Super Bowl LVII pits the Kansas City Chiefs against the Philadelphia Eagles in a matchup sure to excite. Here, we present players to look out for and our predictions for the final result, which statisticians say is up in the air.
This year’s edition of America’s favorite sporting event features a host of compelling narratives. We will see, for instance, the two teams with the best regular season records, which last happened in 2013 when the Seattle Seahawks shockingly thrashed the Denver Broncos by a score of 43–8. Sunday’s game figures to almost certainly be closer than that one.
We will also see, for the first time in NFL history, brothers face off in a game sure to be bittersweet for the Kelce family. And some former Eagles players might feel conflicted as to whether they should root for their old team or their old coach: Chiefs head coach Andy Reid began his head coaching career with his 13-year tenure with the Eagles, where he served from 1999 to 2012, dramatically changing the trajectory of the franchise, though never winning a Super Bowl until his time in Kansas City.
Mitch’s Players to Watch
Kansas City Chiefs:
At this point, NFL fans are accustomed to Chiefs’ tight end Travis Kelce’s greatness. But even by Kelce’s own standards, he has had a remarkable year.
Following the 2021-22 season, Kansas City traded wide receiver Tyreek Hill to the Miami Dolphins. The league’s seventh-place finisher in receiving yards, he was Kansas City’s team leader in that category last season. Following the Chiefs’ loss of their primary weapon, fans knew that other weapons in the Patrick Mahomes-led offense would need to step up in order to remain dominant. And Kelce has risen to the occasion.
Despite recording his lowest yards per reception since the 2015-2016 season—and his lowest average depth of target—Kelce achieved his second-most receiving yards and most receiving touchdowns this season thanks to his career-high receptions and targets. Meanwhile, the Chiefs’ offense became even more lethal in spite of lowered expectations post-Hill-trade, sacrificing some of Hill’s explosive playmaking for a sheer increase in Kelce’s volume.
The Chiefs offense is scary because it is so methodical and surgical. This offensive identity starts and ends with Kelce. To stop the Chiefs, the Eagles have to stop Kelce, the most dependable weapon they will face.
In a recent interview, the Eagles’ outside linebacker Haason Reddick said that the league and its pundits have disrespected him as a pass rusher. It’s hard to disagree. A journeyman as of late, Reddick became the first player in NFL history to record double-digit sacks in three consecutive seasons with three different teams: in 2020 with the Cardinals, in 2021 with the Panthers, and this year with the Eagles. Only Nick Bosa, this year’s Defensive Player of the Year, recorded more sacks than Reddick in the regular season.
Despite Reddick’s fantastic regular season, the San Francisco 49ers continued to disrespect Reddick in the NFC Championship, electing to block him one-on-one with non-offensive linemen—tight end Tyler Kroft and wide receiver Jauan Jennings—for some plays. The 49ers paid the price for doing so, as Reddick recorded two sacks and one forced fumble in the first quarter alone. If the Chiefs want to win, they need to make sure Patrick Mahomes is more comfortable than he was during his last Super Bowl appearance, and that requires giving Haason Reddick the respect he clearly warrants.
Jack’s Players to Watch
Kansas City Chiefs:
Look for a massive role for defensive lineman Chris Jones. With Jalen Hurts’s mobility and the strength of Philly’s run game, the interior pressure that he will generate shall prove invaluable for Kansas City’s gameplan.
Jones has been a wrecking ball on the field this season, amassing 15-and-a-half sacks and 30 solo tackles. That dominance was on full display during the Chiefs’ nail-biting win over the Cincinnati Bengals, a game in which Jones sacked Joe Burrow twice.
Making Jalen Hurts uncomfortable and penetrating the Eagles’ offensive line will be crucial if the Chiefs want to win this game, and Jones might be up for the challenge.
In today’s NFL, the quarterback position makes Super Bowl winners, and Philadelphia will need Jalen Hurts to play well if they want a chance to win.
This year, Hurts has phenomenally led the Eagles to the best record in the league and thumped both the Giants and 49ers in the playoffs. But for the first time this postseason, Hurts will compete against an undoubtedly higher-caliber quarterback in Patrick Mahomes. Hurts’ mobility puts immense pressure on defenses, but the Eagles’ victory depends on his ability to throw the ball to elite playmakers like A.J. Brown and Devonta Smith.
If Hurts can connect with his receivers, he will put the Eagles in an excellent position to claim a title for Philadelphia.
It goes without saying that the Jalen Hurts-led Eagles are more unproven than the Chiefs. But, frankly, pundits are overly wrapped up in the narrative that Philadelphia has not “proved” anything yet. Sure, the Eagles faced the third-easiest regular-season schedule among all teams. And the quarterbacks they defeated in the postseason were rather unremarkable—the New York Giants’ Daniel Jones and the 49ers’ mixture of Brock Purdy and Josh Johnson are nothing to write home about. But how much does this matter?
Opposing quarterbacks aside, the Eagles have been flat-out dominant in their two postseason appearances, winning by margins of 31 and 24 against the Giants and 49ers, respectively. And in those two games, Jalen Hurts only threw for 275 passing yards combined, compared to the 416 rushing yards put up by the team in those games, suggesting that the Eagles may not even need Hurts to carry the team in the same way that Mahomes frequently does.
In the Eagles’ game against the Giants, they tied for the most rushing first downs of any playoff performance in the last quarter-century. This game is going to be close, and the Chiefs could easily win, but I give the Eagles the edge. Like Mahomes, Hurts can put the Eagles on his back if necessary. But what makes the Eagles so terrifying is that they can win with a very pedestrian game from their signal-caller by consistently wearing down the Chiefs with their rushing attack.
My final prediction is Philadelphia, 31–Kansas City, 27.
I would love to pick Philadelphia in this game. With all of the Eagles’ fundamentals in mind, they should beat the Chiefs: Their offensive and defensive lines are better, and the Eagles’ offensive weapons are superior to those of Kansas City (setting aside for a moment Travis Kelce). The back seven of the Philadelphia defense also outperforms the Chiefs, and the run game for the Eagles is the best in the NFL.
That being said, Philadelphia has three glaring issues they will have to overcome. First, the Kansas City roster has more Super Bowl experience at key positions, having been to two of the three most recent Super Bowls. Second, Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce are dynamic players who can keep the Chiefs in any game—Kansas City undoubtedly has the better quarterback and the best weapon in the game.
Third and finally, Andy Reid is currently the best coach in the NFL. Nick Sirianni has done an incredible job, but in this matchup, he has to fight an uphill battle in order to overcome the experience gap between himself and Reid.
As I said, I would love to pick Philadelphia, but I cannot in good faith bet against Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid. The Eagles made it to the big game by playing an overachieving Giants team and the dead-men-alive 49ers. In comparison to the Chiefs’ victories over the Jacksonville Jaguars and Cincinnati Bengals, Philadelphia’s postseason competition lacks, and the Eagles have not faced a team that could muster up both a good game plan and execute with excellent quarterbacks.
Kansas City will be ready and able to respond to anything the Eagles throw at them. In this matchup, Philadelphia is outmatched in quarterback play and coaching and is less battle-tested. The game will be as close as last year’s Super Bowl, but the Chiefs will still edge out a victory.
My final prediction is Kansas City, 28–Philadelphia, 27.
* The views expressed in this article solely represent the views of the author, not the views of the Chicago Thinker.