Madden 18 – NFC West– Team Preview
As part of MaddenPFL’s team preview series, in this article we look at the NFC West and analyse the strength and weaknesses of each team in Madden 18 CFM. To see if any of these teams suit you then read on!
From the highs of 2015 NFL season which resulted in a high Madden 17 rating, the Arizona Cardinals fell back down to earth in 2016 which should surely be reflected in Madden 18. A number of injuries, exits and in some case an additional year means that the Cardinals will drop down the list of many coaches when selecting their teams. The jewel of the crown for this side is David Johnson – probably the most exciting player on offence in Madden this year.
Elsewhere on offence Palmer is coming off of a down season which will be reflected in his ratings, Fitzgerald is a year older and considerably slower – as in real life both players are unlikely to play beyond this season. Michael Floyd has left the team and the John ‘Smokey’ Brown is coming back after a year battling numerous injuries. The other WR’s and TE’s on the roster are servicable and unexciting. The O-Line not only has regressed but the three best players are all on the wrong side of 30. All in all the offence will be requiring a lot of work over the course of a CFM career.
Where this team really does shine is on defence. Again the team has been hit by a large turnover of players. Cap pressure has meant that the defensive leader Calais Campbell has left for fresh pastures, as have a few other important players in Tony Jefferson, Kevin Minter, D J Swearinger, Marcus Cooper and Alex Okafor. The loss of Campbell will hit particularly hard due to his role on the field and the success of the defence will depend on how quickly the rest of the defensive line cover his departure. Primary to that will be 2nd year player Robert Nkemdiche and the Cardinals will hope he starts producing to his first round billing. The secondary has been revamped with the arrival of Antoine Bethea and rookie Budda Baker. The lack of an adequet corner back to start across Peterson will be a weakness again and if previous madden’s are anything to go by, there will be a struggle to cover that position in the draft and free agency.
Player to Watch: Hassan Riddick – Will be interesting to see the role that the Cardinals have planned for him. Riddick was a pass rusher in college however showed that he could play as an inside line backer and cover players in space. I imagine he will end up playing as a MLB and take over the Daryl Washington role. The Cardinals as their MLB’s to do a lot and that is something Riddick with his elite athleticism and high football IQ does.
Over-Rated Player: Mike Iupati – Iupati was signed a few years ago as an attempt was made to improve the O-Line by GM Keim. An elite run blocker he had an injury mared 2016 season and that has been reflect in his Madden ratings. Iupati will cost $10m on the cap and for a cash strapped team this will be an straight forward way to release some much needed cap space and gain some draft picks or players in return.
Weakness: Wide Receivers, Even with the current WR players, the group needs reinforcing. Larry Fitzgerald will be a stud as always and John Brown should be a starter but after these two we are look at a bunch of package players in Jaron Brown/J J Nelson. Chad Williams may be a consistent contributor but the team needs to improve in this position as a priority. Larry Fitzgerald will probably be retiring after one season which will deplete an already stretched making this a top priority.
Wrap-Up: Overall the team some very nice pieces at some important positions. In Patrick Peterson, Mathieu and David Johnson they have argubaly the best player in each position. Add in Buccanon, Nkemdiche, Baker, Riddick, Brown, Chandler Jones and Marcus Golden they have some good young players. They should be able to compete the first season but after the first year you may struggle if Palmer and Fitzgerald retire. That adding to their aging squad and lack of wiggle room in the cap space add question marks on people picking this team.
Our friends at Brits in the End Zone agree adding “Just like in real life, you can use David Johnson in every play, you have Palmer’s cannon of an arm to stretch the defence and when you need a clutch player, who better than “Sticky Fingers” Larry Fitzgerald”.
Ultimately I see the Cardinals as a solid team who may seduce some coaches with their elite players. However you will need a lot of careful cap management and effective use of your resources which some people may struggle to manage the transition.
Connected Franchise Grade: C+
San Francisco 49ers
It doesn’t seem that long ago that the 49ers were in a Super Bowl and regularly challenging for the NFC Championship. A lot has happened since then, very little of it being good. They have changed coaches thrice, seen a number of key players leave or just retire. However the team seems to have turned over a new leaf with the appointment of Kyle Shanahan and a number of frugal signings over the off season means that the team looks the new season with optimism.
The appointment of Shanahan will provide the 49ers offence a jolt in the arm, however it may not be soon enough to help the team in Madden. Brian Hoyer has been bought in as a place holder for the year and Pierre Garcon comes in to lead the WR group. The defence is solid and a change to a 4-3 defence will help make optimum usage of all their talent.
Player to Watch: Rashard Robinson – It seems that a lot of 49ers flew under the radar last year, which isnt surprising considering the season they just had. However Robinson stood out making some impressive plays without much supporting help. He will return this year as the 49ers top cornerback and they will hope he will continue his progression to develop into a true shut down corner.
Over-Rated Player: Zane Beadle – Beadle is no longer the pro bowl calibure guard that he was in Jacksonville. However that day has long gone and although he was bought in to replace recently departed Alex Boothe it is unlikely he will have any meaningful contribution. To make matters worse he is over 30 and will need replacing at some point.
