crushing out angles toward line’s edge (use against outside runs), and crashing left or right angles toward that direction.
LinebackersBlitz all linebackers, call off all linebacker blitzes, blitz outside left linebacker, blitz outside right linebackerAudible to a full linebacker blitz if you don’t think your opponent has appropriate procection, call off a blitz if you need linebackers in coverage (any linebacker that was blitzing goes to QB spy so you may want to further adjust his coverage with playmaker), or order a blitz for the left or right linebacker (effective if you expect the play to move in that direction).
SecondaryShift safeties zone coverage to the left, shift safeties zone coverage to the rightUse these adjustments to aid a stronger side of the field. For instance, if the offense has multiple receivers on one side and just one on the other. Best used when the corner you’re leaving alone is skilled enough to play man-on-man.
Individual Match-UpsBump receiver, play off receiver, double team receiverInstead of forcing all corners into bump and run, you can use these adjustments to cause a specific defender to bump his receiver or play off his receiver. Use double teams against your opponent’s strongest receiver (there must be a safety in zone coverage already to use double team). Be careful though, shifting a safety over to one receiver could leave the middle open for another one.

Playmaker Control and the Hit Stick

Madden 2005’s increased defensive control adds playmaker abilities to the defense. Like the shifts and adjustments, the playmaker controls are used before the ball has been snapped. This section offers commentary on the new playmaker controls and also covers the exciting new hit stick, a new control on defense to apply a big, hopefully fumble-causing, crack on an offensive or special team player.

Linebacker Hook Zone or Defensive Back Deep ZoneHighlight player then move right analog stick up.Send a specific defensive back into deep zone coverage to protect against a deep ball. Highlight a linebacker to put him in zone coverage in a specific area of the field
BlitzHighlight player then move right analog stick down.Adjust a defensive player to blitz. Realize this may leave an offensive player open either initially or late in the play. Use with caution.
Quarterback ContainHighlight player then move right analog stick down twice.For example instruct outside linebackers to contain the quarterback. Most important against fast quarterbacks such as Vick, Culpepper, McNabb, and McNair.
Quarterback Spy CoverageHighlight player then move right analog stick left.A player in QB Spy coverage follows the quarterback’s movements along the line of scrimmage. It’s another means of defending against the quarterback scramble.
Flat ZoneHighlight player then move right analog stick right.Order a defender into a wider, but flatter zone in a specific area. Useful against an offense abusing crossing or out routes.

The hit stick is a great new feature that puts a bone-crushing, fumble-inducing hit in your control. Use the right analog stick in the direction of the offensive player to engage the hit stick. The advantages are certainly a stronger tackle that might cause a fumble but the downside is if you miss the angle, the missed tackle could result in significant positive yardage for the offensive player.

The hit stick works great on punts--if the returner fails to call a fair catch and you can make a big hit.

One of the best times to use the hit stick is on punt returns. For example, if the punt returner fails to signal for a fair catch and you have a defender closing in, don’t just tackle him—use the hit stick! This nearly always results in a fumble if your angle is true. On regular offensive plays, it’s wise to use the hit stick when you have additional defenders in the area to protect you. If you miss the big hit, the other defenders will still be in position to make the play.

Managing your Defense

This section offers tips and tricks for managing a stubborn defense.

  • Know what the different colors, lines, and symbols mean on each defensive play. A defender with no symbols around him is in man-to-man coverage; a defender with a yellow colored circle near him is in zone coverage covering that area of the field; a defender with a circle around him is spying the quarterback; and defenders with lines toward the line of scrimmage are blitzing.
  • Choose which defender you want to control carefully. Use the coach’s cam to see your coverage. If you select a defender that’s in man-to-man coverage against a specific offensive player then you’ll need to cover him! If you choose to just blitz, the offensive player will be uncovered and a rather easy target. Likewise be careful if you move a defender out of their zone assignment. A receiver moving into that zone will certainly find an opening.

Learn the symbols in each defensive play. You also need to know how each defender covers in case you want to use a particular player.

  • Defending against the run doesn’t necessarily mean stacking as many defenders on the line of scrimmage as possible. It might be a wise course of action in very short yardage situations but remember that with that many defenders on the line, you have that much fewer defenders off the line. If the running back gets a good block or makes a nice juke, he could break it all the way.
  • Zone defense is better at covering the run than man-to-man. In man-to-man, your defenders are following specific offensive players--they’re likely moving away from the line of scrimmage with their back turned. In zone, defenders are stationed at specific areas and can adjust more quickly to the run play’s direction.

Force a running back to move laterally and toward more tacklers.

  • It’s wise to wait until the offensive personnel report before calling your defensive play. It might be 1st and 10, you expect a run, and call a 46 defense. Meanwhile the offense has decided to air it out with a four wide receiver set. You’ve now put your defense in a bad match up and have to audible (which is still poor personnel for four wide receivers even if the coverage is better) or worse, waste a timeout.
  • Containment is an important tackling concept. Instead of just selecting a defender and charging, which could lead to missed tackles, keep the offensive player running east and west instead of north and south. Missing tackle after tackle could keep the opposing offense in short yardage situations--a big plus for the offense. An offense has plenty of options in 2nd and 4 or 3rd and 3 but not as many options in 2nd and 10 or 3rd and 8.

Top Ranked Defenses

The following chart reveals the top rated defenses based on overall rating in Madden 2005.

Carolina PanthersNFC South99
New England PatriotsAFC East99
Dallas CowboysNFC East94
Buffalo BillsAFC East93
Baltimore RavensAFC North90
Denver BroncosAFC West89
Philadelphia EaglesNFC East89
Seattle SeahawksNFC West89
Miami DolphinsAFC East88

Top Ranked Defensive Linemen

The following chart reveals the top rated defensive linemen in Madden 2005.

