There was plenty of drama on the way to this point, but here we are: the AFC’s No. 1 team will face the NFC’s No. 1 team two weeks from now at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. It’ll be the Kansas City Chiefs against the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LVII (Sunday, Feb. 12 on FOX and the FOX Sports app). The matchup is almost too good to be true.
The storylines are endless. Obviously, it’s a matchup of two of the league’s best teams. It’s a showdown of All-Pro quarterbacks and MVP candidates, not to mention two opportunistic defenses. The intrigue even extends to the sideline, as Nick Sirianni seeks to deliver Philadelphia’s second Super Bowl championship against the man who built the Eagles into an annual power two decades prior.
There will be plenty of time to take a deeper dive in the buildup to Feb. 12, but until then, let’s take a quick look at the matchup.
All-Pro against All-Pro. This year will serve as the first Super Bowl matchup between the current season’s All-Pro quarterbacks since 2016, when Matt Ryan faced Tom Brady. Patrick Mahomes‘ resume speaks for itself, while Jalen Hurts burst onto the scene in just his second full season as the Eagles’ starter.
Mahomes will likely have added a second NFL MVP award to his trophy case by the time this game kicks off, but Hurts was named a finalist off the strength of a 14-1 record as a starter, not to mention 36 total touchdowns on the season.
Both quarterbacks are great, and both quarterbacks win in different ways. They’ll both be vital to their team’s success. But with Mahomes making his third Super Bowl appearance in just six seasons, not to mention likely capturing a second MVP, he easily gets the nod as the best signal-caller in this game. The Chiefs will undoubtedly be hoping that the week between games gives him time to rest his sprained ankle and look more like usual self.
Philadelphia did a phenomenal job surrounding Hurts with talent heading into his third season. The trade for A.J. Brown was one of the best offseason moves of 2023, as Brown blew up for 1,500 yards and 11 touchdowns this year. If that wasn’t enough, the Eagles boast a 1,200-yard receiver in DeVonta Smith, a playmaking tight end in Dallas Goedert and a Pro Bowl running back in Miles Sanders.
The Chiefs’ skill players don’t seem as daunting in the wake of Tyreek Hill’s departure, but they were still plenty explosive enough to reach the season’s final game. Travis Kelce remains one of the game’s very best players, an unguardable matchup nightmare at the tight end position. And while the cast behind him has been a mixed bag, Kansas City has reliably seen players step up to fill the void left by Hill.
Free agent acquisition Marquez Valdes-Scantling chalked up a massive six catches for 116 yards and a touchdown Sunday against Cincinnati. The big storyline for Kansas City will be health, as receivers Mecole Hardman, Juju Smith-Schuster and Kadarius Toney all left the AFC Championship Game with injuries. That will bear watching.
The Eagles hoist the NFC Championship trophy
The Philadelphia Eagles celebrated the NFC Championship after defeating the San Francisco 49ers 31-7. Quarterback Jalen Hurts sung “Fly Eagles Fly” with Eagles fans.
The Rushing Attacks
Credit where it’s due to the Chiefs. They’ve recently shown glimpses of running the ball better than what we’ve been used to in recent years. That’s largely due to the rise of rookie running back Isiah Pacheco, who rose from obscurity to become a 900-yard rusher during the second half of the season. But let’s be honest with ourselves, the star of the show here is Philly. Running the ball is easily what the Eagles do best, as Hurts and Sanders have piled up yards behind one of the league’s best offensive lines all year.
The Eagles boast a trio of Pro Bowlers on their offensive line in Landon Dickerson, Jason Kelce and Lane Johnson, and they’re not afraid to play to their strengths. In two playoff wins, the Eagles totaled 416 rushing yards to just 269 passing yards.
The Defensive line
There’s an argument to be made that Chris Jones is the best pass rusher in this matchup. The seventh-year vet is a Defensive Player of the Year candidate, with 17.5 sacks on the season — including two huge ones against Cincinnati to help turn the tide in favor of the Chiefs. The duo of Jones and Frank Clark is plenty scary, and they’ll get contributions from the likes of Carlos Dunlap and first-round pick George Karlaftis.
All of that said, the Eagles’ pass rush has impressive depth to go along with its top-end talent. Haason Reddick has every right to feel like he was snubbed for Defensive Player of the Year consideration, and he emphasized that with a bonkers game against San Francisco.
To go along with his 19.5 sacks on the year, the Eagles have three other players who tallied double-digit sacks in Brandon Graham, Javon Hargrave and Josh Sweat. That doesn’t even include the contributions Philadelphia gets from veterans like Fletcher Cox and Ndamukong Suh. Maybe that’s why the Eagles’ 70 regular season sacks were the third-most, all-time. The Chiefs’ pass rush is good. The Eagles’ pass rush is loaded.
The Chiefs have found themselves a star in Nick Bolton. Drafted out of nearby Missouri just last year, he already has made well over 300 career tackles in just two seasons. Pairing with fellow draft pick Willie Gay, Kansas City’s got a nice tandem working in the middle of the field. The duo helped hold the Bengals to just 71 rushing yards, and an eye-catching average of just 2.4 yards per carry from star running back Joe Mixon.
Linebacker might be the only position where the Eagles don’t boast star power, as the pair of Kyzir White and T.J. Edwards have filled those roles for most of the year. Working with that fearsome front, though, it hasn’t mattered much. In order to expose the Eagles’ lapses against the run, you have to be able to keep pace with their offense — which is something not many have been able to do.
Once again, the star power will be found in Philadelphia. The cornerback duo of Darius Slay and James Bradberry is one of the league’s best, while offseason acquisition Chauncey Gardner-Johnson finished tied for an NFL-best six interceptions. Gardner-Johnson and nickel back Avonte Maddox both spent time injured at the tail end of the regular season, but are back in the lineup now. The trio of Slay, Bradberry and Gardner-Johnson combined for 39 breakups and 12 interceptions on the season.
It’s not to say the Chiefs are slouches, though this might be a case where the sum adds up to more than the individual parts. The experience comes in the middle of the field, where Justin Reid and Juan Thornhill are a solid enough combo.
The bulk of Kansas City’s cornerback play is currently coming from rookies, as 2022 first-round pick Trent McDuffie is partnering with draft classmates Joshua Williams and Jaylen Watson. Write them off at your own risk, though. With the Kansas City pass rush pressuring Joe Burrow throughout the day, those rookies baited him into two interceptions.
The master goes against the pupil in a matchup between two of the four men who have ever taken the Eagles to the Super Bowl. Plenty of credit is due to Nick Sirianni, who has reached the playoffs in both of his two seasons as the Eagles’ head coach, and who has now helped Philly reach the Big Game for the third time this century.
Can one of the hottest young coaches in the league unseat one of its greatest ever, though? This will be Andy Reid’s fourth trip to the Super Bowl – his third as the head coach of the Chiefs, along with his 2004 trip with Philadelphia.
Reid’s run since taking over in Kansas City has been nothing short of elite, as he has yet to finish with a losing record in his 10 years on the job. That production has obviously ratcheted up a notch since Mahomes took over as his starting quarterback, with 74 wins and three trips to the Super Bowl in just five years. Reid already has a Hall of Fame resume, but winning a second championship would put him on a short list with this sport’s very best.
David Helman covers the Dallas Cowboys for FOX Sports. He previously spent nine seasons covering the Cowboys for the team’s official website. In 2018, he won a regional Emmy for his role in producing “Dak Prescott: A Family Reunion” about the quarterback’s time at Mississippi State. Follow him on Twitter at @davidhelman_.
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