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Full disclaimer: I haven't been able to watch any of the Bears' games this year that haven't been nationally televised. That's part of the reason that I've been so quiet about the team this year. I don't have any fancy satellite TV subscriptions, nor do I even have cable. And my local affiliates are never showing the Bears games, even when the Bears are supposed to be the top-bill game that week. Whatever. I've had to resort to watching highlights and listening to other sports pundits because I haven't been able to see the Bears' piss-poor play for myself.

I expressed concern in the offseason over the loss of Jordan Howard and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. But I didn't expect the team to be this bad. I knew the Vikings and Packers would be in the hunt of the NFC North title, but I expected the Bears to be neck-and-neck in the contest. At the very least, I had hoped they'd be a top-contender for a wild card spot. What I didn't expect was for them to have to win a mid-season game against the Lions to keep themselves out of last place in the NFC North.

Chicago Bears - David Montgomery
The running game has struggled without Jordan Howard.

And it isn't like the Bears are losing to great teams. They aren't losing to the Patriots or the Chiefs or the Ravens or the 49ers. The only good teams they've lost to have been the Packers and the Saints. They lost embarrassing games against the Raiders, the Chargers, and a disappointing Eagles team. That Raiders loss was especially criticised because it was played in London, and the Bears' coaching staff decided not to fly out until Friday night. So the team came into the first half looking groggy and half-asleep -- just like they did in the first week of the regular season, after Nagy decided to rest the starters. Those are both bad decision that are squarely on head coach Nagy's shoulders.

Trading away Jordan Howard was perhaps the biggest personnel mistake that the Bears have made since trading for Jay Cutler. It might even be a more costly mistake than letting go of Robbie Gould. The Bears just haven't been the same team without Howard. The running game has been pathetic, and Trubisky and the passing game have not been able to make up the difference.

The lack of a running game is a problem, but I still put most of the blame for this season on Trubisky and Nagy. The play-calling has just not been as smart or creative as it was last year. But maybe it can't be, because Trubisky is making terrible decisions when Nagy tries running more complicated plays. Nagy seems to have dumbed-down his offensive play-calling in order to help Trubisky out, but even with simpler play concepts, Trubisky is struggling. He's making bad decisions and even worse throws. He often looks more like a confused college freshman than a third-season pro. It's like watching those Jay Cutler-led offenses all over again.

Trubisky is starting to look like a baby Jay Cutler.

In that win against Detroit, the entire first quarter was dominated by Trubisky completing short routes and check-downs to build his confidence, before showing flashes of why the Bears drafted him in the second and third quarters. The Bears were helped overall by the fact that starting Lions quarterback Matt Stafford sat out of the game. Even though Driskel played well, the Lions offense just wasn't as explosive as it usually is with Stafford behind center. The Bears couldn't run the ball, and Trubisky failed to convert several third downs late in the game that would have helped to ice the game. The game came down to an offensive pass interference that took away a fourth down conversion by the Lions, and resulted in a turnover on downs when the Lions failed to convert the retry. So it wasn't a pretty win, nor was it a convincing win. The Bears will be playing the Lions again in a few weeks on Thanksgiving day. I have zero confidence that the Bears will win the rematch.

This 2019 Bears team is bad. The offense cannot move the ball, let alone score. And the defense is not bailing the offense out with game-changing turnovers.

I expect the Bears to be looking for a new franchise quarterback in the next draft or two. They should probably also look at running backs while they're at it. Sadly, they don't have a first-round pick in the 2020 draft (because they gave that pick to the Raiders in the Khalil Mack trade). Maybe they can find some late-round sleepers?

Trubisky played decent against the Lions, but the Bears were helped by the Lions starting backup QB Jeff Driskel.
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Axis Football 19 - title

Well, the football video game price wars have apparently begun. Unfortunately, however, the prices are not shifting in the direction I'd like. Instead of EA being forced by competition to drop the price of Madden to something reasonable, like $30 (as they had to do in 2004 to compete with ESPN NFL 2k5's budget price of $20), both Maximum Football 19 and Axis Football 19 have upped their price from $20 (in 2018) to $30 (in 2019). I've already complained that Maximum has shifted its retail price out of the budget indie tier and into the middle-market (or "double-A" tier), and that Maximum isn't quite up to the level of quality that I might expect from a title at that price.

Axis Football doesn't feel quite as over-priced, as it was a much more feature-complete product to begin with (and remains a more feature-complete product this year, despite Maximum's new dynasty mode). That being said, I don't feel that Axis is improved enough to warrant a 50% jump in price.

Whereas Maximum focused on adding a much-needed dynasty mode in order to prop up its mediocre-at-best on-field gameplay (and moderately succeeds in that regard), Axis already had a working Franchise mode. What Axis needed was to improve its on-field gameplay. ...But they kinda didn't... Like, not at all...

