Patriots win Super Bowl LI in overtime
I hated seeing Belichick, Brady, and the Patriots win the Super Bowl too, but don't blame the rules!

Apparently bitter over the New England Patriot's unprecedented comeback victory in overtime of Super Bowl LI, a CBS Sports blogger is arguing that the NFL should adopt college football overtime rules. The author asserts "But the one thing college football does better than the NFL? Overtime, without a doubt.".

Um, no.

The college football overtime rules is something that I despise about that game. For many reasons.

First of all, it's a totally different rule set than the regulation game. The CBS writer claims that "The overtime rules in college football are straight forward." I disagree on that point as well, as college overtime is full of caveats of its own. After two overtimes, for example, teams are required to go for two-point conversions. It's a more complicated ruleset than the CBS writer gives it credit for, and its no less complicated than NFL overtime rules which allow for the game to continue if the opening possession results in a field goal.

Devin Hester return TD
Special teams stars like Devin Hester are
completely irrelevant in college overtime.

Perhaps most importantly: these rules completely ignore special teams. Have an explosive punt or kick returner like, say Devin Hester? Well, in college football, he never gets to step foot on the field - at least, not as a return man. Same goes for an exceptional punter or kick coverage unit. They all get to sit on the sidelines and watch because they're arbitrarily no longer part of the game. Special teams is part of football, and should be part of overtime. Any overtime rule that neglects special teams is not football.

Another of my biggest complaints with college football overtime is that it favors the offense, exhausts the defenses, and leads to inflated scores and stats. A 10-10 defensive struggle that is unresolved in regulation can end up turning into a 38-35 shootout. Don't forget that this supposedly-exciting "shoot out" could turn into a slog of exchanging field goals indefinitely.

The college rules also don't allow for a game to end in a tie. I know that with only 10 to 12 games, every game in college football counts, and a tie would look awefully confusing to any top 25 pollsters. But the reality is that sometimes a tie might be more representative of the outcome of a hard-fought game than some inflated triple overtime score.

Lastly, by not permitting a tie, the college overtime rules permit a game to go on indefinitely until a winner is decided. This is a rule that changed in 1995. Prior to that year, college football games could end in ties, but the rules committee decided that was undesirable. Even regular season games must go on until there is a winner. This can wear out the players and can dramatically increase the risk of injury. I can understand the desire to play a playoff or championship game until a winner is determined, but is it really necessary for every single regular season game too...?

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Madden NFL - title

I recently wrote regarding a proposal for improving practice squad and training features by hiding player ratings until the player has played enough games to reveal them. Of course, there's still a lot of other aspects of the game that I'd like to see improved. I was pleased that this year's Madden 17 implemented some items from my wishlist from last year. There's still a lot from last year's wishlist that I'd like to see implemented in some fashion. Playing Madden 17 has also raised new ideas for improvement.

Let's start out by going over some of the things that are left over from last year's wishlist:

Loose ball A.I. was a point on my wishlist last year, but it wasn't addressed, as evidenced by this clip.

Now, admittedly, a lot of the following suggestions are going to be based on my own subjective experiences with the game. And these opinions come from someone who is almost exclusively a single-user Franchise player. My priorities are going to be far different from the desires of MUT players or even online franchise players.

I'm also not going to bother (right now) with the obvious problems: rubberband AI that creates obnoxiously artificial "momentum swings", the broken man coverage, robo QBs, the complete unwillingness of my linemen to block at the point of attack on run plays, or the down-tuning of new features (such as throw out of sack, aggressive catch, and defensive line moves) to the point of irrelevance, and so on. Instead, I'm going to try to focus on less-obvious mechanics that interact with these problems and which have forced EA to make the [bad] decisions that they've made.

Better run-pass balance and longer games

The general design of Madden isn't very run-friendly. The fact that the game is balanced and tuned for quick, 6-minute quarter, pick-up-and-play online matches (instead of full 15-minute quarter games) means that grinding it out on the ground to establish the run is futile. Trying to run the ball in a 6-minute quarter game (with accelerated clock turned ON, which is the default) can rapidly burn through time. I regularly eat up an entire quarter and a half in a single drive when I commit to the running game in such matches, and that is just unrealistic. This forces both players and the CPU to depend on the passing game to score before a half expires. In my opinion, this is a fundamental design flaw of Madden, and the game will never be truly great as long as 6-minute quarters is the focus of design.

Madden 17 - low rushing yardage
Madden's fundamental design is not very run-friendly.

But fundamental design flaws aside, my experience with Madden 16 and 17 has been that the CPU is completely inept at running the ball. Even when the blocking is solid, the CPU-controlled back can rarely identify and hit the hole, and usually runs right into a waiting defender or one of his own blockers. CPU backs are even worse at running to the outside, as they'll often run backwards in a futile attempt to get to the edge, instead of just cutting upfield for whatever yardage they can get. This often leads to large losses of yardage, backs up the CPU, and contributes towards the CPU's over-reliance on passing the ball. I usually play with the CPU Run Blocking A.I. slider up between 80 or 100, and yet CPU running backs still routinely finish games with stats along the lines of 15 rushes for 20 total yards. Pathetic. If a CPU runner does have a successful game, it's usually because they broke one or two long runs due to a missed tackle, and 90% of their yardage total comes from one or two plays. Also pathetic. Seriously, I have rage-quit an hour into games because of the CPU's ineptitude.

