Playing Madden-Style


Those were the days.

Remember when you were a teenager and you couldn’t wait to get home so you could play Madden ’96, or Madden ’01, or Madden ’05, and it didn’t matter which team you chose, you could somehow get enough out of them to compete every week? I recall one time when I was playing Madden ’94 on Super Nintendo and I picked the Browns as my team. I figured if I could win with the Browns I could win with any team. It was the first game of the season (that was the first year Madden had the season function, I think) and my Browns team was playing the 49ers. And we stunk it up. Maybe it was the combination of playing with a team for the first time, or perhaps it was the untouchable nature of Steve Young (my defense gave up way too much yardage to the guy), but we were down early and often. The game ended 36 – 15, and it wasn’t even as close as the score would have you believe. It was devastating. That’s when I realized something very important: even I could lose at Madden.

It was a sobering thought, and one that has stuck with me all these years when I’ve rarely if ever lost a Madden game since. The feeling after that one game was a humiliating one, even though I was the only one who knew about it (until now), but it’s the same feeling I get every single time I lose a fantasy football contest. Even just losing one week is demoralizing, and I have to resist the urge to tinker with my team after each loss. Luckily those losses are fewer and farther between as I’ve gotten better at calculating and fielding solid fantasy football squads.

Because here’s the deal: most times when you lose and you have the “better” team, it’s not something tinkering will solve. It’s just that some weeks are what I call perfect storms. Maybe your tight end had a matchup against a strong tight end-geared defense. Or perhaps your running back got hurt early in the game and never returned. Couple that with the other team playing above their usual ceiling, and you have the perfect storm. I remember a game last year when I had the best team in the league. We were winning by an average of 25 points a contest, and we played the statistical worst team in the league one week. And her team beat me solidly by 30 points. I chalked it up to the perfect storm. Her quarterback scored 20 points higher than his projection, two of her wide receivers scored touchdowns even though they hadn’t scored all year to that point, and that was enough to do it.

It happens, and that’s okay. It’s rare to go undefeated an entire season, both on the real football field and in the fantasy football arena. Your guys will have their off weeks, and the opposition will have its on weeks, which is fine. It’s the overreactions to those inevitable losses that can doom your team for the rest of the season. The trades you don’t have to initiate. The benching of guys who should never be benched. These things work to create what I call white flags. They are a sign that you surrender, even if you don’t realize it. Trading away your number 1 running back to get a guy who happens to be hot for one week is not the answer, but I see that way too often. Don’t trust the hot hand. Ride him while he’s hot, but then get a solid player for him right before the streak runs out.

And you know what? Because I didn’t panic after that one statistically off week, I was okay for the stretch run. It was funny, too, how all the other guys in my league were like vultures that Tuesday morning, ready to pick off my best players one by one, but I accepted no trades. Keep that in mind. After a bad week, don’t trade away good players. You’ll more than likely not get comparable value for them, and you’ll miss them when they get back to their solid ways. Trust in your drafting skills and you’ll be okay. If you’re forced to play the waiver wire every week because of a trade you’ve made, you’re more likely to keep losing instead of righting the ship.

Oh, and Madden 25, it’s just the same as all the other ones. It’s just got a different cover on it. Once you figure out the trick, you will hardly ever lose, but when you do, don’t freak out. It’s all part of the process.



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