It took a couple of months and after sacrificing a lot of games for the sake of experimentation and a bunch of disconnects later (damn you EA servers) I finally put my 2013 scheme together and am nearing the 800 level in online head-to-head. I won’t give specifics away but thought I’d share my strategies on how to seriously improve your Madden skills. Some of these might sound like common sense but it actually has a lot to do with math (statistically winning more games in the long run).
Ok let’s get started!
(1) Learn about football and NOT how to play Madden.
There’s a difference, a big difference. Even general football IQ will take you from a 500 to 600 player in a few days. It’s all about match-ups and beating coverages; what works against man-to-man, how to beat a cover 2, 3, 4, how to look for and beat a blitz etc.
DON’T go on youtube and other websites looking for supposed money plays and stuff. Most people posting videos are just trying to get people with little football knowledge to subscribe to and buy their shit. I was watching a video of a supposed money play, but the real reason why it worked was because the guy put the defense in a 3-4 (4 LB’s) against 4 WR’s creating mismatches. It also looked like it was on rookie level. I scrolled down through the comments and people were praising him and thanking him for this play.
Let me guess? You watched a video of a few money plays and tried it online with no success. That’s because good players with football IQ will match-up DB’s against your WR’s and start mixing the coverages and bye bye “money play.” This is the difference in learning about football v. how to play Madden.
(2) Consider your and your opponents personnel.
This is actually where I’m surprised the most. Most players don’t really understand how to successfully utilize a teams talent but more importantly disguise a teams flaws. I typically play with the Giants and one of their biggest weaknesses in the game is their offensive line. If passing it, I typically have about 3 seconds, if that, before getting sacked. Therefore I created an offensive scheme based heavily on the run, quick passes and screens.
On the other hand my defensive line is sick! But I’m always surprised at seeing people drop back like they have all the time in the world to throw. Hello, you’re playing against the Giants! When I got serious about winning, I would have my laptop next to me and would Google the other teams depth chart and check out their personnel, who to avoid, who to pick on etc.
The best exploit in this years Madden on offense is the TE v. LB; if he’s man-to-man he’ll get open almost every time. Be careful though smart players, like myself, will disguise a corner on him.
(3) LEARN HOW TO READ DEFENSES!
This to me is the key to being a successful Madden player. The absolute first thing you should do is watch the defense break the huddle and how they set up. I like to watch how many linemen get into a three-point stance to recognize what kind of D he’s in and audible accordingly.
If you see a lot of shifting and moving going on then the opponent is most likely setting up some sort of blitz. Which is the next thing I do, look for a blitz and manage my protection scheme. Always, always, always do this when breaking the huddle every time even if the blitz isn’t coming (unless he’s in a prevent situation). Sometimes I’ll forget and sure enough the house is coming when I’m looking deep and get sacked for a big loss changing the entire drive.
Next, what I like to do is focus on one side of the field. I’m watching the safety, linebacker and DE on the side I want to go to. Some people on here are claiming watching the safeties is the key to reading defenses, you really need to train your eyes into quickly watching all three’s first step in about half a second post snap. The key for me is the LB on that side, if he steps out he’s obviously in coverage. If the LB steps back he’s in a man or hook zone etc.
Get into the lab and experiment but every passing play should have a primary read, a secondary read which is predicated off the first read not being open and a check down just in case a blitz is coming.
(4) Offensive strategy…
a. Take what the defense gives you!
If you love to pass the ball but your opponent loves to drop everyone into coverage start running it until he changes his defense. If you love to run the ball but your opponent likes to put 8 guys in the box, start passing it. My offensive identity is different every game. I’ll have 300 yard passing games followed by 200 yard rushing game, it’s just whatever my opponent gives me. I don’t really like coming into the game with a set offensive mindset; that is where you start getting into trouble IMO.
b. Be unpredictable!
I have a few basic schemes but I run it out of a bunch of different formations. Once you start getting up into the 600′s you’ll start to see some good usering going on. They’ll pick up on your reads after your first drive. If you come out in different formations and spread the ball around you’ll have them confused. When you’re in the lab start experimenting of how to beat man, cover 2,3,4 etc. out of different formations, preferably all of them in your playbook.
c. BALL SECURITY! & T.O.P.
Probably the most important offensive strategy that got me over the hump from the low 700′s to the upper 700′s is ball security (not turning the ball over) and winning the time of possession. When I first started, granted I was doing a lot of experimenting, I would just sling the ball all over the yard, I would try and cut back, juke and spin my way to a first down etc. This would often lead to a bunch of picks and fumbles. Now I call smart, safe and well, timed pass plays and cover the ball and run out-of-bounds on run plays. I went from averaging a turnover a game to a turnover one out of every three games. Once you start playing against other really good players every possession counts so take care of the ball. As for time of possession, I admittedly can’t hang with some of these guys I’ve played against who’ve mastered their passing concepts and can score at will. If I try and go toe-to-toe with them I typically lose and lose bad. If I stay to my scheme however, which is designed to generate long, clock eating drives, I’ll be in a position to win come 4th quarter. After the first drive I can tell how good my opponent is. If I suspect he’s really good, I’ll let the play clock wind down the whole game.
d. You don’t need big plays.
