Super Bowl curse: The numbers don't lie

Some people believe in curses, jinxes, hexes and the such, and some don't.

But whether it's the Madden cover curse, the Sports Illustrated cover curse or the now defunct "Curse of the Bambino," it's still fun to point out odd trends that could allow us a potential window in the future.

One of the latest curses that has emerged centers around the Super Bowl. More to the point, it surrounds the losers of the NFL's ultimate competitive event.

John Frouschauer / Associated Press
Shaun Alexander hasn't been the same running back since Super Bowl XL.

Over the past decade, the teams and players that have lost the Super Bowl have taken a hit the next season both in the standings and on the stat sheets.

Since the 1997 season, the Chicago Bears (2006), Philadelphia Eagles (2005), Carolina Panthers (2004), Oakland Raiders (2003), St. Louis Rams (2002), New York Giants (2001) and Atlanta Falcons (1999) have all lost in the championship and failed to make the playoffs the next season.

The lone Super Bowl losers to make the playoffs in the next season are the Seattle Seahawks (2006) and Green Bay Packers (1998), but some of their players weren't immune to the jinx.

When we look inside the numbers at the players to lose in recent Super Bowls, we see that many of them experienced a significant decrease in statistical success.

In 2006, Rex Grossman was a prominent fantasy starter as he threw for 3,193 yards and 23 touchdowns. This past season, after a loss to the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLI, Grossman threw for 1,411 yards and four touchdowns and lost his place atop the depth chart in Chicago. Thomas Jones, who was traded from the Bears to the New York Jets in the offseason, also saw his numbers fall after the loss, as did Muhsin Muhammad and Desmond Clark.

The Seahawks did reach the postseason the season after their loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XL, but some of their prominent players didn't come close to their statistical expectations. Matt Hasselbeck missed time with an injured knee and threw for 1,017 fewer yards and six fewer touchdowns, and Shaun Alexander's stock plummeted due to a combination of the Madden and Super Bowl curses.

Alexander went from fantasy stud (1,880 rushing yards, 28 TDs in 2005) to a fantasy dud (896 rushing yards, seven TDs in 2006), and he's never been the same again.

I guess a double curse can be very detrimental to a player's statistical health.

The Super Bowl hex hammered the Philadelphia Eagles after their loss to the New England Patriots, as Donovan McNabb, Terrell Owens and Brian Westbrook all saw their numbers fall across the board. McNabb, who was also Madden cursed, threw for 1,368 fewer yards and 15 fewer touchdowns as he missed time due to injuries. Owens was suspended by the team and finished the 2005 season with 47 receptions, 763 yards and six touchdowns.

That's a far cry from the 77 receptions, 1,200 yards and 14 touchdowns he recorded in 2004.

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The Carolina Panthers came within three points of a win over Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XXXVIII, but their eventual loss might have cursed their most prominent player, Steve Smith. The superstar wide receiver caught 88 passes for 1,110 yards and seven touchdowns in 2003, but he sustained a broken leg in 2004 and missed most of the season.

DeShaun Foster also saw his numbers fall, as injuries cost him time between the white lines. Jake Delhomme did elude the curse, however, as he threw for 3,886 yards and scored 30 touchdowns. The same held true for Muhsin Muhammad, who had the best season of his pro football career with 93 catches, 1,405 yards and a solid 16 touchdowns.

So while the Super Bowl curse does hold some water, there have been a few exceptions.

The team that seemed to be the most cursed after a Super Bowl loss is the 2003 Oakland Raiders. After a 48-21 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, all of their prominent players had awful seasons. In fact, Rich Gannon, Charlie Garner, Jerry Rice, Tim Brown and Jerry Porter all saw their numbers fall across the board. The same was true of Kurt Warner and Marshall Faulk after a loss to New England in Super Bowl XXXVI. Warner recorded 3,399 fewer yards and 33 fewer touchdowns, as he missed significant time with an injured finger.

Faulk, who was a victim of the Madden curse in 2003, also saw his numbers crash after a Super Bowl defeat.

Further down the line, even the immortal Brett Favre saw his numbers fall after a loss to John Elway and the Denver Broncos is Super Bowl XXXII.

So what is the reason for the decrease in numbers for such prominent players after a Super Bowl loss?

Well, factors like league-wide parity, a more difficult schedule and the added wear and tear to a player's body in the previous season's run to the Super Bowl are obvious answers. Whatever the reasons, the numbers don't lie. That makes this hex notable and even valid as it pertains to the world of fantasy football.

While it's impossible to predict the future in what has become an unpredictable NFL, trends such as these should be in the back of the minds of those hardcore owners whose quest for a league championship runs hotter than an Arizona desert.

So if you're watching the New York Giants battle the undefeated New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII for entertainment purposes or just for the pure love of the National Football League, remember that the outcome of this historic contest can also have an affect on the fantasy draft value of the eventual losers.

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