Super Bowl 57 Preview


The scene is set for America’s biggest sporting event. (Courtesy of Instagram)

Brett Tulip, Contributing Writer

On Sunday, Feb. 12, the Kansas City Chiefs will play the Philadelphia Eagles at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., in the biggest annual sporting event in America. This year’s big game marks the 57th Super Bowl in National Football League history, and will certainly be one for the ages.

This legendarily talented matchup consists of future first-ballot Hall of Famer Patrick Mahomes competing against an Eagles’ defense that is so talented that they finished with the third most sacks in a season all time and 15 more than any other team this season. In what is expected to be a high-scoring affair, I believe the best way to analyze this matchup will be by specific positional breakdown to see who has an edge overall and will answer the prayers of their excited fanbases.

There is nowhere else to start but with the quarterback matchup of superstar and (likely) MVP Patrick Mahomes versus young breakout All-Pro Jalen Hurts.

Mahomes’ appearance should be a surprise to absolutely nobody, as despite trading star speedster Tyreek Hill this offseason, boasted league-leading and MVP-winning numbers this season as he carried the Chiefs to a 14-win regular season. Mahomes returns for what will now be his third appearance by the age of 27, and third in five years of being the starter. Hurts’ remarkable success has been less expected by most, as after being a second-round pick in 2020, he finally broke out this season, posting Pro Bowl numbers while also leading the birds to 14 wins of their own. The significance of his leap from the 2021-22 season to the 2022-23 cannot be understated, as aside from significant increases in passing yards, touchdowns and rushing touchdowns, it is in the MVP-finalist’s poise where he has taken the biggest leap.

Hurts has been great all season long, looking calm and collected while he developed this near-perfect decision-making that allowed the team to go as far as it has. Despite Hurts’ unbelievable season, the edge at quarterback has to go to Mahomes. Regardless of personal opinions of the two’s play and performance, it would be nearly blasphemous to not give Mahomes the edge at the position due not only to prior history showing he is capable of winning a Super Bowl, but also objective play this season.

Onto another skill position in running back, both teams once again prove that expensive investments at this position do not equate to winning. Kansas City’s combined running back room base salary comes in at just under $3 million, with Philadelphia’s being slightly higher at roughly $4.5 million. Regardless, the overall better backfield has to be given to the Eagles, as they have a solid trio led by 2022 Pro Bowler Miles Sanders. Sanders finished with 1,269 rushing yards this regular season along with 11 touchdowns. He has been an exceptional runner all year long, having a career year and paving the way for the Iggles to become a top-five rushing offense in almost all categories.

He is aided by both the quick receiving back in second-year Kenneth Gainwell, and occasional hero and fan favorite Boston Scott. The Chiefs’ running back room, while less polished, is still talented with seventh round rookie standout Isiah Pacheco leading the way. He is followed by veteran and pass-catching speedster Jerick McKinnon who has played a surprisingly important role in the offense as the season progressed. Although talented, the Chiefs lose this positional matchup as the Eagles have the much more solidified and proven collection of players that will play a key role in their success in the Super Bowl due to their identity as a running team.

Continuing with the offense, the pass catchers as a whole are a unique and competitive comparison due to the top-tier talents on both teams.

Beginning with the Chiefs, there is none other than tight end Travis Kelce leading the way as the primary target and main asset to Mahomes. Finishing with a whopping 424 yards more than any other tight end this season, he is truly the premier player at his position and will surely play a crucial part in the team’s success on Sunday. Looking at the wide receivers, the team has been rather lackluster, with the leading man being talented off-season addition JuJu Smith-Schuster. Although they are both currently battling an injury, it is assumed he along with trade acquisition Kadarius Toney will be contributors after finishing with strong regular season performances. In addition, another offseason addition in Marquez Valdes-Scantling looks to be the other major part of the Chiefs’ finding success on offense.

Although topped by having the future first-ballot Hall of Famer in T. Kelce lead the way, the other pass catchers are somewhat weaker, as the team relies on the elite QB play to elevate their play and gain yards downfield. The Eagles, headlined by former Tennessee Titans’ receiver A.J. Brown, have the stronger core as a whole. Brown has been a seamless fit this season, earning All-Pro honors after picking up nearly 1,500 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Right behind Brown, is the former Heisman and 10th overall pick in DeVonta Smith. Smith racked up a plethora of spectacular catches in his second season on his way to nearly 1,200 yards and seven touchdowns. Next up is elite tight end in Dallas Goedert, whose ability in everything from the screen game to blocking skills is a major part of what helps the Eagles’ offense thrive. The collection of these three players alone gives the Philadelphia unit the overall advantage in receiving core.

In terms of offensive line, the matchup is closer than most would believe. Kansas City had three Pro Bowlers this season on the o-line in left tackle Orlando Brown Jr., left guard Joe Thuney and center Creed Humphrey. They have done an outstanding job this season, as the unit finished third in the league in sacks allowed with only 26. However, this edge again goes to the Eagles who despite also having three Pro Bowlers on the line with right tackle Lane Johnson, left guard Landon Dickerson and longtime franchise center Jason Kelce, is just an overall better unit. In addition to having stud left tackle Jordan Mailata, Philly ever so slightly has more experience and skill on the line.

On defense, the Chiefs tend to find more success with a team system as opposed to having elite personnel. However, saying the Chiefs defense is devoid of talent would be an outright lie. Notable players include franchise superstar in defensive lineman Chris Jones, second-year standout in linebacker Nick Bolton, star defensive backs in L’Jarius Sneed and Justin Reid and veteran key contributor in Frank Clark. They also have solid up-and-coming young players with both rookie cornerback Trent McDuffie and rookie defensive end George Karlaftis. They also finished top 10 in multiple key categories on defense, including an eighth place finish in rushing yards allowed per game, with the team only allowing 107.2. This will definitely be something to watch, as the Eagles have thrived by running the ball all season. With all this being said, the Philadelphia Eagles’ defense is almost inarguably better across the board. With stars littering the team in almost all positions, players like cornerbacks Darius Slay and James Bradberry, linebackers Haason Reddick and T.J. Edwards and safety C.J Gardner-Johnson give the team a huge edge.

This is not even including the defensive line, which is arguably one of the best in NFL history with seven former Pro Bowlers in Javon Hargrave, Josh Sweat, Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox, Robert Quinn, Linval Joseph and Ndamukong Suh in addition to rookie contributor Jordan Davis. The Eagles’ defense is just better, as they finished near the top in almost all defensive rankings, including being first in total sacks, first with the least amount of passing yards allowed per game and giving up the second least total yards allowed per game.

This matchup will come down to a multitude of different factors to determine who will come out on top. Quarterback is the most important position in all of football, and the Chiefs have the best in Mahomes. However, the Eagles hold the edge in almost every other area along with having an elite quarterback in Hurts. Because of their well-balanced strengths and consistent play all season, I am personally predicting that the Philadelphia Eagles will win this game and hoist the Lombardi Trophy for the second time in five years.