Power Rankings: 'Madden' NFL cover seasons

And business wasn't always this boomin'.

Veteran 'Madden' gamers can recall a time when a cover athlete's freak injury or poor performance was chalked up to some kind of curse. Now that others have gone onto Super Bowls, MVPs and big statistical seasons, those days appear to be over.

But are they truly over? Time will tell how Antonio Brown will fare, but here's how the other 19 performed under tough scrutiny.

Honorable Mention: Barry Sanders (Madden '00):

Previous Year (1998) Stats: 343 carries, 1,491 yards, 4 TDs

Cover Year (1999) Stats: N/A

Until 2000, Raiders coach and broadcasting John Madden appeared on his namesake video game. Sanders was set to be the first player to replace Madden... until he shocked everyone by retiring on July 27, 1999.

18. Peyton Hillis (Madden '12)

Previous Year (2010) Stats: 270 carries, 1,177 yards, 11 TDs

Cover Year (2011) Stats: 161 carries, 587 yards, 3 TDs

The answer to everyone's favorite 'Madden' trivia question is... Peyton Hillis. He rushed for 587 yards the year fans voted him on the Madden '12 cover. He also missed six games with a pulled hamstring and strep throat. He was out of Cleveland the next season and never rushed for more than 500 yards -- much less 1,000 -- again.

17. Michael Vick (Madden '04)

Previous Year (2002) Stats: 2,936 passing yards, 777 rushing yards, 24 total TDs

Cover Year (2003) Stats: 585 passing yards, 255 rushing yards, 5 total TDs

Falcons fans enjoyed the invincible avatar that was 'Madden '04' Michael Vick... for one measly day. Twenty-four hours after the game's release, real-life Vick broke his fibula in the preseason. The Falcons went 2-9 before Vick returned to lead them to a 5-11 finish.

16. Brett Favre (Madden '09)

Previous Year (2007) Stats: 4,155 passing yards, 28 TDs, 15 INTs

Cover Year (2008) Stats: 3,472 passing yards, 22 TDs, 22 INTs

Favre could've been the first non-active player on Madden's cover. Then he went and un-retired from the Packers, forcing his trade to the Jets and an updated cover with him in Gang Green's uniform. He threw for 22 touchdowns and 22 picks in 2008.

15. Vince Young (Madden '08)

Previous Year (2006) Stats: 2,199 passing yards, 552 rushing yards, 19 total TDs, 13 INTs

Cover Year (2007) Stats: 2,546 passing yards, 395 rushing yards, 12 total TDs, 17 INTs

Vince Young followed up his breakout rookie season with a nine-touchdown, 17-interception slide. He was also benched for breaking team rules in the preseason and missed time with after injuring his quadriceps.

14. Rob Gronkowski (Madden' 17)

Previous Year (2015) Stats: 72 catches, 1,176 yards, 11 TDs

Cover Year (2016) Stats: 25 catches, 540 yards, 3 TDs

Gronk couldn't stay healthy the year his 'Madden' cover game out. He missed his first two games with a tweaked hamstring, missed another with a chest contusion after an Earl Thomas hit, and was placed on IR with a herniated disk after Week 12. The good news about that 25-catch, three-touchdown season? The Patriots won the Super Bowl.

13. Shaun Alexander (Madden '07)

Previous Year (2005) Stats: 370 carries, 1,880 yards, 27 TDs

Cover Year (2006) Stats: 252 carries, 896 yards, 7 TDs

His 896 rushing yards were almost 1,000 shy of the mark he set the previous season. Alexander would play just two more seasons in the pros, despite signing an eight-year contract the year he graced the cover.

12. Donovan McNabb (Madden '06)

Previous Year (2004) Stats: 3,875 passing yards, 31 TDs, 8 INTs

Cover Year (2005) Stats: 2,507 passing yards, 16 TDs, 9 INTs

To add insult to McNabb's sports hernia and thumb injury, the Eagles' quarterback spent most of his Madden cover season embroiled in Terrell Owens drama. He threw 16 touchdowns with 9 picks.

11. Marshall Faulk (Madden '03)

Previous Year (2001) Stats: 260 carries, 1,382 yards, 12 TDs

Cover Year (2002) Stats: 212 carries, 953 yards, 8 TDs

Faulk hit 953 yards as his cover season ended. He'd never get as close to the 1,000-yard rushing mark again. Faulk was out of the game four seasons later.

