Over the next few weeks, we'll analyze the NFL playoffs using EA Sports' powerhouse football simulation, Madden NFL 25, determining the pros and cons of each team and picking an overall winner.
Our final match-up looks at the fourth Wild Card game for the weekend, a heated game between the New Orleans Saints and the Philadelphia Eagles. Both teams have seen their fair share of playoff glory, but this year is crucial, especially considering that the Saints want nothing more than to get on top, and the Eagles want to show they don't need former coach Andy Reid (who since went on to the Kansas City Chiefs) to succeed.
Here's how it all breaks down!
Philadelphia Eagles – Madden NFL 25 Team Rating: 76
It took Philadelphia the last game of the season to secure their spot in the playoffs, but through the last several weeks, they've maintained a good amount of consistency, headed by first year coach Chip Kelly – a hire considered by many as a mistake. He obviously proved them wrong, thanks to the help of a strong offense.
Nick Foles, stepping into the starting quarterback position that was originally held by Michael Vick, produced strong numbers over the season, with 27 touchdown passes compared to just two interceptions – a 64 percent completion rate overall.
Backing up Foles, LeSean McCoy managed to win the NFL rushing title with ease, amassing over 1,600 yards over the course of the season, with 53 passes caught. DeSean Jackson also played a huge part with 82 passes and over 1,330 yards gained, while Riley Cooper followed with 47 passes. Overall, the offense did well, ranking the fourth best in the NFL with over 415 yards per game, and an average of over 27 points.
Defensively, the Eagles didn't slouch. DeMeco Ryans led a more than able squad with over 125 tackles and an average of four sacks per game. Mychal Kendricks had a similar tackle record, following just behind at 106. Brandon Boykin also played a huge part on the defensive side, scoring six interceptions over the past few months. In all, the team only allowed under 24 points and just under 395 yards.
Playing With the Eagles
Some people may be skeptical of Foles, considering how well Vick did in the previous year. Despite the team ranking, however, he's proven his worth, and is a viable quarterback. Still, if you want to play it cautiously, stick with short pass plays first. The Eagles playbook has a number to choose from, so you don't have to worry about longer passes until later on in the game. Good 10 to 20 yard plays will help move the ball down the field, and get you better situated with the quarterback.
Don't be afraid to use your running game as well. After all, LeSean McCoy didn't earn his rushing award on luck. He can easily gain a number of yards, provided you use his skills the right way, and his fellow tacklers can certainly allow for a few more yards to be put on the board. If you find a window of opportunity with him, don't hesitate to take it.
New Orleans Saints – Madden NFL 25 Team Rating: 82
"Who dat?" At first, the New Orleans Saints playoff picture was a little bit blurry, thanks to the resurgence of Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers. However, they still managed to land a sixth seed in the Wild Card Division, and can now prove they're hungry for a Super Bowl title versus the Eagles.
Drew Brees once again showed he was a powerhouse quarterback this season, with nearly 70 percent completion with his passes, and over 5,100 yards gained – a feat only surpassed by a select few, like Peyton Manning. He managed to get 39 touchdown passes, though he was also picked off 12 times – something to watch out for in the playoffs.
Backing up Brees is a great crew of running backs, including Pierre Thomas, who gained 549 yards and carried 77 successful receptions, as well as Mark Ingram and Darren Sproles, each of whom got a good amount of yards per carry, under an average of five. Marques Colston and Jimmy Graham also had a high number of receptions. Overall, the offense earned an average of nearly 26 points a game, and just under 400 yards on average.
Defensively, the Saints became the fourth best overall in the NFL, with only 19 points allowed per game, and just over 305 yards. Part of that credit goes to Curtis Lofton, who had a whopping 125 tackles throughout the season. Credit should also be given to David Hawthorne, Cameron Jordan and Junior Galette as well, as each had terrific stats that any Fantasy Football player can only dream of.
Playing With the Saints
The Saints are quite reliable when it comes to reaching the end zone – don't forget they've won a Super Bowl in the past. Brees has a very viable arm and can get the ball to the receivers like a pro, provided they stay open on their routes. Stick to pass plays that set up a runner for a clear route, even if a defender tries to keep up with them. More often than not, the ball will end up in their hands. Short passes are also good if you're trying to get movement down the field for a quick field goal before the end of a half. Sproles is the best man for the job on reception, although Colston and Graham are also excellent. Running plays are also good, so include a few of them as well.
On defense, watch out for gaps in the Eagles offense. Someone like Lofton can really take advantage of these, sifting through to break up an attempted pass or, better yet, get Foles on a sack. Hawthorne, Jordan and Galette can also go a long way into opening up holes in the defense, so follow their lead.
So Who Wins?
This is an interesting match-up, as both the Saints and the Eagles will set out with something to prove in both the passing and rushing game. Both teams have put up big numbers, though Philly does have a home field advantage at Lincoln Financial Field. It's just a matter of seeing if Foles can hold up, or if the Saints defense will be too much for him and his squad.
The Saints may have faltered in the past, but there's no question that Brees and his crew are determined to return to Super Bowl glory, and they'll let their talent drive them down the field for every opportunity they can get. It's just a matter if they can hold up.
In our simulation, the Eagles fell to the Saints by 20-7. That's not to say that Philly's squad doesn't stand a chance, but given the strength of Brees and company, they'll need every bit of their arsenal to pull this out and reach the second round. Best of luck, boys!
Madden NFL 25 is available now for Xbox One, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4.