Madden 20 Simulation

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes is the cover athlete for Madden NFL 20.

As we’re stuck at home, many around the nation are still awaiting the decision on if the 2020-21 NFL season will go on as scheduled. There’s been a virtual draft and many changes in free-agency decisions, while talks of in-person football activities are ongoing.

For fans, there’s an anxiousness for live football that won't be met for at least some time. So, that means as of now, the closest thing is through a simulation with the video game, Madden 20.

While it’s far from perfect, the simulation provides one of the cornerstones of sports: unpredictability. 

AFC East 

The Tom Brady-less New England Patriots barely hung on to win the division with a record of 8-8. The Miami Dolphins suffered in 2019 and ended up with quarterback Tua Tagovailoa but added two wins and finished 7-9. Surprisingly, Miami placed second compared to being last in the division the season before.

The New York Jets still haven’t figured things out with their quarterback Sam Darnold and running back Le'Veon Bell as they finished 6-10. The Buffalo Bills had a disappointing season, going from a 10-6 team who made the playoffs the season prior to a 6-10 team in last place in the division.

AFC North

The Cleveland Browns were led by AFC Offensive Player of the Year and quarterback Baker Mayfield to win the division at 12-4. Mayfield threw 46 touchdowns, placing eighth all-time in passing touchdowns in a season. The Pittsburgh Steelers improved from 8-8 last season to 12-4 this year. A big force in their success was middle linebacker Devin Bush. In week 17 he had 15 tackles, one sack and one forced fumble.

The Baltimore Ravens cooled off. They went from a 12-4 team the year prior to 10-6  in the 2020 season. Rookie middle linebacker Patrick Queen gave a royal performance with 110 tackles, four sacks and two interceptions for the season. The Cincinnati Bengals finished last in the division at 7-9, but this was a huge improvement from their 2-14 team last season. Cincinnati’s No. 1 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, former LSU Tigers quarterback Joe Burrow, was a key factor in their improvement.

Burrow in Week 12 vs a Steelers defense with Bush, cornerback Joe Haden and free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick threw four touchdowns. Burrow finished the season with 32 passing touchdowns, becoming the all-time holder of passing touchdowns for rookie quarterbacks. He averaged 258.3 passing yards per game and had a 71% completion rate. Burrow added to his award shelf with the AFC Offensive Rookie of the Year.

AFC South

The Indianapolis Colts flipped their record from 7-9 last season to 9-7 this year to win the division. Inside linebacker Darron Lee brought that extra spark to the Colts and finished the season with 116 tackles, four-and-a-half sacks and three interceptions to win the AFC Defensive Player of the Year. The Deandre Hopkins-less Houston Texans went from division winners last year to missing the playoffs this year with a record of 9-7. Running back Derrick Henry’s Tennessee Titans weren’t successful enough to make it to the playoffs, finishing 8-7-1. The Jacksonville Jaguars finished with the third-worst record in the NFL at 3-13.

AFC West

The reigning 2019-20 Super Bowl Champions, the Kansas City Chiefs finished at 11-5 but surprisingly finished second place in the division behind the Jon Gruden-led Las Vegas Raiders with a record of 12-4. The Raiders went from a team in the 2019-20 season below .500 with a record of 7-9 to division winners and the second-best record in the NFL. 

The Denver Broncos finished at 6-10, while the addition of former star Alabama wide receiver Jerry Jeudy and star running back Melvin Gordon wasn’t enough to improve the Broncos 2019-20 season record of 7-9. The Los Angeles Chargers went from 5-11 last year to 3-12-1 this year.

NFC East

The Dallas Cowboys, led by quarterback Dak Prescott, running back Ezekiel Elliot and rookie wide receiver CeeDee Lamb, won the division at 13-3, the third-best record in the NFL. Lamb won Offensive Rookie of the Year. He scored 17 receiving touchdowns, tying Hall of Fame wide receiver Randy Moss’ record for most receiving touchdowns by a rookie. The New York Giants finished second at 8-8, improving from their previous record of 4-12. 

The Philadelphia Eagles, who won the division last season, finished 8-8 and missed the playoffs. One highlight to their season is that Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz threw five touchdowns against the Giants in Week 17. The addition of former Ohio State defensive end Chase Young wasn’t enough to improve the Washington Redskins record. They finished with the second-worst record in the NFL at 3-13. The only positive out of their season was that Young won NFC Rookie of the Year. He had 11.5 sacks.

