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'Madden NFL 20' predicts the 2019 NFL season

After a long, eventful offseason, football officially returns this week with the annual Hall of Fame game and the release of EA Sports’ “Madden NFL” video game.

With the game hitting shelves this week and players either pleased with their ratings or getting their “welcome to the virtual league” moment, we are, once again, simulating an entire NFL season to determine how accurate “Madden” really is.

[ Where to find Madden NFL 20: Xbox | PS4 ]

Despite completely missing on a Jacksonville Jaguars Super Bowl win, last year’s simulation was fairly close on a number of counts. “Madden NFL 19” predicted a strong rookie season from Baker Mayfield, Khalil Mack becoming an absolute nightmare for QBs and the Los Angeles Chargers ascending to the AFC’s elite.

Here are 20 takeaways from Yahoo Sports’ simulated season.

  1. Ezekiel Elliott destroys the league in rushing en route to winning NFL MVP – First things first, Jerry Jones would need to get the Dallas Cowboys running back to camp before we start considering an MVP season. Regardless, “Madden” doesn’t factor in holdouts so Elliott’s 1,908 rushing yards will go down in the Dallas history books. Patrick Mahomes and Baker Mayfield finished second and third, respectively.

  2. Dak Prescott holds Dallas back – The recipe for success in Prescott’s career thus far has hinged on having a stellar rushing attack. Well, it doesn’t get much better than Elliott’s simulated monster year. Unfortunately, Prescott was mediocre and finished with 3,329 passing yards, 23 touchdowns and 14 interceptions in Dallas’s 8-8, playoff-less season.

  3. It’s like Witten never left – This will be the last Cowboys mention of this post. Jason Witten’s one-season hiatus from football didn’t impact his ability to be a consistent tight end. The future Hall of Famer caught 74 passes for 612 yards and six touchdowns.

  4. Luke Kuechly wins Defensive Player of the Year – Nothing crazy here. When healthy, Kuechly is arguably the best middle linebacker in the NFL. The Carolina Panthers barely snuck into the playoffs behind his anchoring of the NFL’s best defense in terms of yards allowed.

  5. Where’s that cliff for Tom Brady? – In his age-42 season, the New England Patriots QB threw for 4,752 yards, 36 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Par for the course at this point.

  6. Patriots stay Patriots with Dez Bryant signing – Bill Belichick has made a habit of taking waivers on playmaking receivers and rejuvenating them. In “Madden” it was no different. Bryant signed with New England and had 80 catches, 824 yards and 11 touchdowns.

  7. New kings in the AFC East – Despite Brady and Bryant connecting in their lone season together, the New York Jets (9-7) managed to win the AFC East. Sam Darnold took a huge jump in his second year, throwing for more than 4,000 yards and 29 touchdowns.

  8. Le’Veon’s not quite a Bell cow – Despite all of the talk surrounding the former Pro Bowl running back this offseason, Bell couldn’t finish his first full season in New York due to injury. Bell got 213 touches, 1,373 combined yards and 13 total TDs in 12 games

  9. Dubious reason for Miami to break out champagne – No one outside of Hard Rock Stadium is expecting much from the Miami Dolphins, who were by far the NFL’s worst team in “Madden.” The team probably drank more than a little bubbly to forget a dismal 1-15 season.

  10. Kyler Murray’s first season is a success – The No. 1 overall pick didn’t need much time to adjust to the NFL. Murray threw for 4,106 yards, 28 touchdowns and seven interceptions while completing 62 percent of his passes. The Arizona Cardinals missed the playoffs, but its 7-9 record was an improvement from 2018.

  11. Hollywood Brown lives up to his nickname – Were it not for Murray’s excellent season, the Baltimore Ravens rookie would have been the breakout star of the 2019 season. Brown gave Baltimore a playmaking receiving threat it hasn’t seen since Steve Smith Sr. Brown’s 88 catches, 1,169 yards and eight touchdowns were all in the top 10 for receivers in 2019.

  12. No rookie QBs in the NFC East – How will Daniel Jones and Dwayne Haskins fare in the NFL? We’ll have to wait for “Madden NFL 21” to find out since neither saw significant playing time in 2019.

  13. Back to being elite? – Among the surprises of the simulation were the Denver Broncos, who went 11-5 and won the AFC West thanks to a resurgent Joe Flacco. Flacco threw for 4,068 yards, 25 touchdowns and nine interceptions, holding off Drew Lock for the season. Those numbers would constitute arguably Flacco’s best regular season as a pro.

  14. Antonio Brown’s first season in Oakland is disappointing – Brown caught 69 passes for 887 yards and seven touchdowns, his lowest output since 2012. The Oakland Raiders finished 7-9 and if “Madden” simulated disgruntledness, I’m sure Brown would have led the league.

  15. Saints keep marching – New Orleans easily won the NFC South with a 10-5-1 record thanks mostly to its high-powered offense. Sean Payton’s team led the NFL in total offense and points per game.

  16. Odell Beckham Jr.’s season ends early – The new Browns receiver couldn’t finish his first season in Cleveland. OBJ had tallied 55 catches for 743 yards and four touchdowns in 10 games when he suffered a torn PCL.

  17. Myles Garrett makes the leap – In his third year in the NFL, Garrett became the nightmare pass rusher Cleveland envisioned when it drafted him No. 1 overall in 2017. Garrett tied Michael Strahan’s single-season sack record with 22.5 to help lead the Browns’ second-ranked defense.

  18. Cleveland rocks – Garrett and Mayfield’s incredible play was matched by Freddie Kitchens’s ability on the sideline. Kitchens was named Coach of the Year for leading the Browns to a 12-4 record, AFC North title and the AFC championship game.

  19. Cover star gets some hardware – Mahomes may have finished second in MVP voting in the simulation, but he did manage to get a nice consolation prize – the Lombardi Trophy. The Kansas City Chiefs defeated the Philadelphia Eagles (who has been in the Super Bowl in this simulation piece in back-to-back years) 24-10 to win Super Bowl LIV.

  20. Time to say goodbye – After the season ended Drew Brees, Eli Manning and Brady were among the stars who decided to retire. Of course this is proof that this simulation might not be entirely accurate because Brady is going to play until he’s 50.

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