Wth some new people joining the leagues, and the leagues being early enough for existing teams to make turnarounds, I've decided to start sharing some tips and such about our beloved ESPN NFL 2K5.
To start off, though, I have to break some bad habits that people do that keep them from playing as well as they should.
Don't control only D-linemen on defense - If you want to play good defense, you need to do it yourself - not leave it to the computer. You can diagnose and react to plays faster than the AI will. Controlling a D-lineman essentially wastes that ability. Though you can pass-rush with a D-lineman better than the computer can, you are best to do that only on obvious passing downs. On downs where your opponent might be running, you should have a linebacker or safety and be knifing into gaps and disrupting the run play. For the more advanced, manual pass coverage is tricky, but can pay off big.
Don't punt out of bounds (except for aiming inside the 20) - I've seen a lot of people do this, and I'm surprised they don't see what they're doing. I've had guys give me great field position after great field position with their 30 yard out-of-bounds punts. Essentially, what they're doing is giving their opponent great return yardage instead of making him earn them. I mutter to my TV, "does he not SEE how short his punts are?". Guys that are doing this - go to the punting stat page and LOOK at your net yardage compared to everyone else's. Don't fall in love with a tactic so much that you don't see how bad it's failing you.
Don't be afraid to go for 4th downs - Some players don't seem to know when to hit the "emergency" button and take risks. If it's the 4th quarter and you're down by two scores, or late in the 3rd and you're down by 3, you need to start gambling. On more than one occasion in the leagues, I've had someone give me what I call the "game losing punt". They were in my territory on a 4th down that they had a shot at, but by punting the ball to me, they sealed defeat. They eventually got the ball back, often without me scoring any more, but it was too late for them to rally.
Don't abandon the run - Everyone knows this one, and too few heed hit. If you do nothing but pass, you'll see nothing but pass defenses. You can gouge those pass defenses for 10 yard runs if you surprise him with a run out of a spread formation. Even in close games, there's a temptation to bail from the run when it's not working. Dutty held me to only 33 yards on 20 carries with Fred Taylor, but a run play that he blew up 4 times earlier in the game (including on a failed 4th-and-2) was the play that scored the game-winning TD for me. Don't ever bail on the run.
Don't pull D-linemen off the line, move them way out of position, etc etc - Some people do weird things with D-linemen. Pulling them off the line of scrimmage is one of the worst things you can do. If you ever see someone do this against you, run the ball, over and over, right at him. By backing off the line, he makes it much easier for the O-linemen on that side to get off the line of scrimmage and out into their blocks. Only bad things can happen when you ease up your defense's muscle at the point of attack.
Don't go nuts with defensive audibles - Some guys are downright crazy with these. Audibling safeties out of their deep zones and into man coverage to "double" someone is a *bad* idea.
Don't forget what your opponent did before - If your opponent has run a sweep 6-7 times out of the Strong I, then when you see him come to the line in the Strong I, prepare for the sweep!
Don't keep doing the same thing over and over if you're losing - Some guys steadfastly refuse to adapt. You could hold a gun to his head and he'll still call the same defenses that got smoked all game, or the same plays that got stopped all day by the opposing defense. You have to balance this idea with the idea of not abandoning the running game. "Adjust" does not mean "OMFG I'm losing by two scores, gotta throw every single play".
Don't forget to practice - My rule is: if I don't run a play over and over again in Practice mode, I don't use it in an online game. Learn your team's playbook. Build up a core of plays that you're confident in, and slowly add to that group.
Don't stop having fun, and don't disrupt anyone else's fun - It's OK to get pissed when things don't happen like they should, but some take that too far. Stay calm, and have fun. Doing so will help you play much better. Don't yell into the mic, don't replay 100 different plays throughout the game (yes, he dropped the ball - it happens, move on), and don't just quit trying out of spite. You may, however, ask Swampy very politely to not make game-winning field goals. He's a good guy - he'll take you to overtime to play more.