It’s time to break down Super Bowl LVII between the Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles, and make our pick for the sport’s biggest game.
For Jalen Hurts and his Philadelphia Eagles, a chance to forever be remembered.
For Patrick Mahomes and his Kansas City Chiefs, an opportunity to extend their legacy.
This is the realty of Super Bowl LVII. Philadelphia won a title five short years ago, and yet only six players — including three starting offensive linemen — remain. Meanwhile, Kansas City has 15 holdovers from its Super Bowl LIV conquest, not including head coach Andy Reid and both coordinators.
Most of the Eagles’ stars have never seen a Super Bowl. Many of the Chiefs’ stars have.
Still, experience only matters so much. Philadelphia and Kansas City both went 14-3 this year before winning two postseason games apiece. The Chiefs labored through two one-score victories to punch their ticket, while the Eagles won by a combined score of 69-14 over the New York Giants and quarterback-less San Francisco 49ers.
This week in Glendale, the storylines are going to be dominated by Reid facing his old team, brothers Jason and Travis Kelce squaring off, and the health of both Jalen Hurts and Patrick Mahomes.
And while the latter headline is certainly meaningful, both are healthy enough to function. But as I wrote last week, the game itself will largely be decided up front. It will also be determined by explosive plays. Philadelphia finished second in the NFL with 80. Kansas City had 83.
But here’s the x-factor nobody will notice all week: the Chiefs’ defense is playing really well.
Since the Chiefs got rookie cornerback Trent McDuffie off Injured Reserve with a hamstring injury, the defense picked up significantly.
Without McDuffie, Kansas City allowed 313.3 passing yards and 25.1 points per game, 7.4 yards per attempt, and an average QBR of 61.5.
With McDuffie in the lineup, those numbers plummet to 211.6 passing yards and 19.8 points per game allowed, 6.1 yards per attempt, and an average QBR of 50.9.
McDuffie is part of a Kansas City defense that has largely come of age behind its youth quickly growing up. The secondary has played four rookies routinely this season, including corners Jaylen Watson, Joshua Williams, and McDuffie, and safety Bryan Cook.
Up front, the Chiefs have another rookie in edge rusher George Karlaftis, who has become a menace over the past two months. In Kansas City’s first 10 games this season, the Purdue product notched a half-sack. In the nine games since (including playoffs), Karlaftis has 6.5 sacks.
This is especially interesting against a Philadelphia offense that while loaded with three Pro Bowls and two First-Team All-Pros along the line, has struggled to avoid sacks. The Eagles are 24th in sack rate against and have allowed 44 sacks, 20th in the NFL.
If the Chiefs can get to Hurts on key downs and force a few punts, the Eagles must then contend with more drives against the league’s No. 1 ranked offense.
When Kansas City has the ball, it’ll be about turnovers and sacks.
The Eagles easily led the league with 70 sacks, including four players with at least 11. Edge rusher Haason Reddick had 16 during the regular season, and he’ll often line up with Kansas City’s biggest question mark in right tackle Andrew Wylie. Expect the Chiefs to help on Reddick with chips from Kelce and the occasional double-team from running back Jerick McKinnon, but that’s more band-aid than a solution.
Over its last eight games, the Eagles have a whopping 42 sacks. That’s more than 20 teams had all year.
However, the Chiefs have been excellent at avoiding sacks this year. Kansas City ranks second in sack rate against (3.8 percent) and third in total sacks allowed (26). This despite facing some of the league’s best pass rushes including a healthy Buffalo Bills group, the Los Angeles Chargers (twice), the San Francisco 49ers, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Finally, can the Eagles force turnovers? Philadelphia’s defense ranked T-4th in takeaways, and it only failed twice to cause at least one in a game. Conversely, this has been a problem for the Chiefs, who have committed giveaways in every contest save for five this year, including the postseason.
All that said … who wins?
The Eagles have a slight advantage up front. The Chiefs have experience on both field and the sideline. Philadelphia has better roster depth. Kansas City has Mahomes.
Give me Kansas City, 31-23.
