Hillis next to be Madden cursed?

Do you avoid walking under ladders? Cringe when a black cat crosses your path? Expect seven years of bad luck after breaking a mirror? Well, if you also play fantasy football, you should be avoiding Peyton Hillis next season.

The bruising Browns running back defeated Michael Vick to become the cover athlete for the latest version of the popular video game. Unfortunately, almost every player who appears on the cover has suffered either a serious injury or a decrease in their level of production between the white lines.

It’s known universally as the Madden curse.

Vick is no stranger to this hex — he was on the cover of “Madden NFL 2004,” sustained a broken right fibula in a preseason game and was forced to miss the first 11 regular-season contests. He was able to make five starts down the stretch, but Vick finished with just 585 passing yards, 255 rushing yards and five scores.

When you also consider that players coming off career seasons almost never duplicate that same level of success the following year, well, it’s clear that Hillis will have a tough task ahead for 2011. Despite the long list of players who have been “victimized,” however, Hillis doesn’t seem too concerned about the curse.

“For people to believe in this so-called curse, I can’t wait to prove people wrong,” Hillis said in an ESPN.com chat before the winner was announced. “From what I believe and where I am in my spiritual life, it would be good to prove them wrong in that sense.”

I’m not saying that I would pass on Hillis under the right circumstances (I’m not that superstitious), but fantasy owners do need to temper their expectations for the Browns running back in 2011. You might also want to move his backup, Montario Hardesty, up a few spots on your running back rankings.

OK, maybe I am that superstitious…

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