NFC North

The Green Bay Packers won the division at 11-5. They’re a long-time winning franchise, so that’s expected. The Chicago Bears improved this season to 11-5 compared to the disappointing season they had last year under head coach Matt Nagy. Their quarterback, Mitch Trubisky, proved doubters and even threw five touchdowns against the Giants in Week 12. Another huge help to their success was defensive end Khalil Mack, who finished the season with 13.5 sacks. He also won NFC Defensive Player of the Year. 

The Detroit Lions still didn't make the playoffs but did improve with a 7-9 record compared to their ugly 3-12-1 record last season. The Vikings had the most disappointing season in the NFL. They went from a playoff team last season to a 2-14 team this season, which is the worst record in the NFL. Maybe they were tanking for Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence and are done with quarterback Kirk Cousins.

NFC South

The NFC South was stacked with talent this year; whether it be Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady and tight end Rob Gronkowski or New Orleans Saints’ quarterback Drew Brees and wide receiver Michael Thomas. The Saints were on top of the NFL world in the regular season as they finished with the best record in the league at 14-2. A key contributor to their success was Brees as he threw 50 passing touchdowns, placing fourth all-time in passing touchdowns. The good news didn’t stop there for Brees as he was awarded NFC Offensive Player of the Year and NFL MVP. New Orleans head coach Sean Payton won Coach of the Year as well. 

The addition of Brady and Gronkowski definitely brought the spark Tampa Bay was looking for as they went 10-6 and made it to the playoffs for the first time since 2007. The addition of quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to the Carolina didn’t get them into a playoff spot, rather finishing third in the division at an 8-8. This was an improvement though from their previous record of 5-11. The Atlanta Falcons added running back Todd Gurley but that still didn’t get them a ticket into the playoffs as they finished last in the division at 8-8. 

NFC West

The Seattle Seahawks won the division with a huge lead and a record of 10-6. The Los Angeles Rams had a disappointing season as they were 9-7 the season prior but went 5-11 this season. The San Francisco 49ers, who were in the Super Bowl last season, had a very disappointing season with a record of 4-12. The Arizona Cardinals haven’t found that winning solution with head coach Kliff Kingsbury and quarterback Kyler Murray, as they too went 4-12.

Wild Card

New England ran out of gas. The Patriots lost to the Steelers 38-35 and have now lost back-to-back in the wild card game. The Kansas City Chiefs were led by quarterback Patrick Mahomes’ three passing touchdowns and wide receiver Tyreek Hill’s two touchdowns and 108 yards to a 31-13 victory against the Colts.

Arguably two of the best quarterbacks in NFL history Brady and Green Bay Packer Aaron Rodgers went head to head. Tampa Bay lost to Green Bay 24-17. Brady’s chance to get his seventh ring was out the door.

The Bears played Seattle and were led by Trubisky’s one passing touchdown for 249 passing yards and running back David Montgomery’s two rushing touchdowns to win 35-13. Seattle Seahawk franchise quarterback Russell Wilson struggled, throwing no touchdowns and one interception.

Divisional

After the Browns had a stellar season at 12-4 and just came off their first playoff round bye, they embarrassed themselves by losing to a hot Steelers team, 38-17. The Las Vegas Raiders, who also just came off their first round playoff bye, lost 35-14 to the Chiefs.

Brees put on a show, throwing three passing touchdowns for 296 yards, leading the Saints to a 24-21 victory over the Bears. Rodgers’ three passing touchdowns for 309 yards wasn’t enough to beat the Cowboys, as Green Bay lost 24-21.

Conference Championship

The Chiefs couldn’t stop the force Pittsburgh became in the postseason, as they lost to the Steelers 35-28. Mahomes’ four passing touchdowns still weren’t enough to get the job done against Pittsburgh.

Led by Prescott’s six passing touchdowns and Elliot’s 110 rushing yards, the Cowboys stomped on the best team in the league, the Saints, winning 42-21. 

Super Bowl

The last team standing was the 13-3 Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys beat the Steelers 32-18 in Super Bowl LIV.

Contact Andrew Oliveros at oliverab@dukes.jmu.edu. For more sports coverage, follow the sports desk on Twitter @TheBreezeSports.