Over the past decade EA sport's Madden has become by far the most popular football video game. The game originally had John Madden on the cover each year. Starting in 2000 they decided to put NFL stars on the cover. After a couple years of doing this observers came up with the theory call the "Madden Curse". This theory claims that whoever appears on the cover will have a decline in performance, typically due to injury, the following year. A more in depth explanation and history can be found here.
Some year it appears as if the curse was real. For example in 2004 Michael Vick was put on the cover. That year Vick broke his Fibula in a preseason game, one day after the game was released. Ray Lewis was put on the cover in 2005 and that was the only year of his career so far he was not voted into the pro-bowl! These findings have not been consistent or replicable. For example Larry Fitzgerald appeared on the 2009 cover and had a career season and led his team to the playoffs the following year.
Some of the examples are quite spooky although. After appearing on the 2003 cover Marshal Faulk experienced career low numbers and was never quite the same. But could there be an alternative explanation? Have observers ruled out rival hypotheses? During the year Faulk was on the cover he was 32. This is considered old in the NFL and could explain his decline in performance. Another explanation for apparent decline in numbers could lie in the Madden cover decision process. Players who appear on the cover are often chosen as they had a stellar year the previous season. They typically chose a player who was the MVP or won the super bowl. An alternative factor could be that it is incredibly difficult to repeat such a stellar performance back to back seasons in the NFL.
While I do not believe in the "Madden Curse" it is quite eerie. I was rather upset when Aaron Rodgers was completely y snubbed by not getting on the cover, but who knows, the Pack are 4-0 and the Browns are 2-2. Call me superstitious but maybe it's a good thing!