NFL

AUTHOR: Star Sports Content

STAR PREVIEW: Super Bowl LVII

Not quite down to the last team standing but we are down to two teams one of which will take the Vince Lombardi Trophy home while the other will be left with little to show for a season of toil, that’s the brutal truth surrounding one of the great sporting showdowns of the year. 

Both these franchises are used to the big stage with the Chiefs winning it all in 2019 (Super Bowl LIV) and this will be their third appearance in total in the last four years whilst the Eagles return to the biggest arena of all after winning Super Bowl LII. For the most part these two teams have been top or near the top of their respective Conferences all year; both ending the season as the No1 seeds in the NFC and AFC. Super Bowl LVII represents the first meeting of top seeds in the Super Bowl since the Eagles aforementioned Super Bowl LII win over the New England Patriots.

As usual with the Super Bowl there is no shortage of narratives around this game for instance Chiefs head coach Andy Reid facing the team that sacked him after the 2012 season. Reid immediately went to Kansas City and revitalized the Chiefs. Plus, when he linked up with quarterback Patrick Mahomes, he suddenly figured out how to win in the playoffs! When Reid joined the Chiefs many of the existing coaches were let go and one of them was current Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni. It has been too long for this to be a revenge game for either coach, but let’s not pretend that what happened in the past doesn’t add at least a little bit of fuel to the fire and provide a plotline for the game.

There’s also the tale of this Super Bowl being the first time in Super Bowl history that two brothers have faced each other. The Kelce brothers – Jason (Eagles) and Travis (Chiefs) being the siblings in question. In Super Bowl XLVII, John and Jim Harbaugh became the first brothers to coach against each other.

Whilst the Chiefs have been one of the most consistent NFL sides in the past five years in that same period since the Eagles won the Super Bowl it’s fair to say they have been one of the comeback teams. Just over two years ago they ended the season 4-11-1 and head coach Doug Peterson, the architect of that Super Bowl title and the iconic “Philly Special” play was about to leave building. Now the Eagles are back rebuilt by GM Howie Roseman they arguably have the strongest 1-53 roster of the two teams in what should be a fantastic final game of the 2022 NFL season.


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WARM UPS
The Season So Far

The Eagles went 14-3, winning the NFC East for the first time since 2019 to make their second straight playoff berth and stayed undefeated a month longer than any other team in the league. Despite a few blips along the way their season has been fairly plain sailing with the two playoff games being relatively easy contests 38-7 over the Giants before a 31-7 win over the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game.

The Chiefs went 14-3 this season and won the AFC West for the sixth straight season with a Week 7 44-23 win over the 49ers seemed to kick the Chiefs into gear, as they won 10 of their last 11 games to grab the AFC’s No. 1 seed. After a 27-20 win over the Jaguars in their first postseason contest they finally overcame their nemesis team, the Bengals in the AFC Championship Game 23-20 despite a hobbling Patrick Mahomes at quarterback.

Statistics To Know

The Eagles have faced more teams this season with a winning record (10-to-9), but the Chiefs have had 10 games versus 2022 playoff teams compared to eight for the Eagles.

The Chiefs also played in the tougher conference, but these teams have faced six common opponents this season and the Eagles have a +73 point differential in those games compared to a +67 point differential for the Chiefs.

Philadelphia enter the Super Bowl with a league-high +188 point differential while the Chiefs are fourth (+137).

Wondering how even this game is? The Chiefs and Eagles have the same record (16-3). They’ve scored the same number of points (546). These are the top two teams in plays that have gained 10 or more yards while the Chiefs lead the NFL in plays of 20 or more yards (88) while the Eagles are third (84).

The Chiefs averaged the most passing yards per game during the regular season (298), while the Eagles allowed the fewest passing yards per game on defense (180). According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it’s just the third Super Bowl matchup to feature the No. 1 passing offense against the No. 1 passing defence. In the first two instances, the defensive team won convincingly, with the Seahawks beating the Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII and the Buccaneers topping the Raiders in Super Bowl XXXVII.

