Curses, hexes, jinxes. Are they real, or just some fabrication of the human mind?
Everyone has their own opinion on the topic. In my years of covering fantasy football, though, I have seen some odd coincidences that the superstitious would use to build their case for the existence of such things. Whether it's the dreaded Madden cover curse, the Sports Illustrated cover jinx or the "Curse of 370" for running backs, it's hard to argue against the odd and unexplainable trends that sometimes allow us a window in the future.
One of the latest curses that has emerged in pro football centers around the Super Bowl. More to the point, it surrounds the losers of the NFL's ultimate event.
Over the past decade, some teams and players that have lost the Super Bowl have taken a hit the following season. Since the 1997 season, the Atlanta Falcons (1999), New York Giants (2001), St. Louis Rams (2002), Oakland Raiders (2003), Carolina Panthers (2004), Philadelphia Eagles (2005), Chicago Bears (2006) and New England Patriots (2007) have all lost in the NFL's championship and failed to make the playoffs the next season.
We've also seen a number of players from the losing teams experience a serious decrease in statistical success.
This past season, some would argue that the hex affected members of the Super Bowl XLIII losing Arizona Cardinals. Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald (who was also on the cover of Madden 2010) and Anquan Boldin all saw their fantasy numbers fall compared to their 2008 totals. Warner scored 43 fewer fantasy points, Fitzgerald dropped 27 points and Boldin experienced a 37-point statistical decrease.
Of course, the biggest example of the Super Bowl curse is Tom Brady.
The unquestioned fantasy MVP in 2007, Brady threw for 4,806 yards and scored an incredible 52 total touchdowns. His numbers were the second-best based on fantasy points since 1960. Then came an improbable loss to the Giants in Super Bowl XLII. The next time Brady stepped onto a football field, the 2008 regular-season opener against Kansas City, he suffered a torn ACL and would miss the rest of the season.
Brady, a first-round selection in all fantasy drafts, would finish with 11 pass attempts.
A few other members of the Patriots roster also saw decreased production. Randy Moss, whether he was Super Bowl cursed or simply missing Brady, finished with far fewer fantasy points and touchdowns (156, 11 TDs) in 2008 compared to his previous season's totals (280, 23 TDs).
Laurence Maroney was a superstar in the team's run to Super Bowl XLII but was a huge disappointment for fantasy owners in 2008. He had 28 carries, 93 yards and no touchdowns before a shoulder ailment landed him on injured reserve. Maroney would see action in three contests.
In 2006, Rex Grossman was a prominent fantasy starter (no, that's not a misprint), throwing for 3,193 yards and 23 touchdowns. The very next season, after a loss to the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLI, Grossman threw for a mere 1,411 yards and four touchdowns and lost his spot atop the depth chart in Chicago. The Florida product has started only eight games in the three seasons since that contest.
Thomas Jones, Muhsin Muhammad and Desmond Clark also experienced a decrease in statistics the season after the Super Bowl XLI loss.
The Seahawks did reach the postseason the season after their loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XL, but a number of their top 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. Shaun Alexander's stock plummeted as well, due to a combination of the Madden and Super Bowl curses.
Alexander went from being a fantasy superstar (1,880 rushing yards, 28 TDs in 2005) to a fantasy dud (896 rushing yards, 7 TDs in 2006). In fact, he was one of the biggest busts in fantasy leagues the season after his team went down to Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers.
The Super Bowl hex hammered the Philadelphia Eagles after their loss to the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXIX, as Donovan McNabb, Terrell Owens and Brian Westbrook all saw their numbers fall across the board. McNabb, who was also Madden cursed in his career, 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 had in 2004.
The Carolina Panthers came within three points of a win over Brady and the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXVIII, 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. DeShaun Foster also saw his numbers fall, as injuries cost him significant playing time.
The team that might have been cursed the most after a championship loss is the 2003 Oakland Raiders.
After a 48-21 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Super Bowl XXXVII, all of their prominent fantasy players had awful seasons in 2003. 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 now infamous Madden curse in 2003, also saw his numbers crash and burn the season after a Super Bowl defeat.
So what is the reason for the decrease in numbers for such prominent players after a Super Bowl loss?
Well, at least part of the reason could be the added wear and tear it takes to reach the Super Bowl. In some cases, players endure four more games on top of their 16 regular-season contests. The addition punishment could make players more vulnerable to future injuries. 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.
Following a 2009 campaign that saw Miles Austin score more fantasy points than Fitzgerald, Reggie Wayne and Calvin Johnson, it's easy to see how unpredictable the NFL and fantasy football has become in recent seasons.
So if you're one of the millions upon millions of fans watching the New Orleans Saints battle the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLIV, be aware that the final outcome of this historic contest could have an affect on the future fantasy value of the eventual losers.
Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on NFL.com. Have a burning question for Michael on anything fantasy football related? Leave it in our comments section or send it to AskFabiano@nfl.com!