James Bisson examines the results of a Sportsbook Review survey in which we asked respondents: Which NFL franchise is the most cursed?
You know you're on the football gods' bad side when you conduct a survey on which NFL franchise you consider to be the most cursed – and just days after it closes, you lose your star running back to a season-ending (and potentially career-threatening) leg injury.
Such is life as a Cleveland Browns fan, a largely dreary existence in which even the slightest glimmer of hope and optimism is quickly vacuumed up and shot into space thanks to some calamitous event. And yet, the Browns aren't even the most cursed team in the NFL – at least, not according to the 3,000 participants in our survey (which ran from Sept. 12-14).
What are the most cursed NFL teams?
New York Jets (20.3%)
It would have been interesting to see if fans were still as pessimistic about their team had we conducted this survey before the J-E-T-S lost starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers to a season-ending torn Achilles just four plays into the New York phase of his career.
Alas, once that happened, there could be zero doubt: A franchise wrought with catastrophic injuries and chronic under-performance, particularly among its quarterbacks, was destined to finish on top of this list. And the Rodgers injury is the latest in a long, long history of ineptitude and misfortune for a Jets team that has seen its Super Bowl odds rise like a rocket ship.
That all said, it's important to note that, while recency bias certainly played a role in the results, respondents who chose the Jets didn't limit their reasoning to the Rodgers injury. Poor draft results came up frequently in the responses, as did a lack of confidence in ownership to make good personnel decisions. Oh, and not winning a Super Bowl since 1968 hasn't helped.
And at the end of the day, you really have to be a Jets fan to truly understand the extent of the anguish these poor people feel on a yearly basis. As one fan so succinctly summed up when asked why the Jets are the NFL's most cursed team: "Because it's the Jets."
Cleveland Browns (17.6%)
The Browns will see the Jets' loss of Rodgers and raise them – and the rest of the NFL's fan fraternity – a gruesome injury to starting running back Nick Chubb. And in the most Cleveland thing ever, Chubb's injury occurred after this survey had already been completed.
In other words, you can put the recency bias claims to bed on this one. Browns fans felt the sting of bitterness and disappointment long before Chubb was helped off the field Monday night.
The main reason for feeling cursed, according to the feedback from our survey: The Browns never win. That's not necessarily true; the Browns franchise(s) have four NFL titles, though the fact that I'm calling them "NFL titles" and not "Super Bowl titles" should tell you that it's been a minute since they won them.
But for the most part, these Browns don't win. The team has made just two playoff appearances since 1994, and a stretch in which it went 4-44 from 2015-17 is quite possibly the worst three-year span in the history of North American professional sports. That's some curse.
Detroit Lions (12.3%)
The Lions come in third on the "most cursed" list, and are the only other team in double digits.
Perennial losing was a popular theme throughout these responses, as well (has it really been 66 years since they've won an NFL title?) but we have something a little juicier happening in the Motor City, as well. Allow me to present a one-paragraph summary of the Curse of Bobby Layne.
After helping lead the Lions to the 1957 title, Layne was shockingly dealt to Pittsburgh; the move angered him so much that he allegedly said Detroit wouldn't win another title for 50 years. The story is pure hearsay, but you'll have a very hard time convincing some fans it didn't happen.
The Buffalo Bills came in fourth in the Sportsbook Review survey, with 8.6% of respondents nominating the only team in NFL history to lose four consecutive Super Bowls. And the Dallas Cowboys – who won two of those Super Bowls but haven't lifted the Lombardi Trophy since 1995 – came in fifth, though you won't find many fans outside Dallas weeping for this team.
Which fan bases feel their teams are the most cursed?
This question is slightly different than the first, as it homes in on which fan bases themselves are feeling particularly cursed. It's one thing for fans around the league to think you're snakebitten – it's another when the majority of that bad juju is felt by the locals.
You won't find many surprises here, though it's noteworthy that the Vikings make their first appearance in this survey. And this makes sense: a lot of NFL fans might not remember, but Minnesota was the Bills before the Bills were the Bills, losing three Super Bowls in a four-year span in the mid-1970s and failing to make it back at any point since.
Here's a breakdown of how each fan base rated its favorite team on the curse-o-meter:
- Eight fan bases ranked their own team as the most cursed (Falcons, Bills, Bears, Browns, Lions, Chargers, Vikings, Jets)
- Six additional fan bases had their team ranked in the top three (Cowboys, Broncos, Jaguars, Saints, Titans, Commanders)
- Five fan bases didn't rank their favorite team at all (Buccaneers, Giants, Dolphins, Chiefs, Panthers)
What are the least cursed NFL teams?
They're the charmed. The lucky ones. In the eyes of the football dieties, they can do no wrong. And NFL fans recognize blessed franchises when they see them.
Here's a look at the least cursed teams based on our survey responses:
Los Angeles Rams (0.2%)
We can apply some simple logic to the Rams ranking at the very bottom of this list. First and foremost, this is a relatively new fan base – so there really hasn't been enough suffering (paltry home crowd jokes aside) for anyone associated with the Rams to consider the team cursed.
There's also the fact that the Rams just won the Super Bowl less than two years ago – and if we've learned anything from the first half of this feature, it's that winning fixes a lot.
Seattle Seahawks (0.3%)
Seattle sports fans could certainly be excused for feeling like there's a bit of an overall sports curse on the city, between the loss of the beloved SuperSonics and the Mariners' franchise-long World Series title drought.
But when it comes to the Seahawks, NFL fans on the whole are unaffected, with fewer than half of one percent of all survey respondents choosing Seattle. And the self-proclaimed "12th Man" is also feeling generally un-cursed, with only 4.3 percent of the team's own fans feeling like their team is the most snakebitten of all. (Though I'd like to meet the 2.2% of Seahawks fans who picked the Patriots as the most cursed. Have we forgotten about Super Bowl 49 already?)
Indianapolis Colts (0.3%)
The Colts haven't been great for a while, but they were good enough recently enough to fend off any thoughts of being cursed.
This is a team that won nine division titles in a 12-year span from 2003-14, prevailed at Super Bowl XLI in 2007 and has been blessed with generational quarterback talents in Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck, so in relative terms, Indy fans have had it really good. And they appear to know it – as do fans from the other 31 teams.
The defending-champion Kansas City Chiefs round out the top four at 0.4%, and this is probably even less surprising than seeing the Jets and Browns at the top of this survey.
Do fans believe in the Madden Curse?
We couldn't do a survey on the NFL and curses without mentioning the most famous one of all: the Madden Curse. In the most basic terms, this refers to the phenomenon of players appearing on the cover of the Madden video game series, then subsequently slumping or getting hurt.
The players involved in the discussion have overwhelmingly rejected all talk of the Madden Curse – and it appears the majority of NFL fans have, as well. Nearly three quarters of our survey participants aren't believers – which is kind of a relief since, you know, the curse isn't real.
Still, the 27 percent who believe were a vocal bunch in the comments section, with many citing the fact that several players featured on the cover of Madden did indeed go on to get hurt or play poorly. But let's be honest – that probably would have happened even had they not been featured on the front of a video game.
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