Here we are. Face-to-face with the Super Bowl. Two No. 1 seeds battling for immortality. There’s so much to share. But let’s not go overboard. Here’s a preliminary look at our predictions and picks for Super Bowl LVII between the Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles. The following betting odds are for picks against the spread as well as moneylines based on DraftKings Sportsbook.
Prediction and Pick for Super Bowl 57
Just like during the NFL regular season, the postseason features the expected, the moderately unexpected, and the completely unexpected. When betting on point spreads and moneylines, especially for the Super Bowl, we need to focus on the first two outcomes.
What are the highest-probability game scripts? Which interesting subplots could emerge? For example, we cannot anticipate when a little-used fullback will fall into the end zone twice in one half. But we can assess the likelihood that one team’s backfield will earn more scoring opportunities.
With that in mind, here are our assessments of how this Chiefs vs. Eagles will play out.
For the seventh straight year, the Super Bowl will feature two teams averaging 27+ points per game during the regular season. For context, that never happened once from the 1999 season through 2015. In other words, this is an unusual trend.
And it’s unusual not merely because the NFL is a higher-scoring league these days. These last seven years (including this season), every Super Bowl competitor has been top seven in scoring.
That hasn’t often been the case. Sometimes we see a top-10 offense with a strong defense — or even a bottom-10 offense with an elite defense.
Kansas City and Philadelphia are part of a recent continuum — the seemingly natural extension of a league where the highest scorers generally reach the postseason more consistently than the best scoring defenses.
A good segue to defenses. The Eagles’ defense is on another level: No. 1 with 70 sacks, No. 1 in passing yards yielded, tied for fourth in forced turnovers, etc. They’ve also yielded the eighth-fewest points while shutting down their postseason opponents.
Kansas City’s defense is more of a mixed bag. Sure, they’re No. 2 in sacks and boast a slightly better run D. But often, their best defense has been a good offense, as they’ve forced teams to play catch-up. In the playoffs, that’s led to Jacksonville’s Travis Etienne Jr. netting only 10 carries, and Cincinnati’s Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine combining for just 13 carries.
KC has tallied seven fewer forced turnovers than Philly has. But even that narrow gap places them on opposite sides of the ledger. The Chiefs have a -3 turnover differential. They rely on brilliant offensive execution and opponents’ stalled drives more than interceptions and fumble recoveries.
The Formerly Undefeated Eagles
This is the best Eagles team (and arguably, it’s better) in five years. That 2017 squad was third in scoring offense and fourth in scoring defense. That was the last Super Bowl featuring two top-three offenses (the other team was the Patriots).
But I’d also draw comparisons between this year’s Eagles and the 2006 Super Bowl-winning Colts. Indy started that season 9-0 — the final undefeated team of 2006. In fact, no final undefeated team in any season since has gone on to win the Super Bowl. Those that reached the final game these past 15 years are 0-5.
In fact, maybe the 2009 Colts — which started 14-0 before losing to New Orleans in the Super Bowl — is an intriguing case study. That Indy team had a near-elite offense and near-elite defense. But in the title game, they faced Drew Brees in his prime.
Those Saints were first in scoring offense and 20th in scoring defense. For context, this year’s Chiefs are No. 1 and No. 16, respectively, with Patrick Mahomes in his prime.
X-Factor: Patrick Mahomes
Some might say Jalen Hurts is the X-factor. That’s fair. It’s his first Super Bowl. He’s quite possibly the best dual-threat QB in history — or will be when his history is written.
But playing in his third Super Bowl in five years, Mahomes is on a different level. I’m not saying he’s better. But if we see a healthy, poised Mahomes at the helm, it’ll be hard to shut him down.
If he and his offensive line can keep Philly at bay (a big “if,” but doable), then it’s hard to see how Philadelphia stops him. Their run defense yielded 4.6 yards per carry during the regular season. Isiah Pacheco and Jerick McKinnon should get what they need to move the chains.
More than that, Mahomes has never had this many “good” weapons at his disposal. This isn’t a Travis Kelce-or-bust passing attack.
Here’s an example. JuJu Smith-Schuster has played at another level this season. You might not know it from his primary receiving stats. But his 77.2% catch rate is one of the league’s best among wideouts. Since Week 6, he’s caught 59 of 69 targets. That’s an 86% catch rate since mid-October.
Among all WRs with 100+ targets in any season in NFL history, the only one I could find with a better catch rate across 13 straight games was Michael Thomas in his first 13 contests in 2018. His catch rate was less than a point higher than Smith-Schuster’s.
That’s how incredible the Chiefs’ pseudo No. 1 WR is. And that speaks volumes about how incredible this offense is — that one of the greatest stretches of receiving prowess might make Smith-Schuster a 10+ target weekly option. But in this aerial attack, he’s a bit player. A frequent decoy. A situational tool in a jam-packed toolbox.
No, he and Kadarius Toney and Mecole Hardman reportedly are banged up and, perhaps, “questionable” for the Super Bowl. I wouldn’t read too much into this, at least not yet. If they can run, they’ll probably be out there.
Mahomes has eight ready-for-prime-time pass catchers at his disposal, plus a healthy dose of tertiary options like Marcus Kemp and Noah Gray.
In the end, I like KC taking this one by 5+ points, in part because I believe their offensive line will help neutralize the Eagles’ pass rush, and in part because of a running game that’s good enough to challenge Philly.
But mostly, it’s because of Mahomes and a collection of receivers — led by the all-world Kelce — who will force Philly’s secondary to adjust. And re-adjust. And keep re-adjusting, because there’s nothing predictable about Mahomes or this passing attack . . . except that it’s so dang hard to stop.
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