Same as last year?

I was optimistic about Maximum Football and Axis Football because I expected them to make significant improvements to on-field gameplay from year-to-year -- something that EA has consistently failed to do with Madden over the last ten-to-fifteen years. So to see both of these indie games play virtually identical to last year's counterparts is very disappointing and has substantially deflated my initial optimism.

My excitement for the potential improvement of Maximum and Axis has been deflated
by both games releasing with virtually identical on-field gameplay compared to last year.

If you read the gameplay section of last year's review, then you pretty much know how this yea'rs game plays. Axis Football 19 still has much of the same rigid and robotic player animations. The locomotion system is terrible and allows runners to cut and turn on a dime. Defensive players still frequently stand in place. Deep zone coverage is still atrocious. The CPU still never defends 2-point conversion attempts. Receivers still lack varied or convincing catch animations, and defenders similarly lack pass defense animations. Blocking and tackle interactions can still be triggered with players who are not in physical contact with each other. I can still run my defensive end around offensive tackles, unblocked, for free sacks.

Some football rules are also still wrong or not implemented at all. Axis might as well just end games in ties if they can't implement a working overtime ruleset. I can still exploit kicking kickoffs out of bounds without penalty in order to pin opposing offenses deep. There's no fair catch. I can't motion receivers before the snap to see if the defense is in man or zone coverage.

The developers failed to address many of the problems that plagued last year's game --
such as poor deep zone coverage [LEFT] and the ability to easily run around offensive tackles [RIGHT].

Much moreso than last year, I'm noticing that outside runs seem to be far too effective. The reason for this seems to be the crazy success rates of receivers making (and holding) blocks on the edge and in the second level. Safeties are not only bad at deep coverage, but they're also terrible in run support. They stay back too deep (and sometimes just stand around), instead of trying to meet the runner in the lanes or trying to force an outside run back inside. If a receiver or tight end gets into the second level and blocks the safety, then the play is practically a guaranteed touchdown.

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Maximum Football 2019 - title

I was harsh on Maximum Football 2018 last year. Perhaps overly so, considering the game's indie nature and budget price. I wasn't trying to hate on the game, nor am I a Madden fanboy (feel free to check out my reviews of the last few years' of Madden releases if you need proof of my being fed up with lackluster releases from EA).

I was harsh because I wanted to point out as many possible flaws as I could, so that as many of them as possible could be resolved, and Maximum Football would get better the following year. I bought Maximum Football 2018 in order to support the developer, Canuck Play, to that end. I also bought Maximum Football 2019 in order to continue to support Canuck, because I am still hopeful that this game can turn into to something special. I didn't wait a couple weeks and buy a used disc for cheap off of eBay, which is what I usually do with Madden because I don't want to give EA a cent until they actually earn it.

College and Canadian football legend Doug Flutie offered his name and likeness.

Not in the bargain bin anymore

Canuck isn't there yet. But I honestly didn't expect them to be (which is why I made a YouTube video about being excited for 2020, rather than 2019). I'm still approaching Maximum Football 2019 as an "early access" work-in-progress.

At last year's budget price point of about $15, it wasn't too hard for me to overlook Maximum Football's many flaws and limitations and still recommend it to people who want to see competition in the football video gaming marketplace. It wasn't much different than paying for "early access", after all. However, with the price of this year's game nearly doubled to $30, it's a lot harder to make a similar recommendation. The inclusion of a Dynasty mode does partially resolve my single, largest complaint with last year's game, as it means that there is an actual game here to play now, with an actual sense of progression and accomplishment. But Maximum made so few strides in its core gameplay, that I'm just not sure it's worth the hike in price.

$30 pulls Maximum Football out of the category of "budget indie title", and puts it firmly into the price point of "Double-A" or "mid-market game", alongside games like Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice, Lords of the Fallen, and Cities: Skylines. But Maximum is not "Double-A" quality!

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Madden NFL - title

If you've already read my review of Madden 20 on my personal blog, then you know that I consider this year's release to be a massive disappointment. In fact, the last Madden entry that I actually liked was probably Madden 17. Despite my misgivings about this year's game, I do want to start off by talking about something in recent Madden entries that I actually like. Don't worry, there will be plenty of time for me to rant about the problems in Madden 20 later.

While there is certainly value in giving EA a laundry list of complaints about Madden 20 (so that they can maybe, hopefully address the complaints), there is equally as much value in telling EA where they've done right so that they can continue to expand those ideas. So let's start out the NFL / Madden season on a more positive note and talk about how recent iterations of Madden have actually made the preseason worth playing in Franchise mode.

I have a laundry list of complaints about Madden 20, but I'd rather talk about something I like instead.

