JoshC1977's Madden 21 CFM Sliders (User vs CPU Only)

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Old 08-20-2020, 04:34 PM   #1
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JoshC1977's Madden 21 CFM Sliders (User vs CPU Only)

March 15, 2021 - Added Next Gen QB trait edit section

Note: the following applies to both Current Gen and Next Gen

I honestly debated whether I would do a slider thread for Madden 21. I asked myself if there was 'value' to doing so; but I remembered that, back in late June, I had posted my thoughts about moving forward with M21 in spite of EA's lack of attention to CFM. As I re-read those words, they reminded me of why I do what I do....

The reason I still do my "sliders" (which have been pretty much just default as we all know) is more about my philosophies and sharing them with this community. It's OK to have fun! You don't need everything to be 'perfect' to have a good time. I will ALWAYS believe that and frankly, I've heard enough people say things like, "you helped me have fun again" in a time where we all need as much of that as possible, that I'm not going to get up and walk away just because EA is ignoring us with mode updates.

It's still true guys. Madden is one of only two sports games I still purchase for Franchise Mode (MLB The Show is the other). I love the game, I love the series, I love the franchise mode design. It's not "broken", it doesn't need "fixed" - it just needs a little TLC and it sounds like we'll be getting that. Franchise mode is about the game on the field; not pushing buttons in a menu screen. The stories are told on the field, and that is where our focus will be. The ultimate goal here is to determine how we can make Year 20 of a franchise just as fun to play as Year 1. While we WILL explore sliders here; that will not be the only area we will explore. We will be looking at ways to make the mode fun and engaging throughout the lifecycle.

"Target audience"

My mindset and approach to sports gaming is far different than many here. We're not here to "mimic real life", we're here to have fun and enjoy the role-playing experience. Now, sometimes, we have to do a little CFM maintenance and I'm hoping that we can put together some very simple things to help further our experiences. That all said, are you a fit here?

You're my target audience if:

- You WANT player ratings to matter
- You "play football" not "play Madden" (in other words, you don't try to "game" the game)
- You play every game (i.e. your hands are on the controllers moving the players)
- You are accountable for your mistakes
- You take your losses like an adult (i.e. no crying about "Robo QB" or "RNG" or that kiddie stuff)
- You want real longevity in your franchise
- You don't mind spending a little time keeping your CFM "healthy"
- Your focus is playing the games and enjoying the on-field experience
- You don't nit-pick stats and animations but take a holistic view of things.

"Setup and Sliders"

The slider "path" I have chosen is based on the following principles:
  1. No adjustments to the following "core" sliders: injury/fatigue/threshold/pass block/run block
    Adjusting ANY of these values will negatively impact the game. Madden, at is core, is a timing-based game. Fatigue/Thresh/Injury all affect player movement - change any one of these, and we change the overall complexion of the game. Player speed/acceleration values will be impacted and they will quickly override a slew of animations and tendencies. The blocking sliders impact the timing of plays and relative to the three "movement sliders", will have a tremendous impact on how each play unfolds. While it is theoretically possible to re-balance these values; every patch that gets issued is going to impact the balance and will send you down a never-ending hunt for new slider settings (or accepting a sub-par gameplay experience).
  2. Not modifying CPU values.
    I'm not trying to change HOW the CPU plays directly, I want to change how they play by altering the outcome dynamics. At the most basic level, I lower the user tackle slider, the CPU breaks more tackles. What does that do? It spurs variety; maybe a 1 yard run on default becomes a 5 yard run when adjusted. A 2nd and 9 becomes a 2nd and 5 - which changes the dynamics of which plays are called. It's altering how they play via means of a "trickle down" effect. It's more complicated than that as user values also influence CPU values in varied ways (it doesn't matter how...but they do).
  3. Staying close to default.
    I think many of us have begun to understand this concept. On AP, the more you adjust away from default, the more you limit the range of possible outcomes. At the extreme end, games will all begin to feel the same.
  4. Being patch resistant.
    At it's core, Madden stays the same. Small basic changes can have big impacts and they will have the same impacts regardless of version. This is a key for me. You can do a mammoth slider update for 1.11, but will it fall apart in 1.12? Using the above-mentioned "trickle down" approach will (in theory) always result in "trickle down" changes. The underlying animations may change due to the patch, but the fact we're giving an "offset" will remain intact.
  5. Making All Pro more challenging
    I have to be honest, default All Pro has just become a little dull to me. Many of the plays/animations play out the same over and over again. While it IS balanced; a reasonably skilled user will eventually get very comfortable with the game's timing and be able to deal with just about anything the game throws at them. By lowering a handful of User sliders, we can give the CPU an edge in the most critical animations (tackling, catching) on both sides of the ball.

