I've played Madden NFL Football games for a long time. Originally I was awful, getting torched by my best friend on a regular basis made me take a hard look at how I was playing. I realized that just trying to keep up with his relentless scoring wasn't going to cut it. I had to slow him down somehow. I had to play to my strengths. Doing so I've been able to increase my winning percentage immensely using the fundamentals. Yeah fundamentals, sounds boring but it works.
First rule of defense, don't pick your defense until you see the personnel your opponent is putting on the field. You always want to make sure you have the muscle, speed or scheme in place to slow or stop the offense. If they are putting out 5 Wide Receivers (WRs) you will probably want to send out more Defensive Backs (DBs). If they have 2 Running Backs (RBs), 2 Tight Ends (TEs) and 1 WR you probably want a 3-4 or 4-3 defense to cover the run, short pass or play action. Second rule of Defense, keep the play in front of you. If you spend all your time trying to intercept every pass or destroy the ball carrier with a big hit, you're going to get burned. Giving up the big play is a big no-no. Make your opponent work for it. The more plays they attempt the more likely it will be for them to either cough up the ball or stall in the red zone. If you take good angles and allow your AI teammates time to help wrangle up the ball carrier you will be in a lot better shape.
My first rule of Offense, clock management. Provided you've played your defense properly you should have the ball back quickly. Hang on to it. If you're playing 5 minute quarters use up as much time as possible. Run the ball and the clock as much as possible. You will limit your turnovers and the amount of time your opponent has on the field. There is nothing I like more than soaking up 7-8 minutes in the first half, be up by 7 and defending an opponent who has to pass the ball to score. Managing the clock effectively will make your opponent one dimensional because they need to get yards in bunches and use up timeouts. If you're reading this and screaming "I can't run the ball!", you are probably doing it wrong. It goes without saying but, you need to start with a good RB. Once you've got that squared away pay close attention to the run plays you pick. You need to know the blocker's route. Once the ball snaps, follow that blocker until he engages with a defender then make your move. I don't recommend jukes because the animation can get you into trouble. Also, NEVER CUT BACK. Go forward, sideways, slant ways but never go back. Once you've established the run your opponent will be more likely to blitz and crowd the line. Once they do that, audible at the line into slat passes and screens. It will drive them crazy and they will hesitate to blitz in the future. (As a side, some of you that know football might think play action is a good idea if you've run the ball effectively but, the time it takes to execute a good play action pass puts you in danger of the blitz getting to you.) Lastly for offense, don't force it. Make your opponent make the mistake.
Go into practice mode and try everything. Once you've found Offensive and Defensive sets you like practice those sets over and over and over and over, okay, you get it. Put your AI opponent on random and workshop variants to each set. Learn how to read the defense, audible and execute. There is no play clock so it will give you time to study, but the repetition of looking every time will make it easier to read in a real game. The better you become before the snap will pay big dividends after the snap.
I don't have great "stick skills" and at best I'm a mediocre passer but limiting mistakes, managing the clock, mastering play calling and pre snap reads have made me tough to beat. Also, playing this way will put you in a lot of close games down the stretch. I just won a game tonight that I won with the Browns against the Eagles 13 to 7 in overtime against the same friend that used to torch me. This style of play takes a lot of patience and attention to detail but it has paid off for me.