This is Betting the Spread: Super Bowl Edition! It all leads to this. The big game is finally here. This is what these players play for, right? All those reps in practice, the training sessions, the hits – all for this chance to hoist that Lombardi trophy. Chiefs vs Eagles. The two best teams in their conferences. In my opinion, the two best teams in the NFL.
We’re in for one peach of a game. And if there’s a game going on, that means we have to bet on it, right? I’ve gone 7-5 in the postseason, so I’m guaranteed to finish over .500 in the games that matter. Let’s tack on another win to close the 2022 season out strong!
Kansas City Chiefs vs Philadelphia Eagles (-1.5)
Pick ATS: Philadelphia Eagles
On paper, you’d think this game shouldn’t be as close as the -1.5 line indicates. Outside of quarterback and tight end… do the Chiefs have a positional advantage anywhere else? And it’s not like Jalen Hurts and Dallas Goederts are scrubs. Both are great! But the Chiefs have arguably the greatest quarterback and tight end to grace this earth, so they will be in any game no matter what.
Quarterbacks and their career EPA/play vs. top 5 passing defenses (minimum 500 dropbacks) pic.twitter.com/RPxLBjkMF7
— Patrick Brennan (@paintingcorner) February 6, 2023
And, the Chiefs can protect Patrick Mahomes to give him time to throw to Travis Kelce. The Chiefs’ offensive line did them in against Tampa Bay a couple of years ago. That shouldn’t be the case this time. According to ESPN Analytics’ trench metrics, though the Eagles rank No. 1 in pass rush win rate, the Chiefs rank No. 1 in pass block win rate. The Chiefs were sacked 26 times this season. Only the Detroit Lions (24) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (22) allowed fewer sacks. If the Eagles can speed up Mahomes and even bring him to the ground, then it’s hard to see the Chiefs having much of a chance.
Chiefs Wide Receivers
The offensive line should hold up for Kansas City, but someone is going to have to step up from the Chiefs’ wide receiver core. I thought it would be Kadarius Toney in the conference championship game, but he was injured. Instead, it was Marquez Valdes-Scantling, who has instantly become a playoff hero in his first season as a Chief after his 8-6-116-1 performance a couple of weeks ago. That’s great, and the Chiefs needed every yard they got, but facing the Bengals cornerbacks, Eli Apple and Cam Taylor-Britt, is a lot different than facing Darius Slay and James Bradberry in the Super Bowl. That’s like Jay-Z calling himself Michael Jordan and the rest of the rap game Pervis Ellison.
To make matters worse, Kadarius Toney, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and Mecole Hardman all were hurt in the AFC Championship game and could miss the Super Bowl. Valdes-Scantling ranked No. 44 among wide receivers in route win rate (43.2-percent). Smith-Schuster ranked No. 6 at the position (52.1-percent). Kadarius Toney and Skyy Moore‘s small sample of routes saw them win 53.7-percent and 41.3-percent of their routes in 2022, respectively. But neither were targeted very frequently, all but Toney had target rates below 23-percent.
The Eagles’ secondary was stout everywhere this season. They ranked No. 6 in adjusted fantasy points allowed per target against wide receivers and No. 5 against tight ends according to numberfire.com. As a whole, the Eagles finished with the best pass defense according to Football Outsiders’ pass defense DVOA. Someone is going to have to show up to take some pressure off Travis Kelce. I’m just not sure what that will be.
The Chiefs do have an advantage running the ball. They ranked No. 9 in rush offense DVOA, and the Eagles did rank No. 21 in rush defense DVOA and No. 27 in success rate against. But, taking the ball out of Patrick Mahomes‘ hands frequently is not a game plan I’d endorse. The problem is that the Eagles’ advantage on the ground is greater. They have the NFL’s best run game. The Chiefs rank No. 15 in rush defense DVOA, No. 19 in success rate against, but also No. 32 in run stop win rate according to ESPN. The Eagles rank No. 14 in that metric. There isn’t much to stop the Eagles from churning out long, methodical drives if they want to in order to keep Mahomes off the field.
They don’t need to because they’re also elite at throwing the ball. The Chiefs… are not great at stopping that either. The Chiefs rank No. 20 in pass defense DVOA, while the Eagles rank No. 9 in pass offense DVOA. Cornerbacks Trent McDuffie, Jaylen Watson, and Joshua Williams all did their part in avoiding the explosive Ja’Marr Chase (8-6-75) and Tee Higgins (11-6-83-1) games. They deserve a ton of credit for that, as well as defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo for getting the most out of this unit at the right time, but the Chiefs also benefitted greatly from how beat up the Bengals’ offensive line was.
Holding Up Against the Pressure
That’s not going the case against the Eagles and how loaded their offensive line is. Not to mention that A.J. Brown and Devonta Smith are just as good a duo as Chase and Higgins. If the Chiefs can’t get the pressure they were able to get against Cincinnati against an even more mobile quarterback than Joe Burrow in Jalen Hurts, I have a hard time believing these corners are going to hold up again this week.
By the way, it’s going to be harder for the Chiefs’ pass rush to show up as it did in their previous two playoff games. The Chiefs ranked No. 15 in pass rush win rate. The Jaguars and Bengals ranked No. 31 and No. 30 in pass block win rate, and the Chiefs won that battle by registering seven sacks against those teams. The Eagles, however, rank No. 12 in that category.
The Chiefs have the stars. That’s not to say that their roster outside of Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce, Chris Jones, and their awesome offensive line have all shown up in a big way to get them this far. But the Eagles have stars of their own and a more complete roster. It’s miserable to bet and pick against Patrick Mahomes, but I’m rolling with the Eagles to win this game. Let’s settle on a score hitting the over and ending somewhere along the lines of 30-24.