3 Keys for the Eagles to Beat the Chiefs in Super Bowl LVII

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The Philadelphia Eagles are a slight favorite to beat the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LVII, according to the NFL odds. One might think the Eagles have all you need to beat the Chiefs, including an offense that is explosive and balanced, and a suffocating pass defense.

But when the opponent has Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce, and head coach Andy Reid, that changes the calculus even if the rest of the roster is not up to snuff. That is how the Chiefs have managed to reach this game with a 16-3 record despite allowing the most touchdown passes in the NFL and finishing with a minus-3 turnover differential.

The Eagles have some mismatches on paper, but with the spread down to 1.5 points at Pennsylvania betting sites, this is looking like a toss-up for a team that has rarely been challenged all season thanks to a schedule that has constantly broken its way.

Here are three keys to keep in mind when placing your NFL picks for the Eagles to beat the Chiefs in Super Bowl LVII.

Kansas City Chiefs vs. Philadelphia Eagles

Sunday, February 12, 2023 – 06:30 PM EST at State Farm Stadium

1. Top-Ranked Pass Defense Must Pressure Patrick Mahomes

Another Super Bowl, another NFC defense trying to put the clamps on Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs.

The 2019 49ers did a good job for three quarters before Mahomes found Tyreek Hill for 44 yards on third-and-15 in the fourth quarter, then the floodgates opened for Kansas City’s 31-20 victory.

The 2020 Buccaneers had the advantage of playing a weakened offensive line, and they pressured Mahomes 29 times with a pretty standard four-man rush and held the Chiefs to zero touchdowns in a 31-9 win.

This Defense Is Different

The 2022 Eagles bring great defensive line depth that led to them becoming the fourth defense with 70 sacks in a season. Haason Reddick led the way with 16 sacks, and he has 3.5 more sacks in the postseason, including the play that injured Brock Purdy’s elbow in the NFC Championship Game.

But this defense also works because the top two corners, Darius Slay and James Bradberry, do such a great job in coverage. Bradberry is allowing a minuscule 4.4 yards per target in coverage this season. According to Next Gen Stats, no secondary allows fewer open receivers than the Eagles this year.

Only two quarterbacks have been able to throw for 225 yards against the Eagles this year, but that speaks to how easy the schedule has been, including some games against backup quarterbacks (Cooper Rush instead of Dak Prescott) or injured quarterbacks (San Francisco last week).

Time for the Real Deal

The Chiefs should be the best challenge since the Cowboys in Week 16. In that game, Dak Prescott threw a pick-six and was sacked six times, but he still threw for 347 yards, put up 40 points, and converted a third-and-30 in the fourth quarter with a 52-yard gain.

Who is capable of doing those things? Mahomes and the Chiefs, but they do have some injury concerns with Mahomes’ ankle possibly reaggravated in the third quarter of the last game, Travis Kelce had a back issue that seems to be okay, and there are now concerns about the wide receiver depth after JuJu Smith-Schuster, Mecole Hardman, and Kadarius Toney all left the last game injured.

Mahomes showed he could still move and throw well against the Bengals, but there was a noticeable dip in his performance after he hurt the ankle again in the third quarter and was hopping around. The defense with 70 sacks and great outside coverage needs to take advantage of a quarterback and his weapons who will not be 100 percent even with the bye week to rest.

In his last five losses, Mahomes has held the ball for an average of over 3.0 seconds, which is long for a quarterback. If the Eagles can cover well enough to make him hold it this time, the pass rush should get there enough for the team to have success in this matchup.

2. Jalen Hurts Must Play Better and Score 27-Plus Points

With so much of the attention understandably going to Mahomes, Jalen Hurts is the quarterback who could ultimately decide the outcome of this game.

Hurts is also an MVP finalist, and he is looking to complete a season where the Eagles are 17-1 when he starts. Including the playoffs, he already has set the NFL record with 15 rushing touchdowns from the quarterback position, and he has been unstoppable on those quarterback sneaks this year.

Not That Great Lately

But over his last four starts, Hurts is completing 60.3% of his passes with 2 touchdowns, 3 interceptions, a 75.7 passer rating, and he is averaging just 6.8 yards per attempt. The short touchdown runs have still been there, but Hurts has not rushed for 40 yards in a game since Week 15 in Chicago.

That was supposedly the game where he came away with a shoulder sprain that cost him two full games. Maybe he has been slow to recover from it, but his inaccuracy late in the season started the week before in Week 14 against the Giants.

