Peyton Hillis was celebrated after the fans chose him to be on the cover of the 2012 edition of Madden. At the time, he deserved it. He had just run for 1,177 yards with 4.4 yards per carry and 11 touchdowns. That was before he graced the cover of Madden. This year (after 8 weeks and only 4 starts), Hillis has run for 211 yards with 3.5 yards per carry and 2 touchdowns. He represents the latest example of the so-called "Madden Curse."
I decided to take a look at all the running backs, quarterbacks, and wide receivers who have been on the cover dating back to the first non-John Madden cover in 2001 (Eddie George). I compared each players' performance in yards per game before, during, and after they were on the cover. The results are exactly what a believer of the curse would expect. Players are awesome before they are on the cover, and then they start doing worse after they are on the cover.
Is this merely bad luck? It can't be--this has happened to too many players. However, the likely explanation is that Madden picks players who have been performing well above average, at a level that is hard to replicate year after year. Players probably do worse on average after they have been on the cover because it is hard to get any better, but easy to get worse.
But, as for the injury bug that seems to bite Madden cover players, that is much harder to explain. We have to remember that injuries are quite common in the NFL, and out of a group of just a few players, it isn't that strange to have a rate that is a bit higher compared to the rest of the league, especially since these players are the best of the best and have a target on their back.
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