Just like with pressure gauges, spy cameras, and 25-point third quarter leads, the New England Patriots give zero f#cks when it comes to the ominous Madden “Betting” curse.
Star quarterback Tom Brady is the latest NFLer to be featured on the cover of the popular football video game franchise, announced as the face of Madden 18 Friday morning. Brady is the second straight Patriots player to be named cover athlete, following New England tight end Rob Gronkowski, who graced the front of Madden 17 and bucked an unnerving betting trend that befell many of the Madden cover athletes before him.
Before Gronk spiked his way onto the cover of Madden 17, teams with players featured on the front of the football sim were a collective 115-150-7 ATS – covering the spread just 43 percent of the time – over the past 16 years (136-136 SU).
The 2016-17 Patriots crushed the betting curse with a 13-3 ATS record in the regular season (14-2 SU), then rolled through the playoffs with a 3-0 SU and ATS mark, including their legendary victory versus the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI – coming back from a 28-3 hole in the second half to force overtime and win 34-28 as 3-point favorites.
Now, you could say that the other “Madden Curse” held up in 2016 – the one in which the cover athlete falls victim to injury or a down year. Gronkowski played in only eight games in 2016 after suffering through hamstring issues, a punctured lung, and a herniated disk which eventually did him in for the season in Week 12. But New England didn’t skip a beat, and was a perfect 8-0 ATS in those games without Gronkowski – 11-0 ATS if you include the playoffs.
The Madden “Betting” curse is definitely losing some steam in recent seasons. Madden 16 cover man, receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and his New York Giants struggled to a 6-10 SU record but did managed to go 8-7-1 ATS.
If Brady & Co. are to flip the script on the curse once again, they’ll have their work cut out for them. New England is a betting favorite in every game from Week 1 to Week 16 this season, according to early odds from CG Technology sportsbooks in Las Vegas. The Patriots face an average spread of -6.6, with notable games at Denver in Week 10 (-3), versus Oakland in Mexico City in Week 11 (-1.5), and at Pittsburgh in Week 15 (-1.5).
Since 2001, EA Sports has gone with a star player on the cover of its popular football video game – instead of Hall of Fame coach and the game’s namesake John Madden (Yes, yes we know some players were included along with Madden in earlier versions).
The Madden “Betting” curse was especially tough on the first four solo players (and their teams) to grace the video game cover, with Eddie George (Tennessee), Daunte Culpepper (Minnesota), Marshall Faulk (St. Louis) and Michael Vick (Atlanta) totaling a 23-40-1 ATS record (30-34 SU) from 2000-01 to 2003-04. The Titans were the only team of those four to make the postseason and failed to cover in that single playoff game in 2001. Before Gronkowski in 2016, only six players featured on the Madden cover have led their team to the postseason that same season, going a collective 3-7 ATS in their playoff matchups.
Ray Lewis snapped the four-year ATS funk for Madden cover stars when Baltimore finished 9-7 ATS in 2004-05. The former Ravens linebacker is one of just five Madden cover players whose teams finished above .500 against the spread the season their Madden cover was released. Larry Fitzgerald and Arizona went 9-7 ATS the season he shared the Madden cover with Pittsburgh’s Troy Polamalu (5-10-1 ATS), Richard Sherman and Seattle closed the regular season with a 9-6-1 ATS record following the cornerback being voted on to the Madden 15 cover, and Beckham helped New York just squeak into the black at the book in 2015.
Now, there are some different ways to calculate the Madden “Betting” curse due to a few “quirks” in the Madden cover calculations, but they don’t really make much of a difference when it comes to the betting impact of the curse:
First, a retired Brett Favre was featured on the Madden 2009 cover before the 2008-09 NFL season, with EA Sports thinking the Green Bay Packers’ gunslinger had hung up his Wranglers. As we painfully now know, Favre was far from done and joined the New York Jets that season, finishing 7-9 ATS. His former team, the Packers didn’t do much better with an 8-8 ATS mark in Aaron Rodgers' first year as the No. 1 QB.
The second is the Madden 25 – or 25th Anniversary cover – which allowed fans to vote for players past and present to be featured on the front of the box. Detroit Hall of Fame running back Barry Sanders won, and the Lions – even though Sanders was long retired – finished 6-10 ATS in 2013-14 (the record we used for 2013-14). However, a second Madden 25 cover was released along with the next-generation gaming consoles, Xbox One and PlayStation 4, in November 2013. That one featured Minnesota RB Adrian Peterson, and the Vikings finished the year 9-7 ATS.
The Madden "Betting" Curse hasn't impacted the ATS fortunes of all of the cover athletes. Along with Gronkowski and the 2016 Patriots, the best ATS record in that 17-season span was Sherman and the Seahawks finished 9-6-1 ATS (12-4 SU) in 2014. The worst outbreak of the Madden "Betting" curse was Faulk and the 2002-03 Rams, who finished 4-12 ATS (7-9 SU).
Brady and the Patriots have a season win total of 11.5 victories and are +350 favorites to win Super Bowl LII at SportsInteraction.com and +175 to win the AFC Championship.
Editor's note: Story contains stats and info from a previous article published in 2015.