The battle between the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles wasn’t the only championship clash on Super Bowl weekend. The Madden NFL 18 Club Champion was crowned the Thursday before the big game and all the action was televised on ESPN2.
The competition began with 32 of the best Madden players in the world participating in a single elimination style tournament with the top prize of $35,000 and a WWE style championship belt. For the first time ever, each NFL team was represented.
However, stating that all the teams are represented is a flawed statement since the actual real roster of a team might not be used. If that were the case, whoever had the Cleveland Browns would be at a severe disadvantage since they’re the worst team in the league. In order to even the playing field, the league uses the salary cap mode where each competitor has a certain amount of cap value they can use to select players from current NFL superstars and old school legends to create their team. The better the player, the higher the cap value so someone can’t load up entirely with the best players without having some scrubs as well in order to not exceed the cap.
After days of matches, the last two standing were the NFC representative using the Washington Redskins, Hassan “GOS” Spall and the AFC Representative using the Los Angeles Chargers, Eric “Problem” Wright. The young upstart, GOS, hails from North Brunswick, NJ and is known to use a high-powered offense to win games. He had an easier road to the final game as one of his opponents withdrew from the tournament due to a personal obligation.
Problem represents his local team, as he resides right outside of Los Angeles in the city of Azusa. He is known for a smash mouth game with a defensive focus and reliance on the ground utilizing the run. In contrast, his path to the finals was more difficult as he had to defeat the current number one Madden player in the world in the previous round. That impressive victory shows why some label him the Greatest of All Time (G.O.A.T.). Despite being dubbed the G.O.A.T., Problem has yet to take home a title since the Madden Series Championship era started in 2016. Previously, he’s been in four other finals, but has yet to break through to a victory.
On his first possession of the game, GOS marched down the field through the air all the way into the red zone. On third down and goal, he couldn’t find an open receiver and decided to run it in with his QB, but Problem’s defense came up big and forced and recovered a fumble ending the drive without a score. Unphased, GOS came back with a turnover of his own as he intercepted his opponent a few plays later. With a short field, GOS eventually scored the first touchdown of the game. Problem answered back with a strong drive mixing passing and running ending with a 24-yard touchdown pass. Unfortunately, on the next drive, he had a defensive lapse resulting in a big near 80-yard touchdown pass by his challenger. After another interception and score, Problem soon found himself down double digits by halftime.
Hoping to rebound in the second half, Problem started with an impressive drive but could only muster a field goal in the end. Three points aren’t helpful if your opponent is scoring touchdowns. With a big lead, GOS went into time management mode and started running the ball more. He would eat up a lot of clock and the drive ended with a 32-yard touchdown creating an 18-point lead. Problem countered with a touchdown of his own, but his heavy use of the run game used up a lot of time. Desperate, on the following kickoff he tried an onside kick but was unsuccessful. GOS was able to milk some more time off the clock before kicking in another field goal putting the final nail in the coffin.
Though known for his offense, GOS used his defense to win this game. He forced three turnovers which lead directly to 21 points. It didn’t help that Problem stuck to his game plan and didn’t make any adjustments in the second half. His dependence on the run game used too much time and he couldn’t gain enough stops and possessions for the chance to overcome his deficit. Maybe he didn’t have enough confidence in passing thus his reluctance to switch strategy.
This was my first foray into Madden Football eSports. It was entertaining and the five-minute quarters made the action more fast paced than an actual game. Though overall it was enjoyable, there were some aspects I did not like. I’m not a big fan of forcing the offsides. The players can control the aggressiveness of the defensive line, but they can’t control each individual member, so an algorithm determines if someone jumps offsides on a fake count. I guess it can’t be too cheap if everyone uses it.