1999- Garrison Hearst - After receiving the cover honors, he then helped lead the 49ers to a divisional playoff game, where he broke his ankle. Badly broke his ankle. The break was so severe that Hearst missed two full seasons and was never the same again.
2000- Barry Sanders and Dorsey Levens - Sanders shocked the NFL world and broke the hearts of Lions fans by announcing his sudden retirement just before training camp was scheduled to begin. EA released later versions of the game with Green Bay Packers running back Dorsey Levens replacing Sanders. Midway through the season, Levens injured his knee. The Packers missed the playoffs after appearing in back-to-back Super Bowls. Levens was relegated to reserve status and never started again.
2001- Eddie George - George went on to have a career year that season, shattering his personal bests, and seemingly ending the Madden Curse before it began. George helped lead his team to a return to the playoffs, and right into the divisional finals against the Baltimore Ravens – where he bobbled an easy pass that was intercepted and returned for what would be a game winning touchdown, stunning Titan fans and costing Tennessee a trip to the Super Bowl. The next season, George spent most of the year injured and would never come near his 2000 numbers again.
2002- Dante Culpepper - After being Super Bowl contenders, Vikings went 4-7 before Culpepper received a season ending injury.
2003-Marshall Faulk - After helping the Rams to two Super Bowls in three years, Faulk was plagued with a nagging ankle injury and failed to reach 1,000 yards. The Rams finished 7-9 and missed the playoffs.
2004- Michael Vick - After helping turn around the disappointing Falcons and leading them to their first playoffs in years the season before, things looked good for the pro bowler — right up until the preseason when he broke his leg and played only five games all year.
2005- Ray Lewis - After a career high six interceptions in the previous season, Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis seemed like an easy choice. he perennial pro bowler failed to catch a single interception for the first time in his career, the Ravens went 9-7 and failed to make the playoffs for the first time in four years, and Lewis ended the season on the bench with a torn hamstring.
2006- Donovan McNabb - By the 2004 season, Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb was making his case as being one of the best quarterbacks of his generation. Under his leadership, the Eagles had gone 59-21 and made the playoffs for five straight years, including an NFC championship loss, and a trip to the Super Bowl. In the first game of the season McNabb received a sports hernia – a painful and lingering groin injury that can take months to heal, sometimes requiring surgery. Surgery in the groin. McNabb played eight more games, then further injured it and opted for the surgery that kept him out for the rest of the season.
2007- Shaun Alexander - Coming off of a record setting season, Alexander had led the Seahawks to their best season ever and their first Super Bowl appearance. In week 3 of his Madden-gracing season, Alexander broke his foot and missed six games.
2008- Vince Young - Tomlinson refused and went on to a record-setting year while Tennessee Titans rookie quarterback Young played just five games before hurting his quadriceps. It was the first time in Young’s career (including middle school) that Young had missed a game due to injury. The next year, Young contracted a knee injury that put him out for most of the season.
2009- Brett Favre - Favre was doing well until he tore a bicep and finished the season with just two touchdowns and nine interceptions, costing the Jets a shot at the playoffs.
2010- Larry Fitzgerald and Troy Polamalu - In the season opener Polamalu sprained his MCL and missed four games. He returned for three games before tearing his posterior cruciate ligament and sat out most of the season. Fitzgerald on the other hand had a great year with over 1,000 yards receiving. Right up until the playoffs when a rib injury forced him out of the post-season and the Pro Bowl.
2011- Drew Brees - In the first round of the playoffs, the Saints went up against the Seattle Seahawks and despite the game being played in Seattle, the Saints were 11+ point favorites according to Vegas oddsmakers. And they lost. That might not sound like that big of a deal, and definitely not curse-worthy, but then you have to consider that the Seahawks entered the playoffs as the first team ever to make the playoffs with a losing record. So basically, the Saints — defending Super Bowl champs — were victims of what was arguably the biggest upset ever in the NFL playoffs by losing to the worst playoff team in history.
2012- Peyton Hillis - After an outstanding 2010 campaign with the Cleveland Browns (1100+ yards), Following failed contract negotiations with the Browns’ management that turned ugly and bitter, Hillis endured several injuries throughout the season as both his health and attitude deteriorated. He ended up playing in just 10 games all season.
2013 - Calvin Johnson - Aside from playing a lot of the season with broken fingers, Megatron had arguably the best season for any receiver in the history of the league...except that the previous season the Lions finished with their first winning season and playoff appearance in almost 11 seasons. Even with Megatron's incredible receiving stats, the Lions (who were a playoff contender) finished with a 4-12 record and last in the NFC North.