SUPER BOWL LVII PREVIEW

2023-02-10 · 10 min read · NFL/Football
Super Bowl LVII Preview- A look ahead to Sunday's matchup between the Chiefs and Eagles

NFL.com | Getty Images | La Presse

Super Bowl LVII Preview- A look ahead to Sunday's matchup between the Chiefs and Eagles
The NFL season finale is nearing its conclusion as we prepare for what promises to be a titanic tussle on Sunday between the Philadelphia Eagles and Kansas City Chiefs.
While it seems only fitting that the top teams in the regular season with identical 14-3 records meet for the right to be called world champions, that is rarely how the playoffs end up, with Sunday being only the sixth time in league history that the top seed in the AFC and NFC lock horns in the big game.
Finding a team with an edge in this contest has been exceedingly difficult, as we have the top two MVP candidates behind center and plenty of standouts on both teams.
That said, here is a look at the key matchups and my predictions for Sunday.
Quarterback
Jalen Hurts Vs Patrick Mahomes
Beginning with the younger of the two, we have Jalen Hurts, who had a breakout campaign with the Eagles in 2022, tossing just six interceptions while throwing for 22 touchdowns and a 101.5 rating for the season.
The 24-year-old QB is a game away from being probably the first dual-threat quarterback since Steve Young to win a Super Bowl, rushing for 760 yards this season, with over 3,700 yards through the air.
On the opposite side, we have Patrick Mahomes, who, despite losing one of the top receivers in the league through free agency in Tyreek Hill, seemed to look better without him than he did with him, throwing for 5,250 yards, and a completion percentage of 67.1, putting up a 101.5 rating in the AFC Championship Game despite a bum ankle.
In the postseason, the 27-year-old has only suffered one defeat in regulation time, and that was in his previous Super Bowl appearance when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat KC 31-9.
Mahomes tossed 41 touchdowns during the regular season, and despite nursing a tender ankle in the AFC Championship Game, the Chiefs #15 still threw for 326 yards and two touchdowns, while his first down scamper in the latter stage of that contest helped put his team in position to kick the game-winning field goal.
  • Edge- Even
Running Back
Miles Sanders Vs Isiah Pacheco
Over the past two games, Sanders has been a solid presence in the backfield for the Eagles, with 132 yards rushing, while Philly is averaging 208 yards on the ground as a team.
Sanders has been utilized as more of an explosive featured back, while Boston Scott has been the man to turn their long drives into touchdowns.
Sanders averaged 4.9 yards per carry in the regular season and was fifth in rushing yards (1,269), showing consistency and versatility throughout the campaign.
On the Chiefs side, we have Isiah Pacheco, who doesn't always get a ton of touches in the Andy Reid system, which focuses more on backfield rotation, but he also averaged 4.9 yards-per-carry during the 2022 campaign.
His best outing in the playoffs was in the Divisional Round versus the Jacksonville Jaguars when he ran for 95 yards on 12 carries.
He's been a solid pass catcher and runner, with five grabs for 59 yards in the AFC Championship Game, while only losing two fumbles in the 2022 regular season and playoffs.
  • Edge- Eagles
Wide Receiver
DeVonta Smith/A.J. Brown/Quez Watkins Vs JuJu Smith-Schuster/Marquez Valdes-Scantling/Kadarius Toney
The Eagles have a solid receiving corps, with dependable pass catchers and speed in DeVonta Smith, while A.J. Brown is physical and is a threat down the field.
Smith and Brown combined for six catches in the NFC title game; Brown finished the regular season with the fourth-most receiving yards in the NFL (1,496), while the 24-year-old Watkins did not have as good a season statistically, but did do well in the red zone, posting a career-high for touchdown catches (three).
Smith-Schuster has been as reliable as usual since moving from the Steel City to KC, with 933 yards receiving in the regular season, his highest tally since 2018, while Valdes-Scantling added another 687 and Toney averaged 12.2 yards-per-catch through the air.
