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Foiled again by the Madden game cover curse

I tried to remain a non-believer.

During the summer, I had people in my ear who were totally convinced of the "Madden Cover Jinx."

All during my draft preparation, I had hoped that when the time came, I'd be able to snag the Tennessee Titans' Vince Young, who is on the Madden 2008 cover, as quarterback for my fantasy team. I drafted 11th in a 14-team league and was quite happy to come away with running back Willie Parker of the Pittsburgh Steelers, who had spearheaded my 10-3 season of 2006.

When it got back to me in the second round, I thought long and hard about taking Young with pick No. 18. Indianapolis' Peyton Manning, New Orleans' Drew Brees and Dallas' Tony Romo were already off the board and 20 selections would be made until my turn came around in the third round.

I figured New England's Tom Brady, Cincinnati's Carson Palmer and Philadelphia's Donovan McNabb would probably be the next quarterbacks selected.

Since each team must start at least two running backs and because our league is so large, running backs are always stocked up on early. So I grabbed Chicago's Cedric Benson (ouch, but that's a story for another column) and kept my fingers and toes crossed concerning Young.

Indeed, Brady went, so did St. Louis' Marc Bulger. But the run on QBs I feared never materialized in the third round and I snagged Young at No. 39, convinced I'd set myself up nicely. Instead, he didn't throw a touchdown pass between Sept. 24 and Nov. 11.

Well, I guess I'd better play more video games. I knew that Seattle's Shaun Alexander was the cover boy on Madden 2007 and suffered a broken foot after gaining just 187 yards in the first three games of 2006.

And yes, McNabb's 2005 season was cut nearly in half because of a sports hernia. In 2003, Atlanta's Michael Vick broke his leg five days after Madden 2004 was released. True, Marshall Faulk rushed for 5,441 yards and scored 114 total touchdowns from 1998 through 2001, was the cover boy for the 2003 game, and never got to 1,000 yards in a season again.

"Curse or no curse, everybody, and I mean everybody, wants to be on that cover," Alexander told the Seattle Times after his injury last year. "I don't know one person who would say no."

All I know is that next summer, however tempted, I'm staying away from the Madden 2009 cover boy.

> Sorting the Bills

The Bills have won four of their last five games against the Jacksonville Jaguars, including both previous meetings at Municipal Stadium.

Rian Lindell's 42-yard field goal as time expired gave the Bills a 27-24 victory over the Jags last season at Ralph Wilson Stadium, a game that featured an 82-yard punt return for a touchdown by Buffalo's Roscoe Parrish.

The Jags had no trouble running against the Bills that day as Fred Taylor gained 101 yards on 22 carries and Maurice Jones-Drew added 78 yards and a score on eight attempts. Taylor has 233 rushing yards in three career games against Buffalo but has never scored against the Bills.

Bills quarterback J.P. Losman was 21 of 28 for 169 yards with an interception against the Jags last season. Receiver Lee Evans has seven catches for 70 yards, but no scores, in two games against Jacksonville.

> Since you asked

Q: Our league has some strange "keeper" rules. Basically my choice comes down to this: I can keep (St. Louis running back) Steven Jackson for one more year or (New England running back) Laurence Maroney for three more years, but I have to declare by the end of the regular season. Which way should I go?

A: I don't see a rapid improvement in store for the Rams, which means they'll be behind a lot again in 2008, minimizing Jackson's value as a franchise back. Maroney missed three games with a groin injury and has been slow rounding back into form. But in the three games before he got hurt, he averaged 84 yards on 18 carries. I like Maroney for the long haul.

> Week 11 eye-popper

When the New York Jets' Thomas Jones carried 30 times for 117 yards in a 19-16 overtime win over Pittsburgh, he became the first to eclipse 100 yards against the Steelers in 35 games.


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