Funny story – when I wrote up teams #1-#5 on Tuesday, I had no intention of continuing beyond that, save for perhaps a vague notion of circling back to the other teams at some point. But, alas, I had too much fun writing the first part so here we are.
But, as a consequence of this less than rigorous planning, I did not lay down any sort of ground rules or methodology, so let me get that out of the way before I go any further.
This list ranks the 28 teams in Tecmo Super Bowl based on my subjective assessment of their quality. While player ratings and abilities play a huge role in my assessments, it is still subjective in the purest sense. I have made no effort to compile overall ratings for any teams, or otherwise ground these rankings statistically. Each ranking is accompanied by a brief strategic breakdown of how to use each team effectively, at least as far as playing seasons against the computer goes. I am not up on all of the wacky bullshit the best tournament players get up to, and cannot speak to tournament play in any helpful way.
These breakdowns are meant to brief and concise, however, one of the most important strategic considerations is building the right playbook. I am largely ignoring this in the team write-ups, because it would take forever and I don’t wanna sit down with the game and transcribe the names of all the plays unless I’m getting paid to do so. So here are a handful of guidelines for building an effective playbook. The plays here are numbered from left to right. For example, ‘Run 1’ refers to the left most run play, and ‘Pass 3’ refers to the second from right pass play.
Don’t use ‘Deception’ plays (Play Action, Reverses, Flea Flickers, etc.). These plays take far too long to develop relative to the amount of time you have before the defense liquefies your organs. Play Action plays with a designed rollout are particularly awful in this regard, since the rollout animations are so dang slow. There are a couple of exceptions to this. First, most Draw plays aren’t all that bad. Second, a select few teams can run Play Action sort of effectively, which I’ll mention in their write-ups.
Similarly, don’t use Sweeps in the run game. Again, the initial animations before you get control of the ball carrier are too slow. Stick to dives and off-tackle/off-guard stuff; tosses are mostly OK, too. If you need ideas, I’m a huge fan of Washington’s run plays (except their Run 3, which is a reverse), especially their Run 2.
Match your pass plays to your team’s abilities. There is no ‘one true pass playbook’ that’s good for every team. The Run & Shoot Pass 1 (used by Houston, Philly, Detroit, et al) is one of the very best pass plays in the game, but it’s not for teams with weaker-armed QBs and/or lesser WRs. Find plays that give fast WRs (Max Speed of 50+) opportunities to get yards after the catch. WRs with relatively high receptions but relatively low speed make good deep threats (which is contrary to how actual football works but whatever). Determine whether your TE and RBs can catch (Receptions rating of 50+ for TEs, 44+ for RBs), and if so, put in a play that highlights their abilities. Buffalo’s Pass 3 is a great play for TEs, SF’s Pass 4 is great for RBs. Experiment and see what works.
Pick at least one pass play that’s good against blitzes. Getting blitzed usually means your play is about to fail, but a select few pass plays have actual, reliably effective hot routes. The best play for each team varies, but here are my favorites: SF Pass 2, Giants Pass 2, Minnesota Pass 2. Note that these are all Pass 2, and that all these go to an underneath receiver (since all the LBs are blitzing).
Okay, with all that out of the way, let’s get to the teams. Write-ups for Teams 1-5 are here.
6. Los Angeles Raiders: If QB Eagles is a legend, what does that make Bo Jackson? Make no mistake, Bo’s near-mythical status in the canon of TSB is richly deserved, but one great RB does not a great team make. Yeah, but what about two great RBs? The Raiders have Marcus freaking Allen as their RB2, making their backfield tandem the best in the game by leagues. Their defense is nothing to sneeze at either, featuring arguably the best defensive line in the game. Roll with Howie Long, and switch to Greg Townsend if he’s hot and Long is in Bad condition. If you’re not comfortable using a DE, using safety Eddie Anderson is justifiable. So, why is this team at #6? Simply put, they cannot pass. Both QBs are ass, and can’t hit anyone more than 20 yards downfield. Your WRs are fast though, so throw lots of curls and let them get yards after the catch. Also, Bo is great and all, but if you try and call his number and his number only, the computer will make you pay down the stretch of the season.
