The first round of the “Madden NFL 25” cover vote was less about suspense and more about out-and-out slaughter, emphasized by matchups in which the favorite received more than 90 percent of the vote (I’m looking at you, Joe Montana and Jake Delhomme).
The biggest upset to me was Randall Cunningham getting bounced in the first round by LaDainian Tomlinson. If Cunningham was matched up against the original LT, Lawrence Taylor, I wouldn’t have been shocked, but Cunningham is one of the all-time great video game characters ("QB Eagles" ruled “Tecmo Super Bowl”), and I thought the old-school “Madden,” “Tecmo Bowl,” and NFL fans would’ve jumped to advance the legend known for making video-game-like plays in real life.
Other than Cunningham’s first-round loss, the only other predictions I got wrong were Darrelle Revis’ upset over Jamaal Charles and Von Miller taking down Victor Cruz (even at that, I’ll take 29 out of 32 in anything, any day).
With Revis’ injury and swirling trade rumors, I didn’t think Jets fans would come out in full force for their corner like they did. It will be interesting to see if he can keep it up as he moves on to face Rob Gronkowski in Round 2.
As for Cruz, I thought he was undervalued with an 11-seed and might pull off the upset. Then again, the matchup turned out to be the closest of any contest in the first round, with Miller winning by less than 1 percent, showing that when it comes to a fan vote, you never know what type of late surge might put your favorite player over the top.
As for the rest of the matchups, here are my picks for who will move on to the Sweet 16.
(1) Joe Montana vs. (9) Jerome Bettis
Montana eviscerated Delhomme in Round 1 (as he should have), and I see him having no trouble dispatching The Bus. Funny how back in the day, some gamers used to debate that “NFL Football ‘94 Starring Joe Montana” was superior to “Madden” on the Genesis, and now we might finally get the best of both worlds (only took 20 years).
Winner: Joe Montana
(5) Marshall Faulk vs. (4) Dan Marino
To me, this is the toughest call of Round 2, but Faulk has become such a vital part of the Madden community through both his character and various appearances throughout EA Sports (he’s even playable in “Tiger 14”), I think that helps push him over the edge.
Winner: Marshall Faulk
(6) Marcus Allen vs. (3) Barry Sanders
I still can’t believe that Allen will be wearing a Chiefs jersey if he wins. Because of that, fans of the Silver & Black won’t have his back, and Barry wins this epic battle between two of the best who ever played.
Winner: Barry Sanders
(10) LaDainian Tomlinson vs. (2) Ray Lewis
Tomlinson already knocked out Cunningham, collecting more than 70 percent of the vote in the process (shocked by how lopsided that was), but Ray Lewis is fresh off a historic Super Bowl run, not to mention the embodiment of the Hit Stick. I think he has a chance to go all the way.
Winner: Ray Lewis
(1) Jerry Rice vs. (9) Eddie George
With Rice, Montana, and Colin Kaepernick all dominating the vote, we could see a final four consisting of three 49ers. Then again, if Revis gets traded to San Francisco before the cover vote ends, we could see an unprecedented four 49ers make it to the semifinals.
Winner: Jerry Rice
(5) Michael Strahan vs. (4) Kurt Warner
Remember when Michael Strahan was on the cover of “NFL Blitz”? If only I could drop some Randy Savage-like elbows in “Madden.”
Winner: Michael Strahan
(6) Tim Brown vs. (3) Troy Aikman
Aikman received a lot more fan support than Brown in Round 1, but maybe that’s just because Aikman was going up against Deuce McAllister while Brown was trading clicks with Chad Johnson. Could be a close vote here, but I think the Dallas faithful will push for the QB with all those rings.
Winner: Troy Aikman
(10) Terrell Davis vs. (2) Deion Sanders
When I think of the swagger EA Sports tries to bring to “Madden” each year, the first person I think of is Deion. It’s finally time to get him on the cover.
Winner: Deion Sanders
(1) Colin Kaepernick vs. (8) A.J. Green
I have a feeling that Colin Kaepernick is going to be the most frustrating quarterback to play against online in “Madden 25.” Will he be able to out-cheese Michael Vick from “Madden 04”?
Winner: Colin Kaepernick
(5) Julio Jones vs. (4) Arian Foster
Still can’t believe J.J. Watt isn’t representing the Texans in this vote. It’d be nice to see some defense on the cover (and in the game).
Winner: Julio Jones
(6) Von Miller vs. (3) Russell Wilson
With Seattle’s D, the running of Marshawn Lynch, Russell Wilson’s mobility, and now the addition of Percy Harvin as a true deep threat, Seattle is going to be a monster to deal with in “Madden 25” (and in real life).
Winner: Russell Wilson
(10) Clay Matthews vs. (2) Andrew Luck
Matthews pulled off the first-round upset over Trent Richardson, but Luck is the type of young quarterback EA loves to promote (and already has, featuring Luck in its “FIFA 13” campaign) .
Winner: Andrew Luck
(1) Robert Griffin III vs. (8) Doug Martin
Funny how Martin hates his “Muscle Hamster” nickname. True, it’s a bit odd, but it’s so original (and fitting), that it’s time for the running back to embrace his inner hamster.
Winner: Robert Griffin III
(5) Ray Rice vs. (4) Dez Bryant
Rice already won the “NFL Blitz” cover vote, so he knows how to rally support. Throw in that Super Bowl win, and Bryant is going down.
Winner: Ray Rice
(11) Darrelle Revis vs. (3) Rob Gronkowski
If Gronk wins, they should let him appear on the cover without a shirt.
Winner: Rob Gronkowski
(10) LeSean McCoy vs. (2) Adrian Peterson
Peterson actually had the widest win margin of any athlete in Round 1 (Carson Palmer was no competition), and the love for Purple Jesus continues to grow by the day. His comeback from ACL surgery was such a miracle, there’s no chance of the “Madden” Curse slowing him down.
Winner: Adrian Peterson