Super Bowl LVII preview


Photos courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

(Left to right) Kansas City Chiefs Quarterback Patrick Mahomes and Philadelphia Eagles Quarterback Jalen Hurts.

Miles Hayford

Super Bowl 57 takes place at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona on February 12th at 5:30 P.M. It will most certainly be a hard fought game with the 14-3 Kansas City Chiefs facing off against the 14-3 Philadelphia Eagles. 

The game is headlined by the teams’ quarterbacks, Patrick Mahomes and Jalen Hurts who have been leading the MVP race all year. But, both teams have star-studded rosters beyond their electric quarterbacks. 

The Chiefs have their elite tight end Travis Kelce and four time Pro Bowler Chris Jones who leads the Chiefs’ pass rush. The Eagles, on the other hand, are solid at almost every position. They have a fantastic wide receiver core led by A.J. Brown and a shutdown defense led by Fletcher Cox and Darius Slay Jr.

The Eagles’ path to the Super Bowl has been relatively easy with two blowout wins in the playoffs, but they will face their toughest opponent all year in the Super Bowl. As good as their defense has been this year, they have yet to face a quarterback like Mahomes. The Chiefs, on the other hand, are coming off a win against the Cincinnati Bengals in which they had to kick a game winning field goal with three seconds left. It will most definitely be a fun game to watch, especially with it showcasing two of the league’s best offenses.

The following are a few thoughts about the teams, the players, and the big game:

What to Watch For: A battle between the two young phenoms, Hurts and Mahomes will be special. They have been leading the tight MVP race all year, and now get to face off. They have been leading some of the league’s best offenses. Both are mobile quarterbacks with great arms, and they are both dangerous when they take off. This Super Bowl will most definitely have some back and forth between Hurts and Mahomes. Mahomes with his scrambling and targeting the dynamic Travis Kelce, and Hurts with throwing deep balls to A.J. Brown and designed quarterback runs. Expect a high scoring affair paired with some electric performances from Hurts and Mahomes. Both teams’ defenses are extremely good, but it will likely be the offenses headed by these two phenoms that will take the spotlight.

The X Factor: Devonta Smith. The Eagles number 2 wide receiver could be the X Factor in this game. Despite being behind A.J. Brown in the depth chart, he has still been incredible this year. In addition to boasting a 1000 yard season, Smith has scored seven touchdowns this year. He will be a major factor to the Eagles’ potential success in the Super Bowl. Smith’s big play potential could be vital for the Eagles to keep up with the Chiefs’ high powered offense. 

Furthermore, A.J. Brown’s success against the Chiefs secondary is almost inevitable considering the numbers he’s put up this year, but the question is whether Smith can ball out too. If both of them can torch the Chiefs defense, then the Chiefs will be in for a long night. The Eagles offense will be hitting on all cylinders if they get both Brown and Smith going, and the Chiefs will be forced to play an almost flawless offensive game.

Matchup to Watch: The Eagles’ pass rush versus the Chiefs’ offensive lines. The Eagles lay claim to the NFL’s best pass rush with a whopping 70 sacks on the year. They ranked first in the league in pass rush wins and in pass rush win rate. They are constantly pressuring the quarterback or sacking him. Outside linebacker Hassan Reddick managed to get 16 sacks, second most in the league. His matchup against Chiefs’ offensive tackle Andrew Wylie will be the key. 

Wylie’s ability to keep up and block the talented linebacker will be integral to the Chiefs’ ability to protect Mahomes. Wylie has failed to show over the course of the year that he can protect the edge of the line, and now facing a talented player like Reddick, it will be a potential nightmare for Mahomes as he tries to avoid the onslaught of Eagles pass rushers. Whether the Chiefs can actually manage to hold off the league’s best pass rush remains to be seen. But, it will be important to watch because if they are unable to, the Chiefs will have a hard time scoring points with Mahomes under that much pressure.

The Stats: Mahomes is attempting to become the 13th quarterback in NFL history to have multiple Super Bowl wins. Hurts is only the third quarterback to reach the Super Bowl after leading his team in rushing touchdowns. Along with his rushing prowess, Hurts managed to throw for 3,701 yards and 22 touchdown passes with a 66.5% completion percentage. The Chiefs’ defense allowed a touchdown on 67.3% of opponent trips inside the 20 yard line, according to NFL Next Gen Stats. This same defense will have to face an Eagles offense that scored a touchdown on 67.8% of its trips inside the 20 yard line. Chiefs’ defensive tackle Chris Jones led all defensive tackles in pass rush win rate (21.5%). The Eagles ran on 50% of their plays this season, and had four players average 4 or more yards per carry. Mahomes had double the amount of interceptions Hurts had in the regular season. Eagles tight end Dallas Goedart finished the season with the third highest catch percentage out of all pass catchers.

