For almost the entire 2022 NFL season, the Chiefs and Eagles stood tall as the apparent class of the league. Kansas City advanced to the AFC Championship Game for a fifth straight year following a 14-3 finish matched only by Philadelphia, which exploded to a 13-1 start and routed both the Giants and 49ers to win the NFC.
Now matched up for Super Bowl LVII on Sunday, these contenders have also been among the league's most consistent Lombardi Trophy hunters of late. The Chiefs are taking the Super Bowl stage for the third time in four years, becoming the first franchise to accomplish that feat since the Patriots dynasty reigned supreme. And the Eagles are in the championship for the second time in six seasons after making their NFC-leading seventh conference title game since 2001.
We know both teams are talented. They are literally the last ones standing. But which side is best suited to claim this year's trophy as world champs? Here's a position-by-position breakdown of where the Chiefs and Eagles have the edge:
This one's certainly a lot closer than it would've been a year ago. Hurts has quickly gone from glorified scrambler to bona fide franchise quarterback, pairing his smooth, tough running with markedly improved confidence and touch as a passer. Perhaps more than any other active QB this side of Joe Burrow, he also shares Mahomes' unshakeable composure. No. 15, however, remains the standard-bearer for combining designed creativity with clutch freestyling. Nothing -- not a late deficit, nor an ankle sprain -- prevents him from owning the highlight reel. The deciding factor is also his experience: whereas Hurts carries himself like a veteran, Mahomes has already walked the walk, making his third Super Bowl appearance in five years as a starter.
Andy Reid loves him a backfield rotation, and the Chiefs' top two options are equally as versatile, combining for more than 1,700 scrimmage yards as underrated outlets for Mahomes. Both are capable of slipping free on a screen. The Eagles have utilized Sanders as more of an explosive featured back, and he's rewarded them with harder-fought yards, but Gainwell is suddenly shaping up to be the team's next Corey Clement, providing change-of-pace aggression as a third-down receiving option.
The Chiefs lost home-run speed when they traded Tyreek Hill last offseason, but they may boast even better balance now: Smith-Schuster has been Mr. Reliable as the short- and mid-range possession target, while Valdes-Scantling has been a serviceable field-stretcher. Toney has been an electrifying, if fragile, chess piece since his arrival from New York. The Eagles, on the other hand, have two alphas: Brown is the more physically imposing, offering both bulk and downfield ability; while the slender Smith is an equally tantalizing specimen, winning on the margins and with scrappy body control. Watkins has flashed big-play juice on deep shots, but this one comes down to Philly's one-two punch that keeps Hurts comfortable.
It's a testament to Kelce's Hall of Fame trajectory that he's the clear winner in a matchup with one of the NFL's next-best at the position. Goedert is a reliable rumbler, always driving after contact to give the Eagles an unofficial big-bodied WR3. But Kelce practically models A.J. Brown's nickname, "Always Open," forever finding green grass over the middle. At 33, 10 years in, he's arguably just as deserving of MVP buzz as Mahomes, cruising past linebackers and safeties at the most opportune times.
Mahomes and Hurts are special QBs on their own, but if you want another reason they're both MVP finalists, look no further than the trenches. The entire left side of Kansas City's front, starting with the massive Brown (6-8, 363), keeps Mahomes upright and is surprisingly effective opening holes on the ground, too. Philly's power comes more up the middle and to the right, where the ageless Kelce remains in peak form as a second-level bulldozer, and Johnson excels in space paving run lanes.
Another group, another piece of evidence that these two contenders are built right: from the inside out. Eagles general manager Howie Roseman loaded up on interior bodies with Cox past his havoc-wreaking prime, and none of his investments has been more consistent than Hargrave, who broke out with 11 sacks this year. Ndamukong Suh and Jordan Davis are also massive gap-pluggers on their depth chart. Kansas City isn't nearly as deep at the position, but it doesn't much matter thanks to Jones' relentless knack for breaking through the pocket; he logged a career-high 15.5 sacks and 29 QB hits this year.
Clark has been relatively quiet in his regular seasons with the Chiefs, but the ex-Seahawks star is another animal in the postseason, saving his most tenacious edge rushing for the big games -- and helping offset mid-tier production from the rookie Karlaftis and aging Dunlap. The Eagles are simply stronger and deeper. Reddick has been an absolute terror as a stand-up rusher in his Philly debut, totaling 19.5 sacks and six forced fumbles, including playoffs. Sweat and Graham don't always make as much noise but are persistent nonetheless, giving the Birds an enviable three-man rotation at the top.
