'Madden NFL 22' predicts the 2021 season

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Once again, Yahoo Sports has simulated an entire NFL season in the latest edition of Electronic Arts’ “Madden” video game.

Last year, the simulation went completely off the rails as Nick Foles won Super Bowl MVP leading the Bears to their first Lombardi Trophy since the 1985 season. This time around, things were mostly more realistic, but there were still a few surprises, again with the NFC champions.

Here is what “Madden NFL 22” predicts will happen in the 2021 NFL season.

'Madden 22' cover stars shine

This year’s version of “Madden” featured last year’s Super Bowl QBs on the cover in Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes. Fittingly, the two were absolute monsters during the simulated season. Mahomes put together perhaps the best offensive season in history, throwing for a record 5,663 yards and a 54-7 TD-INT ratio and winning both the NFL MVP and Offensive Player of the Year awards. In Brady's age-44 season, he threw for what would have been a record 5,548 yards with 43 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. Brady also completed 70 percent of his passes and picked up the No. 1 seed in the NFC.

Welcome back Dak

The Cowboys locked down the NFC East thanks to the return of Dak Prescott, who was on an MVP pace last season before suffering a gruesome ankle injury. In “Madden,” Prescott showed no signs of his injury holding him back as he led the Cowboys offense by throwing for 4,823 yards and a career-high 41 TDs. Dak’s return also paved the way for Ezekiel Elliott to return to form. Elliott ran for 1,426 yards — his highest total since 2018 — and scored 18 rushing touchdowns, which tied for the league lead with Seattle’s Chris Carson.

Colin Kaepernick gets his chance

Sticking in the NFC East, the Eagles signed Colin Kaepernick to be their starting quarterback. While this seems incredibly unlikely barring an injury to Jalen Hurts in real life, Kaepernick happens to be rated higher than several starting QBs, including Hurts. The former 49ers star had career highs in yards (4,679) and TDs (33) with the Eagles, but Philadelphia finished third in the division at 7-10 and missed the playoffs.

We simulated the NFL season in
We simulated the NFL season in "Madden 22" and here are the results. (Photo credit: Electronic Arts)

The next generation steps up in 'Madden 22'

As impressive as Mahomes and Brady were, newcomers Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields proved they were ready for the NFL in a big way. Lawrence threw for 4,523 yards with 33 TDs and 14 INTs, while Fields tossed for 4,518 yards 37 TDs and 13 INTs. More importantly, both rookie QBs managed to win their divisions and make the playoffs. The 49ers also won their division and made the playoffs with the help of Trey Lance, who threw for 2,301 yards and 16 TDs in half a season. As far as Zach Wilson and the Jets are concerned, things did not go well overall. Wilson did have a solid rookie season, with 4,042 yards, 19 TDs and 11 interceptions, but the Jets finished with the league’s worst record at 3-14.

Cam holds off Mac Jones in New England

Jones, the fifth QB taken in the first round of the 2021 NFL draft, didn’t manage to make it to the field as Cam Newton locked down the starting job in New England. The Patriots, who appear to have a good QB dilemma in real life, won the AFC East behind Newton’s 4,434 yards, 37 TDs and 15 interceptions.

Matthew Stafford is bad with Rams

After an offseason that saw several teams make changes at quarterback, the biggest swap was when Detroit and Los Angeles flipped Matthew Stafford and Jared Goff. While many expect Stafford to thrive under Sean McVay this season, “Madden” felt differently. Stafford struggled to guide the Rams offense, throwing for just 16 touchdowns, his lowest full-season TD total since his rookie year, and leading the team to a 4-13 record. Goff, on the other hand, had a solid season with 4,490 yards and 28 TDs. Detroit had a better record than Los Angeles, but still missed the playoffs by finishing 7-10.

Nick Chubb has an all-time season

At just 25, Chubb is already one of the most explosive runners in the NFL and “Madden” recognized that in the simulation. The Browns running back barely missed out on becoming the ninth player in NFL history to rush for 2,000 yards in a single season. Chubb finished with 1,993 yards on the ground and added 17 TDs for the 13-4 Browns, who also finished with the 2nd best overall offense in the NFL.

Rebound years for Saquon Barkley and Christian McCaffrey

After injuries kept two of the most dangerous offensive weapons off the field for most of the 2020 season, Barkley and McCaffrey bounced back in the “Madden” simulation. Barkley tallied a career high 1,607 yards rushing and had 9 TDs while McCaffrey had a similar career year with 1,537 yards and 17 TDs. The major difference came for Carolina as McCaffrey also led the team in receiving with 1,096 yards, and added 233 punt return yards, giving him an NFL record 2,866 all-purpose yards.

In our
In our "Madden 22" simulation, Christian McCaffrey sets an NFL record in his return from injury. (AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman)

Which coaches got fired?

There were no mid-season firings during the simulation, but at the end of the season the Bengals, Rams and Washington Football Team all decided to part ways with their coaches. As mentioned earlier, the Rams offense struggled and finished tied for the league’s second-worst record, costing Sean McVay his job just three years after making the Super Bowl. A year after winning the NFC East — albeit with a 7-9 record — Washington moved on from Ron Rivera after going 5-12. The Bengals failed to take a leap, also going 5-12 in Joe Burrow’s second year at QB, and costing Zac Taylor his head coaching job.

Playoffs and Super Bowl LVI

In the AFC, five of the seven playoff teams were the same as last season, with division winners Jacksonville and New England crashing the party in the simulation. The Ravens locked up the top seed, forcing Kansas City to win three games en route to advancing to its third Super Bowl in a row. In the NFC, only the Bucs — who captured the No.1 seed — and Bears returned from 2020. The Cowboys, 49ers, Giants, Falcons and the NFC champion Panthers (led by Sam Darnold’s 36-touchdown season) were all newcomers.

Chiefs are champions again

Mahomes and Kansas City defeated Carolina 38-26. Mahomes added to his impressive trophy haul by capturing Super Bowl MVP for the second time in three seasons.

Other award winners

Urban Meyer won Coach of the Year in his first season in the NFL, leading the Jaguars to an 11-6 record and AFC South title. Von Miller won Defensive Player of the Year by racking up 21 sacks. Fields’ impressive year in Chicago earned him Offensive Rookie of the Year over No. 1 pick Lawrence. Browns second-round pick, linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah won Defensive Rookie of the Year with a team-high 112 tackles and two interceptions.

Notable retirements

Here is a list of the notable retirements that came after the 2021 "Madden" season: Ben Roethlisberger, Joe Flacco, Larry Fitzgerald, Adrian Peterson, LeSean McCoy, Frank Gore, Stephen Gostkowski, Malcolm Jenkins, Calais Campbell, Jason Peters, Emmanuel Sanders, Janoris Jenkins, Golden Tate.

For the first time since we started these simulations, Tom Brady did not retire.

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