Super Bowl LVII Preview and Prediction
By Ha Kung Wong
Super Bowl LVII
Sunday, January 29th @ 6:30 PM ET in Glendale, Arizona
Eagles favored by 1.5
Kansas City Chiefs
- Passing Yards per Game: 279.8 (1st)
- Rushing Yards per Game: 119.9 (20th)
- Points per Game: (29.2) (1st)
- Giveaways (Interceptions Thrown + Fumbles Lost): 23 (Tied 17th)
- Average Time of Possession: 29:59 (12th)
- Patrick Mahomes Time to Throw (among QBs with at least 4 appearances): 2.89 seconds (Tied 27th)
- Sacked: 24
- Interceptions thrown: 12
- Passing Yards Allowed per Game: 220.9 (18th)
- Rushing Yards Allowed per Game: 107.2 (8th)
- Points Allowed per Game: 21.7 (16th)
- Takeaways (Interceptions + Fumble Recoveries): 20 (Tied 20th)
- Field Goal Percentage: 75.0% / 24 of 32 (Tied 30th)
- Kickoff Return Average: 19.2 (29th)
- Punt Return Average: 6.7 (26th)
Keys to the Game for the Chiefs
- Patrick Mahomes Health
After getting his right ankle rolled up in the 1st quarter of the game against the Jaguars, there was a lot of concern regarding how effective Mahomes would be going forward. Well, not only did his finish that game successfully, but he completed 29 of 43 pass attempts for 326 yards and a 2 TDs in a last second victory over the Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC Conference Championship. High ankle sprains typically take 4 to 6 weeks to heal, and we saw Mahomes limping around in the 4th quarter, particularly after rolling out left to complete a pass in the redzone, but it didn’t seem to impact his accuracy nor did it stop him from running for a crucial 5 yards on the last play of the 4th quarter drive that resulted in the game winning FG. Still, Mahomes he was unable to plant and go deep with any velocity with any consistency in the 2nd half of the game against the Jaguars and most of the game against the Bengals. That could be tough against the number one passing defense in the NFL.
- Kelce is Unguardable
Every knew that Mahomes was going to pepper Travis Kelce with targets and yet he still caught 7 of 8 targets for 78 yards and TD. You just can’t guard him, no matter how many defenders you put on him. He led all TEs this season in targets, receptions and yards and there’s no reason to believe that the Eagles, even with their record shutting down TEs, will stop him. He’s on another level.
- Where are the WRs?
In the Conference Championship game, I thought Kadarius Toney was going to be a big part of the defense, but an injury derailed him after his first and only catch in the game. JuJu Smith-Schuster and Mecole Hardman (who just got back from an injury) also left the game with injuries. None of those three have practiced through the first week after the Conference Championship, and early word has Mecole unlikely to play. And one has to wonder how effective Toney and Smith-Schuster will be if they play with ankle and knee sprains respectively. I know that Marques Valdes-Scantling stepped up big in the Conference Championship game catching 6 of 8 targets for 116 yards and TD, but this is a grim development for the Chiefs passing corps versus the Eagles aggressive pass defense.
Update (Feb. 11, 2023) – Chiefs aren’t listing any players with game injury designations. Mecole Hardman was placed on IR, but JuJu-Smith Schuster practiced in full most of the week and Kadarius Toney managed limited practices throughout the week.
Chiefs are not listing any players with any game injury designations for SBLVII. All players good to go.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) February 10, 2023
- Super Bowl Experience
The Chiefs have been to 5 consecutive Conference Championship game and now 3 of the last 4 Super Bowls. It’s the biggest stage of the season and the Chiefs have plenty of experience playing and winning big games (having won the Super Bowl in 2019).
