Feature Article
Cracking the Turnover Code
Cracking the Turnover Code - Madden 08

Another  #&%@!%ing turnover? Are you  #&%@!%ing serious?” Seriously, how many controllers have you bounced off the drywall already this year?  If they didn’t cost $40 a pop, I would have easily gone through 30 over these past couple of weeks.  Just like NCAA, this year’s Madden offering is ripe with errant throws and butterfingered ball-carriers.  While it is nice to see a little more realism and parity in offline play,  it would have been preferable to see a greater balance in the gameplay, rather than such a gross over-display of offensive blunders to keep the score close.

That being said, four-plus weeks of offline Franchise play have resulted into some mini-nuggets of quasi-wisdom, which I will impart, pass along to my Madden Mania brethren.

  **Please note – if you are looking for advanced analysis of the game’s idiosyncrasies, sadly, this is not it.  These are some simple, yet effective tips geared toward helping you alter your Madden instincts, and evolve along with the game.  Sliders

It all begins with the sliders.  While my last piece on NCAA sliders yielded some questions to my actual settings, and MM’s unfortunate and untimely hiatus kept me from reveling my actual settings, I shall now reveal my slider sweet spot for this season.  (Difficulty is set on All-Pro)

 User Offense

QB Accuracy:   50

Pass Blocking:  60

WR Catching:   50

RB Ability:       65

Run Blocking:  60

 CPU Offense:

QB Accuracy:   60

Pass Blocking:  50

WR Catching:   55

RB Ability:       60

Run Blocking:  60

  User Defense:

Awareness:    40

Knockdowns: 55

Interceptions: 35

Break Block: 50

Tackling:       60

   CPU Defense:

Awareness:    60

Knockdowns: 55

Interceptions: 30

Break Block:  50

Tackling:        50

 User Special Teams

FG Power:       50

FG Accuracy:  50

Punt Power:     50

Punt Accuracy: 50

Kickoff Power: 30

 CPU Special Teams

FG Power:       50

FG Accuracy:  50

Punt Power:     50

Punt Accuracy: 50

Kickoff Power: 30



Cracking the Turnover Code - Madden 08



Now, I use the sliders as just a point of reference.  The only slider that has a direct impact is the interception slider.  From my experience with the game thus far, a 30 level for the CPU will reduce the level of INT’s to somewhat tolerable level. 

Although not solidly proven, I whole-heartedly believe that the Running Back Ability Slider also has some effect on turnovers.  While my initial adjustment to this slider was to create a more realistic balance in the running game, I did notice an improvement in haphazard fumbles.  This is purely anecdotal evidence, however.

  Interception Tips:

Interceptions are the most immediately noticeable frustration (or flaw, depending on how you look at it). Personally, I do like the enhanced difficulty in the passing game, as it makes it more realistic.  Balls in the air are up for grabs, and it’s nice to see Madden take a step to display this in the game.  However, picks can get a bit ridiculous.  Moving sliders  can only do so much, however.  You have to adjust your game.  Here are a few (probably obvious) tips:

 Read the defense before the Snap

No one’s asking you to be Peyton Manning and call twelve audibles before the snap, analyzing the idiosyncrasies of the linebackers and safeties.  However, with this season’s game, you are closer than ever before.  This is because defenders to commit before the snap. 


The two most obvious distinctions are blitzes and man coverages.  CPU players tend to cheat up on blitzes.  When this happens,  call a hot route and send a receiver in the spot where that defender is coming from, i.e. slant or square-ins for blitzing linebackers, fly or fade routes for blitzing DB’s (but oh, beware the zone blitz, it’s a sneaky little bastard).


Man coverage is also a fairly simple thing to read, as you will see defenders adjust prior to the snap.  Sending a man in motion will verify or disprove your hunch. When in man coverage, you can really take advantage of mismatches by looking at where your Weapons players are on the field, and who’s lining up over them.  Take full advantage of your Speed WR’s against average CB’s (Check the weapons matchup feature pre-snap, it's a great way to find these mismatches.  Once you know your players, this won't be necessary.)


One thing to note, however.  Defenses will disguise coverages every now and again.   Look at the linebackers right after the snap.  If they move forward or sideways immediately (as to follow a TE or RB), it is a safe bet that you are looking at man coverage.  Exploit accordingly.  If they drop back, you’ve been fooled, and it’s a zone.  Either wait to find a hole, or check down if the pressure’s coming.


