Although this game features the #1 seed from each conference, one was expected to be here and the other is a bit of a surprise. Despite being a betting favorite all season long, the Chiefs are a slight underdog here to a Philadelphia team that started the season with 25-to-1 odds to win the Super Bowl. For perspective, the Colts, Broncos, and Rams all had better odds in the preseason.
Patrick Mahomes is 7-1-1 ATS as an underdog. The oddsmakers instilled him and the Chiefs as the opening favorite but the market disagreed and the line quickly moved. Will he remain an underdog at game time? If so it will break the Chiefs' 15-game streak as a playoff favorite.
Speaking of Mahomes, as good as he’s been, he’s just 48-43-2 ATS in his career. His counterpart, Jalen Hurts, is 19-17-1 ATS. Hurts is 21-4 when favored, putting him in elite status in that category. Of the Eagles' three losses this season, only one came with Hurts playing.
The Chiefs enter this game at 16-3 but they are just 7-11-1 ATS, underperforming expectations. If they win this game, they will be the first team in 57 years to win the Super Bowl with an ATS record under 40%.
Andy Reid obviously has more experience than Nick Sirianni. But does it matter? Super Bowl matchups with the more experienced coach are 18-17 straight-up and 16-19 ATS. If the experience is 2-plus years, as it is here, it actually gets worse: 10-14 SU and 8-15-1 ATS.
Okay, on to the game analysis…
While it takes a herculean effort, analyzing this game is my favorite thing I do all year. I feel the pressure to perform, given my main game pick is now 14-1 in the past 15 years. The lone pick I missed was the Seahawks over the Patriots when Seattle failed to hand the ball to Marshawn Lynch on the goal line at the end of the game. Oh well, can’t win ‘em all. But I’m gonna try to keep winning.
My computer prediction has a very competitive game, with the Eagles winning by a point.
Statistically, these teams are very similar offensively. They both average 28.7 points per game entering this contest (playoffs included), tied for tops in the league. Philly is more efficient, scoring those points on 384 yards per game vs. 408 per game for Kansas City.
Defensively, Philadelphia has the edge on full-season numbers, but recently the Chiefs have stepped up their game. Both are playing very well coming into this contest.
Including playoffs, Kansas City won their games this year by an average score of 28.7 to 21.5 while Philadelphia won by an average score of 28.7 to 18.8.
In the end, on paper, neither team stands out as an obvious choice, which is why we see a spread close to pick’em. To find an edge, we need to dig deeper. And deeper we shall go...
When Kansas City has the ball
There’s not a lot I can say about Mahomes that hasn't already been said. With Tom Brady finally retired and walking into a $375M deal at Fox Sports, Mahomes will get more and more attention, and based on his early production in a young career, he has a chance to one day steal the GOAT horns. Of course, there’s a ton of football to be played before that would ever transpire but a second Super Bowl title would go a long way toward that. Mahomes posted a 105.5 passer rating this year, tied for second-best in the league. He’s magic and hard to stop. The KC offense has slowed ever so slightly as the season has progressed, averaging 27.3 points per game over the second half and 25 in the playoffs. Philadelphia’s defense was top 5 this season with only the Niners, Jets, and Ravens holding teams off the scoreboard more. So they have the qualifications to possibly slow down Mahomes. The Eagles allowed 18.8 points per game on the season, 19.4 per game in the second half, and just 7 per game in their two playoff wins. When facing defenses similar to Philly’s, the Chiefs scored around 29 points per game this season. When facing offenses similar to Kansas City’s, Philly gave up around 26 per game. The key to beating Kansas City is to contain Patrick Mahomes. This is no easy task. But, the Eagles were #1 in the league this year at defensive passer rating, holding opponents to a stingy 80.1 rating on average. That’s compared to a #23 ranking for KC’s defense. So it’s reasonable to see Kansas City score somewhere in the mid-to-high 20s.
When Philadelphia has the ball
The Eagles played two games without Jalen Hurts this season, averaging 22 points in those games. In the other 17 games, Philly put up over 30 points per game, giving them a slight edge over the Chiefs. I wouldn’t necessarily call them the better offense, but just automatically handing that title to Mahomes and the Chiefs I think is a mistake. Hurts is big and strong, and the main reason Sirianni is willing to go for it on 4th down, converting 22 of 32 attempts (69%) this season. The Eagles have the NFL’s top offensive line and arguably the best rushing attack, and the best receiving corp in this game. Philadelphia’s offense has improved throughout the year as well, averaging 31.4 points per game in the second half of the season. Remove the two games that Hurts didn’t play and that jumps to 35.9 per game. In two playoff games, they scored 69 points. Kansas City’s defense this season on average was middling, ranked 15th in the league in points allowed at 21.5 per contest. If I hadn’t seen improvement I’d say this is a huge cause for concern. But they have gotten better as the season has progressed. The Chiefs allowed 23.3 per game through the first 10 games, but have cut that to 19.6 per game over the past nine including an average of 20 in the playoffs. So instead of playing like a 15th-ranked defense, they are playing more like one ranked around 7th. But, a big cause for concern is that this team allowed 65.5% completions on the season and 67.1% in road games. That’s bad. When facing great offenses like Philadelphia’s this season, KC allowed 24 points per game. When facing mediocre defenses like Kansas City’s this season, Philly put up 34.7 points per game. So, with Hurts in the game, it seems as if Philadelphia should be able to reach the high 20s in this game.
So what is going to happen?
Either team can definitely win this game and on paper, cases can be made for both. But I do think the stronger case goes to the Eagles. From a Pythagorean win perspective, which predicts records based on points scored and allowed, the Eagles are a 14-win team while KC is a 12.5-win team. This disparity holds for recent performance as well as season-long. Philadelphia’s offense is slightly better, despite not having the best quarterback on the field. And, the Eagles bring a Super Bowl-caliber defense to the equation, which KC does not.
I am reticent to go all in on the Eagles given that Kansas City’s defense has been improving, they have a HOF quarterback and coach, and the fact that Reid's record with time to prepare is unmatched. But the Eagles are 7-0 this season vs. playoff teams and 16-1 overall with Jalen Hurts in the lineup. If Hurts’ injury really affects him, my prediction will be off, but I expect him to play at a high level.
Also, KC is winless in seven attempts to cover the spread this season following a game in which they did cover. Meanwhile, the Eagles are 9-2 ATS under Sirianni following a big win by 14+ points.
Super Bowl teams with the MVP (Mahomes is the prohibitive favorite this year to win it) are 6-15 straight-up including 0-8 in the last eight.
Philly Fan rejoice! My pick for Super Bowl LVII is Philadelphia minus the points.