The two teams from last year's Superbowl are about to have terrible seasons.
Trust me on this.
Last year, in my early-summer NFL predictions post, I said:
With McNabb on the cover of Madden 2006, the Giants have the best shot at the East[.]
Lo and behold, I was right: the Giants did win the East, and the Eagles didn't even make the playoffs. And all because of Madden 2006.
Sure, you may say it's a spurious connection at best, that a combination of factors led to the ultimate demise of the 2005/6 Eagles, but you can't deny there's precedent here.
Barry Sanders, Dorsey Levens, Eddie George, Daunte Culpepper, Marshall Faulk, Michael Vick, Ray Lewis, and Donovan McNabb. All of them had bad years after they appeared on the cover of Madden. Some of them saw it as the beginning of the end of their careers. Some of them bounced back. Here's hoping that this year's Madden Cover Star bounces back in 2007/8.
It's been so long since the Seahawks had a truly outstanding season that last year made the fans finally believe they turned the corner. And then Shaun Alexander signed the contract to get on the cover of Madden 2007. I'm sorry, Seattle, but this drops all your players off my fantasy chart, and also raises the stock of the Cardinals even more as legitimate contenders for the NFC West title. It's funny that I learned of Alexander's appearance today, since yesterday I said the Seahawks had the best chance out of all 2005/6 NFC division winners to repeat. Technically, they still do, but the Madden Curse is an intangible. You can't guarantee it, but you can pretty much depend on something bad happening to either the player or the team.
If I was Mike Holmgren, I'd seriously consider signing a good backup RB -- which isn't to say Maurice Morris isn't good, but he's not an every-down back, not like Shaun Alexander.
Now, the Madden Curse is the most visible of all the football curses, but there's another one that will take the Steelers down a peg and virtually guarantee that they don't win their division this year (and probably not get past the first round of the playoffs): the Chunky Soup Curse. Terrell Davis, Kurt Warner, Donovan McNabb, Brian Westbrook, LJ Smith... they were all in Chunky commercials, the latter two showing up more prominently last season along with (I believe, though I'm not sure) Brian Dawkins after McNabb went down. While Smith and Dawkins continued to play up to their normal levels, Westbrook was injured and replaced for the rest of the season by Ryan Moats and some other backups. Perhaps the curse only affects offensive players. Maybe it only hit the huge names on the Eagles offense. I don't know.
But I do know this: Ben Roethlisberger is filming a Chunky Soup commercial. So is Matt Hasselbeck, actually, but with the Madden Curse, I don't know that the Chunky Soup Curse can do that much more damage to the Seahawks. Big Ben, you're a great QB and you'll only continue to improve. But 2006/7 is going to be your off-year. Count on it.
Interestingly, earlier today (and I can't find the link to save my life) I read a piece on how Seneca Wallace, Seattle's backup QB, is becoming more of a "slash" player (QB, WR, PR). However, as the Seahawks have no other veteran backups, they may wish to keep Wallace on the bench a little more, just in case Hasselbeck goes down. With the Chunky Soup Curse on the horizon, that sounds like a pretty good idea.
Oh, and just in case you're thinking "well, Roethlisberger's good enough to overcome the Chunky Soup Curse", there's something else to screw up the Steelers: Bill Cowher is on the cover of the first-ever edition of NFL Head Coach.
Both Superbowl-winning teams are in for a double-whammy this year. Chunky Soup + Video Games != crazy delicious.
I keep wondering when Tom Brady's agent will finally put him on Madden. I wish it had been this year; it would virtually guarantee the Dolphins a playoff berth, as they're the second-best team in the AFC East right now.
But Brady's agent knows that signing up your client for certain endorsements is like putting the sword of Damocles over his head. It's not a matter of if the Madden or Chunky Soup curses will set in.
Josh Cohen's main site is called Multiple Mentality.