Super Bowl 57: The paths to victory for the Philadelphia Eagles and Kansas City Chiefs

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia Eagles in the huddle against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Every NFL season feels like it lasts forever, and yet at the same time, you can likely remember exactly where you were and what games you watched in Week 1. The Super Bowl is bittersweet; it means the season is almost over, but the playoffs save the best for last.

That’s what we have this year, as the NFC champion Philadelphia Eagles face off against the AFC Champion Kansas City Chiefs. It’s the No. 1 seed against the No. 1 seed, and a game in which the styles of these two teams will lead to an exciting clash.

With tons of talent to boast on both sides of the ball for both teams, this is our path to victory for each team.


PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

We’ll talk about the Eagles' offense, but their path to victory starts with their red-hot pass rush staying hot. In the playoffs, Philadelphia sports an 87.6 team pass-rush grade. That comes with eight sacks, 45 pressures and an astounding 85.7% pass-rush win percentage. Haason Reddick leads the way with a 91.2 pass-rush grade with 3.5 sacks, 12 total pressures and a 34.2% pass-rush win percentage. Fellow defense lineman Javon Hargrave also has an elite pass-rush grade for the playoffs, boasting a 91.0 mark with a 25.7% pass-rush win percentage. The Eagles have a ton of playmakers in the secondary, as well, but it all starts up front. If they can continue to dial up the pressure, perhaps even Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes won’t be able to handle it.

On the offensive side of things, the run game has been paramount for the Eagles. It starts with how good their offensive line has been up front, but the threat of quarterback Jalen Hurts picking up first downs makes their run game so effective. Philadelphia finished second in the NFL this regular season in first downs on the ground (43) on third- or fourth-down plays with one or two yards to gain. Anytime their offense was in those third-and-short situations, Hurts’ ability as an option quarterback, as well as his savviness to pick up first downs on quarterback sneaks, was a tried-and-true strategy for Philadelphia.

Of course, you’d love to not even have to get to third down to move the chains, but knowing it’s likely inevitable, the path to victory for them on offense is to get in third-and-manageable situations and let the results speak for themselves with long successful drives. 


KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

It’s too obvious to say the Chiefs' path to victory on offense runs through quarterback Patrick Mahomes. The likely NFL MVP has been simply incredible this season and seemed to take that standard to the next level in Kansas City's win over the Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC championship game. But who Mahomes will be delivering the ball to matters.

Tight end Travis Kelce ranks fourth in these playoffs with 177 receiving yards, and his three touchdowns lead all pass catchers. Mahomes and Kelce will show up, but an X-factor here is wide receiver Kadarius Toney, who reportedly will play in the Super Bowl as he deals with an injury. Toney has just 45 receiving yards on 15 receiving snaps this postseason, but he has a 53.3% wide receiver usage rate, which means when he’s on the field, they look to get him the ball at a very high rate. The Chiefs traded for Toney for this very game — for him to be an athletic difference-maker. They’ll use him as such.

On the defensive side of things, outside of Chris Jones being a game-wrecker in the middle, the Chiefs’ path to victory is stepping up their run-defense game. The team's 61.6 run-defense grade in the playoffs ranks ninth out of 14 teams, but their expected points added allowed per rush is second worst. That’s not ideal when facing a team that would love to run the ball as long as it is effective.

Linebacker Nick Bolton has the second-highest run-defense grade against RPO looks (73.4) among Chiefs defenders this postseason. Fellow starting linebacker Willie Gay Jr. has the second-lowest mark on the team (54.3), and what's also worrisome is that rookie edge defender George Karlaftis carries the worst grade (54.1). The key to victory for Kansas City on defense is to stay disciplined in their run defense, which is a lot easier said than done against this Eagles team. 

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