By MIKE HERNDON
I can make a case for either the Philadelphia Eagles or the Kansas City Chiefs to win Super Bowl LVII.
There are valid reasons to envision either Nick Sirianni or Andy Reid hoisting the Lombardi Trophy at the end of Sunday night. But only one of them will.
The case for each:
Philadelphia: The Eagles have a better, deeper roster at nearly every position. Their offensive line is the best in football, and they have better running backs than Kansas City running behind it. Their receivers are far superior – AJ Brown and DeVonta Smith both had over 1,100 yards receiving this year and both are better than any receiver on the Chiefs’ roster. Jalen Hurts, while perhaps limited with his nagging shoulder injury, was efficient and effective in a blowout wins over the Giants and 49ers – games in which he didn’t need to put up big numbers.
The Eagles’ defense is also better at every level. While Kansas City’s Chris Jones is the most disruptive defensive lineman in this game, the Eagles’ depth up front gives it an edge. With Haason Reddick leading the charge, the Eagles led the league with 70 sacks this year, a number that’s only two off the NFL record. Led by the strong cornerback tandem of Darius Slay and James Bradberry, their secondary allowed the fewest passing yards per game in the league.
The only positions at which Philadelphia doesn’t have an edge are quarterback and tight end, and they aren’t shabby there either.
The path to victory is clear: Use that offensive line and running game to win time of possession. Pressure Patrick Mahomes early and see if he’s still limited by the ankle injury. If he is, pin your ears back and keep the pressure on. If he’s not, keep him in the pocket as best you can and use that ground game to keep him on the sideline.
Kansas City: Mahomes is a wizard, even under pressure, and showed in the AFC championship game that the ankle injury, while limiting, wouldn’t stop him from being effective. While he couldn’t be as creative outside the pocket as he normally is, he proved efficient in working from the pocket as well, throwing for 326 yards and two scores in the AFC title game win over the Bengals. Travis Kelce is a mismatch for any defender the Eagles have (not to mention pretty much anyone else in the NFL), and while their running backs and receivers don’t stack up to the Eagles, they have a variety of weapons who each fill specific roles in an offense that was the league’s most potent, even without Tyreek Hill.
While Philly has more depth and the best edge rusher in Reddick, the Chiefs have the biggest defensive game-wrecker in Chris Jones. If he can help the front limit the Eagles’ effectiveness in the ground game and push the pocket against Hurts, the Chiefs’ defense can get off the field and get the ball back where they want it – in Mahomes’ hands.
While Philadelphia’s run through the season and playoffs has been impressive, they haven’t faced the level of competition Kansas City has. In the playoffs, they were gifted easily beatable opponents in an outmanned Giants team and a passing-challenged 49ers squad that played part of the game with a fourth-string quarterback and the rest with an injured Brock Purdy who couldn’t throw beyond the line of scrimmage. While the Chiefs were being tested by the Bengals the Eagles were on autopilot. The Chiefs will be the toughest test they’ve faced all season.
When Philly’s defense has faced an upper-tier quarterback – which hasn’t been often – it has given up plenty of points.
And aside from quarterback and tight end, the Chiefs have another edge in a place where it matters – on the sideline. Andy Reid has been on this stage before, and has won it, while this will be the first go-around for Nick Sirianni. The experience of Reid and defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, who’s won Super Bowls with the Chiefs and Giants, and their proven ability on the biggest stage gives the Chiefs a decided edge here.
I can see either of these scenarios playing out, but ultimately I think this game will be decided by one thing: Which quarterback is least limited? Both Mahomes and Hurts have been playing through injury and both have proven effective despite their ailments. With two weeks of rest, I suspect both will be ready to go and near, but not at, full strength.
I’ve got a little more concern, however, for Hurts’ shoulder than for Mahomes’ ankle. And largely for that reason, the pick here is:
Chiefs 27, Eagles 24
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