We're just halfway through the 2011 NFL season, but it's safe to say that Cleveland Browns running back Peyton Hillis was unable to escape the annual curse of appearing on the Madden video game cover.
Until 1999, John Madden appeared on every cover of his popular video game. But Electronic Arts switched to featuring a star player and ever since, that player has seemed doomed to fail the following season.
In 2001, Eddie George appeared on the cover. That season, he averaged just 3.0 yards per carry and reached the end zone five times (down from 14 the year before).
It was Daunte Culpepper in 2002, who then threw a career-high 23 interceptions en route to leading the Vikings to a 5-11 record.
Michael Vick broke his fibula and missed 11 games when he appeared on the 2004 cover, as the Falcons went 5-11. And Donovan McNabb tore an ACL against the Titans in 2006 and missed six games that year after he was the Madden cover boy.
Similar stories for Shaun Alexander in 2007, Brett Favre in 2009 and Troy Polamalu in 2010. At this point, some tinfoil-wearing fans suspect players are turning down the offer just to escape the "curse."
Not Cleveland Browns running back Peyton Hillis. After a 2010 campaign in which Hillis tallied nearly 1,700 all-purpose yards and 13 total touchdowns, the Browns rusher earned the people's vote, beating out Vick for the cover.
And while Vick has seen his share of struggles this year, it's Hillis who has gotten hit the worst. Like many former Madden models, Hillis has struggled with injury this season. He's missed three of his team's seven games due to a strained hamstring. But even when he's been healthy, the 25-year old rusher's yards per carry are way down from last season.
He doesn't even lead the team in rushing. But back in May, he joked about the superstition.
"I don't even believe in curses. It's really sad how many people believe in curses. This is football; everyone gets hurt. If you run the ball 40 times a game, you're going to get banged around and get nicks and bruises here and there, but I don't pay too much attention to that," he told ESPN.
Maybe he should believe in curses. After all, the odds are in his favor. As for me? I'd like to see a three-man cover between Vick, New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning and Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo on the cover of every copy of Madden for the next five seasons. Make it happen, EA.