    There will be more "dice roll wins" that go against you - in a play from a test game, rooke CJ Henderson got completely juked at the LOS by Corey Davis (who took off for a long TD). If you look at the animation, you might question it. But remember, many of the "dice roll wins" result in some exaggerated animations...they need to in order to have a tangible impact. When they're too subtle, which I think was happening a lot on default AP, you get way too much consistency in outcomes (which is why you'd see the CPU use a lot of the same plays/receivers). This is why, as you'll see here, lowering the user sliders works well, it separates the delta between those ratings a tad more; opening up a wider range of possible outcomes (but still based, fundamentally, on ratings) in a manner that will not "skew" the CPU's logic.

Our setup here consists of the following steps (recent adjustments will be bolded)

Step 1: You MUST enter the following Main Menu Settings/Sliders (none of these are optional):

Difficulty - All Pro
Play Style - Sim
NFL Live Playbooks - Your choice, but your Main Menu Setting MUST match whatever you're using within CFM.
Injuries - 10
Fatigue - 50
Quarter Length - 10 Minutes
Acc Clock - Off
Min Threshold (Player Speed Parity) - 50
Ballhawk - On
Heat seeker - Off
Switch Assist - Off
Flip Play - Off

All gameplay sliders and penalty sliders in the Main Menu should be set at 50!! Keep Autosubs at the default 60/80!

Step 2: In your franchise setup options (you can change this after starting a franchise as well):
Difficulty - (match your main menu setting)
Quarter Length - 10 Minutes
Acc Clock - Off
Superstar abilities: ON

Step 3: CFM Slider Adjustments

Change the following as USER/CPU

QB Accuracy: 45/50
Pass Blocking: 50/50
Wr Catching: 45/50
Run Blocking: 50/50
Fumbles: 45/50
Pass reaction: 45/50
Interceptions: 45/50
Pass coverage: 50/50
Tackling: 45/50

FG power: 50
FG accuracy: 50
Punt Power: 50
Punt accuracy: 50
Kickoff Power: 50

Injuries: 25
Fatigue: 50
Player Speed Parity Scale: 50

Penalties: All default

Autosubs: All default

QB Trait Edits (for current gen ONLY)
If opposing QB is NOT an Improvisor or Scrambling Archetype, ensure of the following to minimize the dropback glitch. Make trait edits to meet the following requirements.

1. QB Type trait should be set to balanced or scrambler.
2. Sense Pressure trait should NOT be ideal.
3. Force Passes trait should not be ideal.

QB Trait Edits (for next gen ONLY)
Much simpler, turn off the 'Throw Ball Away' trait for any CPU QB that has it.

"House Rules"
  1. Call your own plays. A common mis-conception is that it is "better" to let the CPU call plays for you. The theory is that it will prevent you from spamming "cheese" plays. Here is the problem, the recommended play calls ARE the cheese plays. They are the plays that work the best for you and/or plays that work "best" for the community (which includes the notorious online audience). If you've been using CPU recommended play calls, I suggest deleting your user profile (which will contain your tendencies the CPU calls plays against) and then start calling your own plays.
  2. Do not use "no switch" as a hard and fast rule. Give yourself an opportunity to make mistakes. This pertains to selecting the WR catch types as well as playing on defense. The CPU has enough of an edge that your mistakes will be impactful. You don't have to go out there with the intention of making every single play, but give yourself a chance to make a mistake or poor play.
  3. DO NOT USE Defensive Assist (L1 on PS4 and LT on XX). This is massively imbalancing and frankly, I was shocked to hear that some folks still use this (mainly due to muscle memory).
  4. Do not back up or roll out on pass plays when not under pressure (obvious exemption of designed rollouts). Backing up/rolling out to simply buy time until the coverage falls apart is a quick cheese approach. My suggestion, keep your finger away from the left stick on all dropbacks. If under pressure, step up in the pocket...you will get much more realistic pass lanes and coverage will feel much better.
  5. Match the CPU's snap cadence as reasonably well as possible. We're running with no accelerated clock (and for all the right reasons - and this is an approach we are not changing). As we all know, the CPU will call plays and snap the ball with minimal play clock advance. Here's the thing, if you constantly drain the play clock during "normal play" (i.e. not when in a 2 min drill or killing clock with a lead late), you're going to have issues. Call your play, get to the line, read the defense quickly and snap the ball. A reasonable target is to snap with ~20-25 seconds left on the clock.

