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TGIF: Troy Polamalu and the Madden Curse

Madden NFL 2010

Yes, we are bringing this back from the dead for another look. A few months ago, I expressed my concern for Arizona WR Larry Fitzgerald and his appearance on the cover of the latest Madden video game. As it turns out, the tradition of a player appearing on the cover and then suffering adverse consequences is still going strong. However, I picked the wrong guy! Instead, it is Pittsburgh safety Troy Polamalu who has been stricken with this year’s curse.

Leave it to the gods who control the Madden Curse to throw me a curveball. This isn’t the first year that a defensive player has appeared on the cover. Ravens LB Ray Lewis graced the cover of Madden NFL 2005 and he ended up falling victim to this video game plague.

Looking back on what I wrote, I appear to have underestimated the power that this curse has. I chose to forget about Polamalu and just focus on Fitzgerald, the offensive player on the cover.

“Most fantasy leagues don’t have IDP’s (individual defensive players), so Polamalu is not a heavy focus in the fantasy world.”

While Fitzgerald is having another good season (826 yds, 9 TD), Polamalu has been battling numerous injuries which has caused him to miss six games in addition to leaving several others with injury.

Who Cares if Polamalu is on the Cover? It Has No Effect on Fantasy Football


While Polamalu himself really doesn’t have a direct effect on your team (IDP leagues), his contributions to the Steelers’ defense are essential to Pittsburgh’s success.

Coming into this season, the Steelers defense was one of the top squads for fantasy football. They would have been one of the first off the boards. This season, they are still putting forth the best rush defense (74.9 yds) and they don’t exactly have the worst pass defense (213.5). If you consider the fact that over the past two seasons, the Steelers averaged less than 180 pass yds per game, the 213.5 yds looks substantial.

Am I nitpicking? Maybe, but I am not done yet.

The Psychological Effect

With a defense as tough as Pittsburgh’s, you would have ordinarily been hesitant to start a QB against the Steelers. If your team had a middle-of-the-road QB like Kyle Orton or David Garrard, then you easily would have benched them when they were up against the Steelers.

This season is different. With Polamlau on the field, he gives off a presence that makes opposing QB’s crap in their pants. It’s the “Oh S**t, Polamalu is out there today” feeling. Fortunately for most QB’s this season, that feeling has come far and few between. Polamalu has missed six games this season and in those games, the Steelers are 2-4. When Polamalu is playing, the Steelers are 4-1.

What the hell does this have to do with fantasy football? Glad you asked. The big difference is that with Polamalu, the Steelers give up an average of 220 pass yds per game and have allowed only two passing TD. This includes handing the Vikings their only loss of the season.

On the other hand, when Polamalu is not playing, the Steelers allow 249 pass yds per game and have allowed a whopping 10 passing TD. This includes losses to Chicago and Kansas City.

What Does This Tell Us?

Under normal circumstances, you wouldn’t start a QB against the Steelers defense. However, when you know that Troy Polamalu won’t be playing, you throw in whatever QB you want to against them. Would you have started Matt Cassel against Pittsburgh in Week 11 if you knew Polamlau would be out there? No way! If you did start Cassel against a Polamalu-less Steelers, then you were rewarded with 248 yds and 2 TD.

In Conclusion

The Madden Curse is a tricky thing. Usually when a player is on the cover, he suffers a major injury. This year was only the second time in the history of Madden Football that a defensive player was on the cover.

Troy Polamalu may not have destroyed your team in IDP leagues, but his injuries sure have taken their toll on Pittsburgh’s defense.

In the past you would have been afraid to start a QB against Pittsburgh, but when their top safety is sitting on the sidelines, you can almost guarantee that your QB is going to put up a lot of yds and will find the endzone at least once.

Polamalu’s curse has had a different effect this season, it may not have been as direct as past years, but the consequences that his injury has bestowed upon the Steelers can most definitely be felt in the fantasy football world.


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3 comments for “TGIF: Troy Polamalu and the Madden Curse”

  1. For the sake of all keeper leagues out there I hope Madden chooses to not go with Chris Johnson for 2011’s cover.

    Posted by George | December 4, 2009, 5:21 pm
  2. They might as well have put Matt Forte on the cover this year.

    Posted by Pete | December 5, 2009, 12:35 pm
  3. No Polamalu in Week 13 against Oakland. The result?

    Raiders win 27-24 and Bruce Gradkowski throws for 308 yds and 3 TD.

    Start ANY QB against Pittsburgh!!!!

    Posted by Pete | December 6, 2009, 9:53 pm

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