Both quarterbacks are a threat, but Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes would be the first to lead the NFL in passing yards (5,250 in the regular season) and win the Super Bowl in the same season. Eagles QB Jalen Hurts has the highest completion percentage (66.5%) and is first in TD-INT ratio (21-4).

Including the playoffs, the Eagles have outscored opponents by 163 points in the first half, the best mark by any team since the 2015 Carolina Panthers. For the season, the Eagles (18.2 PPG) and Chiefs (15.5 PPG) are the two highest-scoring teams in the NFL in the first half.

Betting Overview

This is the first time that the Chiefs are an underdog in the postseason with Patrick Mahomes under centre. It is just the ninth time that the Chiefs have been underdogs with Mahomes under centre in what will be his 94th career start.

The Eagles were 25-1 when the season started, which would make them the biggest preseason long shots to win the Super Bowl since 2017 — the only other time the Eagles won the Super Bowl.

In Super Bowl history, favourites are 27-27-2 straight up. The past four Super Bowls went under the total, and unders are 28-26-1 all-time in the Super Bowl (excluding Super Bowl I). At a spread of 2.5, this would be the ninth Super Bowl to close with a line under a field goal and this is just the fourth Super Bowl with a point spread lower than three points since the NFL expanded to 32 teams back in 2002. Tight spreads have not equalled tight outcomes. Three of those four games have been decided by 10 or more points.

This time around the oddsmakers at Star Sports make the Eagles the favoured side by 2.5 points and with the points total line set at 50.5. The sixteenth time the Super Bowl has had an over/under over 50.Tthe over hit just six out of the first fifteen times, including 2021, when Mahomes’s Chiefs faced off with the Bucs. The Chiefs and Eagles combined to average 57.2 points per regular-season game.

Injuries

Both sides come into this games with some small clouds hanging over the health of their rosters. For instance, both quarterbacks have been injured towards the closing stanzas of the season. Mahomes suffered a high ankle sprain against the Jaguars and wasn’t 100% against the Bengals but has had two weeks to heal. Hurts has been dealing with a sprained throwing shoulder since late December but like Mahomes appears to be getting back to near his optimal best.

The Chiefs receiving corps had also looked banged up but two weeks to heal has seen them back at full strength.

Several players will though be playing through an injury with Eagles LG Landon Dickerson possibly the most notable as he will be wearing a protective brace on his right elbow. Chiefs star defensive tackle may well be attacking him as the “weak spot” on the Philadelphia offensive line.

GAME PLANS

Time now to take a look at little more of an in-depth look at what may well happen when each offence has the ball and how the opposing defence will react and combat two very effective and potentially explosive offences.

Chiefs Offence vs Eagles Defence

Despite the injury to his ankle that Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes suffered against the Jaguars he was still excellent a week later when beating the Bengals despite the fact that his receiving group appeared to dissipate with every set of downs. But Mahomes is a QB who elevates the play of those around him and fully deserved his MVP award, 22 days removed from the injury he should be capable of running the Chiefs extensive and at times eclectic playbook just how he wants.

With a full array of weapons available the formidable Eagles defence will have to be at their best and like all teams that face the Chiefs the main question they will have to answer is how do you stop Mahomes? Pressure may be seen as the answer and it’s true the Eagles have one hell of a pass rush and they don’t need to blitz to create pressure; They ended the regular season with an 11.2% sack rate, the highest since the 2000 New Orleans Saints. The Eagles blitzed on 24.2% of pass plays, which ranked 16th in the league but they have the personnel to come at you in different combinations. Four different defenders—edge rushers Haason Reddick, Josh Sweat, and Brandon Graham, plus defensive tackle Javon Hargrave—had double-digit sacks.

Mahomes is mobile though and this year he’s been good against the blitz, the Eagles can create pressure without over doing pressure up front and do as the Bengals have often done play coverage and dare Mahomes to beat them. The Bengals were able to create pressure at times in their games against the Chiefs over the past year while rushing just three players toward Mahomes and it’s not as though the Eagles secondary is poor either with cornerbacks Darius Slay and James Bradberry amongst the best in the NFL.