    Why does this matter? Because, if you are snapping with say 10 seconds left on every play, you will dominate time of possession (almost without fail). If that happens, it will push the fatigue impacts in the second half well into your favor. This will flat out make the second half MUCH easier to basically dominate.

    If you match their snap cadence, time of possession will be more even (unless you just flat-out dominate that game, in which case, having that edge is appropriate). Put another way, if you're constantly getting 5-6 minute+ drives (which would be like an 8-9 drive IRL...which are VERY rare), you're snapping the ball WAY too slow.

"Recommendations for a Healthy CFM"

The recommendations here are just that, they're recommendations. As we get our hands on the game and gain more experience, this section will evolve.

In general, the recommendations are about maintaining a balance within the mode. Much like gameplay, the more you tinker with it, the greater the chance you have of "breaking" things. If you choose to deviate from these, "buyer beware".

Play CFM Offline

If you're a solo CFM player, there's very little reason to play a CFM online. Madden has not done online CFM "tuners" for a couple of years now; and that was previously the one (and only) advantage (they'd tune issues online well before patches would be released). Staying offline will allow you to take control of multiple teams and do any tweaking to CPU-controlled teams (and believe me, at some point, you will be thankful for this....). The other "benefit", you never have to worry about EA's servers going down.

Update: if you plan on upgrading to next gen, online franchises WILL carryover. This might be important to some of you that want to continue a long franchise into the next gen version. So bear that in mind. Personally, by time next-gen comes out, I'll probably be ready to start a fresh 'chise anyways.

Starting Roster

Use the 75-man preseason roster for best results. This roster will be the closest thing you will get to a reasonable EA roster. Customized rosters are often skewed heavily to meet the personal opinions of the creator and are often not tested thoroughly for their franchise mode longevity. Likewise, EA roster updates are built for "Play Now" games and "Regs" (non-MUT H2H). Do you really want a roster built for online in your franchise? No? I didn't think so.

Draft classes

I HIGHLY discourage the use of custom draft classes and to be honest, of all the things here, this is the one I feel the most strongly about. People are inherently optimists and it leads to way too many players given star and above dev traits. Your entire franchise will be skewed as you'll be overloaded with way too many high dev young players that will take 10-15 seasons to purge out. This has a massive downstream impact on everything in the mode (including AI team-building, cap management, and fundamentally, just how the games play). If you want to get more than 2 or 3 seasons out of your chise....stick with the game-generated classes. Believe me, you WILL fall in love with the guys you draft as you build up their stories.

Do a yearly "review" of CPU rosters

Prior to the draft, take a very high-level look at the CPU rosters (high level, like 60 seconds per team max). Look for any egregious positional redundancies that COULD affect draft logic. You, as the user, are able to change player positions around - this is a great time to look at the CPU teams. Do they have an edge rusher playing OLB in a 43? Do they have 3 really good guards but lack a solid LT? Don't reinvent the wheel here; just look at the broad strokes.

After the draft, go through each roster and look for significant depth chart holes that could be filled by a simple position swap. The o-line and front 7 on Defense are the most egregious places to focus on. I think we all do this for our teams, don't hesitate to do this for the CPU teams. It doesn't take long; but it WILL help keep things a bit cleaner. This is a decent time to double-check to make sure CPU coach schemes/playbooks match-up (they SHOULD as this is one of the things M21 was supposed to 'fix'). The advantage is that you get a little closer to other teams around the league; gaining a little more familiarity with other teams' rosters.

