As the world awaits clarity on the return of live sports — and the certainty of the 2020 NFL season — the folks at The Checkdown have been simulating the 2020 NFL season through the eyes of the Madden NFL 20 video game.
The season is being simulated with updated rosters to provide as much real-life accuracy as possible. Of course, it is a video game after all, so it’s only fair to assume that this simulation is not a prediction of the actual 2020 NFL season.
With that said, there are some unsurprising takeaways from The Checkdown’s simulation thus far that are in line with what many expect to unfold on the real-life gridiron. For example, the NFC North leader is at just 3-3 through Week 7 of the regular season. Many have suggested that the NFC North winner will have no more than 10 wins in the 2020 season, and that appears to be playing out so far in this simulation.
The Vikings sit at 2-4 through six games, having defeated the Tennessee Titans at home in a Week 3 matchup and the Atlanta Falcons in a Week 6 home matchup. Minnesota has lost games vs. Green Bay, at Indianapolis, at Houston, and at Seattle.
Is 2-4 a realistic start for the Vikings? Of course. Practically anything is realistic when it comes to the NFL. The San Francisco 49ers just vaulted from nearly the worst record in the league to NFC champions. In 2017, Case Keenum led the Vikings to a 13-3 record and a home divisional playoff win. Nearly every season, things happen that almost nobody expects.
The 2-4 start would be discouraging for Vikings fans, without a doubt. But on the bright side, the division is still completely up for grabs. The simulation shows the Packers also stumbling out of the gate and Bears regressing further. Detroit is 3-3 to start the season, but history tells us the real-life Lions would regress and surrender the NFC North to another team. That leaves the Vikings right in it.
Next on the schedule for the Vikings is three consecutive division games (at Green Bay, vs. Detroit, at Chicago) before a home game against Dallas. Based on where Minnesota is in this simulation, that four-game stretch appears to be a pivotal one.
By the way, if the Vikings did begin 2-4, there would surely be growing demands from the fan base to clean house — particularly at quarterback, head coach, and general manager. Heck, those complaints were being made last season while the Vikings were in the middle of a playoff run! Just imagine how crazy it would become if the Vikings started 2-4.
Around the League
Clearly, the Madden video game places a high value on Tom Brady. Perhaps too high. Tampa Bay is 7-0 through seven weeks of the 2020 season simulation, just completely steamrolling opponents as the 2007 Patriots did. Meanwhile, the Patriots have tripped to a 1-5 start in the simulation with Jarrett Stidham at the helm. Will Brady’s presence create that much of a swing? It seems unlikely.
Have the Cleveland Browns finally figured it out? Former Vikings offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski has the Browns at 5-2 and on top of the AFC North in the simulation. Cleveland’s roster certainly boasts the talent on both sides of the ball to be a winner.
Additionally, the Miami Dolphins’ rebuild looks to be paying off sooner than later in this simulation. Tua Tagovailoa has the Dolphins at the top of the AFC East at 4-3 while the rest of the division is crumbling. That would be quite the story — and tanking would become increasingly popular in the NFL if the Dolphins found that kind of success out of the gate in 2020.