AFC North and NFC North Madden 15 ratings revealed, and here's my take on them
Are you ready for some football?
Football is officially back following the Giants 17-13 win over the Bills in the Hall of Fame Game. EJ Manuel looked lost. Robert Woods had a nice game. Andrew Williams led the ground attack for the Giants. And Eli Manning completed six out of his seven passes -- an encouraging sign considering his coaches set a goal of completing 70% of his passes.
But enough about real football; we cover video games here. Yesterday, EA Sports revealed the ratings of the eight teams in the AFC North and NFC North, including their salary cap space and top players. Here's my thoughts...
It's hard to believe that a team with an 86 Overall has $34M in cap space. The Bengals look like a force to be reckoned with with weapons in the passing game -- Gresham, Eifert, Green -- as well as playmakers in the backfield, specifically Giovani Bernard. The Bengals might be one of the most balanced teams on offense and defense. There's little flaws with their roster, and they're the teams to beat in the North. If QB Andy Dalton can take the next step in his progression, they should be a serious Super Bowl contender. If not, there's a strong enough roster to draft a QB into and see immediate success.
As a Broncos fan, I'm still salty over the outcome of the playoff game two years ago. And I hate that the Ravens have Elvis Dumervil. That said, damn are the Ravens going to be good again. Ray Rice dropped down to an 82 Overall, and Flacco is sitting at 86 Overall (hardly elite), but there's a defense full of talent to carry the Ravens. The addition of Steve Smith as a complement weapon to Torrey Smith should pay dividends. With an 84 Overall, the Ravens will be in the hunt for a Wild Card spot. And if the Bengals stumble, the Ravens will be the ones to win the division.
I have a hard time getting excited about the Steelers. They have a 78 Overall rating, but they're lacking in talent, especially at the WR position. While I'm not a fan of Ben Roethlisberger, I keep waiting for him to decline and he keeps on chugging along. Last year he threw for 4,261 yards, 28 touchdowns and 14 interceptions -- so the 90 Overall fits. But outside of Antonio Brown at WR, the next best player is Lance Moore. That's not good. The defense will be solid, not great. The most exciting thing about the Steelers is that they have $23.7M in cap space and an aging QB that should be declining soon. I think the Steelers will be a good choice for Connected Franchise if you want to build up a team that already has some talent on it, without having to go through a full-on rebuild.
Oh the Cleveland Browns... there's a ton of exciting swirling around in Cleveland from LeBron James returning and the Browns drafting Johnny Manziel. But even with Manziel, the Browns have a rough road ahead of them. Josh Gordon isn't suspended in the game, so it's nice to have this 92 Overall WR ahead of Miles Austin and Nate Burleson. The offensive line is anchored by Joe Thomas and Alex Mack. That said, there's still not enough playmakers on offense to make the Browns a serious contender for a playoff spot. Maybe that changes in a year when Manziel has some experience under his belt, making this a great choice for Connected Franchise. The Browns have a 75 Overall, but I take issue with their defense. Haden should be higher than 95 Overall, and their defense is going to be really good this year. I actually think they'll finish ahead of the Steelers by a game.
Green Bay Packers
This division is going to be a ton of fun to watch. Three of the four teams have a realistic shot at winning the division, and we'll probably get a wild card team from it, as well. Green Bay is at the top of the NFC North with an 88 Overall, and that's helped by QB Aaron Rodgers 98 Overall. WR Jordy Nelson (93) and WR Randal Cobb (89) are two versatile weapons to have, and RB Eddie Lacy rounds out this nightmare of an offense. Meanwhile, their defense is anchored by Julius Peppers, Clay Matthews, and three cornerbacks rated over 85. They gunna be good. It hurts only have $6.37M of cap space in Connected Franchise, though, as cuts will most likely have to be made after the first season.
Da Bears have Brandon Marshall (96), Matt Forte (95), Alshon Jeffery (91), Martellus Bennett (87) and Jay Cutler (86) leading this explosive offense. While the defense is solid, make no mistake, the Bears are now carried by their offense. Their offense is just full of pro bowlers, and Chicago looks playoff-bound. Bears fans should be feeling good about this season. I think their team Overall should be 86 instead of 84, but what's two points?
Is there a more schizophrenic team in the NFL than the Detroit Lions? There's so much talent, as evidenced by their 80 Overall, but they constantly shoot themselves in the foot. Their two defensive tackles -- Suh and Fairley -- have a 97 and 91 Overall, respectively. There's playmakers all over the roster, and the Lions should be a popular choice for players that like to air it out on offense and play reckless on defense. They're a dark horse pick for the playoffs, and should be a fun team to play with.
Petersons Vikings, in my opinion, are rated too high at 76 Overall. They should be closer to 72. Outside of Adrian Peterson, what do they have on offense? Their second-best offensive player is their fullback -- a position that is on the endangered species list. There's some promise, but nothing has panned out thus far. EA Sports writes, "If you enjoy having options at QB, then the Vikings are the team for you. Matt Cassel, Christian Ponder and Teddy Bridgewater are all solid options under center." No, they aren't. Cassel has done nothing since that breakout season in New England, and Ponder is terrible. That leaves Bridgewater as the only promising, viable option. No one that pays attention to the NFL thinks there's three realistic options at QB for the Vikings. Their defense needs a lot of improvement as well. There's only three reasons to choose the Vikings in Connected Franchise: you want to play with Adrian Peterson; you're a Vikings fan; and you want to be challenge while improving a team. You can pretty much rebuild from the ground up, and they should be a popular choice for those looking to relocate a team.