Obviously, a lot of attention will be paid to how well the Eagles cover tight ends because Travis Kelce is the top offensive weapon for Mahomes in an offence that really lacks a top class wide receiver since Tyreek Hill departed for the Dolphins this season. Kelce has been a nightmare for defences to cover all year and he can and does line up in multiple positions (he’s not a typical TE). Kelce isn’t the only tight end in the league who can split out and excel away from the rest of the formation, but he’s the only one who can do it at a high level. Over his last eight post season games Kelce is averaging 104.4 yards with 10 TD’s and Reid and offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy always figure a way of cutting Kelce loose at some point in the game. The Eagles have played mediocre tight end defence this season, yielding the league’s 15th-most catches and 12th-fewest yards to Kelce’s position. Dating back to the Super Bowl against the 49ers in 2019, Kelce has had playoff games of 6-43-1, 8-109-1, 13-118-2, 10-133-0, 5-108-1, 8-96-1, 10-95-1, 14-98-2, and 7-78-1. Mahomes and Kelce are on the verge of history. They already have 13 passing TDs in the playoffs, which is the second most in NFL Playoff history. They’re just two behind Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski, who hold the record with 15.

The running game is a smaller part of the Chiefs offence than it is the Eagles offence but nonetheless being able to run the ball does set up a lot of the elements of the Chiefs passing game. The Eagles run defence over the first half of the season was a big problem but the addition of veterans Ndamukong Suh and Linval Joseph has to a certain extent solved some of the deficiencies in that area if not all.

The Chiefs running game revolves around rookie Isiah Pacheco and Jerick McKinnon although it would appear that the former is starting to gain a lead on the latter – Pacheco out-touched McKinnon 62-36 over the last five games that the Chiefs have played. In the AFC Championship Game it was definitely Pacheco that held sway and was even used more in a pass catching role which until then had very much been the preserve of McKinnon. That may well have been a ploy to save McKinnon for this game but I still think that Pacheco will assume the lead back role. One area where the Chiefs run game has fallen down has been in short yardage situation in the red zone. Kansas City ranked 31st in the NFL by converting 55% of “power runs,” defined as runs with 1 or 2 yards to go on third down, fourth down, or the goal line and one of the reasons why they seem to want to pass more with just a few yards to gain a new set of downs or even a TD.

The receiving group for the Chiefs apart from Kelce lacks an out-and-out star but there is some talent amongst them and they do use an awful lot of different receivers – 10 different players caught a pass against the Bengals. Winning outside will be tough for this receiving corps against Slay and Bradbury and although Marquez Valdes-Scantling had a career game against the Bengals with 116 yards on six catches and a TD it’s hard to see him repeating those numbers here. Rookie Skyy Moore, fragile but very useful and dangerous Kadarius Toney and Justin Watson may have bit parts to play in the passing games with Mahomes spreading the ball around. Don’t be surprised to see Watson hit deep by Mahomes as he has an average depth of target at a whopping 21.7yards and 14 total targets at least 20 yards downfield.

Apart from Kelce the best matchup that the Chiefs have in this element of the game is with JuJu Smith-Schuster who runs most of his routes from the slot. Whilst slot CB Avonte Maddox isn’t poor by any means he has been injured and with Smith-Schuster now healthy it may be a spot that the Chiefs can attack.

Eagles’ Offence vs Chiefs Defence

Much has been made of the Eagles ability to run the ball and a lot of that is down to dual-threat QB Jalen Hurts who epitomises the modern player at that position. Hurts now appears to have come through the shoulder injury that caused him to miss two games at the end of the regular season before returning for the final week and then the playoffs although it’s arguable that neither of those two recent outings really tested him.

To his credit Hurts has put together an MVP-worthy season throwing for 3,701 yards with 22 touchdown passes to six interceptions while rushing for 760 yards and 13 scores. Hurts has undoubtedly improved as a pocket passer this year, but his dynamic running ability could be the one factor that troubles a Chiefs defence that has allowed 40 plus rushing yards to the likes of Malik Willis (40), Bryce Perkins (44), Joe Burrow (46), Russell Wilson (57), and Jarrett Stidham (50) and Hurts has more ability in the run game than all of that quintet. Kansas City allowed the NFL’s fifth-most QB rushing yards, while Hurts 763 yards rushing were third most among quarterbacks in 2022 to go alongside his 13 rushing TD’s, a season-high at that position. This season, Hurts is second on the team in rush share (29.3%), second in red zone rush share (35.8%), and first in attempts inside the 10-yard line (40.3%).

