The game received positive reviews upon its release, with the game frequently being compared to its competitor ESPN NFL 2K5. The game has also been heavily criticized for its questionable soundtrack, which was a common recurrence throughout the series. GameSpot gave the game a 9/10, praising the tackling animations, but questioned the game's soundtrack. In one of the more critical reviews, Operation Sports game the game an 8 out of 10, criticizing the game's poor rushing game. GameZone's grade for the game was an 8.8, giving positive reviews about the gameplay, but cited the redundancy and similarity to Madden NFL 2004 as an issue. IGN gave the game a 9.5/10 grade, praising the graphics, presentation and gameplay, but questioned the sound. The site also called it the 98th best PlayStation 2 game due to its AI quality and graphics. The staff also claimed that it beat out ESPN NFL 2K5 due to EA's video game exclusivity deal with the NFL.
ESPN NFL 2K5 was the first in the 2K series priced at $19.99 the day it shipped, much lower than market leader Madden NFL at $49.99. This greatly reduced Madden sales that year; one EA Sports developer recalled that "[i]t scared the hell out of us". EA reduced Madden NFL 2005's price to $29.95. In December 2004 EA Sports acquired an exclusive rights agreement with the NFL and NFLPA to be the sole creator of NFL video games.