7 teams we can't wait to play as in Madden NFL 18

It’s three months until Madden 18 hits the shelves, with Tom Brady on the cover – and GR+ expects full details of this year’s game to emerge next month, at E3. (To whet your appetite, be sure to check out this detailed look at 11 key changes the fans want most in this year’s game.)

While it isn’t possible to bring you confirmed details just yet, the NFL draft and free agency provide a strong insight into how all 32 pro squads will line up when the season gets underway. To that end, I’ve analysed every roster to bring you the seven teams who look the most exciting in this year’s game. Note, that doesn’t mean the teams which the best collective rating; but instead those who present an intriguing hook or fresh challenge, such as the relocated LA Changers.

Jacksonville Jaguars

89 Trucking, 90 Speed, 92 Carrying, 92 Acceleration: on the back of the draft, new Jags RB Leonard Fournette is already a Madden monster. And next year you’ll have him on the Jacksonville roster in addition to Ultimate Team, with TJ Yeldon and Chris Ivory providing changes of pace and power. A young secondary headed by sophomore CB Jalen Ramsey should also deliver plenty of picks, but you’ve a big decision to make in franchise mode: proceed with Blake Bortles at QB, or start over via the draft or free agency? That kind of dilemma is exactly what makes Jacksonville a tempting long-term project.

New England Patriots

Bill Belichick’s boys were rated 87 overall last year – and that was before they earned the coach a record fifth Super Bowl win, and Tom Brady his first ever Madden cover. Brady will naturally be ranked among the elite QBs, with Rob Gronkowski likely the best TE in the game, and Julian Edelman, Brandin Cooks and Dion Lewis other tantalising offensive options. Their defensive playbook, with all manner of unique fronts, makes them stand out on the other side of the ball too. If you want instant success without a timely rebuild, the Pats are the team for you. 

Houston Texans

Michael Vick is considered the greatest quarterback ever to feature in Madden thanks to his insane speed and big arm – and if anyone from the current rookie crop is going to emulate his digital feats, it’ll be new Texans QB Deshaun Watson. His Madden 17 Ultimate Team card has 88 throwing power and accuracy, and 84 speed; all those numbers will climb after a few seasons in franchise mode. While he puts up big points, a steel-upgraded defensive wall featuring JJ Watt, Jadeveon Clowney and Brian Cushing should prevent them. There’s plenty of scope here for a first ever Vince Lombardi Trophy.

Los Angeles Chargers

In real-life terms, I strongly disagree with Chargers' switch from San Diego. But in a videogame, getting a fresh start with any team represents a unique challenge – so a franchise where you have complete control over LA’s new boys from the outset should be a major attraction of Madden 18. Rated 90 overall in Madden 17, signal caller Philip Rivers can still go, and his options with the ball have been bolstered by the draft-day addition of #7 overall pick Mike Williams. Throw in DE Joey Bosa and TE Henry Hunter and the building blocks of success are securely in place.

Chicago Bears

Going by Mitchell Trubisky’s Madden 17 Ultimate Team card, the Bears are finally going to be a fun side to play offence with next year. The #2 overall pick is rated 83 overall, with 93 throwing power – and, critically, 80 speed, making him a genuine double-threat QB. A connected challenge will be who to select for Trubisky to throw to alongside Cameron Meredith. Victor Cruz? Reuben Randle? A hot prospect, or free agent off the street? While Jordan Howard and Jeremy Langford should see you right at running back, finding the receivers to complement Trubisky’s skillset looks like a franchise mode teaser that’ll take multiple seasons to solve. 

Dallas Cowboys

The least surprising team on this list, given that all its most exciting players – QB Dak Prescott, RB Ezekiel Elliott, WR Dez Bryant – were already on the roster, and very very good, in Madden 17. That holy trinity should see another stats upgrade this year, while three excellent draft selections (Taco Charlton, Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis) do their utmost to shore up a slightly wobbly defense. America’s Team are also the squad to use if you’re a long-standing WWE fan, after the addition of one Xavier Woods at strong safety. No relation to the actual wrestler, but definitely an amusing coincidence.

Tennessee Titans

Reputable Madden blogger Ridder17 ranked Tennessee as the best team to control in franchise last year, with many challenges to face – but lots of initial puzzle pieces in place, such as young QB Marcus Mariota and standout defenders Wesley Woodyward and Jason McCourty. The latter has since moved on, but #18 overall pick Adoree Jackson is an even more intriguing prospect, and fellow first rounder Corey Davis instantly becomes Mariota’s most attractive offensive target. With an estimated $46 million in salary cap space, you’ve plenty of moolah to find the missing pieces and spark Super Bowl celebrations in Memphis. 

Madden 18 is out on 25 August, and we'll have much more on it post E3. While Tom Brady rejoices about his Madden cover, here are 11 other names who can count themselves unlucky to have missed out.

Ben Wilson

I'm GamesRadar's sports editor, and obsessed with NFL, WWE, MLB, AEW, and occasionally things that don't have a three-letter acronym – such as Chvrches, Bill Bryson, and Streets Of Rage 4. (All the Streets Of Rage games, actually.) Even after three decades I still have a soft spot for Euro Boss on the Amstrad CPC 464+.