'Madden 25' cover vote: Picking the winner

The "Madden 25" cover vote is down to two of the greatest backs to ever put on an NFL uniform. USA TODAY Sports

What started off with 65 NFL candidates is down to the final two. And what a final two it is, as two of the greatest running backs of all time -- in real life and in the world of virtual football -- square off for a shot at the “Madden 25” cover.

After weeks of fan votes, it’s Barry Sanders versus Adrian Peterson. It’s fitting, considering all we know about “Madden 25” to date is that it focuses on running backs thanks to a new “run free ball carrier” system that will offer “unprecedented ball-carrier control and precision,” according to EA Sports.

If you examine the stiff arm in the first “Madden 25” screen released, and read the “NCAA 14” preview that offers a glimpse into the plans for Infinity Engine 2.0 that is shared by “NCAA” and “Madden,” you can already guess that Purple Jesus is going to be wrecking fools with some of the most wicked stiff arms ever seen in a video game.

But what remains to be seen: Will more old-school fans vote for Sanders, or are today’s gamers locked in on the present, not caring (or even knowing) about the past other than what they’ve played in “Madden”? Then again, one way to eradicate the curse for a second straight season seems to be a vote for Sanders. With Peterson’s recent knee issues, it seems like a big risk for Vikings fans to see their favorite player on the front of a video game box.

Before we get to my final prediction, let’s take a look out how both backs made it to the championship round.

Sanders took out the severely overmatched Ron Rivera in Round 1, collecting 95 percent of the vote, which really makes me question the sanity of 5 percent of the voters. (Did they click the wrong box?) In Round 2, Sanders destroyed Hall of Famer Marcus Allen by a 92-8 split, but I think the shocking number of votes in Barry's direction had a lot to do with the fact that Allen was representing the Chiefs and not the Raiders. In Round 3, Sanders actually had to fight, beating Ray Lewis with an impressive 67 percent in a matchup many thought would go in the linebacker’s direction. Sanders reached the final four by taking down the No. 1 seed, Joe Montana (57-43), before finally moving on to defeat Montana’s old teammate Jerry Rice to win the Old-School bracket.

As for Peterson, “All Day” was the one true juggernaut throughout the entire voting process. He started off by trouncing Carson Palmer 94-6. In Round 2, Peterson took out LeSean McCoy by a surprisingly one-sided 90-10. Round 3, different opponent, same story, as Peterson took down Rob Gronkowski (81-19) then moved on to the final four by defeating one of the favorites to win it all, Robert Griffin III (70-30). All Peterson did from there was collect more than 60 percent of the vote over Arian Foster to set up the battle of the backs final.

Prediction: (3) Barry Sanders vs. (2) Adrian Peterson

Beating Ray Lewis, Joe Montana and Jerry Rice in back-to-back-to-back weeks shows Barry’s impressive popularity, but Peterson has received more total votes than anyone else in the competition. His string of victories over Gronk, RG III and Foster by such overwhelming numbers make him the favorite to win it all. Sorry, Minnesota, the curse is coming your way.

Winner: Adrian Peterson