Madden 19 is released in under a month, and the hype continues to build for one of the most popular sports video games on the market, especially with the full list of player ratings released yesterday. Featured in Madden 19 is the ever popular Franchise Mode where players can take control of a coach, owner or player en route to virtual glory. Today, the primary focus will be on the coach and owner path of Franchise Mode and which teams would be the best to play with.

This doesn’t mean which are the best teams in the game, though. Any diehard Franchise fan knows that picking the team with the highest overall is not as fun as picking a team with a lower overall. Instead, you should choose the teams that haven’t experienced much recent success. That way when you take the Cleveland Browns to the Super Bowl, it sounds like much more of an accomplishment than just riding the coattails of the New England Patriots. Basically, the harder it is to turn a team around, the more fun you will have transforming them into a powerhouse. That is why the teams are broken into three tiers based on how hard of a challenge it will be to turn them into champions. Before I get to the list of teams you should consider playing with, below is a few criteria for each teams:

  1. Must have finished at .500 or below in the past season
  2. Do not have a quarterback who was selected to a Pro Bowl or All-Pro team in 2018
  3. Has an overall rating of 79 or less

EASY

Green Bay Packers (79) – Surprisingly enough, the Packers fall into the categories above. Aaron Rodgers is deservedly a 99 overall, but only seven other Green Bay players are rated higher than an 83. An elite quarterback is lethal in Madden, so using this team would be a cop out. Anything less than a Divisional Round appearance in your first year would be a disappointment. 

Houston Texans (78) – Despite the Texans’ abysmal 4-12 record last year, most of the struggles started after Deshaun Watson’s (82 overall rating) injury. The Texans’ actually are loaded on defense and their offense is starting to take shape. They have four players with at least 90 overall ratings, including two of the best at their respective positions. With DeAndre Hopkins (94) catching passes and J.J. Watt (98) leading the way on defense, this roster is an easy bet for early and continued success.

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San Fransisco 49ers (78) – The 49ers’ entire organization can be described in one word: Hope. That is what the fans feel after John Lynch’s retooling of the roster, particularly with the addition of Jimmy Garoppolo (83), whose rating is expected to rise in the coming months. This team already has their coach and quarterback down, so there is not too much you’ll be able to do as an owner/coach. The Niners look primed for a deep postseason run sooner rather than later, so this looks like a popular team to pick despite their easier road than others on here.

New York Giants (73) – The 2018 NFL season might have torn apart a promising Giants’ team, but Madden 19 sure loves them. Armed with young superstars on both sides of the ball, this team has the talent to ascend back to the top just as quickly as they fell to the bottom. This is the only “Easy” team to have questions at quarterback, so it would be up to you to ride out a worn-down Eli Manning (76), develop one of his young backups or to hit the reset button on the Giants’ quarterback position.

ALRIGHT

Cleveland Browns (74) – What was once a team with no hope and no talent has transformed into Franchise players’ favorite team to use. The reasons: cap space and draft picks. They also have some real players now. Essentially, this team is a ball of clay just waiting to be molded into something great. While the Browns are one of the three teams with no player rated higher than a 90 (Jets and Colts share this distinction), this team has enough assets to finally make a real dent in the league. Side note: Baker Mayfield  (81) should be fun to play with. 

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Denver Broncos (77) – Two years removed from a Super Bowl victory and the Broncos have fallen to the bottom of the NFL. They have only four players higher than an 84, headlined by the 99 overall Von Miller, but the Broncos actually have a deep Madden roster. The reason this team could be so fun to use is that most of the team’s core players have age concerns. This could be a team where you either prepare for an immediate Super Bowl run or scrap everything and invest in the future. Every roster spot (other than Miller) has a legitimate question about them; whether it’s age, lack of skill or inconsistent development.

Chicago Bears (75) – Despite just four players rated 85 or higher, the Bears finally have some young pieces to work with. Mitchell Trubisky (74) and Jordan Howard (85) have flashed in a young, potentially dominant backfield. And new receiver Allen Robinson (87) heads a revamped receiving group. All in all, the Bears have the pieces to be a sneaky good team, but their roster still has vast amounts of holes. This makes for a perfect team to take over and lead to the Super Bowl, though there a few other teams who might be a harder challenge for Franchise players.