CPU Doug Martin runs right into his pulling guard [LEFT] instead of going inside like the trap play is designed.
CPU Doug Martin has a huge hole with only a single cornerback to beat [RIGHT], but cuts into traffic instead.

I also have a lot of trouble running the ball myself with my own Run Blocking A.I. slider set to anything below 50...

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Madden NFL 17 - title

UPDATE OCTOBER 23, 2016: LATEST PATCH AND/OR TUNER HAVE PRACTICALLY RUINED THE GAME FOR ME.

I've been having miserable experiences with Madden 17 since publishing this review. I suspect that either patch #2 or tuner #2 are the culprit. CPU QBs have become robots that have 80% completion percentages every game. Running the ball has become impossible (for both human and CPU teams). Man coverage simply doesn't work at all, making corner routes, in routes, out routes, and slant routes unstoppable. The throw out of sack mechanic has been tuned down to the point of being irrelevant. And the list goes on...

Sliders don't seem to improve the experience at all. In fact, certain sliders (like CPU QB Accuracy and CPU Pass Blocking) don't seem to have any effect at all anymore. I am tempted to rewrite this review with a much lower score (Somewhere in the range of a D or D-), but I'm hoping that EA will fix the problem - or at the very least, that deleting the most recent Tuner data will resolve some of the issues. Sadly, I don't think it's possible for me to re-download the first tuner data. This is a shame, since that one actually did fix some genuine problems the game had at launch.

DO NOT DOWNLOAD PATCH #2 OR TUNER #2!

Electronic Arts has supposedly spent the last three years or so rebuilding Madden from the ground up. Because of that, the past few years' games have felt very incremental, and somewhat incomplete. It was obvious that there were still major holes in many facets of gameplay. Personally, I would have preferred that EA just take a two or three year hiatus in order to hold off on releasing a game until it was actually complete. I'm happy that it seems like we're finally getting a "finished" version of EA's vision of a "next gen" Madden game, and I was curious to see if it would live up to expectations.

By their own admission, EA has finally rebuilt the final few phases of gameplay that still used predominantly legacy code (e.g. special teams and the football itself). For the first time in a long time, it feels like Madden can be approached and reviewed as a complete retail product rather than one step in a long-term incremental beta process. Is it worth the wait?

We'll, first impressions let it down a bit. Much like last year's game, the introduction and tutorial for Madden 17 seemed like a pointless waste of time that misrepresents the actual content of the game with its frequent cutscenes and dialogue from players and coaches. I'm not sure who these scripted gameplay intros are intended for. I would expect that new players would likely be confused and unsure what to do, resulting in failing the intro without any clue what they did wrong or what they were supposed to do. Experienced players, on the other hand, are probably just annoyed with the lack of control in this sequence. The inability to skip the cutscenes only makes repeat playthroughs (if you care enough to try to actually beat the scenario) feel tedious, as you'll have to sit through more cringe-worthy dialogue. EA Sports / Tiburon isn't Naughty Dog, and so writing dialogue and directing voice actors are not the studio's strong suits. About the only thing that this intro sequence does is highlight the new commentary team, which is actually pretty good.

Slowly becoming a complete football game

Despite the blocked field goal in the intro being an un-playable cutscene, special teams was one of the primary areas of focus this year. It's an area that's been mostly neglected since the analog kick meter was introduced back around 2007. And what was the innovation that EA decided was necessary to bring their kicking game into the next generation? Well, actually, they decided to bring back a kicking meter that works almost identically to the older PS1 / PS2 era games. You start the meter charging by pressing X, then press X again to set the kick strength as the meter fills, then press X again to set the kick accuracy as the meter returns to the bottom. Nothing new here.

Madden NFL 17 - kick meter
The "new" kick meter is basically a return to the older kick meter.

However, you now have to hold the analog stick to aim the kick prior to starting the kick meter. If you let go, the kick trajectory will snap back to the default. This does require a bit more dexterity than either of the previous kick meter systems ever needed, but it's still fairly easy once you get used to it. Though, EA could maybe loosen up the accuracy window for online games because any amount of lag makes the kicking game virtually impossible. You also have to be more careful with timing your kicks, as the game and play clocks both continue to tick while the kick meter is charging. Not sure if this is a bug or a feature... So be careful that you don't wait too long and give yourself a delay of game (or let the game clock expire before) you get the kick off.

On the other side of the ball, defenders can now actually block kicks by jumping the snap...

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Chicago Bears alt logo

Yesterday, Chicago Bears coach Marc Trestman announced that he would be benching Jay Cutler and starting Jimmy Clausen in this coming Sunday's game against the Detroit Lions. It's about damned time! After Chicago lost to Dallas two weeks ago and were eliminated from the playoffs, I thought the Bears would put Cutler on the bench. When I turned on last Thursday's game against the Saints and saw Cutler step onto the field for the first drive, I stopped watching the game.