The three of them don't have the breakaway speed that Tyreek Hill brought to the table, but what they do have is dependability, with Smith-Schuster being a short to mid-range target, while Valdes-Scantling is a serviceable field-stretcher and Toney can be a significant deep threat once in a while.
  • Edge- Even
Tight End
Dallas Goedert Vs Travis Kelce
Throughout the campaign, Goedert has proven to be a reliable pass catcher, driving after contact and being a solid secondary receiving threat.
He put up his second-highest receiving yards total in his Eagles career this season (702 yards), averaging 12.8 yards-per-catch, making five grabs in both the Divisional Round and NFC Championship.
It's no secret that Mahomes likes to go to Kelce often, and other teams know that, but like Rob Gronkowski with the Buccaneers and Patriots, the Chiefs tight end always seems to find a way to get open, with 1,338 yards receiving during the season, plus 12 TD catches.
He is a lock for the Hall of Fame and has been tremendous in the postseason, with three TD grabs total in his last two games and 21 receptions.
  • Edge- Chiefs
Offensive Line
Jason Kelce/Jordan Mailata/Isaac Seumalo/Landon Dickerson/Lane Johnson Vs Orlando Brown/Joe Thuney/Creed Humphrey/Trey Smith/Andrew Wylie
Philly's strength in blocking comes straight up the middle with the older Kelce boy Jason, being the highest-paid center in the league and earning every penny of his $14 million salary, conceding just a single sack in the regular season.
Having a running threat like Hurts helps, but the Eagles O-line has only allowed a single sack in each of its playoff games against two formidable defensive units in the New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers.
The Chiefs also have a pretty good scrambler when healthy in Mahomes, which helped them on the offensive line.
However, they also did an outstanding job of keeping pass rushers at bay, allowing a mere 26 sacks this season, the third-lowest total in the NFL.
  • Edge- Even
Defensive Tackle
Javon Hargrave/Fletcher Cox/Milton Williams/Linval Joseph Vs Chris Jones/Khalen Saunders/Derrick Nnadi/Brandon Williams
The Eagles defensive line was a handful for opposing O-lineman all season long, registering more sacks than any team in the league (70), with Javon Hargrave racking up 11.
Across the board, they were a force to be reckoned with, hurrying quarterbacks with eight sacks in the playoffs and a great pass rush throughout the campaign.
Kansas City's pass rush meanwhile starts with Chris Jones, who was a beast throughout 2022, registering 15.5 sacks, including two in the postseason, as he and his team had five on Joe Burrow.
While Jones was the standout, plenty of outstanding players contributed to their success this season as they came up with the second-most sacks in the regular season (55).
  • Edge- Eagles
Defensive End/Outside Linebacker
Haason Reddick/Josh Sweat/Brandon Graham/Robert Quinn Vs Frank Clark/George Karlaftis/Carlos Dunlap/Michael Danna
Reddick is the Eagles standout with 16 sacks during the regular season, but they were tough to contain across the board, as Reddick, Brandon Graham, and Josh Sweat all had double-digits for sacks.
Not everybody at those positions made as much noise as Reddick, but as a unit, the Eagles are one of the deepest teams at the defensive end and outside linebacker in the NFL.
Frank Clark is one of the few players with Super Bowl experience on defense though the Chiefs #55 had a relatively quiet regular season with 25 solo tackles and five sacks.
Karlaftis still has some growing to do defensively, while Dunlap's career seems to be winding down.
  • Edge- Eagles
Linebacker
T.J. Edwards/Kyzir White Vs Nick Bolton/Willie Gay
In Philadelphia, Edwards registered 99 solo tackles in 2022 but was not great when moving up to blitz, with just two sacks.
White only had 1.5 sacks and 66 tackles and, at times, didn't appear to be as motivated, as he had been with the Chargers in past seasons.
Bolton was a tackle machine for KC this season, leading them with 180, while he also had a pair of interceptions.
The numbers for Gay weren't off the charts, with 2.5 sacks and a pick, while he contributed 51 solo tackles.
  • Edge- Chiefs
Cornerback
Darius Slay/James Bradberry/Avonte Maddox/Josiah Scott Vs L'Jarius Sneed/Trent McDuffie/Jaylen Watson/Joshua Williams
