As Super Bowl LVII draws near, there are any number of matchups deserving of attention. In fact, if you go position by position, you’ll see pretty quickly that this Chiefs versus Eagles showdown is even more of a coin flip than you might expect. But what about the immeasurable qualities of these two contenders? The secret, beneath-the-surface weapons working in each club’s favor?
Here’s a brief overview of five different Super Bowl intangibles, and which team has the edge going into Sunday’s contest:
We talk a lot about the coaches, yes, and we can bear witness to at least some of their decisions, such as in situational play-calling. But it’s still hard to fully quantify the impact of, say, an entire coaching staff’s resume or philosophy. The Chiefs would seem to be an easy winner here, employing one of the greatest coaches to ever appear in multiple Super Bowls in Andy Reid. There’s no doubt Big Red is an offensive innovator whose biggest toy — a player who happens to wear No. 15 — further emboldens his creative instincts. His defensive coordinator, Steve Spagnuolo, can be equally as playful thanks to timely blitzes. But the Eagles probably aren’t getting enough credit, either. DC Jonathan Gannon relies more on straightforward front-four pressure — and relatively safe alignments on the back end — to get results. But the tandem of Nick Sirianni and primary play-caller Shane Steichen has casually been one of the most aggressive — and successful — on key downs like fourth-and-short.
This one’s intangible only in the sense that you can’t know exactly what type of performance awaits on the bench in the event of an emergency. It’s also a fairly clear victory for the Eagles. Start at the most important position, for one: if Patrick Mahomes goes down for Kansas City, the Chiefs’ title hopes will rest with Chad Henne, 37, who’s thrown all of 18 passes the last two years. If Jalen Hurts is sidelined for Philly, the Eagles would turn to Gardner Minshew, who’s started 24 games the last four seasons. Other premium spots are better-stocked on the Eagles’ end as well, such as up front, where former starting left tackle Andre Dillard is a swing reserve; off the edge, where Josh Sweat and Brandon Graham rotate behind Haason Reddick; and cornerback, where safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson has played before.
Both sides have knicks and bruises going into the game. The Eagles’ most notable injuries belong to right guard Landon Dickerson (elbow), right tackle Lane Johnson (groin) and cornerback Avonte Maddox (toe). But Johnson and Maddox have already played through pain and will do so again. The Chiefs, on the other hand, haven’t been able to keep Kadarius Toney (ankle/hamstring) and/or Mecole Hardman (pelvis) on the field, with the latter already ruled out, affecting the wide receiver depth. More importantly, No. 1 cornerback L’Jarius Sneed (knee) was limited in Thursday’s practice, potentially leaving their secondary — which is otherwise chock-full of rookie corners — short on healthy proven vets for the big game.
This is the fuzziest intangible of them all, but you didn’t come here to read about Xs and Os, did you? If anyone’s got an “it” factor, well, it’s the man who takes every snap behind center for the guys in red. Mahomes is this generation’s standard-bearer at QB, and his unmatched ability to both freestyle and execute designed calls with acrobatic athleticism means the Chiefs are never to be counted out. Ever. But — and this is a massive ‘but’ — if any up-and-coming QB besides, say, Joe Burrow is primed to match Mahomes’ “it” factor on such a stage, it’s probably Hurts. Few youngsters have embodied as much unfazed composure, and it helps the Eagles’ emergent star is also just a smooth-as-silk dual threat. Hurts has been under big lights before, and his strictly businesslike approach in the lead-up to the game reinforces it.
Super Bowl experience
This is the only clear victory for the Chiefs, who in fairness also have the superior player at the most important position. Whereas just a few Eagles starters remain from the 2017 title run, including aging D-linemen Brandon Graham and Fletcher Cox, a good number of Kansas City’s regulars have been in the lineup not only since 2020’s Super Bowl loss to the Buccaneers but 2019’s win over the 49ers. That includes Mahomes, Travis Kelce, Chris Jones, Frank Clark and Juan Thornhill — key starters on both sides of the ball. And that’s not accounting for the coaching staff, which remains largely intact for the Chiefs.
The Eagles (2-1-2) take this over the Chiefs (1-2-2), but barely — as has been the case in basically all of our different matchup previews. This is a tough one to crack, folks, and for good reason: it’s the last two teams standing! This is supposed to be a close game, and all indications are it will be. If you’re betting solely on the unseen factors, however, you might consider siding with the slight betting favorite, and preparing for Philadelphia to hoist its second Lombardi in six seasons.