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Madden NFL 20’s Super Bowl prediction: Chiefs beat 49ers

Polygon’s prediction, also using Madden, calls for the opposite

Owen S. Good is a longtime veteran of video games writing, well known for his coverage of sports and racing games.

EA Sports has finally revealed its Madden NFL series’ annual Super Bowl prediction, and it calls for Kansas City Chiefs, led by Madden NFL 20 cover star Patrick Mahomes, to defeat the San Francisco 49ers, 35-31.

But what took them so long? Over the past 15 years, EA Sports has typically put out its call at the beginning of the week before the Super Bowl. This year, the company waited until Thursday night, and it looks like it tied the pick to a social media promotion encouraging everyone to jump into the game one last time — ostensibly to supply this simulation with even more data to inform its prediction.

If EA Sports really was using telemetry from 100 million user-played games to make this call, it doesn’t show its math. The news release EA sent out last night describes the same kind of one-game, CPU-vs.-CPU simulation it has run since 2004, although it has called the winner 10 of 16 times, and has also hit against the point spread 10 out of 16 times. But Madden NFL 19 missed everything last year — winner, winner against the spread, and over/under (total points scored by both teams) — after New England’s unwatchable 13-3 triumph over the Los Angeles Rams.

Anyway, here’s exactly how the big game will go down this Sunday, per EA Sports. Bet the rent on it!

  • San Francisco takes a 10-0 lead in the first quarter, with a 16-yard touchdown run from Raheem Mostert.
  • Kansas City, per the norm this postseason, roars back with two second-quarter touchdown passes from Mahomes (to Tyreek Hill and Damien Williams). But 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo tosses a 26-yard touchdown right before halftime, and San Francisco leads 17-14.
  • Mahomes throws another two touchdowns (to Williams and Travis Kelce) in the third quarter, against a George Kittle score for the Niners, making it 28-24 Chiefs going into the fourth quarter.
  • In the final quarter, Garoppolo finds Mostert out of the backfield for a touchdown pass and a 31-28 lead. But — as has happened year after year after year with this thing — lo and behold, Mahomes leads Kansas City on a Super Bowl-clinching drive just before time expires. He hooks up with Sammy Watkins for an 18-yard touchdown and the 35-31 final.
  • Mahomes — again, this year’s Madden NFL 20 cover boy — is Super Bowl MVP with 392 yards passing and four touchdowns, which break an NFL record for most passing touchdowns in a single postseason. Kelce, the Chiefs’ tight end, has 10 catches and 102 yards receiving to go with his touchdown. Garoppolo: 254 yards and two touchdowns.

Madden has been in something of a slump since Super Bowl XLVIII in 2014, getting just two of its past six calls right — although in one of those, Super Bowl XLIX, Madden NFL 16 correctly predicted the winner and the exact final score (Patriots 28, Seattle 24).

Before that, Madden had been 8-out-of-10, missing only the New York Giants’ tremendous upset in 2008’s Super Bowl XLII and Green Bay’s 31-25 triumph over Pittsburgh in 2011.

Lifetime, Madden is 10-6 against the spread, but only 8-8 against the over/under. This probably has to do with simulations that have favored high-scoring games with last-minute lead changes ever since EA Sports started making YouTube videos of its prediction a decade ago. Kansas City is a 1.5-point favorite in the latest line, with an over/under set at 54.5. So Madden is calling for the over, yet again, and for the Chiefs to beat the spread.

For the hell of it, Polygon ran a Madden NFL 20 simulation in our super-duper analytical laboratory science center — aka a basement in rural North Carolina — and we came up with the 49ers as a 34-17 winner. In other words, the exact opposite (straight-up winner, spread, and O/U) of what EA Sports is calling for.

Screenshot showing stats from a simulation predicting the 49ers will beat the Chiefs 34-17.
No, no, bet the rent on this!
Image: EA Tiburon/Electronic Arts via Polygon

Anyway, Super Bowl LIV, from Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, kicks off at 6:30 p.m. EST on Sunday, Feb. 2, and will be televised on Fox. Jennifer Lopez and Shakira headline this year’s halftime show.

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