The NFL season finale is here. 32 NFL teams have played 283 games to whittle down the field to the remaining two. In a year full of surprises and letdowns, the Super Bowl is all that remains to decide who will take home the Vince Lombardi trophy and sit atop the NFL throne.
When: 3:30 p.m., Feb. 12, 2023
Where: State Farm Stadium, Glendale, Arizona
Who’s in it?
This year’s matchup marks just the sixth time since the turn of the century that two No. 1 seed playoff teams will play in the big game.
Representing the AFC are the Kansas City Chiefs. In its third appearance in four seasons, Kansas City is looking to cement itself as the dynasty of the 2020s. Led by potential MVP candidate Patrick Mahomes, the Chiefs have been propelled to Arizona by their high-flying offense. Andy Reid, who may also be the league’s most respected coach and offensive mind, looks to win a second Super Bowl with Mahomes and solidify Kansas City as a legitimate dynasty.
Off the heels of a dominating playoff run to punch their ticket to State Farm Stadium are the Philadelphia Eagles. In both their playoff wins, the Eagles were able to rely on their defense to stifle the Giants and 49ers to just a combined 14 points. Third-year QB Jalen Hurts and head coach Nick Sirianni will try to lead the best roster in the league to victory in Sirianni’s second season. The rebuild for the Eagles has been quick, as Philadelphia is in its second Super Bowl in five years, each time with a different quarterback and coach.
By the numbers
Despite the seemingly different paths to Super Bowl LVII, the numbers behind the Chiefs and Eagles’ seasons are eerily similar. Finishing the regular season with a 14-3 record, both squads will enter Sunday with exactly 16 wins. Close records only indicate so much, so how about this: Through the regular season and postseason, both teams managed to score the same number of points — 546. Even more bizarre, both rushing attacks have averaged 4.6 yards per carry in the playoffs. Postseason success isn’t just limited to the offense, as each team had four takeaways in their divisional and championship games. The 12 All-Pro players between the two teams are also split down the middle, six and six.
The whole year, Philly has been the single most complete team in the league, boasting the third highest-scoring offense in the NFL along with the eight best overall defense. For the Eagles’ defense, their strength comes in the form of pass rush. The front seven for Philadelphia have been able to generate 70 sacks through the regular season — that’s third all-time in NFL history.
The Chiefs, on the other hand, have the highest-scoring offense in the league this year but a middle-of-the-road defense that allowed 21.7 points per game — 16th overall this year. The defense has come on as of late in the postseason, drawing two turnovers from the former Kansas City boogeyman Joe Burrow in its AFCCG win against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Matchups and more
For the Chiefs to avoid a repeat of their loss in Super Bowl LV, they must be able to protect the quarterback. Mahomes, who overcame a high ankle sprain to help the Chiefs become AFC champions, will once again test his ability to move in the pocket and avoid pressure in this game. A major matchup to look for is the Eagles’ high-powered pass rush against the Chiefs’ offensive line. In the Super Bowl, more than any game, he who controls the line of scrimmage controls the game.
In the trenches, the player to watch is Eagles linebacker Haason Reddick. Reddick has a huge sack total of 16.0 and almost single-handedly sealed the NFCCG against the 49ers.
On the other side of the ball, the Eagles have their work cut out for them against Kansas City’s passing attack. Though some top pass-catchers went down in their game against the Bengals, expect receivers such as Marquez Valdes-Scantling and JuJu Smith-Schuster healthy enough to allow Mahomes plenty of options. The Eagles have the best pass defense in the league, but the receiver room for KC is a different beast. Not to mention the presence of an all-time pass catcher in Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, who is now only two touchdowns away from second place in all-time postseason receiving touchdowns.
Watch for how the Eagles approach covering Kelce in the early going, as limiting the All-Pro tight end is the key to slowing down Kansas City’s offense.
Off the field, this game marks the first time in NFL history in which two brothers will play against each other in the Super Bowl. The aforementioned Travis Kelce and Eagles center Jason Kelce will both be vying for their second ring. Sunday also brings an interesting coaching storyline to the fold. Chiefs’ head coach Andy Reid will face his former team on the biggest stage in Arizona. With the Eagles, Reid appeared in five NFC championship games before moving onto Kansas City. In 2012, the Eagles’ Sirianni was also let go by the Chiefs once Reid became head man in KC. Both coaches have histories with their opposing teams, even as far as for Sirianni to say he has a ‘chip on his shoulder’ when asked.
For Patrick Mahomes and Jalen Hurts, history has already been made. Super Bowl LVII will also be the first time in league history that two African American quarterbacks will start in a Super Bowl.
One game to rule them all
Super Bowl LVII will mark the last NFL game until the 2023-2024 season kicks off in September, but it is shaping up to be a fitting end to a great season. The last time two one-seeds faced off in the big game was Super Bowl LII, when the Philadelphia Eagles pulled off an upset over the New England Patriots, 41-33. If the nearly identical stat lines and dynamic playmakers are any indications, Sunday night in Phoenix will hopefully be the next great game in Super Bowl history.
For the Chiefs, to pull off a second Super Bowl win in four years would deem them a modern-day dynasty, but the Eagles are simply too reminiscent of the vaunted Buccaneers defense in Super Bowl LV, otherwise the only unit to make the super Mahomes look human. This game could go either way, but I will lean toward the more complete team to hoist the Lombardi come the end of the night in the desert.
Prediction: Eagles 31 – 27 Chiefs
MVP: Jalen Hurts