Trestman and Cutler
Is the Bears organization going to look through Cutler and blame only Trestman?

What more was there to see in Jay Cutler? How could he not have conclusively proven that he is a bust? Why weren't the Bears taking the opportunity to test out Clausen and / or David Fales for the remainder of this dead season? It seemed so stupid! Heck, if Clausen could win games or spark the offense back to life, it could save Trestman's job. It would be solid evidence that the Bears poor season was mostly on Cutler's shoulders, and not on Trestman's. Again, the Bears looked good last year with Josh McCown playing during Jay Cutler's injury, so Trestman and the Bears have already proven that they can be successful with other quarterbacks.

Well, Trestman and Emery finally smartened up and realized that Cutler isn't the guy. But now they only have two games to examine the potential of Clausen, and it seems unlikely that they'll bother with rookie David Fales. If I had been coach, I would have given Clausen one game as starter and given Fales one game as starter, then give the third game to whichever of the two performed better. It would let me know whether Fales is a keeper, or if I should look to the draft for yet another quarterback. The big question will be: can either quarterback successfully run Marc Trestman's west coast-style offense?

Unfortunately, neither Clausen nor Fales will have access to star wideout Brandon Marshall, ...

UPDATE December 23, 2014: Cutler to start final week against Vikings due to Clausen injury

Jimmy Clausen started against the Lions last Sunday, but still wasn't able to provide a spark of life to Chicago's offense. He didn't do anything special, and he also threw a game-ending interception. He also apparently suffered a concussion. As such, Chicago is back to starting Jay Cutler this coming Sunday in the season-finale against the Vikings.

I think Trestman is making a bad decision by starting Cutler. If I were in charge, I'd give the game to rookie David Fales. There is no better crucible for testing a new quarterback than with a meaningless late-season game. Even if he isn't fully prepared, playing him will help the coaches to identify his weaknesses and problem areas against a starting NFL defense in a live game. And if the coaches and management don't see anything redeeming in Fales play, then they will know that he isn't worth keeping on the roster and potentially hurting the team's chances in future seasons if the starter(s) ahead of him go down with injury.

Playing Cutler, on the other hand, only risks getting Cutler hurt and destroying any possibility of a trade.

I'm going to write this one off as yet another bad decision in a very long, sad history of bad football decisions in Chicago...

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Chicago Bears alt logo

I was looking forward to a breakout year for the Bears. I even drafted Jay Cutler in one of the later rounds in one of my fantasy football leagues expecting him to have his best season ever and be a top-tier quarterback. All the pieces were in place. And the defense being a liability seemed to be even more promising, since Cutler would have to play from behind more often, giving him plenty of opportunity to put up huge numbers.

But then the season started, and my excitement was almost completely squashed by losing the season opener in overtime to the Bills.

But I never feared it would get this bad!

The Bears have only three wins in the first ten weeks of the season, and the past three losses have been embarrassing. A loss to the Dolphins in which the Bears couldn't even score more than 14 points. And now two straight games against the Patriots and Packers that were both over by halftime. And the loss to the Packers came after a bye!

The Bears are failing at every level of play. The offense can't move the ball or score points. Special teams hasn't done anything special. And teams are cutting through the Bears' defense like butter. The defense at least has the excuse of injuries. Charles Tillman is out for the year, and Lance Briggs just returned from a multi-week injury. But that doesn't justify giving up over 100 points in two weeks, nor does it justify the defense being the statistically worst defense that the team has ever had in its 90-plus-year history.

Bears - 23 | Patriots - 51 : Rob Gronkowski scores a TD Bears - 14 | Packers - 55 : Jordy Nelson wide open TD reception
The Bears' defense has set franchise records for awfulness.

But as bad as the defense is, it wasn't expected to be very good. New coach Mark Trestman is an offense-oriented coach, and the defense is old and has lost some of its best talent (like Brian Urlacher).

What is disappointing is that despite being the most "talented" and hyped offense that the team has ever seen, the offense is completely inept. It's as bad as the post-SuperBowl Rex Grossman offense!

The Bears don't even look like a professional football team right now.

There's two obvious scape-goats here: coach Mark Trestman, or quarterback Jay Cutler.

Cutler has been inconsistent and oft criticized, but his apologists always said that he needed a better offensive coach...

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A gamer's life...

Welcome to Mega Bears Fan's blog, and thanks for visiting! This blog is mostly dedicated to game reviews, strategies, and analysis of my favorite games. I also talk about my other interests, like football, science and technology, movies, and so on. Feel free to read more about the blog.

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Madden 18 wishlist: offense, defense, and special teams balanceMadden 18 wishlist: offense, defense, and special teams balance01/14/2017 I recently wrote regarding a proposal for improving practice squad and training features by hiding player ratings until the player has played enough games to reveal them. Of course, there's still a lot of other aspects of the game that I'd like to see improved. I was pleased that this year's Madden 17 implemented some items...

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