The long-awaited Madden NFL 17 hits store shelves on Tuesday as gamers and football fans alike flood to Best Buy and GameStop to pick up their copies. Most players will fire up the game and use their favorite team the first time around, but that’s not always the best choice. These seven teams offer great rosters with playmakers on both offense and defense. There’s even one team rated below 80 that will surprise a lot of people in Madden this year.
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Dallas Cowboys: 84 overall
Not only are the Cowboys popular among NFL fans, but they’re frequently used by gamers. Their trio of offensive stars is one of the best in football, led by Tony Romo, Dez Bryant and rookie Ezekiel Elliott. With that group of offensive studs, adding in tight end Jason Witten, their elite offensive line and Cole Beasley in the slot, Dallas’ offense is nearly unstoppable in Madden. The defense is where players will struggle when using the Cowboys. The pass rush and linebacking corps will be better in the game than in real life, since suspensions and injuries don’t apply, but there are still holes at both spots. At least the secondary is solid with Orlando Scandrick, Byron Jones and Brandon Carr.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY SportsKirby Lee
Carolina Panthers: 87 overall
The Panthers are tied with the Patriots as the highest-rated team in the game. It’s not overly surprising given their strong balance between offense (87) and defense (91). What makes the Panthers so enjoyable to play with, though, is Cam Newton. Dual-threat quarterbacks are always fun to use in Madden, and Newton is exceptional both throwing the ball and running it. Sure, it’d be nice to have a more dynamic group of running backs, but Newton can carry the load as a leading rusher. On defense, manning the middle of the field is a breeze with Luke Kuechly. The loss of cornerback Josh Norman hurts when it comes to shutting down top receivers, but a strong pass rush can alleviate that concern.
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Pittsburgh Steelers: 85 overall
Like the Cowboys, the Steelers have an unmatched group of triplets on offense. And thankfully, Le’Veon Bell won’t be suspended when you power up your PS4 or Xbox One! The Steelers will be hard to stop on offense – whether it’s Big Ben throwing darts to Antonio Brown or Bell gashing defenses with outside runs – but their defense is susceptible to the pass. The offense has an overall rating of 93, yet the defense has a mark of just 81. Their secondary is in desperate need of a playmaker or two, and in order to handle their defense, you’ll need to get a pass rush off the edge. If you can force the quarterback into bad decisions, it’ll mask the glaring holes in the secondary.
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Seattle Seahawks: 85 overall
For players who enjoy taking control of safeties or cornerbacks in the secondary, the Seahawks are a must-use. Earl Thomas in Seattle’s Cover 3 scheme is a monster, ranging from sideline to sideline with big hits and plenty of interceptions. Richard Sherman is equally great in a Cover 3 defense, which is why airing it out against Seattle is so difficult. In that regard, scoring 40 points a game isn’t necessary, but it’s possible. The Seahawks have four pass catchers with overall ratings in the 80s, led by Doug Baldwin (89). Tight end Jimmy Graham is somewhat of a forgotten asset in Seattle, but he’s a real weapon in the red zone. The most important player on offense is quarterback Russell Wilson, who has great speed (86) and agility (92) to elude sacks and would-be tackles.
2015 Getty ImagesStephen Brashear
New England Patriots: 87 overall
Tom Brady isn’t the top quarterback in the game, but he is the best at throwing short and intermediate passes. That coincides perfectly with his supporting cast, which is topped by tight end Rob Gronkowski – one of four 99-rated overall players in Madden. Running the ball won’t be easy with the Patriots’ backfield and terrible offensive line, but New England doesn’t win games on the ground, and neither will you. Surprisingly, the Patriots’ defense is one of the best in the game, tied with the Broncos at 91 in that department. Devin McCourty and Jamie Collins are two players who are extremely fun to roam the field with as both can make plays against the pass and run.
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Arizona Cardinals: 84 overall
If you’re into airing out the football on every play, the Cardinals are a great choice. They boast arguably the best receiving corps in the game, headlined by three receivers with at least an overall rating of 85. Larry Fitzgerald (91) is at the top of the heap, followed by John Brown (86) and Michael Floyd (85). But even a balanced offense is possible with the Cardinals. David Johnson is a big yet speedy back with good power and outstanding pass-catching ability, which helps QB Carson Palmer. Although the Cardinals’ defensive rating is somehow just 81, they have playmakers at all three levels. Tyrann Mathieu is the top free safety in the game, while Patrick Peterson excels in man coverage. Deone Bucannon is a fast linebacker and will clean up any mess that slips past Calais Campbell and Chandler Jones.
Getty ImagesChristian Petersen
Jacksonville Jaguars: 78 overall
Stick with me here: The Jaguars are a fun Madden team. Blake Bortles is manageable at quarterback, but he’s made even better by guys like Allen Hurns and Allen Robinson. Chris Ivory and T.J. Yeldon are a decent two-headed duo at running back, but the offensive line leaves plenty to be desired. The defense isn’t great at this point, but it will get better as young studs such as Jalen Ramsey, Myles Jack and Dante Fowler improve throughout the year. All three are loaded with potential, and with Tashaun Gipson at free safety, the back end is taken care of. Winning with Jacksonville will be a bigger challenge than doing so with the Patriots, but it will be more rewarding.