The real reason the Chiefs won against the Jaguars and the Bengals was the defense. Typically a bend-don’t-break defense that’s bailed out by the offense, they stepped up big in the Divisional Playoffs forcing two turnovers and getting two sacks on their way to limiting the Jaguars to 20 points and in the Conference Championship getting 2 interceptions and piling on 5 sacks and a whopping 12 QB hits also limiting the high-powered Bengals offense to 20 points. The X factor may be Chris Jones who had the best pass rush win rate (21.5%) among all DTs, even while facing the most double teams of DT in the league (69.2%) in the regular season. He stepped up huge against the Bengals and Joe Burrow, but Jalen Hurts is much more mobile and will be more difficult to defend.
- Success Running the Ball
The Chiefs are not a good running team, ranking 20th in the NFL with only 119.9 rush yards per game during the season. They were much more effective against the Jaguars with 144 total yards primarily on the back of Isiah Pacheco‘s 95 rushing yards but fell back to Earth against the Bengals with just 42 total yards on 20 collective carries. They’ll need to step up their ground game against the Eagles, seeing as how they have the top pass defense in the league, but have some vulnerability on the ground.
- #Revenge Narrative?
Andy Reid is arguably the most successful Eagles head coach of all time, absent a Super Bowl win. He spent 14 years in the role and led the team to a Super Bowl appearance. The Eagles fired him after the 2012 season, and he immediately joined the Chiefs, and since then has never had a losing season. The only thing standing in Reid’s way of getting his second championship is the team that fired him. Hard not to think there isn’t some additional motivation there.
- The State Farm Boost?
OK, so maybe this isn’t a thing, but the Super Bowl is at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. Patrick Mahomes just happens to be a State Farm commercial regular and even Andy Reid has made an appearance. Coincidence? Yeah, probably, but it’s fun to consider.
- Passing Yards per Game: 241.5 (9th)
- Rushing Yards per Game: 147.6 (5th)
- Points per Game: 28.1 (3rd)
- Giveaways (Interceptions Thrown + Fumbles Lost): 19 (Tied 5th)
- Average Time of Possession: 30:50 (8th)
- Jalen Hurts Time to Throw (of QBs with at least 4 appearances): 2.76 seconds (Tied 18th)
- Sacked: 35
- Interceptions thrown: 6
- Passing Yards Allowed per Game: 179.8 (1st)
- Rushing Yards Allowed per Game: 121.6 (Tied 16th)
- Points Allowed per Game: 20.2 (Tied 7th)
- Takeaways (Interceptions + Fumble Recoveries): 27 (Tied 4th)
- Sacks: 70 (1st)
- Field Goal Percentage: 88% / 22 of 25 (10th)
- Kickoff Return Average: 22.1 (Tied 17th)
- Punt Return Average: 9.2 (14th)
Keys to the Game for the Eagles
- Is the Eagles Offense an Illusion?
We know that the Eagles have one of the most dynamic and dangerous offenses in the league. Just look at the offensive stats. But even though the Eagles absolutely blasted the 49ers in the NFC Conference championships, they only averaged 3.4 yards per carry and 4.8 yards per pass, resulting in less than 4 yards per play. Part of the issue is that the Eagles didn’t need to do much once the 49ers offense was decimated by injury. But it does temper our impression of the Eagles offense and make us wonder how much of the inefficiency was the 49ers defense and how much of it was due to injuries.
We anticipate that Jalen Hurts shoulder injury will be a thing of the pass by the time Super Bowl LVII rolls around. But in the postseason, out of all 14 QBs, Hurts is last in passing yards per game, 3rd to last in yards per pass attempt, and just 7th in completion percentage. Whether this is because the Eagles have been involved in two blowouts or if this is due to lingering effects from his injury is unclear. But if it’s the latter, the Chiefs will have a difficult time containing Hurts, who had the 3rd most rushing yards per game (50.7) among QBs and the 3rd most rushing TDs (13) of ANY PLAYER in the regular season.