Storyline to Watch: The Chiefs’ injury report. The Chiefs suffered a barrage of injuries in the AFC Championship game including cornerback L’Jarius Sneed (concussion), wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (knee), linebacker Willie Gay Jr. (shoulder), wide receiver Kadarius Toney (ankle) and wide receiver Mecole Hardman (pelvis). Along with Mahomes nursing a high ankle sprain, an injury that typically takes a player out of commission for 3-5 weeks yet Mahomes continues to play, the Chiefs are certainly banged up. 

Fortunately, the Chiefs will have two weeks to rest up before their game against the Eagles. If the Chiefs are missing almost any of these guys, the Eagles will have an easy time in the Super Bowl. The wide receiver room is a key aspect to watch, considering the lack of depth in that area for the Chiefs. It will definitely be interesting to keep an eye on the Chiefs’ injury report as their matchup with an all around complete Eagles team nears.

Why this Super Bowl is Unique: This is a Super Bowl of firsts. The game is breaking barriers this year: For the first time ever, two black starting quarterbacks will play against each other. Also, if the Eagles beat the Chiefs, Hurts would become the fourth Black quarterback to win a Super Bowl, joining Mahomes, Russell Wilson, and Doug Williams. Hopefully this year is just a sign of continued black quarterbacks’ success in a league in which the majority of the legendary quarterbacks have been white.

Additionally, this Super Bowl is unique because it is the first ever Super Bowl to have two brothers play against each other. The Eagles’ center Jason Kelce will be facing off against his younger brother Travis Kelce. Both are looking to secure their second Super Bowl ring in this matchup. In addition, both brothers are future Hall of Famers and are integral to their team. Travis is arguably the league’s top tight end and is the Chiefs’ top pass catcher this year. Jason, on the other hand, is a veteran center who is leading arguably the league’s best offensive line. It will be fascinating to see the competition between the two of them, considering the brothers have hosted a podcast together throughout the season this year and have vocally shown their support for each other’s teams.

The Path to The Trophy

Chiefs: The Chiefs need to come out of the gates swinging. They had a slow start offensively in the AFC Championship game against the Bengals. That led to the struggling Bengals offense to stay in the game while they got their offense going. With another matchup against a prolific offense, one that is arguably better than the Bengals’ offense, the Chiefs can’t afford a slow start. 

Mahomes needs to be putting points on the board from the start. It’s unlikely that the Chiefs defense will be able to do a ton to stop Hurts and the Eagles, so it is up to Mahomes to maintain what is expected out of the league’s best offense. The Chiefs cannot afford to be stalled early in the game. At the end of the day, the Chiefs won’t be able to rely on their defense to win this one. So, they are going to have to survive a shootout with the Eagles in order to bring home the franchise’s third Super Bowl.

Eagles: The Eagles need to dominate the trenches. They need to dominate the Chiefs with both their offensive and defensive line. The Eagles’ pass rush needs to put pressure on Mahomes. The Eagles’ pass rush might be their best asset and they’ll have to use it to their advantage in order to beat the Chiefs. As a result of the high ankle sprain, Mahomes isn’t able to scramble like he usually can. So a ferocious pass rush led by Hassan Reddick and Fletcher Cox could hamper Mahomes’ mobility and force him to throw poorly. Just 13 players in the NFL recorded 12 or more sacks this season, and four of them play for the Eagles. 

If Philadelphia can pressure and even sack Mahomes, the Chiefs offense will be in for a long night and will probably be hindered. The Eagles will definitely need that hindrance because they haven’t faced an offense as good as the Chiefs all year. Additionally, the Eagles’ juggernaut of an offensive line will need to play well. It certainly has all season and hasn’t even let up a sack or a hit to Hurts throughout the entirety of the playoffs. Protecting Hurts from the likes of Chiefs’ Chris Jones will be an important priority for the Eagles. Dominating the trenches isn’t anything new for the Eagles, they’ve done it all year. But, if they can do it one last time the Chiefs’ high powered offense and pass rush will be thwarted, likely leading to another Super Bowl for the city of Philadelphia.