Each January for the past 12 years, developer Electronic Arts has booted up the latest Madden NFL video game, selected the two teams heading to the Super Bowl, and let the computer run a simulation of the game. While the results may not be entirely scientific, the tradition is good fun and good publicity for the long-running game franchise. The simulations also have a good track record of predicting the winning team.
It’s that time of year again, and EA has just run the simulation for Super Bowl XLIX, which pits the Seattle Seahawks against the New England Patriots in Glendale, Ariz., on February 1. Most Vegas sportsbooks list the Patriots as a 1-point favorite. Compared to the official odds, this year’s Madden NFL simulation looks good, as it predicted a close game that we’ll detail below.
If you can get on board with the basic premise, EA’s video game simulations use fairly sound methodology. The game is updated with the latest rosters for each Super Bowl-bound team and up-to-date player data, ensuring the best predictive powers possible.
EA runs the simulation on the game’s standard Pro difficulty level, letting each team be controlled by the computer, so no human hands are involved once the teams come onto the field. It’s just digital players, powered by their stats, running on the game’s artificial intelligence. The simulation runs once, and that’s that. EA announces the game’s results, and the prediction is set.
While Madden games have successfully predicted Super Bowl winners more often than not, they’ve been off-base several times, including last year’s Super Bowl simulation, which turned out to be a travesty of sports prediction. It foresaw a very close game, with the Denver Broncos beating the Seattle Seahawks 31-28 in overtime. In the actual game, the Seahawks trounced the Broncos, securing a 43-8 victory — a 35-point spread, compared to Madden’s 3-point prediction. Embarrassing.
While the 2014 prediction turned out to be wrong, Madden NFL’s 2013 prediction was dead-on. Not only did it pick the winner of Super Bowl XLVII, but it also nailed the point spread and accurately predicted the game’s MVP. Overall, the Madden games have correctly picked the winner eight out of 11 times — not bad at all. Here are all of the results:
- Super Bowl XLVIII – Wrong
Madden prediction: Broncos, 31, Seahawks, 28
Actual score: Seahawks 43, Broncos, 8
- Super Bowl XLVII- Right
Madden: Ravens, 27, 49ers, 24
Actual score: Ravens, 34, 49ers, 31
- Super Bowl XLVI – Right
Madden: Giants, 27, Patriots, 24
Actual score: Giants, 21, Patriots, 17
- Super Bowl XLV – Wrong
Madden: Steelers, 24, Packers, 20
Actual score: Packers, 31, Steelers, 25
- Super Bowl XLIV – Right
Madden: Saints 35, Colts 31
Actual score: Saints 31, Colts 17
- Super Bowl XLIII – Right
Madden: Steelers 28, Cardinals 24
Actual score: Steelers 27, Cardinals 23
- Super Bowl XLII – Wrong
Madden: Patriots 38, Giants 30
Actual score: Giants 17, Patriots 14
- Super Bowl XLI – Right
Madden: Colts 38, Bears 27
Actual score: Colts 29, Bears 17
- Super Bowl XL – Right
Madden: Steelers 24, Seahawks 19
Actual score: Steelers 21, Seahawks 10
- Super Bowl XXXIX – Right
Madden: Patriots 47, Eagles 31
Actual score: Patriots 24, Eagles 21
- Super Bowl XXXVIII – Right
Madden: Patriots 23, Panthers 20
Actual Score: Patriots 32, Panthers 29
If EA wants to maintain its reputation for quality predictions after last year’s debacle, it had better be right this time around. Here’s a breakdown of the results of this year’s Madden NFL Super Bowl prediction.
The simulation for Super Bowl XLIX showed an exciting game, with New England leading 7-3 at the end of the first quarter. Seattle answered in the second quarter with two touchdowns of its own, bringing the score to 14-17 at the half. The third quarter also belonged to the Seahawks, who expanded their lead to 14-24 going into the final quarter. That’s when the Patriots rallied, snagging two touchdowns to eke out a 28-24 win against the Seahawks. You can watch the simulation’s surprisingly exciting highlights here.
How accurate will this year’s Madden NFL prediction turn out to be? We’ll just have to watch Super Bowl XLIX on February 1 to find out. But whether you’re more likely to believe the Vegas odds or a video game simulation, both point to the game being a close one, with the Patriots just barely securing the Lombardi trophy.
Follow Chris on Twitter @_chrislreed
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