Super Bowl Sunday is nearly here, and this year’s game looks like it should be a good one. Currently, the Philadelphia Eagles are favored by just 1.5 points over the Kansas City Chiefs as the two teams who finished as the #1 seeds for the 2022 season meet in the big game in Arizona.
After a fairly successful year picking games, APC’s contributors are back to make predictions for the final game of the football season. Here’s how we see this game shaking out, and scroll down as several of us give a little bit of context to our predictions.
Here are some explanations from APC’s contributors about their selections for Sunday’s game.
Tex Western - Chiefs hold on late
While I think that the Eagles have the better overall roster outside of the quarterback position, that position is the great equalizer and Patrick Mahomes is on track to be the best quarterback in NFL history. Plus, I think that the rest of the teams are actually a bit closer otherwise than many seem to suggest. Ultimately, however, Mahomes’ success against both bad and good defenses tells me that he should have a big game regardless of who he’s playing. The Eagles, meanwhile, have an elite pass defense but have played almost exclusively bottom-half quarterbacks all season. The last time they played a good one, Dak Prescott lit them up for 350 yards and three scores.
I think the Eagles get the first score, but Kansas City settles in and controls the middle part of the game, eventually taking the lead and holding on as a late Eagles rally falls a bit short.
Paul Noonan — The Chiefs in a close one
This is a great matchup and I’ve gone back and forth on my pick a million times. Every time I find something I like for one team (the Eagles are 6th in DVOA against TEs and teams with good DVOA splits against TEs have given the Chiefs problems), I find an opposing point (the Eagles are quite bad against the Jerrick McKinnons of the world.). It comes down to two main factors for me. The first involved deciding whether the Chiefs are the poor defense their season-long numbers say they are, or if their perceived improvement over the course of the year is real. I think it’s more likely to be real.
This goes against my nature as I prefer the large sample size of a full season, and anyone can appear to be good over 8 games, especially on defense. That said, the Chiefs have an extremely young roster as this is a “reload” season for them, and young rosters, if they’re talented, do improve with experience. Also factoring into the equation is corner Trent McDufffie, who basically missed the first half of the season. That injury contributed to KC’s putrid ranking against #1 receivers (31st by DVOA), and I was originally going to give the Eagles a big advantage with AJ Brown, but I’m not sure that is still warranted. He’s awesome, of course, but I don’t think KC is as helpless as the raw numbers (or even the advanced numbers) state. If you just look at defensive EPA per play from week 10 on, the Chiefs are the Eagles’ equals, and there is some decline for Philly in addition to the ascension from KC.
The second big factor for me, is that at a large scale, this is a battle of artists in Mahomes and Reid, against engineers in Sirianni and Hurts. Sirianni calls a near-perfect game, executes on first down, doesn’t punt when he shouldn’t, doesn’t waste timeouts, and runs a system perfectly suited for his QB. Reid is a poor performer in many of these analytically focused areas, but as a creative mind calling plays, there are none better. Artists are difficult to stop. You don’t know what an improviser will do next based on what just happened. There are things you can do to slow Mahomes, but there’s not really a good plan to stop him. You just hope for the best.
The Eagles are a well-oiled machine, but they do follow a plan, and sometimes a random wrench can wreck a machine, regardless of the oil quality. Mahomes is an alien. I’ll take the alien.
Jon Meerdink — The Eagles in a close one
I’ve gone back and forth on my pick about as many times as Paul above, and I think it’s about a coin flip. Today, the coin lands on Philadelphia, and that’s good enough for me.
This really should be an excellent game, and I’m always intrigued by games that feature teams that took different routes to get to a similar result. The Chiefs are a passing power — THE passing power, really — while the Eagles combine old school with new as well as anyone in the league thanks to offensive line genius Jeff Stoutland and a slew of talented runners. Those approaches resulted in identical 14-3 records, with both teams taking the top seed in their respective conferences. And a month after the playoffs started, here we are with the two teams who had the best regular seasons facing off in the game to decide it all.
In a series, I think I’d take the Chiefs. I have more confidence in the Chiefs prevailing over the course of multiple games, and I think they’re probably the better team overall. But the Super Bowl often comes down to getting one side to flinch, and I think the Eagles are more likely to be able to force the Chiefs out of their gameplan than the Chiefs are to the Eagles.
Kansas City’s defense has improved overall this season, but their run defense has been about the same level of “below average” for the year, actually declining a little bit in the back half of the season. Even if the Chiefs can keep a lid on the Eagles’ passing game, Philadelphia’s run game is good enough to keep things moving.
Of course, all this means I’m picking against Patrick Mahomes, which doesn’t feel great! I would be exactly zero percent surprised if Mahomes makes me look silly, but at least as of today’s writing, I’m leaning Philadelphia. Maybe that changes tomorrow. Football, man! It’s a funny game.
Kris Burke — The Chiefs in a barn burner
As the Tom Brady era comes to end, we might be witnessing the birth of another dynasty.
The Chiefs have gone to at least the AFC Championship each season Patrick Mahomes has been starting for them. It’s Brady-esque. I don’t need to tell anyone how good he is but Brady might want to enjoy being called the GOAT because I’d be willing to bet Mahomes takes that title when he’s all said and done.
As for this game, I’m expecting it to be close but Mahomes is just too good even on a bad ankle. The Chiefs defense is going to have a problem with Jalen Hurts and friends plus Philadelphia’s defense could give the hobbled Mahomes some slight annoyance.
Chiefs win, but barely.