It's finally here. The Super Bowl LVII battle between the NFL's top playoff seeds and conference champions -- the Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles -- will happen at State Farm Stadium tonight. Patrick Mahomes, fresh off his second NFL MVP award win, will be looking to snap a nine-game losing streak by league MVPs who play in the big game, while the Eagles are looking to become the second team in NFL history to win two Super Bowls in a six-year span with a different quarterback and head coach.
These are two teams that were constructed differently. The Chiefs, on one hand, have a number of their key contributors back from their Super Bowl LIV Championship team in 2019 with Mahomes, First-Team All-Pros Travis Kelce and Chris Jones, defensive end Frank Clark, and others. On the flip side, the Eagles only have seven players on their 53-man roster from their Super Bowl LII title team from the 2017 season: three offensive linemen, two defensive linemen and two special teams players. These teams boast both All-Pro quarterbacks, Mahomes and Jalen Hurts, as well as each conference's highest scoring offense in terms of points per game. Below, we will make five bold predictions about the big game between these two high-flying squads.
1. Quez Watkins scores the first touchdown of the game
Each of these teams has scored the first touchdown in 12 of its 19 games this season, and Hurts as well as Eagles Pro Bowl running back Miles Sanders have each hit as the first touchdown scorer a team-high three times. Other Philadelphia players to score a game's touchdown include tight end Dallas Goedert (twice) Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Brown (once), running back Kenneth Gainwell (once), running back Boston Scott (once) and wide receiver DeVonta Smith (once).
However, the Chiefs run man-to-man coverage 28.1% of the time this season, the eighth-highest rate in the NFL, and Hurts was the third-most sacked quarterback (22 times) in the NFL against the blitz this season, behind only Russell Wilson (24) and Justin Fields (23). That means it wouldn't be surprising for Kansas City defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo to send a number of man-blitzes at Hurts. However, the Eagles offensive line is the best in the NFL, and one that Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers called "one of the best offensive lines I've seen in the last 20 years."
So when the Chiefs blitz inevitably comes early, expect Quez Watkins, the speedy third-year wide receiver whose three receiving touchdowns have all been 20 yards or longer, to get open deep as the Kansas City defense keys on Brown, Smith, and Goedert. That will lead to Watkins waltzing into the end zone after Hurts, the NFL leader in passing touchdowns of 25 or more yards, uncorks another deep ball strike.
2. Patrick Mahomes gets sacked four or more times as Eagles pass rush makes history
The 2022 NFL MVP says his ankle will "definitely be in a better spot" after suffering a high-ankle sprain in the AFC divisional round against the Jacksonville Jaguars, thanks to gap between the conference championship round and the Super Bowl. However even with improved mobility, that won't be enough for him to get away from this Philadelphia pass rush. Mahomes' 2022 season-high for times sacked in a game is four, which is also his playoff career-high.
This Eagles pass rush is going to at least tie that figure on Sunday, giving them at least a share of the all-time single-season sacks record, including the playoffs. Philadelphia has 78 sacks this season including the playoffs, the third-most in NFL history behind only the 1985 Bears (80 sacks) and 1984 Bears (82 sacks). The reason for this is that Philadelphia is the only team in NFL history to have four players this year who all recorded at least 10 sacks in the regular season -- Haason Reddick (16.0), Javon Hargrave (11.0), Brandon Graham (11.0) and Josh Sweat (11.0). Naturally, the Eagles led the NFL with an 11.2% sack rate in 2022, meaning they sacked opposing quarterbacks on more than 10% percent of their pass attempts. No other team had a rate above 9%.
Unlike the Chiefs, whose top pass rush threat of Chris Jones is head and shoulders above the rest, double-teaming one guy doesn't work against these Eagles. Philadelphia will be able to get to ahead early -- their +137 point differential in the second quarter this season is the second-best of any team in the 21st Century behind only the 2019 Super Bowl Champion Chiefs' +138 mark, making the Chiefs offense more one-dimensional, a frightening proposition for Mahomes, who was last seen running for his life in Super Bowl LV against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after falling behind 14-3.
3. Travis Kelce's eight-game streak of having 75+ receiving yards ends
Travis Kelce is one of the best postseason receiving threats in NFL history. He trails only the receiving Greatest Of All Time Jerry Rice in all major playoff pass-catching metrics.
Travis Kelce postseason career
100+ yard games
* Trails Jerry Rice in each category
However, one playoff record Kelce has all to himself is the most consecutive postseason games with at least 75 receiving yards. The last time he had fewer than 75 in a playoff game was the Chiefs' Super Bowl LIV win over the San Francisco 49ers to conclude the 2019 season. Philadelphia's defense is well-equipped to slow down the hub of the Kansas City aerial attack given that they allow the fifth-lowest passer rating when passing to tight ends this season, 80.6, as well as what's tied for the fifth-fewest touchdowns allowed to opposing tight ends this season, three.
The reason for the Eagles' success in coverage against some of the bigger, more versatile pass-catchers in the NFL is almost every member of their secondary is near the top of the entire league at their respective position.
- CB Darius Slay made Pro Bowls in each of the past two seasons
- CB James Bradberry's 44.5 passer rating in coverage is the best in the NFL this season among 49 players with 75 or more passes thrown their way
- Safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson's six interceptions are tied for the most in the NFL this season.
Philadelphia may surrender some yards along the way to allowing some touchdown drives, but it won't be because Kelce is beating them.
4. A.J. Brown catches TD, but doesn't put up huge numbers
A.J. Brown hasn't topped 100 receiving yards since Week 16 at the Dallas Cowboys on Christmas Eve, and don't expect him to snap that four-game streak on Sunday either. The Eagles have been able to cruise in the playoffs behind their soul-crushing offense line and multi-faceted run-pass option game. Brown does have seven receiving touchdowns of 25 or more yards, tied for the second-most such touchdowns since 2006, so expect him to get loose deep for a big score and then otherwise have a ho-hum evening. The first-year Eagle broke the franchise's single-season receiving yards record with 1,496, so the Chiefs will be heavily focused on his whereabouts, limiting his overall yardage total.
5. The Eagles win the Super Bowl by 14 or more points
Philadelphia is currently a mere 1.5-point favorite over the Chiefs, which would be tied for the fourth-shortest Super Bowl spread of all-time. However, they are so well-equipped in just about every position group with Kansas City's only perceivable edge being that they have Patrick Mahomes. On Sunday, that won't be enough as the Eagles get ahead early and make Mahomes' run for his life as he scrambles to pass while attempting to evade Reddick, Graham, Hargrave, and Sweat. Philadelphia deals Kansas City its second consecutive Super Bowl defeat by multiple scores with time-consuming touchdown drives on offense thanks to its punishing offensive line and Hurts' dual-threat dynamism in addition to wearing down the Chiefs offensive line on the other side.
It'll be Eagles 34, Chiefs 20, as they join the 1976-1980 Raiders as the only teams to win two Super Bowls in a six-year span with a different quarterback and head coach.