What. A. Game.
Call it the "Blackout Bowl," call it what you want. Super Bowl XLVII was one of the most memorable championship contests in the history of the National Football League. It had everything -- two brothers going head-to-head for the first time ever, a game that looked for all intents and purposes to be a blowout in the first half, to a 34-minute delay due to a strange power outage at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome (where was Joe Montana when the power went out?), to an amazing comeback and eventual win for Joe Flacco and the Baltimore Ravens over the San Francisco 49ers. You couldn't have written a better script, unless of course you're a fan of the 49ers.
Well, one thing is for sure -- Colin Kaepernick is going to go higher (and maybe higher than he should) in 2013 fantasy football drafts after his overall postseason performance. Owners are also going to swoon over Michael Crabtree as a potential breakout candidate, and Vernon Davis will now be seen as a more legitimate No. 1 fantasy tight end in a lot of leagues. But is it safe for us to draft 49ers, or will this team succumb to the "Curse of the Super Bowl Loser"? In my 14 years of covering fantasy football, I have seen some odd coincidences that the superstitious would use to build their case for the existence of such a hex.
Since 1997, the Atlanta Falcons, New York Giants, St. Louis Rams, Oakland Raiders, Carolina Panthers, Philadelphia Eagles, Chicago Bears and New England Patriots have all lost in the NFL's championship game and failed to make the postseason the following season. We've also seen a number of players from the losing teams experience a serious decrease in statistical success, which in turn had a negative effect on their fantasy value. I'm not saying this curse is as powerful as say, the "Madden" cover curse -- at least before Calvin Johnson overcame it. But I think the numbers below are at the very least, interesting.
Here's a look at some Super Bowl losers and the awful fate that awaited the following season.
Tom Brady is curse-proof, as his 2012 numbers were immense in the world of fantasy football. But ... what about some of his teammates? The top fantasy tight end, Rob Gronkowski, missed several games due to injuries and finished with almost 100 fewer fantasy points compared to 2011. Aaron Hernandez, also considered a No. 1 fantasy option, was forced to the sidelines due to injuries and was tough to trust. Wes Welker posted his typical 100-plus receptions, but he finished with 42.5 fewer points than he did the previous season if you played in a standard league.
Ben Roethlisberger, Rashard Mendenhall and Mike Wallace all saw their fantasy totals fall the season after being on a Super Bowl loser. Big Ben averaged 5.1 fewer fantasy points per game compared to his 2010 totals, Mendenhall scored close to 58 fewer fantasy points total, and Wallace's output dropped more than 18 points. What's more, both Roethlisberger and Mendenhall suffered serious injuries that limited their overall production. Big Ben played part of the second half of the season with a high ankle sprain, while Mendenhall tore his ACL in the season finale.
Kurt Warner and the Cardinals made an improbable run to the big game, but fell short after an amazing touchdown catch by Santonio Holmes from Roethlisberger. The following season, Warner recorded 830 fewer passing yards and four fewer touchdowns. Larry Fitzgerald didn't see major declines in the reception or touchdown categories, but he did record 339 fewer yards. His teammate at the time, Anquan Boldin, saw similar reception and yardage totals but scored a mere four touchdowns -- that was seven less than his 2008 total. Was it a curse, or is it something else?
Brady threw for 4,806 yards and scored 52 total touchdowns during the 2007 season. The following year after a loss to the G-Men, he suffered a torn ACL and would finish with just 11 pass attempts. Randy Moss finished with far fewer fantasy points and touchdowns in 2008 compared to his previous season's totals as well. Laurence Maroney was a superstar in the team's run to Super Bowl XLII, but he was a huge disappointment for fantasy owners the next season with just 93 rushing yards and no scores before a major shoulder ailment landed him on injured reserve.
The Seahawks did reach the playoffs the season after their loss to the Steelers, but a number of their top players didn't come close to their past statistical successes. Matt Hasselbeck missed time with an injured knee and threw for 1,017 fewer yards and six fewer touchdowns compared to the previous year. Shaun Alexander's stock plummeted as well. A fantasy star in 2005 with 1,880 rushing yards and 28 touchdowns, his stock sunk like a stone in 2006 with a mere 896 rushing yards and just seven touchdowns. In fact, he was one of the biggest busts in fantasy leagues.
The curse of the Super Bowl loser hammered the Eagles after their defeat at the hands of the Patriots, as Donovan McNabb, Brian Westbrook and Terrell Owens all saw their numbers fall across the board. McNabb threw for 1,368 fewer yards with 15 fewer touchdowns and missed time due to injuries the year after losing the big game. Westbrook also saw statistical decreases almost across the board. Owens, who was suspended by the team, finished with 47 receptions, 763 yards and scored six touchdowns. He had 77 receptions, 1,200 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2004.
The Panthers came within three points of a win over Brady and the Patriots, but their eventual loss might have cursed their most prominent player, Steve Smith. He caught 88 passes for 1,110 yards and seven touchdowns in 2003, but sustained a broken leg in 2004 and missed most of the season as a result. His absence did open the door for Muhsin Muhammad to have a career year in the stat sheets, though, as he led all wide receivers in fantasy points. DeShaun Foster also saw his numbers fall, as injuries cost him significant playing time in the Panthers' backfield.
Of all the recent Super Bowl losers, the Raiders might have taken the biggest statistical hit. In fact, Rich Gannon, Charlie Garner, Jerry Rice, Tim Brown and Jerry Porter all saw their numbers fall across the board. Gannon, who threw for 4,689 yards and 26 touchdowns the year the Raiders went to the Super Bowl, missed all but seven games the following season. The same held true for Garner -- he went from a solid 2002 stat line of 91 catches, 1,903 scrimmage yards and 11 touchdowns to 48 receptions, 939 scrimmage yards and four touchdowns the following season.
Even Warner, Marshall Faulk and the "Greatest Show on Turf" as it would come to be known, couldn't escape the curse of the Super Bowl loser. Warner recorded 3,399 fewer yards and 33 fewer touchdowns compared to his immense 2001 totals, as he missed significant time on the field with an injured finger. Faulk, who was also an apparent victim of the "Madden" cover curse in 2002, saw his numbers crash and burn the season after this Super Bowl defeat as well. The Hall of Famer did score 10 touchdowns in 2002, but he saw a huge decline in total yardage.
So what is the reason for the decrease in numbers for such prominent players after a Super Bowl loss?
Well, at least part of it is the added wear and tear it takes to reach the NFL's ultimate game. In some cases, players endure four more contests on top of their 16 regular-season contests. The additional punishment could make players more vulnerable to future injuries, which seemed to happen in several cases. Whatever the cause, the numbers don't lie. Does that mean you should avoid the likes of Kaepernick, Frank Gore, Crabtree and Davis after their loss to the Ravens?
Of course not.
But if members of the 49ers fail to duplicate or surpass their 2012 fantasy totals next season, well, you might want to look back at this curse and wonder if it is for real.
Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on NFL.com and NFL Network and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA) Hall of Fame. Have a burning question on anything fantasy related? Tweet it to @Michael_Fabiano or send a question via Facebook!