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The Madden Cover Jinx: is it real?

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Forget the "Saw" movies and "Paranormal Activity." They should make the Madden Cover Jinx into a Hollywood horror series.

As a fantasy owner, there's nothing scarier than seeing your player on the cover of the famous video game series. It's like seeing your daughter grow up to be Snooki from Jersey Shore only slightly more terrifying.

Not everybody believes in the Madden Curse. I'll admit, there are some crazy myths out there. But the Madden Jinx isn't one of them. This thing is very real.

I don't believe that Tupac is still alive or that Nicolas Cage is a talented actor, but I am very much a believer in the Madden Cover Jinx.

That's why I avoided Peyton Hillis like the plague at my fantasy draft last season. And it was the right move. Hillis ruined my buddy's fantasy team like "Lopez Tonight" ruined late night television.

Right now, fan voting has narrowed the field down to 32 candidates for the cover of Madden 2013, with Cam Newton and Aaron Rodgers as the front-runners. Until the voting is over, consider all 32 of them a threat to your fantasy team.

Maybe you won't heed my advice, but I'm telling you, the Madden Curse is more fact than fiction. If you don't believe me, I'll show you. Let's take a look at the ghosts of Madden past:

Peyton Hillis (Madden 2012) - Hillis emerged as a fantasy superstar in 2010, pacing the Browns with 1,177 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns. A year later, the former Arkansas Razorback couldn't even muster 600 yards, finishing the year with an underwhelming 587 yards and three touchdowns. Pre-Madden, Hillis was the face of the Cleveland Browns franchise. Post-Madden, he is a fantasy afterthought. For 2012, Hillis has been relegated to a backup role in Kansas City, where his fantasy value looks minimal at best.

Drew Brees (Madden 2011) - Even the mighty Drew Brees wasn't immune to Madden's mystical, evil powers. After a sensational 2009 season (4,338 yards, 34 TDs and 11 INTs) that ended with the Saints celebrating a championship, Brees regressed in 2010. His solid yardage and touchdown numbers were still in tact (4,620 yards, 33 TDs) but his interception total ballooned to 22 (only Eli Manning threw more picks in 2010), and his QB rating sunk to 90.6 (19 points lower than his 2009 rating of 109.6). Luckily for Brees, he was able to rebound with a season for the ages in 2011 (5,476 yards, 46 TDs).

Larry Fitzgerald/Troy Polamalu (Madden 2010) - Fitz actually wasn't affected too badly by his Madden cover status, making him a rare exception to the rule. The Arizona wide receiver mostly eluded the jinx, hauling in an impressive 97 catches and 13 touchdowns in 2009. The Madden ghosts did sap Fitz's strength in one key area, though. Fitzgerald's 1,092 receiving yards was much lower than his Pre-Madden total of 1,431 in 2008.

While Fitzy got off relatively easy, Madden wasn't kind to 2010's other cover athlete, Troy Polamalu. After stuffing the stat sheet with 73 tackles and seven interceptions in '08, Polamalu watched most of the 2009 season from the sidelines. Injuries forced Pittsburgh's long-haired safety to miss 11 games that season, lowering his stats to just 20 tackles and three interceptions.

Brett Favre (Madden 2009) - The Madden spirits were really out to get Brett Favre in 2008. Favre's last season in Green Bay was a good one (4,155 yards, 28 TDs, 95.7 QB rating), so good that it landed him his first Madden cover. It all went downhill from there. Favre stumbled to a league-high 22 interceptions during his only season with the New York Jets. His yardage numbers and QB rating also took a tumble (3,472 yards, 81 QB rating). Were Madden and Jenn Sterger working together to sabotage Favre's season? We may never know the truth.

Vince Young (Madden 2008) - Young wasn't a highly productive fantasy player to begin with, so it's tough to tell if his appearance on the Madden cover made him any worse than he already was. Young's stats actually improved in two major categories in 2007: passing yards (2,199 to 2,546) and completion percentage (51.5 percent to 62.3 percent). It wasn't all good for Young, who threw more passes to the other team (17 interceptions in 2007 compared to 13 the year before), tossed fewer TD passes (only nine after throwing 12 in 2006) and ran the ball less effectively (157 fewer rushing yards, four fewer rushing TDs in 2007) after his Madden cover. Young wasn't a disaster post-Madden, but the cover didn't help, either.

Shaun Alexander (Madden 2007) - Alexander was king of the world in 2005, or at least the world of fantasy football. He sprinted his way to 1,880 yards and an absurd 27 touchdowns while reaching the Super Bowl for the first and only time in his career. Then came 2006, Alexander's personal "Nightmare on Elm Street." Alexander, who missed six games with a broken foot, committed fantasy suicide in 2006, limping to just 896 yards and seven touchdowns. Alexander's brutal season was truly one of the more scarring encounters I've ever had with fantasy football.

Donovan McNabb (Madden 2006) - You might want to look away: McNabb's horrific 2005 campaign makes "The Exorcist" look like a kid's movie. After an off-the- charts performance in 2004 (3875 yards, 31 TD, 64 percent completion percentage), McNabb was limited to just nine games the season after his Madden cover, dooming fantasy teams around the nation. Despite playing fewer games, McNabb still managed to throw more interceptions in 2005 than he did the year before (nine to eight), while watching his QB rating slide all the way from 104.7 to 85. If the 2005 season was "Silence of the Lambs," then call McNabb Hannibal Lecter, because he was a cold-blooded fantasy killer that year.

The list goes on and on. In fact, since Madden started using football players on the cover of its video games, only one player has actually seen an improvement in his statistics. That was Madden's first cover boy, Eddie George, who graced the game's cover back in 2001 (1,304 yards, nine TDs in 1999 versus 1,509 yards and 14 TDs in 2000).

There you have it. The Madden Curse is alive and well. Consider yourself warned. Now let's get Stephen King working on a screenplay for Madden 2013, starring ... Cam Newton? Boy, I hope not. I was planning on taking him in the first round.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Jesse Pantuosco at jpantuosco@sportsnetwork.com.

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