Super Bowl 2023 Key Matchups: Chiefs Vs. Eagles
Super Bowl 57 is here. After a blowout win by the Eagles and a thrilling win by the Chiefs, it’ll officially be Jalen Hurts and Patrick Mahomes meeting with a championship on the line. Obviously, though, the game goes much deeper than just the two quarterbacks. You could argue the defense won the AFC title game for Kansas City, while Philadelphia has arguably the most complete roster in football.
Let’s take a look at the matchups that will define Super Bowl 57.
Chiefs Pass-Rush vs. Eagles Offensive Line
The 49ers’ issues were most glaring on the offensive end in the NFC title game, but it’s impossible to ignore how little of an impact Nick Bosa made. The Eagles’ league-best offensive line set the tone all day, keeping Bosa at bay and allowing the offense to function well against such a loaded San Francisco defense.
The Chiefs’ front seven should be even easier to handle than the 49ers, but it doesn’t always work out that way. Kansas City’s defensive line was excellent against the Bengals, with Chris Jones turning in a huge game and rotational pass-rusher Mike Danna coming up big. Rookie George Karlaftis has come on strong late in the season, and Frank Clark is a great playoff performer.
This won’t be easy for the Eagles to handle, but with five strong starters, Philadelphia has a chance to erase one of the biggest advantages the Chiefs had against the Bengals.
Jalen Hurts vs. Magnitude of the Moment
To me, there aren’t many bigger questions coming into this game than what version of Jalen Hurts we get.
Hurts likely won’t gift the ball to Kansas City like Joe Burrow did at times, as long as his offensive line doesn’t let him down. That won’t be enough. He needs to be more consistent than he was against the 49ers and not be overcome by the moment like so many young quarterbacks have on this stage (even Mahomes, who had a rocky start to his own Super Bowl debut).
There’s also fair concern about how Hurts and this Eagles team will perform in a close game. Blowing teams out has its disadvantages in the long run, and the execution by Hurts in a critical moment late in the game might be affected by the lack of experience in that department.
We’ve seen Mahomes execute in key moments time and time again. Can Hurts?
Jonathan Gannon vs. Andy Reid
Nick Sirianni and Shane Steichen should come into this game with a solid gameplan, but all eyes will be on whether a talented Eagles defense can hold up as well as the Bengals’ unit did in the AFC title game.
Lou Anarumo knows how to scheme against Mahomes and the Chiefs. Does Gannon? The Eagles had one of the NFL’s best defenses overall this season but have had lapses at times, including against the Cowboys. If one coach is capable of breaking down a defense he hasn’t seen much of, it’s Andy Reid.
Travis Kelce vs. Eagles Defense
The Eagles haven’t faced many premier tight ends this season. The defense held up well against T.J. Hockenson and Evan Engram, though it had a bit of a tougher day against Pat Freiermuth. We couldn’t get an accurate look at the defense against George Kittle, who had 32 yards on three catches before the 49ers lost their ability to throw the ball. How will the unit hold up against a Hall of Fame tight end?
Philadelphia has only allowed three touchdowns by tight ends this season, which is a promising sign. The same was true for the Bengals, who let a banged up Kelce go for 78 yards and a touchdown. Kelce is a unique challenge from a receiving standpoint and has embarrassed defenses all season.
The Bengals set out to cover Kelce and figure out the rest in the AFC title game. That didn’t work when he easily shook off Jessie Bates in the end zone, but the second half notably didn’t feature as much of Kelce.
Gannon will have to spend the two weeks figuring out who will cover Kelce – neither starting safety is even as tall as Bates – and how to force Mahomes to look elsewhere.
Isiah Pacheco vs. Eagles Run Defense
The Chiefs finally got their win over the Bengals, but the offense was not the biggest reason. A hobbled Patrick Mahomes and depleted receiving corps couldn’t find any rhythm in the 4th quarter, and the lack of a running game was noticeable.
Isiah Pacheco made an impact in the passing game, sometimes making drive-changing plays, but he wasn’t nearly as effective on the ground as he was against Jacksonville. It feels like Pacheco is going to have to step up against a balanced Eagles defense.
Philadelphia’s run defense was an issue at times this season, allowing 4.6 yards per carry. While additions and the return of Jordan Davis have helped out the unit, Pacheco has an opportunity to take advantage of a rare vulnerability on the Eagles’ defense. It feels like the Chiefs might need it this time.