Both squads possess young, underrated talents at the anchor of their respective defenses: Bolton, 22, was a tackle machine with a team-leading 180 in 2022, whereas Edwards played a similar role as the primary 'backer in Philly, leading the Eagles with 159, including 10 for loss. This position isn't nearly as important as it once was, but Bolton and Edwards have been perfectly tough absorbing all the contact funneled their way thanks to pressure up front.
Sneed has bettered his numbers each year as the Chiefs' No. 1 cover man, and he looks the part with his length (6-1), serving as the de facto mentor of an overwhelmingly young secondary. McDuffie and Watson, in particular, have also appeared to settle in during the playoffs, alongside Williams, combining for several turnovers against Trevor Lawrence and Joe Burrow. But the Eagles own a pair of Pro Bowl-caliber starters on the outside: Slay is a bit more prone to give up the big play, but both he and Bradberry are technicians when it comes to tight-window breakups. Maddox, meanwhile, has been an upper-end slot corner when healthy, countering smaller stature with twitchy instincts.
Reid's had a standard, if unspectacular, debut as Tyrann Mathieu's replacement on the back end in K.C., while Thornhill and Cook are both solid homegrown prospects. Gardner-Johnson has outdone everyone here in terms of sheer spectacle, touting a chirpy personality and leading the NFL with six picks despite missing five games due to injury, but he and Epps, a more physical all-around type, have teamed up for similar overall production, with Blankenship as relief. If you want to tip it one way or another, you could probably argue in the Eagles' favor thanks to Gardner-Johnson's versatility as a converted slot corner.
Townsend is the superior punter, even if Arryn Siposs returns for the Eagles, ranking among the NFL's best in terms of pinning opponents inside their own 20. And technically both Toney and Pacheco probably offer more juice than Covey and Boston Scott as return men. But the most important battle, at kicker, is a dead draw: Butker is 20-for-23 on playoff field goals over the last five years, while Elliott is a perfect 13-for-13 during the same stretch. Both have also been to the biggest stage and left on top.
Chiefs: Andy Reid (HC), Eric Bieniemy (OC), Steve Spagnuolo (DC)
Eagles: Nick Sirianni (HC), Shane Steichen (OC), Jonathan Gannon (DC)
This is perhaps the most intriguing -- and potentially underrated -- matchup of the game. Reid is second to none in terms of innovative offensive designs, especially in the red zone, taking full advantage of his QB's acrobatics. And Spagnuolo has proven effective at dialing up the right exotic pressures in the most important contests. But Sirianni's probably not getting enough credit for how casually he's implemented league-leading aggression on key downs, tending to trust Hurts and Co. when many coaches, including even Reid, would prefer to punt. Gannon is a tougher egg to crack, relying more on straight-up front-four pressure than splashy calls, but his unit has done nothing but steamroll opponents under the bright lights. The Chiefs certainly have the all-time edge, and probably warrant more trust, but on paper, Sirianni is also 22-3 in his last 25, including playoffs.
Chiefs advantages: 2
Eagles advantages: 3
There you have it. It's almost precisely deadlocked like the NFC Championship, when we gave the 49ers a slight edge in coaching, only to witness Sirianni and Co. roll to a blowout win as Kyle Shanahan's squad racked up penalties after losing its QB to injury. This time, we're leveling up the Eagles -- all the way past the Chiefs, but just barely. It's noteworthy, of course, that the most important position, QB, goes to Kansas City, even as the Chiefs clamed just two actual "victories." This could well be a true test as to how much weight a QB advantage can carry when the opposing team is technically more well-rounded.
At any rate, it's proof that we are, in fact, down to the two best teams in the NFL. The fact that seven of the 12 spots -- more than half -- are ties is a testament to the even nature of the Super Bowl. Some X factors to consider as we approach the real showdown: which O-line is better suited to last? Hurts and Mahomes are both capable of eluding a rush, but which defensive front can disrupt the pocket to force an errant throw? The Eagles are seemingly a bit more prepared to capitalize on such a throw, with their veterans in the secondary, and they've also tended to be the more aggressively coached team.
But Mahomes is Mahomes, much like we used to say about Tom Brady or Bill Belichick. So don't you dare rule it yet.