The mobility that Hurts has of course allows him to avoid pressure behind what is a very stable offensive line and although I’m sure the Chiefs will be keen to try and pressure Hurts will they be brave enough to blitz him and leave their young corner backs isolated against the likes of A.J Brown and DeVonta Smith (more of that top receiving duo in a moment). Certainly, Chris Jones for the Chiefs can generate pressure on the interior and Frank Clark off the edge, but this Eagles offensive line plus the mobility and speed of Hurts can counteract that.

The run game isn’t all about Hurts though the Eagles have a deadly trio of running options who all offer something different. Miles Sanders who ran for only 42 yards on 11 carries in the NFC Championship Game remains the lead back and the favourable game scripts in the post season have meant that the Eagles could hold back on Sanders workload. In the first half of the two playoff games Sanders played 43 snaps compared to the two other RB’s that the Eagles use in Kenneth Gainwell (23) and Boston Scott (16). The Eagles have outscored opponents 49-7 in the first half and then rotated in Gainwell and Scott heavily after the breaks, that is unlikely to be the case here it’s likely that we will see Sanders for the majority of the game. If the Eagles are able to stay with the run game as implied by the game total, then this will be by far the best run game that the Chiefs have faced all season.

If the Eagles are forced to play from behind that’s when you will see Gainwell as he’s the premier pass catching back and would also assume the number one RB slot if Sanders who has been a little banged up went out the game through injury. The Chiefs are susceptible to pass catching RB’s and I can see the Eagles having some plays scripted for the Gainwell. Gainwell has rushed for 160 yards this postseason, 28 more yards than teammate Miles Sanders. Scott has scored a TD in each of his last two games and tends to be used in goal line situations but then the Eagles have plenty of options around that area of the field.

There’s much more to the Eagles offence than the run game though and in fact in the first half of games, before the score begins to matter for running out the clock, the Eagles ran on just 35% of plays which indicates they still have a willingness to throw and why wouldn’t they with one of the best one-two WR duos in the league via A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith. Looking at the regular season the Chiefs gave up the second-most TD catches to wide receivers and conceded the seventh-most catches. Over the last eight games this dynamic duo have combined for a yard shy of 1,400 receiving yads and nine TD’s. Looking at the two post season games for the Chiefs they look as vulnerable as ever to WR’s and Smith in particular looks to have a matchup that Hurts will be looking to exploit.

Quez Watkins and Zach Pascal are the only other two wideouts on the Eagles with a target this season and they have combined for 73 total opportunities across 19 games, Watkins hasn’t cleared 20 yards in an individual game since early December but in a game where we may be reaching deep into the playbook may be worth a second glance especially with all the attention on Brown and Smith. The most appealing aspect of Watkins usage profile is that a team-high 24.0% of his targets come at least 20 yards downfield.

Like the Chiefs the Eagles have a more than useful TE and whilst I wouldn’t put Dallas Goedert in the Kelce class he is an integral part of the Eagles offence and he’s played nearly every snap since his return from a mid-season injury to his shoulder. The Chiefs have kept TE’s fairly quiet throughout the season, but Goedert does have at least five receptions in each of his past three games and tight ends have found the end zone against them this year allowing a 6.9% touchdown rate to the position (24th).

Special Teams

Neither the Chiefs or Eagles stand out, particularly in this area of the game being mediocre at best although there are one or two elements of this facet of the game where they can stand out and claim to be amongst the better teams.

Without doubt, both teams have decent kickers with the Eagles Jake Elliott having the edge in that department over his Chiefs counterpart Harrison Butker. Elliott in the regular season was 22-25 on field goals (2-2 in the playoffs) with a long of 56 yards (his career long is 61 yards). Butker missed a few games through injury in the regular season going 18-24 with his field goals (long of 62) and in the playoffs like Elliott he’s been perfect, 5-5. Both have played in Super Bowls before and neither has yet to miss a field goal.