Top 10 individual Super Bowl performances of all time
1. Jerry Rice, San Francisco 49ers (1988) – 11 catches, 215 yards, TD
2. Steve Young, San Francisco 49ers (1994) – 325 passing yards, 6 TDs
3. Lynn Swann, Pittsburgh Steelers (1975) – 4 catches, 161 yards, TD
4. Timmy Smith, Washington Redskins (1987) – 22 carries, 202 yards, 2 TDs
5. Nick Foles, Philadelphia Eagles (2017) – 373 passing yards, 4 total TDs
6. Doug Williams, Washington Redskins (1987) – 340 passing yards, 4 TDs
7. Joe Montana, San Francisco 49ers (1989) – 22/29, 297 yards, 5 TDs
8. Kurt Warner, St. Louis Rams (1999) – 414 passing yards, 2 TDs
9. Marcus Allen, Los Angeles Raiders (1983) – 20 carries, 191 yards, 2 TDs
10. Phil Simms, New York Giants (1986) – 22/25, 268 yards, 3 TDs
– Seattle Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith on his contract talks with the team
Unlike so many quarterback situations around the NFL, Seattle and Smith seem very stable. Although the 32-year-old veteran is slated for free agency next month, all indications are trending toward the sides coming to terms.
For Smith, it’s an easy call. He became a Pro Bowler under offensive coordinator Shane Waldron, throwing for 4,282 yards and 30 touchdowns this season. And for Seattle, Smith provides stability and a bridge to the future, whenever general manager John Schneider decides to go that route.
Only the Minnesota Vikings and Buffalo Bills have reached at least four Super Bowls and never won once. New Orleans and Pasadena were the venues for two of these defeats apiece.
Info learned this week
1. Tom Brady walks away after a career for the ages
On Wednesday morning, Tom Brady announced his retirement. Unlike his ever-expanding career, Brady’s missive took 53 seconds. Retirement, again. This time, for good.
To sum up Brady’s career is to try and present the Mona Lisa in a few words. Its brilliance can’t be contained in a few paragraphs, and every time you look at it, there’s another facet that strikes you. Seven Super Bowls. Ten appearances. Three MVP awards. Fifteen Pro Bowls. Three First-Team All-Pro honors. Two All-Decade Teams.
GOING DEEP: Brady leaves behind an unimaginable legacy
Brady began his career in one millennium and ended it 24 years in another. He was a sixth-round afterthought who became the most famous and accomplished player in NFL history. Brady never had the biggest arm, the quickest release, or any mobility. Yet all he did was win. He took less on contracts, molded his game around the roster presented to him, and embraced the harshness of The Patriot Way, all in the pursuit of glory. Nobody ever found more.
For much of his career, Brady was both loved and hated. Those in the latter category were sick of him winning, and that’s understandable. But that’s also to miss the point. Sports is about doing whatever it takes within the confines of the rulebook to achieve. Brady and the Patriots may have stepped outside the legalities of football a time or two, but nobody ever had a greater will to succeed. In that sense, nobody has ever been better.
Now, Brady moves into another phase of life. He’ll become a broadcaster for FOX. He’ll likely be involved in outside pursuits. He’ll have more down time. He’ll hopefully take a vacation, eat some ice cream and take a day off from the gym.
After 24 years, the greatest winner football has ever known finally said goodbye.
It was well-earned.
2. Sean Payton joins Broncos, with Denver going for broke
It’s Super Bowl or bust for Sean Payton, Russell Wilson, and the Denver Broncos.
That’s the only way what has transpired over the last 11 months at Dove Valley makes all the asset allocation worth it. After acquiring Wilson last offseason from the Seattle Seahawks, Denver swung big once more, landing Payton while paying him somewhere between $85-100 million on a five-year deal to become the Broncos’ head coach..
If you’re keeping score, Denver has now dealt three first- and second-round picks, plus edge rusher Bradley Chubb, defensive tackle Shelby Harris, quarterback Drew Lock and tight end Noah Fant for Wilson, Payton, and over $300 million in contracts.
The question isn’t why the Broncos would trade for Payton after giving away so much for Wilson. That’s easy. Denver had no choice but to land Payton after striking out on other candidates. Plus, Payton brings immediate credibility with a Super Bowl ring and some of the most powerful offenses of the last 20 years to his resumè.
At this point, Denver had to bet big once more.
Instead, the question is whether this will work. The idea of Wilson and Payton co-existing is hard to fathom, considering one is a coaching version of a fire-breathing dragon, and the other does high-knee exercises down the airplane aisle.
Furthermore, the Broncos will not have had a first-round pick for three years, or a second-round pick for two (they had one last year). Ideally, those selections result in top-tier, cheap talent. Denver has very little of that. This means needing to hit on late-round picks consistently, or gambling big in free agency. Not the typical way to win.
Hiring Payton makes sense for the desperate Broncos, but the work is far, far from done.
3. Derek Carr has a soft Feb. 15 deadline to monitor amid rumors
Talk to NFL people in Mobile, and they all tell you the same thing: the Raiders are in a jam.
