Super Bowl 57 is chock-full of compelling storylines, matchups and X-factors, but arguably the biggest battle will occur between the two quarterbacks as they make one last push for the Lombardi Trophy.
On one sideline, we have Patrick Mahomes, the 2022 NFL MVP and already one of the best quarterbacks in league history. On the other, we have Jalen Hurts, who is fresh off the best season of his career and looking to add one more chapter to an underdog story that already has more than its fair share of twists and turns.
To figure out who has the edge — on paper, at least — we'll look through different statistical categories and situations. Like any title fight, we’ll go 12 rounds in order to crown a champion.
ROUND 1: THE RUN-PASS OPTION (RPO)
One thing you will be certain to see on the field Sunday is the RPO (run-pass option) game in full flight. No quarterback ran more RPOs this season than Patrick Mahomes, who did so on 254 snaps. Hurts came in a close second at 253.
Patrick Mahomes vs. Jalen Hurts (RPOs; 2021 to 2022)
|EPA per play||0.001||9th||0.227||2nd|
Hurts has the edge in mostly all of these areas, as the threat he poses as a runner is clearly a factor when it comes to creating space for the Eagles.
As a team, the Eagles generated 0.227 expected points added (EPA) per play on RPOs and generated positive EPA on 51.4% of these plays, top-five marks in the NFL. And given the volume of RPOs the Eagles ran this season, you could easily argue that they were the best RPO team in the NFL this year.
Edge: JALEN HURTS
ROUND 2: QUICK GAME
Fans will have heard the term “quick game” used on broadcasts, but it is essentially short-breaking route concepts paired with short dropbacks that answer multiple coverages.
For the quick game to work, a quarterback has to read the defense and decide where to go with the ball, usually before the ball is even snapped.
Patrick Mahomes vs. Jalen Hurts (quick game; 2021 to 2022)
|Yards per attempt||6.1||11th||5.7||t-17th|
|EPA per play||0.009||21st||0.144||t-6th|
Neither Hurts nor Mahomes has been especially good in these situations, as both signal-callers rank in the bottom half of the league in PFF grade on these plays.
Even though reading the defense and getting the ball out quickly is a great strength of Mahomes’ game, the Eagles have been slightly more efficient this season.
Edge: Jalen Hurts
ROUND 3: DESIGNED QB RUNS
This category favors Hurts and Philadelphia in every way — The Eagles were the league's most efficient team in this department despite calling plays at one of the highest rates in the league.
The most notable of these situations are third- and fourth-and-1, where the Eagles have utilized the new rule changes to make the QB sneak just about an automatic first down.
Patrick Mahomes vs. Jalen Hurts (designed QB runs; 2021 to 2022)
|EPA per play||-0.098||13th||0.086||1st|
|PFF rushing grade||48.5||34th||78.5||6th|
Edge: Jalen Hurts
ROUND 4: WHEN THE QB IS FORCED OFF OF HIS SPOT
Forcing the QB off his spot is often a point of emphasis for NFL pass-rushers, as it affects the QB’s timing, rhythm and mechanics needed to deliver the ball when and where it needs to go. Usually, the effectiveness is limited to pocket passers who cannot make the plays Mahomes and Hurts can outside of structure.
Patrick Mahomes vs. Jalen Hurts (passing under pressure; 2021 to 2022)
|PFF Passing grade||76.8||2nd||31.5||36th|
|PFF rushing grade||90.2||5th||79.5||11th|
|Yards per attempt||6.9||5th||3.8||33rd|
|EPA per play||0.106||2nd||-0.363||21st|
Mahomes’ unique ability to throw off any platform with multiple arm angles makes forcing him off his spot almost a moot point. His effectiveness in this area may be changed due to his ankle injury, but over the course of his season — and frankly, his career — Mahomes may be the best we have ever seen on the move.
For a mobile QB like Hurts, these results produce some interesting results. He is clearly an effective scrambler, but his mobility does not translate to throwing the ball on the move. If the Chiefs can find a way to force Hurts off his spot and contain him enough to force him to throw the ball, it could prove to be an effective strategy to limit his effectiveness.
Edge: Patrick Mahomes
ROUND 5: STABLE METRICS
Stable metrics are statistics that don't tend to show extreme volatility from year to year and correlate with future success at the position.
Patrick Mahomes vs. Jalen Hurts (stable metrics; 2021 to 2022)
|First and second down||86.8||4th||80.6||6th|
|No play action||85.1||3rd||81.8||4th|
|Passes thrown at or beyond the line to gain||93.9||3rd||92.1||4th|
Mahomes and Hurts ranked inside the top six at the position in every one of these categories, an extremely good sign for their continued success.
In Mahomes’ case, that only seems obvious. But for Hurts, who will become extension-eligible this offseason, these statistics provide a compelling argument that his high level of play will continue.
With Mahomes ranking better in four of these five categories, though, he takes the edge here.
Edge: Patrick Mahomes
ROUND 6: DEEP THROWS
Deep throws are passes that travel 20 or more yards in the air downfield. This is a far less stable statistic, but successful deep passes can be a difference-maker in big games.
Patrick Mahomes vs. Jalen Hurts (deep passes; 2021 to 2022)
|PFF passing grade||94.8||4th||86.1||18th|
|Big-time throw %||32.5%||3rd||26.4%||16th|
|Turnover-worthy play %||3.6%||7th||2.8%||4th|
|Adj. comp %||47.8%||8th||38.1%||28th|
This is another clear Edge for Mahomes, as he has shown to be far more accurate deep down the field.
Hurts’ passer rating on deep throws actually ranks eighth at the position, just behind Mahomes at No. 7 (105.7 to 110.9), but the PFF grade and adjusted completion percentage suggest that the figure there is more to do with his talented receivers than the actual ball placement.
Despite losing Tyreek Hill this year, Mahomes has continued to be effective down the field and beats out hurts comfortably in three of the categories.
Edge: Patrick Mahomes
ROUND 7: VS. THE BLITZ
The defenses we will see on Sunday each fall around the middle of the pack in terms of blitz rate. The Chiefs (13th) slightly edge the Eagles (16th) in blitz rate, 26.5% to 24.6%, but this is likely to be a much larger margin on Sunday.