Super Bowl curse

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The Super Bowl curse or Super Bowl hangover is a phrase that refers to one of three phenomena that may occur in the National Football League (NFL). First, that host teams rarely qualify for the Super Bowl during the year their city will host. Second, that teams rarely win consecutive Super Bowls. Third, that a participating team will follow their Super Bowl appearance with sub-par seasons. These interpretations of the Super Bowl curse are not mutually exclusive.

The term has been used since at least 1992, when The Washington Post used the term in print.[1] Former NFL General Manager Charley Casserly attributed the curse to such factors as "a shorter offseason, contract problems, [and] more demand for your players' time".[2] Casserly also noted that "once the season starts, you become the biggest game on everybody's schedule," suggesting that pressure from fans and spectators may also affect a team's performance.[2]

The Home Field Advantage Curse[edit]

The home field curse affects the host team of the Super Bowl. So far no team has yet managed to reach the Super Bowl in their home stadium. Four teams with Super Bowls in their home venue have qualified for the divisional playoffs: the 1994 Miami Dolphins, the 1998 Miami Dolphins, the 2016 Houston Texans, and the 2017 Minnesota Vikings, the Vikings being the first to qualify for their conference's title game. From 1966–2011 (excluding the six Super Bowl games held in a stadium without a professional team), the Super Bowl host team has had 11 winning seasons, four split seasons, and 25 losing seasons. Mathematically, the probability of that many losing seasons or more occurring by chance (assuming a 50 percent chance of having a losing season (disregarding .500 seasons)) is 7.69 percent. It should be noted, however, that the Super Bowl host stadium is selected several years before the game is played, without regard to the teams that qualify.

Only two NFL teams have reached the Super Bowl hosted in their home region: the San Francisco 49ers, who played Super Bowl XIX in Stanford Stadium, rather than Candlestick Park, and the Los Angeles Rams, who played Super Bowl XIV in the Rose Bowl, rather than the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Besides Stanford Stadium and the Rose Bowl, the only other Super Bowl venue that was not the home stadium to an NFL team at the time was Rice Stadium in Houston: the Houston Oilers had played there previously, but moved to the Astrodome several years prior to Super Bowl VIII. The Miami Orange Bowl was the only AFL stadium to host a Super Bowl and the only stadium to host consecutive Super Bowls, hosting Super Bowl II and III. MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, which hosted Super Bowl XLVIII, is the home stadium of two NFL teams: the New York Giants and the New York Jets.

This list of examples is not exhaustive; no team has ever qualified for the Super Bowl played in their home stadium.

Team Host Field Season Season Record
Houston Oilers Rice Stadium, Houston, Texas 1973 (Super Bowl VIII) 1–13
Miami Dolphins Joe Robbie Stadium, Miami, Florida 1994 (Super Bowl XXIX) 10–6
Miami Dolphins Joe Robbie Stadium, Miami, Florida 1998 (Super Bowl XXXIII) 10–6
Atlanta Falcons Georgia Dome, Atlanta, Georgia 1999 (Super Bowl XXXIV) 5–11
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Florida 2000 (Super Bowl XXXV) 10–6
Indianapolis Colts Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, Indiana 2011 (Super Bowl XLVI) 2–14
New Orleans Saints Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, Louisiana 2012 (Super Bowl XLVII) 7–9
New York Jets MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, New Jersey 2013 (Super Bowl XLVIII) 8–8
New York Giants MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, New Jersey 2013 (Super Bowl XLVIII) 7–9
Arizona Cardinals University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Arizona 2014 (Super Bowl XLIX) 11–5
San Francisco 49ers Levi's Stadium, Santa Clara, California 2015 (Super Bowl 50) 5–11
Houston Texans NRG Stadium, Houston, Texas 2016 (Super Bowl LI) 9–7
Minnesota Vikings U.S. Bank Stadium, Minneapolis, Minnesota 2017 (Super Bowl LII) 13–3

The Non-Repeat Curse[edit]

Since 1993, few winning teams have followed up their Super Bowl appearances with a second Super Bowl appearance, or even advanced to a conference title game in the subsequent season (the 1994 Dallas Cowboys qualified for their conference title but did not qualify for the Super Bowl). Only seven teams have won back-to-back Super Bowl championships, and only one of these seven have made more than two consecutive winning appearances in the Super Bowl. The only franchise to reach more than three straight title games was the Buffalo Bills who lost four Super Bowls in a row from 1990–93.

Since 2005, no incumbent holder has managed to successfully defend their title. Between 2006 and 2013, every defending Super Bowl champion would conclude the following season either losing their opening playoff game or failing to qualify for the playoffs.