The best part of the Chiefs special teams is their punting unit and that’s one part of the game they won’t want to be using too often, but if they did punter Tommy Townsend is an excellent exponent of the art as he was elected first-team All-Pro, and the Chiefs finished second in net value (but first in net value per punt).

EXTRA POINTS

A few more points to make before we wrap things up in the end zone.

Let’s hope we are not talking about the officials during and after the game and with Carl Cheffers appointment as Super Bowl referee for his second game at this level in the past three years and third in seven years it’s clear that the NFL see him as the most trustworthy official. Having said that Cheffers did lead a crew that ranked in the top third of the most flag-happy, so it’s hoped that he lets the players play here rather than too many picky calls.

On the subject of MVP in the game and the other more eclectic prop lines and specials that the oddsmakers at Star Sports have lined up for me to take a shot at I’ll be taking a separate look at those in a column that will be published on Sunday morning.

Oh, and here are a couple of odds facts that you may like to know.

In Mahomes’ career, he has started 93 games and either had a lead or been within one score in the fourth quarter 90 out of 93 times (96.7%).

Is there a Super Bowl coin toss curse?

Teams who won the coin toss but lost the game, the last eight winners of the coin toss have lost the Super Bowl:

2021     Bengals
2020    Chiefs
2019     49ers
2018     Rams
2017     Patriots
2016     Falcons
2015     Panthers
2014     Seahawks

THE END ZONE

Time to tie all the loose ends together and come to a decision and one that really is already made for me as way back at the start of the season in my Star Sports NFL Preview one of two teams that I tipped for glory were the Philadelphia Eagles at 20-1. Hopefully, a few of you out there followed me in and I’m not going to change my position now although it would make sense as I have done to hedge a little on the Chiefs on the Star Sports Money Line at 21-20.

If I was coming to the event cold now I think I would still just favour the Eagles as the slightly stronger side from 1-53 although it always pains me to bet against Mahomes and Reid especially with coach Read’s record off bye weeks which reads 24-3 and 9-3 in the playoffs. All told against the spread, Reid-coached teams are 23-14 following byes.

The game which is a genuinely fascinating one should feature plenty of back and forth and is the first Super Bowl between two sides that have scored the same number of points entering the game, 546. I won’t be surprised by either team winning this what would surprise me is to see one team blow the other away they are too closely matched for that to happen all things being equal and injuries not occurring.

I’ll go with a close game – hope the Eagles win and play some of the interesting and challenging prop lines that the Star Sports oddsmakers have devised and hope that those I detailed below and will also detail in a separate column tomorrow can deliver the goods.

Enjoy the game and thanks for reading this season.

ANDY RICHMOND


ANDY RICHMOND is a lifelong punter and sports enthusiast who now writes extensively on horse racing and the NFL. His CV includes long spells on Timeform Radio and Racing UK having previously held several positions at the then-fledgling Betfair Exchange where he worked for six years. He has a particular love for the statistical and analytical side of sports which fits in well with the NFL. He writes all the NFL content on Paul Jones subscription service as well as having his own betting advisory service.


RECOMMENDED BETS
BACK Travis Kelce (Chiefs) to score a TD 2pts at 10/11 (Latest Star Price ? CLICK TO BET NOW)
BACK Josh Sweat (Eagles) to record a Sack 1pt at 6/5 (Latest Star Price ? CLICK TO BET NOW)
BACK Isiah Pacheco (Chiefs) OVER +68.5 rushing/receiving yards 1pt at 10/11 (Latest Star Price ? CLICK TO BET NOW)
BACK Isiah Pacheco (Chiefs) OVER +11.5 rushing attempts 1pt at 10/11 (Latest Star Price ? CLICK TO BET NOW)
BACK Kenneth Gainwell (Eagles) OVER +11.5 receiving yards 1.5pts at 10/11 (Latest Star Price ? CLICK TO BET NOW)
BACK Travis Kelce (Chiefs) & Dallas Goedert (Eagles) to both score a TD 1pt at 9/2 (Latest Star Price ? CLICK TO BET NOW)


PROFIT/LOSS (FEB 2023): LOSS 0.2 points


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