This blog is a transcription of a video project that I uploaded to YouTube (which will be embedded below). I had hoped to get this out before the end of the NFL preseason (when it would be a bit more relevant and topical), but I was still neck deep in my Sekiro critique. I had to do a bit of research for this post by using some of my Patreon funds to purchase Madden 12 and NCAA Football 13. If you enjoy this blog post (and/or the accompanying video), and would like to see more like it, then I hope you'll consider supporting me on Patreon.

Now that the shameless self-promotion is out of the way, let's talk about the preseason in Madden NFL video games!

Feel free to follow along on YouTube!

Preseason is my favorite part of Madden franchise

Nobody likes the NFL preseason -- or at least, that's what I keep hearing.

Fans don't care for it because none of their favorite players get much playing time. Veteran players don't like it because it puts them at risk of injury. The NFL doesn't like it because the fans don't like it and don't buy tickets to the games. And the networks and advertisers don't like it because not many people watch it.

About the only people who actually like the preseason are the reserve players who get the chance to earn a roster spot, and maybe the coaches who have an opportunity to find out if their backups will be reliable replacements for any starters who get hurt in the regular season.

The NFL preseason isn't particularly popular.

In fact, the preseason is so unpopular that every year or two, there are rumblings about the possibility of the NFL reducing the length of the preseason, or outright eliminating it. The NFL would probably cite "player safety" as the reason for eliminating the preseason, but the real reason would be because it doesn't make them as much money. After all, they'd probably offset the reduced preseason by correspondingly increasing the length of the regular season, putting even more wear and tear on the players' bodies.

So every year, as we enter the NFL regular season, there is an outside chance that next year, there simply won't be a preseason. Or that if there is one, it will only be 2 or 3 games. There are plenty of valid reasons for reducing or eliminating the preseason, and I'm not going to get into that specific topic here. Instead, I'm going to talk about the preseason in Madden.

As someone who enjoys video game football (or at least would enjoy it if the quality of product were better), I would actually bemoan the loss of preseason because eliminating the NFL preseason would do a great disservice to the Franchise mode of the Madden NFL video games. I would not be surprised to hear that most Madden players don't bother with the preseason and just simulate past it -- after all, "nobody likes the preseason", right? But I happen to think that the preseason in Madden is the most interesting and engaging part of Franchise, and might in fact be my favorite part of the game.

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I've been hearing some complaints about the difficulty of kicking the football in Doug Flutie's Maximum Football 2019 (from Canadian developer Canuck Play). Many players seem to be having difficulties making field goals longer than an extra point. At the risk of sounding like an elitist, the kicking in this game really isn't that hard once you learn one simple thing about how it works. So I just wanted to put out a short post here to help out players who are struggling with the kick meter, so that they don't have to spend too long going through trial-and-error.

The kick trajectory defaults to a low, line drive.

Basically, the kick meter defaults to a line drive trajectory. This results in short, low kicks (like a squib kickoff). All you have to do is pull down on the right analog stick to raise the kick trajectory arrow. I usually raise the trajectory almost as high as it will go.

This design is counter-intuitive to most people who have played football games in the past, since most other games set the kick trajectory default to a basic kick that is usually "good enough" for most purposes. In many situations, you can just kick the ball without having to bother with aiming at all. NFL 2k5 and All Pro 2k8 continually dragged the kick trajectory off to the side, and forced you to have to adjust. This was (I assume) to simulate the pull of the wind and the kicker's handedness -- or is it "footedness"? But the height of the kick usually did not have to be adjusted.

Other games do not require as much adjustment of the kick trajectory.

Once you have the kick trajectory in Maximum Football aimed correctly, all you have to do is flick the stick down, then back up to actually make the kick. Flick the stick quickly in order to maximize the power your kicker puts behind it. The game doesn't have any meters or anything to give you feedback on whether you're doing it correctly, but the faster you flick the stick, the better. As far as I know, pulling the stick a little to the left or right will not cause your kicker to shank the kick left or right (as it would do in earlier versions of Madden).

Just aim your kick up with the right stick, then flick as quickly as you can with the left stick, and you should be making 50-yard field goals like a pro in no time!

With the proper trajectory, you'll be making 50-yard field goals like a pro!

Personally, I actually like that the game requires the player to have to manually aim every kick. It's not an automatic action like it is in so many other football games. It's not perfect, but it certainly isn't broken, the way that some people seem to think it is.

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A gamer's thoughts

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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I actually like playing the preseason in MaddenI actually like playing the preseason in Madden10/07/2019 If you've already read my review of Madden 20 on my personal blog, then you know that I consider this year's release to be a massive disappointment. In fact, the last Madden entry that I actually liked was probably Madden 17. Despite my misgivings about this year's game, I do want to start off by talking about something in recent...

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