The Eagles' secondary have their share of ball hawks who rarely get burned, with Avonte Maddox and Darius Slay each allowing a sub-80 rating to quarterbacks this season, while James Bradberry was third in the NFL for passes defended (17).
Their corners have not allowed a touchdown pass in the postseason and have only given up one score through the air in 2023.
The Chiefs corners have been battered and bruised lately, with L'Jarius Sneed suffering a minor concussion; while he had 11 passes defended this season, Jaylen Watson has two interceptions in the playoffs, and the KC secondary has improved tremendously in its last two games, allowing a 72.2 rating to Trevor Lawrence, and Joe Burrow combined.
Trent McDuffie was in and out of the lineup at times this season, defending seven passes and making 28 solo tackles, while Joshua Williams also defended seven passes.
  • Edge- Eagles
Safety
C.J. Gardner-Johnson/Marcus Epps/Reed Blankenship VS Justin Reid/Juan Thornhill/Bryan Cook
All season long, C.J. Gardner-Johnson was a beast in the cover game, leading the league in interceptions during the regular season (six), while he was complimented by Marcus Epps who made 70 solo tackles.
Blankenship, on the other hand, saw limited action with one pick and two passes defended but could be a nice relief, while the other two bring physicality and grit.
For KC, Thornhill and Cook had to follow in the footsteps of an outstanding safety in Tyrann Mathieu, with Thronhill boasting three interceptions and defending nine passes, while Cook only defended two and had 22 solo tackles.
Meanwhile, Reid was physically challenging to contend with all season, defending seven passes and making 59 solo tackles.
  • Edge-Even
Special Teams
Jake Elliott/Brett Kern/Britain Covey Vs Harrison Butker/Tommy Townsend/Kadarius Toney/Isiah Pacheco
Sirianni should be able to rest easy when Jake Elliott steps up for a field goal, as he is a perfect 13 for 13 in the postseason over the past five years, although Covey didn't offer much for the Eagles in the return game with his longest punt return during the regular season being 27 yards and 26 being the most he had on a kickoff runback.
Kern meanwhile, was less than stellar in the punting game, with an average of 40.8 throughout the season with his longest being 53 yards.
His counterpart in Kansas City was the opposite as Townsend had a 50.4-yard punting average, the second-highest mark in the NFL.
Butker is 20 for 23 on playoff field goals over the past five years, while Pacheco did well on kick returns accumulating 597 yards on 29 attempts, and Toney didn't do much with 61 yards on 10 punt returns.
  • Edge- Chiefs
Coaching
Nick Sirianni/Shane Steichen/Jonathan Gannon Vs Andy Reid/Eric Bieniemy/Steve Spagnuolo
Gannon's defense allowed the second-fewest yards-per-game (301.5), while he mainly relied on straight-up front-four pressure, which helped them lead the league in sacks.
Steichen's offensive unit was third in yards-per-game during the regular season (389.1) and fifth in rushing, while Sirianni seems to be underrated for his ability to implement aggression on key downs.
For the Chiefs, Spagnuolo has proven to be effective at dialling up the right pressures in critical junctures, while Bieniemy's offense led the league in average points-per-game (29.2) and also had the highest NFL regular season average for passing yards (297.8) and total yards (413.6).
Reid is one of the best in the business at innovative designs offensively, particularly in the red zone, taking full advantage of his QBs acrobatics while constantly throwing his opponents off with new schemes.
  • Edge- Chiefs
Prediction- Philadelphia Eagles 31-34 Kansas City Chiefs
There are arguments to be made as to why either team will win this game, with two intelligent quarterbacks, some dangerous defensive linemen, outstanding cover games and some big play receivers.
I am giving the Chiefs a slight edge because of their experience in the Super Bowl and the creative mind of Andy Reid, which for me, tips the scales in their favour along with their speed in the return game, but it could swing either way.
Sports Tree Profile

By: Joel Lefevre

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