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.
Thanks for writing this man! It seems we have similar overall strategies (ball control, various formations) but you’ve got it more down to a T. I need to stop throwing picks and focusing more on the short ball, I appreciate the tips and will try to implement them in my next user game.
I fucking hate beating myself when i know im better then the other guy. I also hate calling a nano blitz and not setting it up right and he burns me deep.
well said , im at 878 skll points level 8 and my record is 63 W – 11 L after 2 weeks of play , everything u said i can relate to 1 way or another , i pride myself on knowing the players on all teams that can reak havic so when i face them i have a understanding pre game on how to contain them and your exactly right when u say that u can know how good your opp is off his first drive maybe not totally but u can have an idea if this is going to be a knock down drag out hide the kids type of gm lol 1 thing i would like to add to this is my main problem , where im in a great gm and i make 1 bonehead mistake whether its a bad throw that gets picked or a fumble i didnt protect or a slip of a button or just a glitch F up either way , I always keep that play in my head cussing it 10 plays down the road and thats caused me to lose consetration and got me beat , once a play is over good or bad forget about it and move on, or face the consequence
thats very wise, its my concept as well.
I like it all very much, and this is exactly why on my first drive I run formations and plays that I will not run the rest of the game. I almost try and convince my opponents that im not very good and dont know what im doing on the first drive. Every once in a while this will backfire on me because I was willing to sacrifice that opening drive, but for the most part it works out well. Great read orp967
Nail on the head!!
Really appreciate the info on how 2 utilize your talents on offense & defense as well. But 1st off let me say this, if u run with your Giants n I run with my Saints against u theres a big ass overall team rating which plays a huge part. Giants are ranked 90 while the Saints are a 79 so your defensive line should crush our o-line nearly every play. With that being said that’s where YOUR match ups come in2 play at since NY secondary awareness is crazy, so anything stupid u put in the air its most likely goina get snatched outta the air especially with there line pressuring u n your QB’s feet are not set. U talk about these other yappers on youtube n shit but let me hear about u pulling that shit off using the Jaguars when your opponent has the Pats, there fuckin TE’s will eat u alive.
so true madden is all about overall. Nyg are like 90 most likley if you do not do anyting stupid during the game your most likley going to have more big plays just because of the mismatches. cruz and nicks are what 90 somthing? and eli is 90 something aswell like oh ok you can pass but who cant if you have all 90s you know what i mean. exactly what the person said above play as the browns or jags againest someone who knows what there doing and see how the out come is. an ps nano bltizing is bull shit cheating just like that rocket catching stuff
@ pmitch16 and qRthatis….no disrespect and im sure both of you are excellent madden players but if you know how to play football and you football IQ is better then most then overall ratings wont mean a damn thing. I usually play with the lesser rated teams like the Browns, Cardinals, Jaguars, etc etc primarily for those reasons. My favorite team is the Panthers and I typically play with them 85-90% of the time and have not one yet lost to the Patriots or Giants for that matter. Dont get me wrong It never is a blow out and almost half of the time I literally have to pull something out of my ass in the fourth quarter for the win.
Furthermore NY secondary is horrible and that defense is blessed to have that defensive line and and the Patriots Tight Ends are really not all that unstoppable if youre able to roll out the right players in the right personnel but that take’s skill especially if your playing someone that like to snap the ball as soon as possibe to avoid letting you set your Defense up
thanks for the tips bro, I was wondering if clock management mattered against guys who hurry up every play! what do yo think about challenges?
I will always give praise where praise is do, but you deserve none. You just vaguely touch on topics will boasting about your. This read was a waste of time for anyone who remotely knows the game of football. This should have a title of “for beginners”.
My friend, you might not be a level 20 yet, but you are well on your way. This is basically advice regarding the necessary temperament to be successful in anything. This is exactly how I think. Great article-informative and well written. I almost never leave a comment on ANY article I come across online, but I felt the need to give you your props here.
i agree with alot of the things u said i kick alot of FG but usually go for it if im in the long 50 range depending on my kicker unless im using my team the dolphins im automatic from 58 in with carpenter but i do go for it if its 4th and shorter then 4 and i love the statement of knowing your personal like when i use the bills i give CJ Spiller about 25 rushes a game and then hit him in the passing game with screens after running a couple times and spilt him out as a WR the one thing i do different from u is my formations used to use many different types but was sick of playing a run heavy opponent and have him chew up chunks of yards every time i would be in a run stopping formation like the bear formation so know i play in th 3-2-6 witch u would think would be worse with only five men in the box but i think the play is called spinner witch is a heavy blitz that has the 3 line men and 2 line backers blitzing along with the 2 inside CB and its great for outide runs and inside sometimes they gash me up the mjddle but ill give that up to someone that runs alot because it works great for 3 4 yard negative run plays then forcing them to pass im the same on offense im a shotgun man now i do this to show them i love to pass by passing my first five or so plays but i like to run more of a west coast attack short quick passes and pick up yards after the catch but the run draws after for 10 yard gains so i mix it alot passing about 60% and running 40% depending on there play style but im not always in the Gun just 75 percent of the time maybe this works for me now seeing how im 56-41 and only 613 points but before this game plan i was only 42-38 so if u could reply on my game plan and if u think i might need to change it the higher my level gets also do u only use the giants ive used the dolphins the most but right now im trying to see if theres an achievement for winning with every team have 9 teams left and i like to mix it up find teams that im good with like surprisingly the bills vikings and titans