On Feb. 15, quarterback Derek Carr is guaranteed $40.4 million. For Las Vegas general manager Dave Ziegler, this leaves him with a few options.
Ziegler can release Carr before the money hits the cap, giving the Raiders a dead-money figure of $5.6 million. can trade Carr in a deal that won’t become official to the new league year begins on March 15, provided Carr agrees to waive his no-trade clause. Or, he can allow the deadline to pass as one league source told FanSided he saw as plausible, making the atmosphere uncomfortable enough for Carr that he’d expand his list of acceptable teams. It would become a game of chicken.
Looking at the landscape, Carr is the most attractive option for quarterback-needy teams. A few will land signal-callers at the top of the draft, but others will be stuck. Nobody is excited about Baker Mayfield, Carson Wentz, Matt Ryan, Nick Foles, Gardner Minshew, or Sam Darnold. There will be some interest in Jimmy Garoppolo, but Carr is typically better and healthier than Garoppolo.
For any interested party, a trade makes the most sense. That team would inherit a contract of three years and cap hits of $33 million, $42 million, and $41.3 million with no dead money to be concerned with. In this financial climate, those are palatable numbers with an annual escape hatch.
But will Carr accept any deal, or force his way to free agency? That’s the ultimate pivot point.
4. Aaron Rodgers buzz won’t go away, and it makes sense this time
The Aaron Rodgers trade talk won’t die. Partially because it’s legitimate. Partially because Rodgers himself revels in the noise.
For the third straight offseason, we’re about to be bombarded by conversations. The early belief is the New York Jets are the frontrunners, with the Raiders and former teammate Davante Adams looming. Both can afford the salary cap hit, but can Las Vegas owner Mark Davis afford the cash, which is $59.5 million upfront?
It never made sense for the Packers to move on from Rodgers after the 2020 season. Green Bay was still loaded, Rodgers was coming off an MVP season and the Packers were favorites to emerge from the NFC. He was also under contract and backup quarterback Jordan Love was only one year into his rookie pact.
Flash forward to last offseason, and it still made better sense for Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst to retain Rodgers. Green Bay was again coming off a No. 1 seed and the roster looked stacked compared to other NFC contenders, even after trading Adams to the Raiders. And, once more, Rodgers was fresh off an MVP campaign.
Now, things are different. Rodgers struggled — comparatively speaking — in 2022. The Packers are about to go through a serious roster purge due to a cap crunch. Love is entering the fourth and potentially a final year of his rookie contract. It’s time to move on, get what Gutekunst can, and move forward.
The big question is who will relinquish the most assets, and will Rodgers approve the move? He doesn’t have a no-trade clause, but he could threaten retirement. No acquiring team wants that.
For two years, this space has been consistent in saying Rodgers will stay put. Not this time.
5. Cards, Colts jobs remain open as February begins
The Arizona Cardinals and Indianapolis Colts still have job openings. It’s not an accident.
While both teams have general managers, both situations are complex. In Arizona, new GM Monti Ossenfort has to deal with a quarterback contract nobody is excited about inheriting. Kyler Murray signed a five-year extension last offseason, and Arizona is locked into it until 2025 at the earliest.
The Cardinals have a few finalists including Cincinnati Bengals coordinator Lou Anarumo and New York Giants offensive coordinator Mike Kafka — either would be a tremendous hire — with each scheduled to interview a second time later this week. Kafka is particularly interesting, given credit in many league circles for helping get Patrick Mahomes ready for his first year as a starter, and aiding Daniel Jones’ development in New York.
Arizona almost always hires first-time head coaches to keep the cost down. In fact, dating back to when they relocated to St. Louis prior to the 1960 season, the Cardinals have hired 18 coaches. Only three heads prior pro football coaching experience. Barring a surprise, it’ll happen again.
As for the Colts, there’s an old-fashioned power struggle taking place. Talking to league sources, the hire will largely come down to whether owner Jim Irsay or general manager Chris Ballard has the final say. Going into this past weekend, it’s believed that while both are involved in the process, Irsay is in control.
If Irsay has his way, it’s possible interim coach Jeff Saturday gets the permanent job despite going 1-7 and being outscored 244-157. Try selling that to the fanbase.
However, if Ballard and the front office are given the final vote, perhaps Giants defensive coordinate Wink Martindale or Bengals offensive guru Brian Callahan gets the nod.
Suffice it to say, it’s a tenuous moment in Indy.
Last week, the season painfully ended for the Bengals. Now, for their future.