7. Kansas City Chiefs: For years and years, I thought of the Chiefs as the poor man’s Giants. Both have good power running, good linebackers, and a good game manager QB. But, once I actually sat down and played a couple seasons with them, I saw the light. The Chiefs are the rich man’s Chiefs. This defense rules. Derrick Thomas doesn’t hit quite as hard as Lawrence Taylor, but he’s much faster. The rest of the corps forms the only good LB squadron in the entire AFC, thus providing a huge leg up on your rivals. On offense, Christian Okoye is a monster and Barry Word is a perfectly fine secondary back. Like Phil Simms, Steve DeBerg is best used as a game manager, so don’t throw downfield into coverage. Also, start J.J. Birden at WR1 over Robb Thomas, who is simply too slow. The Chiefs also have a good enough offensive line to be effective with Play Action; I recommend keeping their default Pass 1.
8. Miami Dolphins: There is little to say about Dan Marino that hasn’t already been said, so I’m gonna focus on the rest of the offense. First off, put in backup TE Jim Jensen at the TE spot, then move starting TE Ferrell Edmunds to RB2. You don’t want Edmunds doing designed runs, though, so second thing to do is change the run plays to single back stuff that’s all for your RB1 (hold that thought). Third, change all of the pass plays; make sure each and every pass play you’ve got has multiple deep options. Your running game will always be lesser; a quick glance at the RB room suggests Old Man Shula’s conception of the ideal RB never evolved past Larry Czonka. Just ride the hot hand, you’re gonna be passing 75% of the time anyway. The defense isn’t as bad as you’d think. Both safeties are actually pretty great, and they’re also statistically identical. Again, use whoever is in better condition.
9. Minnesota Vikings: This is not a homer pick, I swear! The Vikings have a fantastic defense, with stars at every position. For best results, use safety Joey Browner, and switch to ILB Keith Millard (who was a DT in real life but is an LB here because the 4-3 isn’t a thing in this game) for goal line stands. That’s the easy part. Figuring out what to do with the offense is trickier. It’s possible to get a lot out of this offense, but you must fix this playbook first, because the default playbook is a tire fire. Pick anything else, seriously. The Vikings have very good receivers, but a sub-par (but not ruinously sub-par) QB in Wade Wilson. As with all game managers, only throw to someone who’s open. Keep an eye on Cris Carter’s condition, as it’s fully possible he will surpass default WR1 Hassan Jones from time to time. Herschel Walker is good, but not great. He has better power than speed, but is elite in neither category; he can also catch passes. When calling plays, it’s wisest to focus on ball control, but again, your receivers are all good, so don’t get too conservative.
10. Chicago Bears: If the Bears had anything resembling a functional passing game, they would easily surpass the Vikings. But alas, they have neither a competent QB, nor a single above average receiver. Therefore, almost all of your offense must go through RB Neal Anderson. The good news is that Anderson is extremely good, and if he does get injured, backup Johnny Bailey can serve adequately in his stead. The default playbook may look rough, but much of it is worth keeping. Blessedly, this is one of those teams that can use Play Action, but change Pass 1 to the Chiefs’ Pass 1. Keep both Anderson and fullback Brad Muster as your starters, but flip their positions, and install Detroit’s Run 3. The defense, in keeping with Bears tradition, is superb; if they’re not the best, they’re a close second. Mark Carrier is a phenomenal coverage safety (81 Interceptions Rating~!), and a fine choice for who to control. But Mike Singletary is the very finest ILB in the game, and it’s not even close, so I always use him exclusively. He can’t really cover though, so either rush the QB on passing downs or find an RB to lock down.
Next time, we’ll look at teams #11-#15. While the decline in quality from SF to Chicago is plainly noticeable, it’s also gradual. The next list will feature the first major drop-off in quality, but not before I get to write about one of my very favorite teams, one I am extremely bummed to exclude from the Top 10. Later!
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