According to the advanced stats at Pro Football Reference, Hurts has five games this season where he made a bad throw (read: inaccurate without being dropped or thrown away) and they all happen to be his last five games:

  • Week 14 at Giants: 19.4% bad throws
  • Week 15 at Bears: 27.0% bad throws
  • Week 18 vs. Giants: 22.6% bad throws
  • Divisional vs. Giants: 16.7% bad throws
  • NFC Championship Game vs. 49ers: 16.7% bad throws

Sure, the 49ers had a great defense this year, but the Bears were dead last in points allowed, and the Giants were playing backups in Week 18. Hurts was never higher than 14.7% bad throws in any game in Weeks 1-13. On the plus side, the Eagles won all these games, and most of them by comfortable margins. They are outscoring opponents 69-14 in the playoffs. Imagine the scores if Hurts was playing better.

No Room for Average Performances

This is the Super Bowl, the biggest game of his life, and he is hopefully facing the best quarterback and offense in the league this time. Not Cooper Rush, Daniel Jones, Davis Webb, or Brock Purdy’s exploded elbow. In fact, maybe the biggest knock on Hurts through 37 career starts is that he has never defeated a good team with a good quarterback in the NFL.

  • Hurts is 22-4 against quarterbacks who were backups or ranked 15th-to-30th in QBR that season.
  • Hurts is 3-8 against quarterbacks ranked in the top 14 in QBR, including an 0-6 record against quarterbacks on teams with 10-plus wins.
  • The three wins were against Jared Goff and Daniel Jones (twice), who ranked No. 5 and No. 6 in QBR in 2022, a real down year for quarterback play after the top few players.
  • Hurts is 0-5 against Tom Brady (including a 2021 sweep), Patrick Mahomes, Justin Herbert, and Dak Prescott.

Hurts lost 42-30 to Mahomes’ Chiefs in 2021, a game where he set career highs with attempts (48), completions (32), and passing yards (387). He should not have to throw that much again with a better team around him this year.

Hurts is 15-1 when he leads the Eagles to at least 27 points, but the one loss was to Mahomes, which is how it goes sometimes when playing the Chiefs. Mahomes is 55-3 in his career when the Chiefs allow fewer than 27 points.

With the Kansas City defense having some of its better games late in the season, Hurts better bring his A-game to this one. You can beat Mahomes in a shootout by having the ball last but grinding out a low-scoring win does not work unless you are the Colts.

3. Stop the Run

We tend to ignore the running game, and so did both teams in the AFC Championship Game. Joe Burrow was the game’s leading rusher with 30 yards, and his Bengals only had 13 carries for 41 yards. The Chiefs won despite giving Mahomes 17 carries for 34 yards in run support.

The Chiefs are now an impressive 6-2 when they do not rush for more than 50 yards with Mahomes at quarterback, but that usually will not cut it in the Super Bowl. But if this Philadelphia team has a weakness, the numbers for the run defense are not great no matter which source you use:

  • No. 16 in rushing yards allowed
  • No. 24 in rushing yards per carry allowed (4.6)
  • No. 27 in expected points added (Pro Football Reference)
  • No. 21 in run defense DVOA (Football Outsiders)
  • Allowed 13-of-19 opponents to rush for over 100 yards

The Eagles did a good job to limit the 49ers to 81 rushing yards in the title game, but that is a bit of an asterisk when you consider the 49ers played over half the game with a quarterback who literally could not throw the ball. There was no threat of the pass.

Eagles Know Their Targets

The Chiefs are not going to turn into the 1972 Dolphins in this game, but they would be wise to get Isiah Pacheco and Jerick McKinnon more involved to take some heat off Mahomes against that pass rush.

When these teams met in Week 4 last season, the Chiefs ran the ball 32 times for 200 yards. It is just the second time in 93 starts by Mahomes that the Chiefs rushed for 200 yards. The teams have changed, but Philadelphia’s run defense is not a strength. That can be an area the Chiefs exploit. At the very least, they need to improve on their abysmal third-and-1 numbers this year.

Fortunately, the Eagles have the worst success at stopping teams in short yardage/power situations when they only need 1-or-2 yards for a first down. Teams are converting a league-high 80% of the time against these Eagles, which is a surprising stat given how strong that front is at getting to the quarterback.

But the Eagles need to do their best again Pacheco and the run to make the Chiefs one-dimensional and get this into a pass-rushing clinic with Mahomes’ ankle not 100%.