One other thing, if you move a DE to OLB as part of a roster clean-up, make sure his LB Style is a pass rushing type (note: I'm NOT talking about archetype, but it's the LB Style in his player traits). This will impact how he plays and make him a clearer fit. You can do this for drafted OLBs as well, there's often a 'disconnect' as you'll see coverage style LBs with really good pass rush moves (I don't typically do this as it nicely reflects "mis-cast" players - but if you're really looking to optimize...this is one thing you can do.)

If your response to this section is "We shouldn't have to do this", I get ya', but I disagree. Franchise modes will NEVER be perfect, if you're unwilling to be accountable for your own solo CFM, you shouldn't be playing the mode. What we're talking about here is less than an hour per season of "housekeeping".

XP Sliders

Go watch videos of the NFL from the 1990s. It looks different, doesn't it? And it IS different; the game has evolved.

In Madden, I'm a firm believer in letting the game evolve as it will. I don't want talent distribution in Year 20 to be the same as it is in Year 1. A good GM can assess trends over time and I am big believer in just letting things develop on their own. As a consequence, I DO NOT touch XP sliders. If we identify MAJOR imbalances that don't get resolved by EA, we will assess them. But in general, even if team OVRs begin to drop (as they typically do), we're going to leave it alone. The resulting gameplay is often quite a bit better as launch roster players get flushed out.

"Alternate approaches to CFM"

The traditional approach to CFM is to start in year 1 and plow ahead. But, eventually, after you've done a couple, it'll begin to get a bit 'samey'. Here are some alternative approaches to really change things up (I've got a few other ideas too):

1. The auto fantasy draft. This can actually be fun (and frustrating). The idea is to begin a franchise with a fantasy draft and let the CPU draft the entire team for you. (Note: if you set your scheme beforehand, it will draft to align itself a bit better to what you want). You'll get holes in your team, you'll have 'bad fits', you'll have players you don't like. But, it'll put a spin on things.

2. "Greedy Owner Rules". The idea is that you're coaching a team with a miserly owner. He doesn't want to spend money. So, you will not be permitted to sign any FAs over a 70 OVR, take on salary from trades, or trade away draft picks. You will only be permitted to re-sign ONE 70+ OVR on your team to a new deal. The onus is to be really good at drafting and developing. If you win the Super Bowl, you will be permitted to sign ONE 70+ OVR Free Agent (which can be another team's or re-signing one of your own). With the coach firing rules, as always, in place...this can get dicey quickly.

3. The "15 year sim" CFM. The idea is to start a CFM and sim out 15 years with NO user influence (i.e. everything on Auto). You will flush out all existing players and start with all game-generated players. Once the sim is done, you can take control of a team as per normal and begin your CFM. Essentially, this creates a "fictional roster" for you.

Last edited by JoshC1977; 03-15-2021 at 08:44 AM.
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Old 08-20-2020, 04:35 PM   #2
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Re: JoshC1977's Madden 21 CFM Sliders (User vs CPU Only)

I'm going to use this second post for random musings...stuff that is more "franchise related" that I thought I'd share...I'll organize things more if it becomes cumbersome...but for now, it'll be a bit scattershot.

Cap space is generally tight in year 1 off-season.
You'll see at least 1 decent RB left unsigned. This isn't a "broken" logic thing, there just isn't quite enough cash for teams to toss around (and RB is the most fungible position). Also, there are just a few too many high OVR RBs in the initial roster. If it bugs you, find a team that could benefit from a RB (and has cap space) and sign the guy to a 1 year "make good" contract. This is one of those things that will resolve over the course of the franchise.

This is annoying, but apparently the CPU will not "cut down" to go below the cap (though they seem to be restricted in signing additional FAs). The Eagles, in particular, are in a horrible spot going into Year 2. What I suggest is that when you get to the 2021 pre-season (I prefer doing it here to mimic the June 1st cut-down date), take control of the Eagles' coach and make the following cuts:

Alshon Jeffrey
Brandon Graham
Derek Barnett

Cutting these three guys SHOULD get them under the cap (with room). I'd suggest finding them suitable veteran replacements if they don't have enough young guys already.

