Spot On: Virtual Super Bowl 2004

One sports sim has consistently picked the big game’s winner, but this year, the competition makes GameDay scramble.

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For years, many sports fans and bookmakers have had advance knowledge of which team will win the Super Bowl. The scoop hasn't come from any inside knowledge or mass conspiracy, but from a single two-player game of NFL GameDay. Sponsored by 989 Sports and Sony, the annual Game Before the Game pits a real-life member of each Super Bowl team against the other.

For the past eight years, the team that wins in Game Before the Game has gone on to win the big game itself. This year, the Carolina Panthers' Steve Smith took on New England's Troy Brown in Houston, Texas, host to this year's Super Bowl. The results? Carolina, 29-21. It was great playing against Troy," said Smith. "Now let's just hope we can do the same thing on Sunday."

However, before you go betting the farm on the Panthers, consider this: while the Game Before the Game has been 100 percent accurate so far, the whole thing could be thrown if one player was a more experienced gamer. Then there's the game itself to consider. NFL GameDay isn't the only football sim out there--it's not even the most popular. Madden NFL is the best-selling example of the genre, while the acclaimed ESPN NFL Football is catching up fast.

In order to get a more balanced prediction of which team will get their rings on Sunday, GameSpot staged its own virtual Super Bowl using all three football titles. To prevent the editor with the more calloused thumbs from running away with a two-player game, we removed the human element and let the computer use its arsenal of statistics to play itself. Our results weren't nearly as clear-cut as the Game Before the Game's, but they were certainly interesting and, in the last case, quite dramatic. Hopefully the real thing will be as exciting.

Madden NFL 2004: Patriots 28, Panthers 14

The Patriots commanded the game from the start with an aggressive air attack that delivered seven points in the first quarter. In the second quarter, the Patriots struck again, bringing the game to 14-0. Right before the half, a last ditch effort lead by a good running game by got the Panthers their first touchdown of the game. Things were looking up for the Panthers in the third. They started with the ball, but a poorly placed pass ended up as a Patriots touchdown. Another stop by the Patriots and a final touchdown drive ended the game with a score of 28-14.

ESPN NFL Football: Panthers 13, Patriots 10

The results of the simulation from ESPN NFL Football were quite exciting. The first half of the game was relatively slow. The Patriots quickly went to work, but were only able to get within field goal range, which they hit for three points. The Panthers drove short with quick passes and a balanced running game that caught the Patriots defense off-guard and resulted in a 75-yard touchdown drive. In the third, the Panthers added to their score with a field goal from 30 yards out. The score remained the same until late in the fourth, when the Patriots finally were able to send some passes downfield, resulting in a touchdown. With the game tied, the Panthers were careful not to turn over the ball, and managed to get inside of field goal range. With two seconds on the clock, the Panthers took the win with a final score of 13-10.

NFL GameDay 2004: Patriots 26, Panthers 20 in overtime!

The results seen in the NFL GameDay 2004 were the most surprising, with a close back-and-fourth game that went into overtime. The entire game was dominated by each team's offense, which turned this game into an exciting match-up filled with explosive runs and long passes. In overtime, the Panthers won the toss but were unable to make it count since they fumbled the ball for a huge loss. Ultimately, the Panthers were forced to end the drive with a punt from deep within their territory. Two plays later, the Patriots were in the end zone for a final score of 26-20.

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