While the Saints and Colts are set to square off in Super Bowl XLIV, things are very different in the Bethesda Game Studios online league for Madden 10. For starters, of the 12 teams that made the real NFL Playoffs, only four of those teams made it in our league — Dan Teitel’s Ravens, Ash’s Cardinals, one of our friends made it with the Eagles, and a CPU-controlled Patriots squad made it too. Yeah, apparently the Pats can make the playoffs without an owner.

And without Tom Brady. In our league, some unusual suspects made the playoffs — including the Lions (that’s me), the Panthers (Pete), and the Cleveland Browns (Todd). Of course, a lot of that can be attributed to the fact that we did a live draft back in August, thus every team was built from the ground up. Brady plays for the Lions, Adrian Peterson is on the Cardinals, and the Redskins have Drew Brees (no surprise, the Skins still couldn’t win). Overall the human-owned teams are pretty balanced, though Pete was definitely not happy about his auto draft during PAX week.

After a long season — (outside of the holidays, we’ve stayed on track with actual schedule), this week we reached the playoffs. Of the 32 teams in the NFL, 14 of the teams are controlled by owners in our league (comprised of Bethesda employees and friends), and 10 of those teams have made the playoffs. If you do your NFL math, that means four of our owners got pwnd by two CPU-owned teams — including producers Angela Browder (Steelers) and Craig Lafferty (Redskins).

So here’s a look at the playoff picture.

Wild Card

AFC Recap

Dolphins (10-6) vs. Texans (13-3) — Former Bethesda employee Mike Ryan (now with Day 1 Studios) has already put the hurt on the CPU-controlled Dolphins, 31-20. The Texans were carried by 2 TDs from Colorado State alum, Cecil Sapp.

Ravens (11-5) vs. Patriots (11-5) — In what turned out to be the only matchup that actually took place this year in the NFL, Dan Teitel’s dominant defense held the Patriots in check — allowing only a field goal and an end-of-half interception TD. The Ravens iced the game in the fourth quarter with a 68 yard touchdown run from Brandon Jacobs — who amassed 120 yards for the game.

NFC Preview

Lions (11-5) vs. Bears (12-4) — While my Lions proved they could win more than two games, , a midseason game update to Madden seems to have killed my Tom Brady/Marion Barber attack. And with no receivers to speak of (the Ravens knocked “Carolina Steve Smith” out for the season), look for the NFC North Champion Bears (helmed by AKQA’s Ed Davis) to beat the Lions for the third time this year and advance.

Giants (15-1) vs. Panthers (9-7) — It’s a tough break for programmer Chris Rodriguez. He goes 15-1, and can’t even manage a first round bye. The upside? He faces Pete’s Panthers, who rallied in the second half of the season after a shaky start.

On the NFC side, the winners of the Wild Card matchups can look forward to playing Ash’s Cardinals (13-3) and one of Chris’ friends, Tim Youse, who plays as the Eagles (15-1). The Eagles have to be considered the NFC favorite, besting Chris’ Giants for the NFC East title. Plus they have RB Chris Johnson — who in our league broke Eric Dickerson’s NFL rushing record with 2,124 yards. Speaking of rushing, Ashley’s squad plenty of legs — with Adrian Peterson, Steve Slaton, Reggie Bush and Beanie Wells taking hand offs from Aaron Rodgers.

As for the AFC, another friend from Day 1 Studios, Kilo Ki, celebrated a bye week with the Raiders (13-3) after winning the AFC West. Meanwhile, Todd’s Browns (16-0) won the AFC North. Far and away, Todd’s team has become the most feared team in the league. He went undefeated in the regular season — only receiving a real challenge playing Dan’s Ravens and Kilo’s Raiders — a game in which Todd rallied in the final two minutes to win. My matchup with Todd, a 28-0 beatdown,  wasn’t close — and brought back nightmares of this game.

So will Todd take the Browns to the Super Bowl, or will another emerge as champion? We’ll let you know how the playoffs shake out.

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