Michael StrahanNew York GiantsLE98728471888895
Jason TaylorMiami DolphinsRE98829280788385
Kris JenkinsCarolina PanthersDT98668768939181
Simeon RiceTampa Bay BucsRE97819379778092
La’Roi GloverDallas CowboysDT97647664909489
Richard SeymourNew England PatriotsRE96698770908785
Trevor PryceDenver BroncosLE95707867919186
Casey HamptonPittsburgh SteelersDT95576861979582
Corey SimonPhiladelphia EaglesDT95658764898884

Top Ranked Linebackers

The following chart reveals the top rated linebackers in Madden 2005.

Ray LewisBaltimore RavensMLB99859287609999
LaVar ArringtonWashington RedskinsROLB98889687549085
Derrick BrooksTampa Bay BucsROLB98839081659295
Julian PetersonSan Francisco 49ersLOLB97889088579087
Brian UrlacherChicago BearsMLB97879086629589
Keith BullickTennessee TitansROLB96879087659084
Takeo SpikesBuffalo BillsROLB96828582519391
Al WilsonDenver BroncosMLB95878983609488
Joey PorterPittsburgh SteelersROLB95859182659184

Top Ranked Defensive Backs

The following chart reveals the top rated defensive backs in Madden 2005.

Champ BaileyDenver BroncosCB99999992796294
Ty LawNew England PatriotsCB 98959589796896
Darren SharperGreen Bay PackersFS98879586757690
Brian DawkinsPhiladelphia EaglesFS98909482678491
Chris McAlisterBaltimore RavensCB97959897686894
Ed ReedBaltimore RavensSS97919290807388
Rodney HarrisonNew England PatriotsSS97829371609395
Patrick SurtainMiami DolphinsCB 96939392816893
Lawyer MilloyBuffalo BillsSS96858972658893

Chapter 5 - Online Strategies

Madden 2005 is the first Madden available on the Xbox Live multiplayer service (PlayStation 2 and PC owners enjoyed last year’s Madden in online competition). Lining up against a human opponent is much different than playing against the computer. A human opponent is much more unpredictable. You may find yourself up against endless hurry up offense, against a consistent quarterback scrambler, or the player who loves to throw the ball deep. This section offers some tips on conquering the competition online.

  • Your online strategy begins with team selection. Unless you’re playing a tournament (in which you select your team beforehand and must use it throughout the tournament), you can select your team as your opponent also selects a team. You can try and play match ups (a good pass offense versus a good pass defense, for instance). Once you’ve selected your team, you can deselect your team at any time. Just do so before your opponent selects. Beware of opponent’s "changing their mind" after you’ve selected. You might get baited and think you’re playing against the Cardinals when your opponent decides to change to the Patriots.
  • One of your first strategic decisions begins on kickoff. If you win the toss, do you elect to receive the ball now or kickoff the ball now and receive it after halftime? A lot of online players elect to kick if they win the toss. The thought is if you can get in a score just before halftime then receive the ball again after halftime with another chance to score. Your decision might also be based on team selection: a stubborn defensive unit would be a good squad to get out on the field first and "set the tone" as they say.
  • If you’re new to online play, it’s wise to use the "Optimatch" feature so you can match up against similar competition. Adjust the options so you play against a "Similar Ranking" or even "Within 1000" or "Within 2000" to ensure you aren’t matched up against some players that are currently atop the Madden leaderboard.
  • If you chose to challenge others in the lobby, check out their statistics as a way of "scouting" their play. See if they like to employ quarterback scrambles, check out their favorite offensive playbook, offensive formation, or defensive formation, and observe their blitz, no huddle, audible, hot route, and run/pass play percentages. Know what you’re up against! If you like the match up, challenge!
  • Become unpredictable in your play calling. Human opponents catch on quick if you always run out of I Form-Normal or pass out of Shotgun-4WR. It may work against computer opponents but good online Madden players learn and adapt quickly. Be prepared to run out of pass formations, even in long yardage situations, and pass out of run formations, even in short yardage situations. For instance, 2nd Down and short yardage is a great time to test your opponent’s pass defense.
  • Though some players might think it’s cheese play, you may find the no huddle offense an effective tactic. If you’ve caught the defense in a bad formation against your offensive play selection, use the no huddle to return to the line quickly with the same play call. Once at the line of scrimmage, you could keep the same call, audible, or use hot routes to adjust your receiver pass patterns. Counter this on defense with defensive audible preparation. Be ready to shift to a different defense, perhaps a base "safe" defense or even an aggressive blitz if you were burned in a safer set.
  • Michael Vick abused many, many online players last year with his extremely fast scrambling ability. Falcon players would call a 4 WR set, scramble out of the pocket, check for an opponent receiver, and if there’s no open target, Vick would take off. With the defense likely either following the receivers or at least far off the line of scrimmage, Vick could easily gain five to seven yards and, with good agility skills, pick up even larger yardage. Madden 2005 features a collection of good "QB Contain" defenses. Check for them specifically in dime and quarter packages. Outside defensive backs protect outside the tackles. It can leave "up the gut" somewhat exposed so consider selecting a central defensive man to plug the hole.
  • When on defense, wait until your opponent selects their play before selecting your defense. You can use the information to decide on a defensive formation and play. If the offense is using a four wide receiver set, you may want to use dime so you have the receivers covered. If the offense uses two tight ends and three running backs, you may want to crowd the line against an expected run. Remember that it’s a guessing game, though--a mind game really--and that the offense could be running out of that four receiver set or passing out of that expected run set. Still, it’s much better than randomly selecting defenses and allowing the offense to abuse your personnel with counter play selections.

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