Weakness: Almost everywhere bar defensive line. The biggest and most pressing need is at QB. Brian Hoyer is a decent experienced QB but is more suited as a no. 2 rather than as the franchise QB. The 49ers will need to bring someone in soon if they are looking to challenge for the NFC West.
Wrap-Up: This team is at the start of a major rebuilding process, they aren’t looking to tank so there are some pieces here which would make things bearable whilst you go through the motions. However in my view there is not enough and once again a number of their better players are old which will cause issues down the line.
This team will be either a homer pick or for coaches who like a challenge. You also may have the nostalgic players who would like to the 49ers competing for titles. Whatever the motivation this team will provide a stern test of your team building skills throughout your CFM career. If you are looking for an impossible task then this is the choice for you.
Connected Franchise Grade: E
Los Angles Rams
The Rams have always been a sleeper team when making your selection for a CFM franchise. Boasting an elite defence with playmakers on all levels of the D made them tough to play against, plus the offence lacked a bit of identity so you were able to mold them into the type of offence you wanted. That has now changed however there are still enough pieces there to make the team desirable.
The defence is still dominant – Aaron Donald and Robert Quinn have new positions as the Rams change theirdefensive alignment to a 3-4 front. They have a good secondary and decent LB’s to give a solid and dangerous defence with almost no weak points.
The offence on the other hand is a work in progress. Todd Gurley is the centre piece of the offence and despite a couple of below par season should have a high rating in Madden, The rest of offence will need work however – fortunately they have a number of good young players who you can look to develop into quality starters. You have the feeling that Tavon Austin although drafted highly by the previous regime, was not utilised correctly to make use of his talents. Correcting this could provide huge dividents if you are able to incorporate his skill set in your offensive plan. The offensive line is a mess however, the Rams have had to dip into free agency in order to build their line up, however that is a short term fix and you will need to focus on the O-line with some urgency.
Player to Watch: Aaron Donald – A one man wrecking ball of a player. Donald is one of the few defensive player who has the ability to domiante any game that he plays in. With the Rams moving to a 3-4 defensive front this will give Donald moreopportunity to rush the QB and make plays. They will need him as well, to allow their offence time to grow and contribute effectively.
Over-Rated Player: Andrew Whitworth – Its hard to give Whitworth this title seeing as he is still a quality LT and makes a huge improvement to the Rams offensive line. However he is also 35 years old and has just been awarded a 3 year $35m contract to the team. You can expect to replace this position relatively soon and may even consider if you need Whitworth for that time considering the wholes in the rest of the team.
Weakness: Offensive line. As stated before the offensive line is a mess. Old and below par you will need to focus on the O-Line If you wish to utilise Gurley correctly and help the offence fire. They need to upgrade at RG immediately and consider replacements at the Centre and LT in the next year or so.
Wrap-Up: I still like this team as one to pick in a CFM. The defence will ensure that you are competitive through out the franchise and allow you leeway whilst you get your offence up to scratch. There will be some growing pains whilst you do that so you will need some patience initially.
Connected Franchise Grade: C
The Seahawks have been the consistantly elite team in Madden for the past 4/5 years and it is easy to see why. An elite defence, great QB and good RB’s, WR’s and TE’s ,make this one of the top picked teams in CFM. On defence they have Michael Bennent, Cliff Avril, Frank Clark, manning the defensive line, Bobby Wagner, KJ Wright at the line backer spots and finally the legion of boom in the secondary. This defence is stacked at all three levels.
If this team has a weakness, it is on the offensive line. The new madden mechanics on offensive line blocking may expose the weak line this version. If you can manage to fix that then the rest of the offence has enough quality to win games for you. Wilson is the stereotypical mobile QB with a great arm, to an already strong RB group they have added Eddy Lacy to make them even stronger. The WR’s lack an elite talent but they have multiple weapons including Jimmy Graham who seems to be making his way back to his Saints form.
Player to Watch: Frank Clark – On a team full of talent it is hard to single out any one player as one to watch but Clark can be someone going under the radar who can end up being a vital player for your team. Michael Bennett and Avril are both 31 and will start declining over the next year. Frank Clark will ensure that the fearsome pass rush does not slack and the team continues to get pressure on opposing QB’s. That he is on a rookie contract will also help manage the cap over the duration of the franchise.
Over-Rated Player: Eddy Lacy – This acquisition of Lacy may make sense in real life however in Madden this is a bit of overkill. Thomas Rawls can be a feature back with Prosise an adequate third down/back up RB for the team. This will allow you to use Lacy as trade bait and fix your O-Line on get some more draft picks.
Weakness: Offensive Line. In what seems to be a theme the Seahawks are another team with below par O-Line players. The rest of the team is quality however you may find that your offence is blunted due to subpar O-Line play. They can get away with this in the NFL by scheming around it and using Wilsons legs to avoid pressure. In Madden this is much harder so you will almost definitely need to build your O-Line if you wish to continue playoff success going forward.
Wrap-Up: One of the best teams in the NFL and Madden at the moment. No matter how you play you cannot go wrong if you pick the Seahawks first overall. Quality throughout the team with young talent on the roster as well helping you maintain roster strength throughout the CFM career. Pick without any qualms and enjoy the year!
Connected Franchise Grade: A
That concludes are NFC West CFM grading – We will be covering the rest of the divisions in the weeks before Madden is released, please comment on the thoughts and grades given.