This list of examples includes every team that has ever had back-to-back appearances at the Super Bowl.

Team First Super Bowl Appearance Score Second Super Bowl Appearance Score Third Super Bowl Appearance Score Fourth Super Bowl Appearance Score
Dallas Cowboys 1970 (Super Bowl V) 13–16 1971 (Super Bowl VI) 24–3
Miami Dolphins 1971 (Super Bowl VI) 3–24 1972 (Super Bowl VII) 14–7 1973 (Super Bowl VIII) 24–7
Pittsburgh Steelers 1974 (Super Bowl IX) 16–6 1975 (Super Bowl X) 21–17
Pittsburgh Steelers 1978 (Super Bowl XIII) 35–31 1979 (Super Bowl XIV) 31–19
San Francisco 49ers 1988 (Super Bowl XXIII) 20–16 1989 (Super Bowl XXIV) 55–10
Buffalo Bills 1990 (Super Bowl XXV) 19–20 1991 (Super Bowl XXVI) 24–37 1992 (Super Bowl XXVII) 17–52 1993 (Super Bowl XXVIII) 13–30
Dallas Cowboys 1992 (Super Bowl XXVII) 52–17 1993 (Super Bowl XXVIII) 30–13
Green Bay Packers 1996 (Super Bowl XXXI) 35–21 1997 (Super Bowl XXXII) 24–31
Denver Broncos 1997 (Super Bowl XXXII) 31–24 1998 (Super Bowl XXXIII) 34–19
New England Patriots 2003 (Super Bowl XXXVIII) 32–29 2004 (Super Bowl XXXIX) 24–21
Seattle Seahawks 2013 (Super Bowl XLVIII) 43–8 2014 (Super Bowl XLIX) 24–28
New England Patriots 2016 (Super Bowl LI) 34–28 (OT) 2017 (Super Bowl LII) 33–41

The Losers' Curse[edit]

Although many teams experience this phenomenon, it is certainly not the rule. There are many speculations made about potential causal factors for this trend, including the team having a shorter offseason due to their extended postseason play, difficulty settling contracts, more pressure on the players, and an increase in visibility, which could contribute to nervous playing.[2]

One piece of the Super Bowl curse asserts the team that loses the Super Bowl will go into losing seasons overall. The trend was especially evident during the early 2000s.[3]

This list of examples is not exhaustive.

Team Super Bowl Season Season Record Super Bowl Score Season Record
Cincinnati Bengals 1988 (Super Bowl XXIII) 12–4 16–20 1989 8–8
Denver Broncos 1989 (Super Bowl XXIV) 11–5 10–55 1990 5–11
Buffalo Bills 1993 (Super Bowl XXVIII) 12–4 13–30 1994 7–9
Atlanta Falcons 1998 (Super Bowl XXXIII) 14–2 19–34 1999 5–11
New York Giants 2000 (Super Bowl XXXV) 12–4 7–34 2001 7–9
St. Louis Rams 2001 (Super Bowl XXXVI) 14–2 17–20 2002 7–9
Oakland Raiders 2002 (Super Bowl XXXVII) 11–5 21–48 2003 4–12
Carolina Panthers 2003 (Super Bowl XXXVIII) 11–5 29–32 2004 7–9
Philadelphia Eagles 2004 (Super Bowl XXXIX) 13–3 21–24 2005 6–10
Chicago Bears 2006 (Super Bowl XLI) 13–3 17–29 2007 7–9
Carolina Panthers 2015 (Super Bowl 50) 15–1 10–24 2016 6–10

Further reading[edit]

  • "Credit Belichick for beating Super Bowl curse". The Sacramento Bee. October 25, 2006. pp. C3.
  • Freeman, Mike (December 12, 1991). "Fans cry: Off with Giants' Head (Coach)!". The Washington Post.
  • Green Jr., Ron (November 5, 2004). "Lost-the-Super-Bowl blues afflict Panthers, Raiders". The Charlotte Observer. pp. 2C.
  • "Less and more than rumored Miami and the Super Bowl curse". Sarasota Herald Tribune. January 30, 1999.
  • Penner, Mike (August 27, 2006). "Curses are reality to fantasy leaguers". Los Angeles Times. pp. D.2.


  1. ^ Boswell, Thomas (September 21, 1992). "A Curse but not yet a sin". The Washington Post. Retrieved October 22, 2016.
  2. ^ a b c Gruber, Jack (February 6, 2007). "Champions, for now — Super Bowl curse could vex Colts, Bears". USA Today. Retrieved April 19, 2008.
  3. ^ Simpson, Matt (September 17, 2006). "Seattle out to break Super Bowl curse". East Valley Tribune. Retrieved April 19, 2008.

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