Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Rodgers Among Favorites for Madden 2013 Cover

Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Rodgers Among Favorites for Madden 2013 CoverThe New England Patriots have something that no other club in the National Football League does: two candidates for the cover of the EA Sports 2013 Madden NFL video game cover.

Fans vote for the cover winner and the Pats have both tight end Rob Gronkowski and wide receiver Brandon Lloyd as competitors. The bracket-style competition is supposed to feature one player from all 32 NFL teams, but the Patriots have two because Lloyd was originally on the bracket as a St. Louis Ram before signing a free-agent deal with New England. But only one Patriot will advance to the Round of 16 because Gronkowski and Lloyd face off in the Round of 32.

Gronkowski is the No. 2 seed in his bracket with Lloyd at No. 15. The winner of their matchup will face either No. 7 Jared Allen, a defensive end for the Minnesota Vikings, or No. 10 DeMarcus Ware, the Dallas Cowboys linebacker. Voting for this round continues until March 28. Then voting for Round 2 is from March 28-April 4. Round 3 is from April 4-11, the semifinals are April 11-18 and the finals April 18-25. Fans can vote from their computer or mobile phones.

Gronkowski was a first-team All-Pro this past season after he set NFL records for single-season receiving yards (1,327) and receiving touchdowns (17) by a tight end in just his second season out of Arizona. Lloyd, meanwhile, split time with Denver and the Rams in 2011. He had 70 catches for 966 yards and five touchdowns.

Lloyd, who brings a big-play outside threat that New England was lacking at receiver a year ago, got a three-year, $12 million deal. In 2010 in Denver, Lloyd led the league with 1,448 yards receiving, when he caught 77 passes, 11 of them for touchdowns. Josh McDaniels, the Patriots' offensive coordinator, was Lloyd's head coach in Denver then. The 30-year-old receiver has played for five teams in his nine-season career, getting traded early last season from Denver to St. Louis.

"Gronk" is the 11/2 overall second favorite at Bovada to land on the Madden cover, along with Green Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the 2011 NFL MVP. Rodgers is the No. 1 seed in Gronkowski’s half of the bracket. Lloyd is among the longest shots at 100/1. The longest odds overall belong Cleveland Browns defensive back Joe Haden and Tampa Bay Bucs running back LeGarrette Blount at 150/1. Both Gronkowski and Lloyd have been actively campaigning for the cover, each releasing a video to show why they should be the winner.

The overall Bovada betting favorite to win the cover is Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, the other No. 1 seed in the bracket. The 2011 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year got the most votes in the Round of 64 and is at 2/1 at Bovada to win it all come late April. Newton goes against No. 16 seed Blount in the current round, with the winner to face either San Diego tight end Antonio Gates (No. 8 seed) or Indianapolis defensive end Dwight Freeney (No. 9).

The players are seeded based on a variety of factors, including on-field performance, marketability/popularity and the amount of votes they received to advance in the teammate-vs.-teammate Round of 64.

Last season, the first where fan voting chose the cover in a bracket competition, then-Browns running back Peyton Hillis beat out Eagles quarterback Michael Vick. Hillis fell victim to the dreaded "Madden Curse," however, as he rushed for only 587 yards last season and had health issues. The Browns didn't re-sign him this offseason and Hillis now is in Kansas City. Neither Vick nor Hillis is in the Round of 32.

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