If you are rolling with a team under cap constraints, sort by the savings column and look to see which guys save you the most while giving you the least penalty. I had to do this with the Bears and was basically forced to drop starting LT Charles Leno to give me enough room. It sucks, but that's part of the sport.

Oh...I know, we all want to keep our studs. I hate to tell ya'll this, but it isn't always possible. Plan a year or two ahead. See which players have expiring deals and have contingency plans in place. In my Steelers CFM, I can tell you that I will very likely not re-sign TJ Watt (2 years out) - he just doesn't have the production to justify the salary. I'll be looking for a solid replacement before his deal expires (or we trade him). Developing your plans early in a franchise can really add to the narrative and sink you into it.

This might sound a bit contrary to how I approach sliders; but I consider production when determining re-signings. Some guys just 'click' for ya - you get used to how they run routes or the speed in which they move (or maybe their more modest skill sets complement other guys perfectly). Sometimes we get blinded against those 75 OVR guys that just produce for us in favor of someone with a more "shiny" OVR. If a guy is producing for you; don't argue with it. Save the cash and upgrade elsewhere. Ratings DO matter, but, some guys just have that "it" factor.

Scheme Fit and the Scouting Process
First/second round players...I ignore scheme fit. What I look for are signs of multi-dimensional players.


1. If I see a Deep Threat receiver who has a Top 3 trait of either short routes or catching, I'm targeting him.
2. Power offensive linemen with a top end finesse skill
3. A speed rusher with top 3 power move or block shed

Stuff like that...so basically, I look for guys that have non-archetype skills near the top of their list. Why? Because that means they are more well-rounded. If the non-archetype skill is a match for my scheme, then I have a good hunch I can quickly develop him into a scheme fit without him being quite as one-dimensional.

For mid/late picks (which I tend to ignore until we have combine numbers OR if I have a glaring positional need):

I focus on combine numbers once we have them. I look for combine results that complement a scheme fit.

1. If I need Physical WRs, I look for guys with good size/jumping
2. If I need Agile OL, I look at shuttle/3-cone times
3. For DBs, I look at 3-cone/shuttle (with speed as the tertiary skill).

In some cases, I may see a guy who is one-dimensional...so an edge rusher with good speed/accel but weak strength. Even if he isn't a "scheme fit", he may have a situational role.

One other thing: be wary of high combine numbers for low picks. If an o-lineman has a high combine score but it is driven by insane jumping numbers, does that really help?
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Last edited by JoshC1977; 09-21-2020 at 03:38 PM.
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Old 08-21-2020, 03:29 AM   #3
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Re: JoshC1977's Madden 21 CFM Sliders (User vs CPU Only)

Default Injury 10-25......
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Old 08-21-2020, 08:27 AM   #4
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Re: JoshC1977's Madden 21 CFM Sliders (User vs CPU Only)

Originally Posted by awffltony77
Default Injury 10-25......
And it works BEAUTIFULLY! Easily the best part of the game....like OMG, I was giddy last night.

I'll put together an overview of what I've seen thus far.
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Old 08-21-2020, 08:53 AM   #5
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Re: JoshC1977's Madden 21 CFM Sliders (User vs CPU Only)

Originally Posted by JoshC1977
And it works BEAUTIFULLY! Easily the best part of the game....like OMG, I was giddy last night.

I'll put together an overview of what I've seen thus far.
That is nice to hear.

I am DL the trial Josh.....will give it a fair shake as always. Will stream as well. Hope to see you on the broadcast’s. We can chit chat.
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Old 08-21-2020, 09:06 AM   #6
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Re: JoshC1977's Madden 21 CFM Sliders (User vs CPU Only)

SMH just from my brief time playing 21 last night I already am at 50/50 on buying 21 when I swore I wasn't going to.

Really really liked how the game was playing on almost Default AP. Had to lower INT to 35, but might bump that back up to say 40.

But 1 game, Titans vs Bucs, and I could feel the difference between 21 from 20. The animations and interactions I saw really got me in to the game.

I'll obviously be playing more, every min of the 10 hr trial, but so far, I'm already leaning towards buying it(SMFH). I just wish they had put more focus in to Franchise.
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Old 08-21-2020, 09:29 AM   #7
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Re: JoshC1977's Madden 21 CFM Sliders (User vs CPU Only)

Charter had a really good Tweet about how the difference between "impressions" and "Reviews" and I'm glad he said it because it is coloring HOW I'm going about presenting my initial thoughts.

