Carson Palmer among best upgrades for your 'Madden' team

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I have a good friend who is a Falcons fan. Which doesn't seem weird. What, is he from Stone Mountain? Have family from Peachtree City or something? If only.

You see, back in the day, me and the boys had a pretty competitive and serious Madden league we did over at my house. We kept stats and records on a yellow, beer-stained legal pad that I kept under lock and key. And we did have one rule though. You had to use your favorite team. Which was great some years, and awful the next. (Also a little confusing because the Dipaolo twins are Bears fans.) But that was the rule. We didn't want anybody just to claim he (or she) was a St. Louis fan once they became the best offense in the world.

This rule was pushed to the brink when one of my friends started showing up to the house in Falcons gear in 2004. And anybody who knows anything about Madden knows that the Madden '04 version of Michael Vick was the greatest video game character of all-time. ALL TIME. I know everybody talks about Super Tecmo Bowl Bo Jackson in hushed tones. But '04 Vick had a 95 speed rating and a 97 agility rating. NINETY-SEVEN. Dude was untouchable. He made STB Bo Jackson look like the video game version of Johnny Manziel. It wasn't even close.

And our friend tried to snow everybody into thinking he was a Falcons fan? Although, he did have the presence of mind to go with an old-school Tim Dwight jersey to at least put the thought in our head that he was a Falcons fan from way back, but we never really bought it. And to his credit he still says that he is a Falcons fan to this day. Which hey, maybe he really is. Or maybe it's the greatest long-con in American history.

It makes you wonder how many people in Mercedes Benz Stadium are there because a video game version of the NFL made them a fan of the team. It's not out of the question, right? Kids are front-runners. And there was no shortage of people who jumped on the Vick bandwagon because of Madden. Although, to be fair, Vick was kind of good at real football, too.

But it is pretty incredible. And Madden still is part of my life today. Not only did I once get a chance to host the wildly popular Madden NFL Live, I still play to this day and can't wait for the release date every year. I guess you could say gaming runs in my family. One of my fondest memories is of my mom waking up my father and me way back in the day. Something very urgent was happening. Was it an earthquake? Fire? Was there somebody running through the backyard? No. She finally rescued the princess on Super Mario Brothers.

My dad and I just shrugged our shoulders and went back to bed.

And now I'm doing that kind of stuff. My daughter is two. And she loves playing games on the Kindle. But I've had the conversation with myself as to how old must she be to start playing Madden. I've determined that it's three. I mean, I figure if you're old enough to be potty-trained, you're old enough to figure out how to defense the four verticals. But I swear, if that little front-runner wants to start playing with the Green Bay Packers, we are going to have some words.

UPGRADES:


Here's a look at some of the best options for a Team of the Week upgrade and who would be great additions to your squad.

Let's start with Carson Palmer, who was pretty great for the Arizona Cardinals. Palmer is at his best when he's got strong support from the running game. And he got that from Adrian Peterson as this Birds' offense looked completely different than the sputtering mess from weeks ago. Palmer passed for 283 yards, three touchdowns and had a passer rating of 139.4. The Cardinals' offense might seem like the NFL version of The Expendables, but they are clearly getting the job done right now.

Two running backs I would like to take a look at are Orleans Darkwa and Mark Ingram. Ingram might have benefited the most from Peterson's move to Arizona. Ingram was able to get in a rhythm without constantly looking over his shoulder at the bench. It's like playing when one of your buddies is always trying to grab the controller from you. Ingram had 25(!) carries for 114 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He's trending way up in New Orleans.

Darkwa dominated the Broncos' defense that often used eight-man fronts because there were no receiving threats for the Giants. Darkwa had 117 rushing yards against one of the best defenses in the NFL. Could he be the runner the Giants have looked for? Looked that way for a night.

I'd check out Marvin Jones Junior at the wide receiver position. Jones played a complete game for the Lions this week and chipped in with 96 receiving yards and a touchdown against the Saints. His real-life football team might be in a precarious position with Golden Tate nursing an injury. But he could be a monster for you.

And I love pass-catching tight ends, and Evan Engram looked special on Sunday night against the Broncos. He had 82 yards and a touchdown against the No Fly Zone.

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