10. Daunte Culpepper (Madden '02)

Previous Year (2000) Stats: 3,937 passing yards, 33 TDs, 16 INTs

Cover Year (2001) Stats: 2,612 passing yards, 14 TDs, 13 INTs

A knee injury cost Culpepper five games (four of which were losses). He threw 14 touchdowns to 13 interceptions and the Vikings missed the playoffs.

9. Ray Lewis (Madden '05)

Previous Year (2003) Stats: 120 solo tackles, 6 INT, 2 FF

Cover Year (2004) Stats: 100 solo tackles, 0 INT, 1 FF

A broken wrist, a missed game in Week 17, and as John Madden says... "boom." Ray Lewis' solid 'Madden' cover season was spoiled as the slumping Ravens missed the postseason.

8. Troy Polamalu/Larry Fitzgerald (Madden '10)

Previous Year (2008) Stats:

Polamalu: 54 tackles, 7 INT, 17 PDs

Fitzgerald: 96 catches, 1,431 yards, 12 TDs

Cover Year (2009) Stats:

Polamalu: 18 tackles, 3 INT, 7 PDs

Fitzgerald: 97 catches, 1,092 yards, 13 TDs

Madden's only double cover had mixed results. Polamalu missed 11 games and posted only 18 tackles. Fitzgerald, on the other hand, caught 13 touchdowns and led the Cardinals to the playoffs.

7. Adrian Peterson (Madden '14)

Previous Year (2012) Stats: 348 carries, 2,097 yards, 12 TDs

Cover Year (2013) Stats: 279 carries, 1,266 yards, 10 TDs

The good news: All Day posted numbers that made every fantasy football GM happy. The bad? He didn't recapture his MVP form, missed two games with a sprained foot and missed out on the postseason.

6. Eddie George (Madden '01)

Previous Year (1999) Stats: 320 carries, 1,304 yards, 9 TDs

Cover Year (2000) Stats: 403 carries, 1,509 yards, 14 TDs

George's 2000 season saw him post career bests in rushing yards and total touchdowns. So why isn't he No. 1? His playoff bobble led to a pick-six which ended the Titans' Super Bowl dreams and he was never quite the same after.

5. Richard Sherman (Madden '15)

Previous Year (2013) Stats: 38 solo tackles, 8 INTs, 18 PDs

Cover Year (2014) Stats: 52 solo tackles, 4 INTs, 11 PDs

Richard Sherman went to the Pro Bowl again. He was first-team All-Pro again. But his Seahawks didn't win the Super Bowl again, losing in heartbreaking fashion to the Patriots. He also only hauled in half the interceptions he did the previous season.

4. Odell Beckham Jr. (Madden '16)

Previous Year (2014) Stats: 91 catches, 1,305 yards, 12 TDs

Cover Year (2015) Stats: 96 catches, 1,450 yards, 13 TDs

His stats were eye-poppingly impressive. His biggest moment involved feuding with Josh Norman, though. A year after wowing us with "The Catch," Odell Beckham Jr.'s follow-up campaign was truly a mixed bag.

3. Drew Brees (Madden '11)

Previous Year (2009) Stats: 4,388 passing yards, 34 TDs, 11 INTs

Cover Year (2010) Stats: 4,620 passing yards, 33 TDs, 22 INTs

Just another 4,000-yard passing season for the 2010-11 cover athlete. Brees completed 68.1 percent of his throws and it would've been even higher without his 22 interceptions. His season ended with a Beast Quake in Seattle, too. Unlucky, but not bad.

2. Calvin Johnson (Madden '13)

Previous Year (2011) Stats: 96 receptions, 1,681 yards, 16 TDs

Cover Year (2012) Stats: 122 receptions, 1,964 yards, 5 TDs

And the second-best season by a 'Madden' cover athlete goes to Megatron. Calvin Johnson was springboarded by his video game fame, breaking Jerry Rice's single-season receiving yardage mark (1,848). Crunch his cover year numbers. That's 122.8 receiving yards per game for all you folks at home.

1. Tom Brady (Madden '18)

Previous Year (2016) Stats: 3,554 passing yards, 28 TDs, 2 INTs

Cover Year (2017) Stats: 4,577 passing yards, 32 TDs, 8 INTs

TB12 was serious when he said he wanted to bust the "bust the 'Madden Cover curse." So, he posted one of his best passing seasons yet and won MVP honors. The cherry on top would've been another ring; the Eagles denied him it, but there's no denying his season was amazing.

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