Played two CFM games last night as the Chargers on AP, lost both in tight games. They should be up on my Twitch VODs if you want to watch again.

Here are some observations on the important stuff:

- Injuries. OMG, glorious injuries. Excellent variety in terms of positions impacted. I saw OL get banged up, DL get hurt (I lost Bosa for 5 weeks...ugh), just really good. I think I had 4 total in each game I played (2 of which wound up being multi-week). If this keeps up, I have NO inclination to change anything here.

- Penalties. We saw multiple holding calls, a couple of DPIs. Interestingly, no false starts/offsides in those two games.

- CPU QB scrambling. Yup, it's a threat. Even Mahomes (who NEVER scrambled on M20) took off on us. Burrow was a significant threat taking off. The QB BCV still favored a MUT style "run to the sidelines before scrambling", but that is due to another reason - lineplay dynamics. The cool thing is that QBs effectively used scrambling to avoid danger and often either threw downfield or chucked the ball out of bounds. They did a nice job making the CPU QBs feel more alive.

- The throw out of sacks animation is SO well done. It definitely saved a couple of sacks per team per game.

- The run game looks toned down. I need to see more matchup variety before saying too much here. The lineplay interactions were a huge part of this. But in my games, it had a much "grindier" feel. I guarantee some people will say that the run game is "underpowered" - especially the same folks that cry about the same thing every year. But to me, this is the difference between "Madden expectations" and "what is real". This felt far more like an NFL style run game vs the more collegiate style run game we had last year.

- QB Accuracy. QBs were accurate - but I saw few signs of "Robo QB". I'll say this, you had better be smart about play calling or they WILL carve you up...as it should be. Stat-obsessed kiddies will undoubtedly cry they are "too accurate" and will globally dumb down the game by lowering the QBA slider. We're not doing that here; we learn to play better.

- Lineplay. It's a blast to user the linemen this year. Good rushers are a treat to use, bad matchups are a pain. Excellent fluidity to the interactions...and when you make a play, it feels really darn rewarding.

- Coverage. I'm not the best person when it comes to breaking things down in terms of where guys should go in particular looks and so on. So I'll put it like this; you have to make smart decisions. Coverage is pretty solid overall. I had a number of INTs on my end; all due to my making poor choices. Definitely not lowering the INT slider though; we work to get better, not take the "Easy way out".

- Tackling. Tackling looks/feels terrific.

- Punting. One of the noted gameplay changes was that they made punt distance more realistic on simulation. That 100% showed through. It's one of those little things with big impacts.

- All Madden. Off-stream, I played a little bit. My skills are too rusty for AM right now; but if it stays like it is now, I WILL likely move up at some stage. It was really hard (for me), but they didn't so badly bias the CPU O-line that it felt unplayable.

- Animations. Very fluid, overall, transition animations are much better done this year. Very few "warps" during the actual plays (saw some on TD celebrations).

- Clock management. Same hiccups as last year in the last 20 - 30 seconds or so of the half due to them removing the walkup to the LOS (I'd really like them to remove the clock run-off in the final 30 seconds...it would help the CPU immensely). Up to that point, the CPU did a nice job running the 2 minute drills.

Observations on the "silly stuff"

- Presentation. It is NOT a TV style presentation. I actually kind of like it, it adds some energy and fun to the game. Many folks here are anti-fun, so they won't like it and won't be able to get past it.
- The remaining few NFL themed songs are no longer in the soundtrack. Not happy.
- CFM screens have a bit of a 'load time' to them. It's not like the PS3 era slow-ness, but they aren't quite as quick. EA's getting a little too cute with screens and I think it is slowing them down a tad.
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Old 08-21-2020, 09:36 AM   #8
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Re: JoshC1977's Madden 21 CFM Sliders (User vs CPU Only)

I noticed right away QB rushing. I played a game against the Chargers and Taylor was a threat to run.

There were a few plays where the coverage was tight and he took off running. Didn't get much yards, but made me realize it was a threat. I can't imagine what playing against Lamar will be like.

I hope that is something they won't change.
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