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Madden NFL 20 warned us about the Buccaneers

The video game has accurately predicted Tampa Bay’s record for five straight seasons.
Madden's forecasts are pretty spot-on. Its portrayals of NFL coaches? Not so much. Is that Bruce Arians or Benjamin Button? [EA Sports]

When the Buccaneers hired Bruce Arians to be their head coach in January, they hoped that he would lead the team to its first playoff appearance since 2007, or at least finish with more wins than losses.

Neither happened. We can’t say we weren’t warned. We were.

By a video game.

In August, we used Madden NFL 20 to predict the Bucs’ record. We simulated the season 10 times, and the average outcome was 6-10. Tampa Bay’s actual record: 7-9.

Just a coincidence? Well, we’ve done this exercise before every season since 2015, and Madden has come within a game of predicting the team’s record every time. It even predicted Tampa Bay would make a run at the postseason in 2016.

Madden's eerily accurate Bucs forecasts
Madden record Actual record
2015 5-11 6-10
2016 8-8 9-7
2017 6-10 5-11
2018 5-11 5-11
2019 6-10 7-9

That’s not all Madden predicted.

• It forecasted a breakout season from Chris Godwin. In one simulation, he and Mike Evans both surpassed 1,000 receiving yards. In real life, Godwin gained 1,333 and Evans gained 1,157.

• It cautioned against a breakout from O.J. Howard. In our 10 simulations, the tight end averaged 53 catches, 522 yards and four touchdowns, which seemed like a conservative projection at the time. In real life, he recorded 34 catches for 459 yards and one touchdown.

• Shocked that the Titans eliminated the Patriots from the playoffs already? Madden saw the Tom Brady-Bill Belichick reign ending. In our 10 simulations, they reached the postseason every time, but they never made it to the Super Bowl.

The game wasn’t perfect, though. It didn’t see Jameis Winston’s 33 touchdown-30 interception season coming. Then again, who did? We’ve never witnessed a season like it and probably won’t ever again.

Contact Thomas Bassinger at Follow @tometrics.