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It would be an Andy Reid revenge game if Reid actually had anything to be mad about. But he doesn’t. He left Philadelphia and they won a Super Bowl; he won a Super Bowl and gets to coach Patrick Mahomes. It’s one of the rare, “all’s well that ends well,” moments in recent NFL history with a coach who was perennially falling short. Eagles fans still seem to love Reid and Reid isn’t the type to hold grudges. That makes for a happy world, but a far less interesting Super Bowl storyline.

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In fact, this is the Super Bowl of happy storylines: Two black quarterbacks square off for the first time in Super Bowl history. Mahomes gets the chance at the second Super Bowl ring that’s eluded him the last few seasons. Jalen Hurts gets to validate his spot as QB1 in Philly after an offseason of questions about his future. The most likable brother duo in the league faces one another in a nice guy off.

We might get bored if the game wasn’t actually compelling. It’s one of the closest games in recent memory, both teams banged up coming into the game, including each quarterback. There are four good coaches, few weak spots, and not much EV to be wringing out of this point spread. So how do we make sense of all of this?

Let’s try.

When The Eagles Have The Ball

They’re one of the best rushing offenses in modern NFL history and while Patrick Mahomes will get the headlines in this matchup, the Eagles offense have the advantage as the Chiefs defense just isn’t as good as Philly’s. Nick Siriani’s crew comes in 3rd in Football Outsiders’ Defense-Adjusted Value Over Average metric, or DVOA for short. Behind Jalen Hurts and an offense bolstered by the A.J. Brown trade last spring, they finished 1st in rushing DVOA and 9th in passing.

And if the Eagles are going to win, this is where it will be: Brown and Devonta Smith winning 1-on-1 matchups on the outside. This is one of the best groups in the league facing press man coverage and no one plays more press man than the Chiefs under Steve Spagnuolo.

If the 49ers—you know the team with the best defense in the league—can’t stop them, I don’t see how the Chiefs will be able to find a way. It reminds me of the old Jeff Foxworthy joke about the Atlanta Olympics using the same river where they filmed Deliverance: “If Ned Beatty can’t make it down that river, a Frenchman in a pair of bicycle pants ain’t got a chance.”

Even with DVOA though, which attempts to account for strength of schedule, the Eagles rarely faced real tests over the course of the year. They played one of the easiest schedules in football, then beat up on Daniel Jones and Brock Purdy with one arm. Are they actually this good? Can a banged up Hurts make smart reads with accurate throws when Chris Jones and Frank Clark are barreling down on him? Can he identify the designer blitz looks and sim pressures Spags throws at him?

The case for the Chiefs advantage here, and it’s a flimsy one, is about the moment. The Chiefs have been here; they’ll be better prepared for the moment. But on the field, between the lines, the Eagles boast a clear advantage. On the other hand, so did the Bengals in the AFC Championship Game, and it was precisely players like Jones and Clark who made the difference.


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When The Chiefs Have The Ball

The Chiefs bring the No. 1 offense by DVOA to Glendale, a marvel of an accomplishment after sending Tyreek Hill to Miami, and the biggest reason is the man under center who is about to be the MVP of the league for a second time. They’re actually the mirror image of the Eagles as well, boasting the No. 1 passing DVOA offense and the No. 9 rushing attack.

The difference in the offense vs. defense matchup here is what Philly wants to do in attacking them. Jonathan Gannon’s defense wants to live with two deep safeties and they’ll let you run the ball. His unit boasts the best passing defense in football by DVOA, but the 21st ranked unit stopping the run. Even though the Chiefs don’t want to hand the ball to Isaiah Pacheco and Jerrick McKinnon 30 times in this game, and almost certainly won’t, this is where they can find an advantage against this defense.

Don’t bang your head into the wall against this secondary or risk Mahomes against an all-time pass rush with its record-setting sack totals (the stat not the … nevermind). That helps them set up the play-action game and then KC can take advantage of the Eagles over the top when those safeties crash. It’s why Marquez Valdes-Scantling went over 100 yards against the Bengals: run the ball and attack underneath, stay patient, and then those deep sail routes and over routes come available when you can catch the safeties creeping up.


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Final Thoughts

The Chiefs and Eagles were the two best teams all year and this is the most confusing Super Bowl to pick in recent memory because the analytics models don’t actually agree on it. Part of that has to do with the injuries. How healthy will Mahomes be? Who is playing receiver for the Chiefs? Can Lane Johnson move well enough to handle the Clark/Jones duo?

Right now, the Super Bowl betting markets like the Eagles… I have the benefit of being able to hedge with Philly because I bet the Chiefs over the Eagles at +400 before the games last Sunday. In this case, I get to quite literally play both sides. But the more I look at the matchups and the talent, mixed with the health of the players, the only thing that would keep me from picking the Eagles is the Chiefs mystique. It’s the esoteric notion of Andy Reid off a bye or Mahomes deserving another Super Bowl ring, but we know those are hardly infallible.

Dee Ford didn’t have to jump offsides against the Patriots but he did. The whole offensive line didn’t have to get demolished by the Bucs, but they did. Mahomes didn’t have to play like Baker Mayfield in the second half against the Bengals last year but he did.

The Eagles are more talented, they’re just as well coached, and the one weakness on the team, their run defense, is a place the Chiefs have no interest in exploiting. I’ll take the Eagles on the money line and be happy either way because I hedged. It’s going to be an awesome game.


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