- Pass Rush Swagger
The Eagles completely dominated the Giants and 49ers in the postseason. And when I say dominated, I mean in every phase of the game. Perhaps most importantly, Haason Reddick and the defense brought continuous pressure, inhibiting all opposing QBs, shutting down Daniel Jones who looked to be rounding into form, and getting to Brock Purdy early, which unfortunately led to his injury, but was an indicator of how disruptive he can be on defense. They have the best pass defense in the league and had 70 sacks during the regular season, which was the most in the regular season and the third most in NFL history. And the Eagles 52% pass rush win rate was also best in the regular season. Unsurprisingly, the Eagles have the most sacks in the postseason as well (8). It’s going to be tough for the Chiefs to keep the pocket clean and that could be a real problem with Mahomes less than 100% mobile due to the high ankle sprain.
- Run Defense
The Eagles totally shut down the Giants ground game in the Divisional Round limiting them to just 118 total rush yards and, more importantly, Saquon Barkley to just 61 rush yards. And they perhaps more impressively shut down the vaunted 49ers rushing game behing Christian McCaffrey limiting them to just 81 yards on 24 carries. The Eagles haven’t been great defending the run being ranked only 16th in the league during the regular season, being dominated by every run-first team, including the lowly Chicago Bears. But their postseason performance tells a different story, and they should have an easier time dealing with the Chiefs’ Isiah Pacheco and Jerrick McKinnon.
- Wide Receiver Edge
Yes, the Chiefs have Kelce, but the Eagles are absolutely stacked with receiving options. AJ Brown has been a revelation in Philly, opening up targets for DeVonta Smith and Dallas Goedert. Brown and Smith were among the top receiving duos in the regular season both exceeding 1100 receiving yards (1496 and 1196, good for 4th and 9th most among WRs) with 18 total TDs, tied for the most among WR pairs in the regular season. And Goedert might not be the big name that Brown and Smith are, but he quietly had the second most receiving yards per game among all TEs in the regular season (58.5), behind only the aforementioned Kelce.
- The Kelce Bowl
Brothers Philadelphia Eagles center Jason Kelce and Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce will face off in Super Bowl LVII. Both already have championship rings, as Travis caught a touchdown pass to help Kansas City defeat San Francisco in Super Bowl 54 two years after Jason anchored the offensive line as Philly beat New England. Doubt this matters much except for the fun narrative it creates, but in a recent interview on the Kelce Brothers podcast, Jason Kelce did raise the interesting fact that the Eagles have never beat the Andy Reid-led Chiefs.
Contrary to what everyone believed preseason (they were +7000 odds to win the Super Bowl in the preseason), the Eagles proved to be one of the most dominant teams in the regular season, but we’ve gotten no information on them from the playoffs as they’ve arguably had the easiest road to the Super Bowl in recent history. That being said, it’s hard to imagine that they won’t get back to what they were in the regular season, which was a dynamic quick strike offense and the 2nd best defense in the league that endlessly hassled opposing QBs.
The Chiefs were the odds-on favorites to win the Super Bowl in the preseason (+450), and they haven’t disappointed. Mahomes had a heroic effort finally beating Joe Burrow in the AFC Conference Championship on essentially one leg, but I’m concerned not only about Mahomes’ ankle injury, but Kelce’s back injury and the plethora of injuries in the Chiefs receiving core. Chris Jones will be an X-factor on defense, but he hasn’t faced these Eagles before.
The Eagles have never beaten the Patrick Mahomes-led Chiefs, but this team is like none other, exceeding the talent of their 2018 Super Bowl winning counterparts. This will likely come down to which team can make critical plays on important downs, but both teams excelled at this during the regular season being second (48.8%) and third (47.5%) at converting 3rd downs, and perhaps unsurprisingly, second (76.92%) and fourth (71.43%) at converting 4th downs. That being said, the Eagles went for it on 4th down 32 times during the regular season, almost three times more than the Chiefs. We all know how much Nick Sirianni likes to gamble.
Ultimately, the Eagles defense and their aggressiveness on offense I think make the difference in this tightly contested Super Bowl.
Eagles beat the Chiefs – 27 to 24 – and cover the spread.
I’m taking the OVER on 50.5, but just barely.
My favorite bet may be the Chiefs with the alternative spread of +3.5.
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