For some reason even players in the 700′s still feel the need to try and go down field even in deep coverage. I only do this when the defense is giving up the deep ball (8 men in the box) otherwise, I’ll dink and dunk my way down the field. This comes from peoples need for instant gratification, they want to score and want to score now but don’t realize I always have deep protection. I admit this can get boring and tiresome but If you’re serious about winning the game don’t go deep unless necessary.
e. Field goals are sexy!
I admit that even I have trouble with this one and after a long 15 play drive that stalls at the 5 yard line the emotional part of me always wants to go for it but the logic side of me says kick the field goal. Sure enough I do and end up winning the game by 3 whew! Look at field goals as possessions and not scores. What that means is that for every FG you kick your opponent now has to match it but more importantly takes about 2 minutes on average to do so (if you don’t give up a big play). I can’t tell you how many games I’ve one by three or four points; a field goal and time expiring on my opponent being the difference in the game.
f. Go for it on 4th!
Wait you just said kick the field goal. Well my kicker has a range of about 45-50 yards. If I’m right outside of field goal range and it’s 4th and short I’ll typically go for it BUT only after seeing and recognizing what my opponent did on third down to stop me. If I see a big weakness in his play call I’ll at least hurry up to the line of scrimmage to see what he does, audibles, shifts etc. If I see something I’ll take it, if I don’t like what I see or seem unsure I’ll take the delay of game and punt it. If I’m playing against a really good player my offensive strategy now shifts to a 4 down play calling scheme. It’s an all or nothing mentality with the idea to keep the ball away from really good players for as long as you can.
(5) Defensive strategy…
a. Recognize and remember your opponents formations and reads.
Even when you get into the 700′s players only have a few formations that they use. I’m one of only a hand full of players where you’ll pretty much see every formation when you play against me. When your opponent breaks the huddle first thing you do is say out loud or in your head what formation they’re in (I-Form normal) then after the ball is snap where he went on his pass (TE post). So next time he breaks the huddle in I-Form you can now user away the TE post his first read and hopefully force him into a bad decision. Always try and remember your opponents first read out of the formation.
b. Don’t give up big plays.
With my offensive scheme players start to get frustrated and start blitzing the house and or bring the safeties up to try and stop the run. That’s exactly what I want and setup my deep ball play when they do this. But when I’m on defense, my mindset is to let the player make a 20 play drive on me. The longer the drive the more likely your opponent is going to make a mistake. I can’t tell you how many times a guy has drove down the field on me and got into the redzone and throws a pick or the drive stalls and settles for a field goal. If the guy is going to score on me he’s going to have to drive down the field on me. I’m not giving up big plays! Adopt this mentality.
c. FOR GOD’S SAKE CHANGE YOUR FORMATIONS
This one is pretty straight forward. Still see a lot of guys using the same formation the whole game. Sure they have audibles of different coverages but every formation is limited. If a guy is in I-Form go to your base formation whether it be a 4-3 or 3-4. Don’t come out in a Dime, I’m just going to Power O you all the way down field if you do. We all have our base defenses that we love but I always try and match up personnel.
(6) Play with your head not your heart.
Another one of my biggest strategies is to out discipline my opponent. If I lose a game I’d rather it because the other guy was better than me or there was a fluke play or two that was the difference in the game. I hate, ABSOLUTELY HATE! losing to guys I know I’m better than because I beat myself (went for it on 4th in his territory etc.). I know I’m not going to win every game but at least I can say I play soundly and made all the right decisions.
(7) Forget about wins and losses.
One of the most ridiculous things I experienced playing online are rage quitters. So you’re probably not going to win the game score wise but learn something from the game. When I was in the 500′s I didn’t care if I won or lost, I would experiment trying things, learned about players tendencies on offense and defense and what was working for me and what didn’t. Some games a lost but learned a cool new trick, a new play scheme on defense or a play on offense that worked against a certain defense so I took those “losses” as “wins” as long as I learned something. Half of my games in the 500′s were rage quit by my opponent and they wonder why they can’t get good at the game. Focus on adding things to your bag of tricks and then putting everything together later.
The truth is you’re not going to win every game. There’s always some one out there who eats and sleeps Madden. But you can have a more enjoyable experience and win more games in the long run by adopting these basic philosophies.
Well that’s it for now. Sorry for the long post but thought I’d share some stuff that got me over the hump.
Article Written by Madden-School.com member orp967.