Cincinnati has long been known as cheap under owner Mike Brown. Unlike many owners who made their fortunes in other ventures, the Brown Family has been made through football. In short, they don’t have the liquid capital other franchises enjoy.
On Friday, a firestorm began over an article in The Athletic which suggested Cincinnati could trade receiver Tee Higgins if his demands for a new deal are massive. While that’s both reasonable and strictly conjecture, it’s a good thought exercise.
This offseason, the Bengals have linebacker Germaine Pratt, safeties Vonn Bell and Jessie Bates, and running back Samaje Perine as free agents. They also have the decision to make on star back Joe Mixon. Will Cincinnati spend to retain Pratt, Bell, and/or Bates, or will the Bengals lose three key pieces off their defense?
As for Higgins, an extension could look similar to what A.J. Brown got following his trade to Philadelphia. While he’s a No. 2 for Cincinnati, Higgins is a top talent. He’s going to command at least $25 million per year. Something like four years, $105 million and $60 million guaranteed is a solid projection.
Would the Bengals pay that price with one year remaining on Higgins’ rookie deal, or will they play the season out, tag him in 2024, and go from there? Then there’s the option of trading him and perhaps getting an early pick in return.
All this comes with the backdrop of a looming Joe Burrow extension, and next year, new money for receivers Ja’Marr Chase.
Cincinnati will be fascinating to watch over the next few off-seasons. What the Bengals do in the next few months will tell us plenty about what to expect.
Inside the league
The Senior Bowl was informative as always. Here are my top takeaways from three days in Mobile:
– This class won’t lack Day 2 receivers. Jayden Reed (Michigan St.), Michael Wilson (Stanford), Tank Dell (Houston), Jonathan Mingo (Ole Miss) and Dontayvion Wicks (Virginia) stood out as guys worth taking in the early-to-mid rounds. Dell is electrifying in open spaces, but his 163-pound frame is a concern. Wilson was never an elite producer with the Cardinals, but he ran the best routes of any receiver we watched. Reed was excellent at tracking the ball, ran nice routes, and had soft hands.
– Tackling Tyjae Spears must feel like trying to bring down a lightning bolt. The Tulane product was the best player on the field at times, showcasing good hands, incredible burst, and tight-space quickness. Only 5-foot-9, Spears is built tough at 204 pounds. He also showed willingness in pass-blocking sets. He’s going to be a steal for someone.
– The quarterbacks weren’t impressive. Jake Haener of Fresno State was the most impressive of the bunch, but he’s a Day 3 pick. Max Duggan (TCU) showed some promise, but he’s raw. Another late-Day 3 choice. Everybody else will likely be a UDFA.
– Much like the receivers, there’s nice corner depth to be had in this draft. Kyu Blu Kelly (Stanford) was terrific all week. He belongs on Day 2. At 6-foot-1 and 196 pounds, South Carolina’s Darius Rush also flashed at times, and Riley Moss of Iowa had some nice pass breakups. All told, quality class of senior corners.
BetSided’s best bet
Travis Kelce OVER 78.5 receiving yards (-120)
The Chiefs are going to rely heavily on Kelce come Super Sunday against a tough Eagles pass defense.
Kansas City is banged up at receiver, and even if it has JuJu Smith-Schuster, Kadarius Toney and others available, Kelce is still the No. 1 option in this offense.
The future Hall of Fame tight end fell just short of this prop in the AFC Championship Game with 78 yards, but he’s picked up at least 95 receiving yards in seven of his last eight playoff games.
This is by far my favorite prop bet on the board for Super Bowl LVII.
Only the Commanders (Joe Theismann, Doug Williams, Mark Rypien), Giants (Eli Manning, Jeff Hostetler, Phil Simms) and Packers (Bart Starr, Brett Favre, Aaron Rodgers) have ever won Super Bowls with three different starting quarterbacks.
The Dallas Cowboys hired Brian Schottenheimer to replace Kellen Moore as offensive coordinator. Expect a lot of rushing attempts.
Schottenheimer, 49, spent last year on staff with Dallas but now gets his fourth shot in this role, having previously served it with the New York Jets (2006-11), Rams (2012-14) and Seahawks (2018-20). In those 11 combined seasons, Schottenheimer’s unit only once finished top-10 and was seven times was 20th or worse. In the passing game, those offenses were never better than 14th.
Frankly, it’s an uninspired hire by Dallas, which could have looked outside the organization for a new perspective. Schottenheimer has experience in this position, but as evidenced, none of it has produced great results.
This content was originally published here.