Breaking down the 'Madden 12' cover vote

March, 21, 2011
03/21/11
8:34
PM ET
By Jon Robinson
Michael VickBarbara Johnston/US PresswireMichael Vick is just one of 32 options in the "Madden NFL 12" cover vote.

EA Sports is trying to break the Internet.

There's no other way to explain a 32-man cover vote in which fans get to decide who will front the box for the most popular sports game franchise in history.

And this isn't a cover vote in the "Madden NFL 11" fashion in which there's Drew Brees and two guys who will never win.

The "Madden NFL 12" cover vote features everyone from former cover athletes such as Brees and Larry Fitzgerald to Super Bowl winners such as Aaron Rodgers to players who openly complained about not being on the cover, such as Chris Johnson.

But to me, by far the most controversial, smoke-rising-from-the-servers vote could be a final showdown between Tim Tebow and Michael Vick. That's right; bracket it out and tell me that you don't see what Vince McMahon might dub "The Saint versus The Sinner" main event? Imagine the comments section of that story as the supporters rally and the haters, well, hate.

But we're a long way off from that vote, as Monday, EA Sports and ESPN announced the 32 finalists for the cover, with SportsNation opening up the voting period for the first round today with the eventual "Madden 12" cover athlete being announced live on air April 27.

Here are my thoughts on the first-round matchups:

Left Bracket

(1) Aaron Rodgers vs. (16) Ndamukong Suh

Before I found out about the fan vote, I had pretty much pegged Rodgers as the man to beat for this year's cover. Super Bowl MVP, quarterback for one of the most beloved teams ... the qualifications don't get much better than that. But here's the thing: Don't sleep on Suh. We're talking about a guy who literally will try to rip off your facemask if he doesn't get what he wants.

My Vote: Rodgers. Win a Super Bowl, and you advance.

(9) Larry Fitzgerald vs. (8) Sam Bradford

Fitzgerald shared the "Madden 10" cover with Troy Polamalu and showed no signs of the dreaded Madden Curse. So this year, he's trying to tempt fate a second time, claiming the cover for himself while maintaining that long hair is the secret to avoiding curses. Tell that to Polamalu, who injured his knee before halftime of the first game of the season when the two shared the spotlight.

My Vote: Bradford. Fitz already had his shot. Besides, Sam's the man.

(5) Hakeem Nicks vs. (12) Brian Orakpo

This has to be one of the strangest matchups of Round 1. I was really looking forward to the Eli Manning versus Rex Grossman bracket, but instead we get Nicks and Orakpo. Orakpo is a huge gamer who already was featured on the cover of "NCAA Football 10." Winning the "Madden" cover would put him in the rare company of players who accomplished two different EA Sports covers, but he's the ultimate long shot in this tournament.

My Vote: Orakpo. He's one of the biggest gamers in the NFL, crediting "Call of Duty," "Halo" and, yes, "Madden" as his all-time favorites.

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