February 09, 2023
Patrick Mahomes is the best football player in the world right now, and a near lock to win MVP honors. He compiled a 14-3 regular season record while completing 67.1 percent of his passes for 5250 yards, 41 TDs, and 11 INTs for a passer rating of 105.2. And he has done it without electric wide receiver Tyreek Hill, who the the Chiefs' front office traded away this past offseason.
In 13 career playoff games, Mahomes is 10-3, and has averaged over 300 passing yards per game, with 32 TDs vs. 7 INTs, and a passer rating of 106.1. He is even better in big games.
In chronological order, the Eagles faced the following quarterbacks in 2022: Jared Goff, Kirk Cousins, Carson Wentz, Trevor Lawrence, Kyler Murray, Cooper Rush, Kenny Pickett, Davis Mills, Taylor Heinicke, Matt Ryan, Aaron Rodgers, Ryan Tannehill, Daniel Jones, Justin Fields, Dak Prescott, Andy Dalton, Davis Webb, Daniel Jones again, and Brock Purdy.
There are a few good quarterbacks in that mix, but nobody who played anywhere near Mahomes' level in 2022.
It's not the Eagles' fault that they don't play in the AFC, where a far better cast of quarterbacks reside. They can only play the teams that were on their schedule and dominate them, which they mostly did all season long. But if we're being honest, the Eagles were fortunate to avoid players like Mahomes, Joe Burrow, and Josh Allen throughout the regular season, and their No. 1 pass defense certainly benefited from playing a healthy handful of scrubs.
So, that's the big concern for the Eagles. Can they slow down Mahomes? And as an extension of that, can they find a way to limit Travis Kelce, who is by far and away the Chiefs' best offensive skill player, and who may soon be thought of as the best tight end in NFL history.
Otherwise, the Eagles have a whole lot of matchups in their favor:
• The Chiefs have a quality offensive line with Pro Bowl players at LT, LG, and C, but the Eagles have an extremely deep and talented defensive line that racked up 78 sacks (playoffs included). The Chiefs have to be absolutely terrified of Haason Reddick going up against right tackle Andrew Wylie. Whether the Chiefs try to single-block Reddick with Wylie (good luck) or allocate extra resources to help Wylie out (they'll get one-on-ones elsewhere, and/or initially take a receiver out of the route), it's a win for the Eagles.
• The duo of A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith is a mismatch against almost any secondary, and that should be no different against the Chiefs, who start a very good corner in L'Jarius Sneed, but also two rookies in Trent McDuffie and Jaylen Watson.
• The Chiefs have sort of a middle of the road run defense, while the Eagles' offensive line has been playing at an extremely high level in the run game. They bludgeoned the Giants on the ground for 268 yards in the divisional round, and while their yards per carry numbers against the 49ers weren't eye-popping, they put three rushing TDs on the board while also effectively keeping the clock running in the second half.
• Chiefs star DT Chris Jones is an absolute beast of a player, but the Eagles' offensive line has proven over and over that they neutralize game-wrecking defensive linemen. There's good reason to believe that Jeff Stoutland will have a good plan for Jones, and that Jason Kelce, Landon Dickerson, and Isaac Seumalo can execute it. If the Chiefs choose to play Jones on the edge, then Lane Johnson can handle him like he does every other elite pass rusher he faces, and Jordan Mailata excels against power rushers.
• Oh, and then there's Jalen Hurts, who was probably the favorite at one point to win league MVP, until he sprained his shoulder Week 15 against the Bears. By the time Super Bowl Sunday rolls around, it will have been 56 days — exactly eight weeks — since he initially got hurt. When Hurts was healthy, the Eagles' offense was unstoppable. When he returned, he was clearly hampered by the injury, but the Eagles still managed to score 69 points (nice) in their two playoff games. With an added two weeks of treatment, it's reasonable to expect that Hurts will at least be a little closer to what he was the first three months of the season than what he has shown over his last three games.
The line for this game has settled in at Eagles (-1.5). In my opinion, it should be higher, but it is shaded in the Chiefs' direction because we have all become accustomed to seeing them make deep playoff runs. Here is Kansas City's playoff history since Mahomes took over as the Chiefs' starter:
|Year||Chiefs recent playoff results|
|2018|| • Won divisional round vs. Colts (31-13)|
• Lost AFC Championship Game to Patriots (31-37, OT)
|2019||• Won divisional round vs. Texans (51-31)|
• Won AFC Championship Game vs. Titans (35-24)
• Won Super Bowl vs. 49ers (31-20)
|2020||• Won divisional round vs. Browns (22-17)|
• Won AFC Championship Game vs. Bills (38-24)
• Lost Super Bowl vs. Buccaneers (9-31)
|2021||• Won wildcard round vs. Steelers (42-21)|
• Won divisional round vs. Bills (42-36, OT)
• Lost AFC Championship Game vs. Bengals (24-27, OT)
|2022||• Won divisional round vs. Jaguars (27-20)|
• Won AFC Championship Game vs. Bengals (23-20)
• Super Bowl vs. Eagles TBD
It's actually a bit reminiscent of 2017, when the Eagles faced Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, and a good-not-great supporting cast. The Chiefs' cast of characters are less hateable this time around, but they are the NFL's alpha team.
The Eagles are definitively better in the trenches, at the offensive skill positions, and in the secondary. Is the gap between Mahomes and Hurts big enough to overcome all of that? If Hurts remains hampered by his injury, then... maybe? I'll bet that Hurts is ready for this moment. Give me the Birds (-1.5), and another parade.
Eagles 29, Chiefs 24.
• Last 8 years, ATS: 345-290-13 (0.542)
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