Cincinnati Bengals (76) – The Bengals seem to be stuck in a state of averageness. Only A.J. Green (93) and Geno Atkins (91) are above an 86 and quarterback Andy Dalton (77) has some people counting the days until he is replaced. Admittedly, $48.6 million in projected cap space is a good thing to have. Another interesting thing is Marvin Lewis’ uncertainty as the team’s coach. With Madden stressing scheme more than ever this year, deciding on Lewis’ future could be an interesting bonus. 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (75) – There is a flurry of questions swirling around the Buccaneers, who were a consensus sleeper team heading into the 2017 campaign. Quarterback Jameis WInston’s future is murkier than ever and Head Coach Dirk Koetter could be gone if the team does not reach at least eight wins. The team also lacks any young stars. Of the six players rated 85 or above, only Lavonte David (95) and Mike Evans (89) are under 30 years old. All these issues make this a solid challenge for Franchise players, especially considering their limited projected cap space (-$1.4 million, per spotrac.com).

HARD

Miami Dolphins (74) – After saying bon voyage to three of their best players (on paper, at least), Madden 19 is giving the Dolphins almost no love. While they have five players with an 85 or higher rating, all of those guys are older than 32. Also, their primary positions all have question marks. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill (78) is in a make-or-break year after missing last season with an ACL injury and the team’s offensive identity went out the window after trading Jarvis Landry (87). If you choose the Dolphins, you’ll essentially have to decide whether to blow up the roster or hope that something clicks in the first season. As if Miami’s virtual roster wasn’t dealt enough blows (rising star Xavien Howard’s rating of 75 is criminally low), they could be looking at $-12.8 million in cap space next offseason.

Indianapolis Colts (74) – The Colts have really fallen off the map in recent years. Star quarterback Andrew Luck (87) hasn’t played a full season since 2014 (he missed one game in 2016) and no one knows if he is still the same player. Other than T.Y. Hilton (89), who owns the highest rating on the Colts, this team has no established playmakers. Since taking over the job before the 2017 season, GM Chris Ballard has looked the part after selecting potential franchise cornerstones in Malik Hooker (78) and Quenton Nelson (83), the highest-rated rookie this year. Other than those four guys, this roster is as barren as the Sahara. It leaves room for a lot of improvement and $48.9 million in projected cap space and an extra second-round pick won’t hurt, either. 

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Arizona Cardinals (73) – Despite four players with 89-plus ratings, the Cardinals are stuck with the second-worst overall in the game. There is a huge gap between Chandler Jones (89) and Antoine Bethea (82). Josh Rosen (78) is a promising option to have but this team just generally needs an influx of new talent. At least they’re projected to have $31.9 million in cap next offseason. On the surface, the Cardinals check most of the boxes for an eventful and therefore fun team to use: Aging stars, uncertainty at quarterback and moderate cap space. However, there is one more team that should have the hardest uphill battle…

New York Jets (72) – The Jets are not instilling any confidence with their current roster, especially with the lowest team rating in Madden 19. Jamal Adams (86) is the highest-rated Jet, which speaks volumes about the team’s talent. Third overall pick Sam Darnold could be huge, but will you choose to develop him or seek options elsewhere? The Jets are already without a second-round pick next year, though their cap projection for 2019 is the highest out of all teams (over $77 million). It would take a lot of patience, but choosing this team would be a fun challenge considering the drastic changes needed to turn the Jets into a Super Bowl contender. 

Honorable Mention: New England Patriots (84) – I know the Patriots don’t fit the criteria, but that’s why I put them down here. Sure, they might be geared up to make a playoff run this year, but what about for the next five years? It’s anyone’s guess as to how long Tom Brady (99) will play for, though Madden did fix the bug that caused Brady to retire after the first season in Franchise. If you’re looking to completely rebuild a team, the Patriots might be the most intriguing one to do it with.

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Content Creator at Armchair Fantasy , The Armchair All-Americans, LLC
Since I was five, I’ve wanted to talk about sports for a living. I am an award-winning sports broadcaster with experience as a sports commentator. sports anchor, sports producer, and sportswriter. I’m a former athlete and a current NFL Draft and fantasy football enthusiast. Two-for-two in 2017 fantasy league championships. Best fantasy moments: drafting Chris Johnson in 2009 and pairing Le’Veon Bell with my keeper, David Johnson, in 2016. Not related to the other thousand Zach Cohens on social media. Follow me on Twitter: @ZachCohen12
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Content Creator at Armchair Fantasy , The Armchair All-Americans, LLC
Since I was five, I’ve wanted to talk about sports for a living. I am an award-winning sports broadcaster with experience as a sports commentator. sports anchor, sports producer, and sportswriter. I’m a former athlete and a current NFL Draft and fantasy football enthusiast. Two-for-two in 2017 fantasy league championships. Best fantasy moments: drafting Chris Johnson in 2009 and pairing Le’Veon Bell with my keeper, David Johnson, in 2016. Not related to the other thousand Zach Cohens on social media. Follow me on Twitter: @ZachCohen12

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