All in all, pre-snap, and immediate post-snap reads will help you find open receivers, and avoid throwing into traffic.  You can no longer and sit back, and chuck one up on a wing and a prayer.  Pick Six anyone?


** One side note, if you are running a bubble screen to a WR, and you read man coverage, audible out.  CB’s have a nasty habit of jumping the screen quickly.  It isn’t pretty.

Have a Progression

Again, a case of art imitating reality.    This will come after you become familiar and comfortable with your playbook.  (Either use practice mode, or dive right in and go trial by fire.  In my instance, I used a couple of preseason contests to hasten the learning curve).


You do not have to have a four or five look read like Tom Brady.  However, I would recommend at least two or three.  DO NOT GO INTO A PLAY LOOKING AT ONLY ONE RECEIVER.  While this has worked well in past Madden titles (see the deep corner route last season), it’s a death wish in Madden 08.  Don’t force the ball into coverage, make educated throws.  And check down regularly.  Your TE’s and RB’s may not bring the big play that the downfield throws can, but a 5 yard gain beats a turnover any day in my book.

 Receiver SpotlightA neat little feature that sets your QB's vision to a receiver immediately upon the snap.  This will work great if your receiver has immediate separation, or is running to an area vacated by a blitzing defender.  But use it more of a decoy - look of the safeties/LB's, and shif the vision cone to an open receiver.  Not a new tactic here, but the Spotlight cuts out a step or two in the process. Throw the ball away /Take the Sack

A hard pill to swallow I know, but at times, you will need to recognize a losing battle, and cut your losses.  If the pass rush is bearing in, and there’s nothing open, bite the bullet, and go down (although painfully, this can result in fumbles.  However, this is not all that unrealistic, and thus, acceptable in my eyes).  Or try to hoof it outside the pocket and fire the rock at the cheerleaders.

     Fumble Tips 

Cover the Ball

Simple enough, right?   There’s a button to over up the ball and avoid strips.  Although IGN’s review reported this feature’s ineffectiveness, I disagree.  The strategy just needs to be implemented at the proper time.  Moving through a tight hole with a back, or after making a grab over the middle are excellent times to use the “cover-the-ball button.”  Like everything else about Madden, it’s about timing.  While it won’t prevent fumbles from ever occurring, you will notice a distinct difference once you get the timing down.

 Use the Sidelines

Again, it’s hard to surrender, but the sidelines are your friends.  Use them with reckless abandon.  In the real NFL, turnovers often occur when players try to do too much.  Make this your mission statement, especially when controlling your not-so-sure-handed ball-carriers (i.e. fullbacks, gangly wideouts, and some tight ends.)  Two extra yards are not likely to be worth a bone-jarring collision that could put the ball on the turf.   And let’s not be naïve, it’s fairly rare that real players routinely make ankle-breaking jukes at the sideline and scamper to paydirt.  While it’s not impossible, it’s hardly commonplace, and being a self-described football sim, Madden is no different.

 Highlight Stick = Fumble Stick 

Again, this tip falls under the “don’t try to do too much” school of thought.  While the Highlight/Juke stick does provide  some sick moves and all of the shoulder-lowering glory you can stomach,  ill-timed use turns the right thumbstick  into a fumble factory. 


Let me be specific- restrict the Sportscenter Top 10 moments to the open field.  Punt returns and plays in the defensive backfield are appropriate.  But avoid using the Highlight Stick in closer quarters, especially with multiple defenders.  Embarrassing one defender my might move you head-long into a little feature called Hit-Stick 2.0.   Those fancy branching animations that we’ve been hearing about work two ways: both helping you avoid defenders and sidelines, and also moving you seamlessly between collision detections.  Juking the linebacker may send you headlong into an angry strong safety.  Fumble City, my friends.


If there is an underlying theme to my ramblings, it is this:  use your head.  Madden titles have been so similar over the past several years, that their quirks have become instinctive to us.  Those instincts will ill-serve us all in 08.


I will not lie, I have not mastered all of these tricks, and I think that I have yet to have a turnover-free game.  However, with these tweaks


While I have not given an earth-shattering testament about tricks of the Madden trade,  I implore you, play offense with a more cerebral strategy.  Soon enough the new Madden will hardwire itself to your brain, and your thumbs.