When the oddsmakers installed the over/under for Super Bowl 57 earlier this month at 49.5 in the evening after the NFC and AFC conference championship games were played, it seemed like that number was too low given the explosive potential of both the Philadelphia and Kansas City offenses. Yet the market only bet the number up to the 51.5-point range by kickoff two weeks later. That was music to our ears with our NFL Total of the Year committed to the over earlier in the week.
We concluded that the prelude to Super Bowl 57 took place last year on October 3rd when the Chiefs traveled to Lincoln Financial Field to play the Eagles, and they came away with a 42-30 score as a 7-point favorite. More than sixteen months later, this Philadelphia team was much better which is why the oddsmakers installed them as a small favorite. That game was played early in Nick Sirianni’s head coaching career and before the decision was made to rely more on their rushing attack. Jalen Hurts had made significant strides in his development since that game as well. That was just his eighth start in the NFL, yet he completed 32 of 48 passes for 387 yards with two touchdown passes and no interceptions. He ran the ball an additional eight times for 47 yards in that game.
Hurts had made twenty-six more starts since that game and had developed into a more mature quarterback in the pocket. The Eagles rushing game and RPO packages had become more sophisticated since that time. Hurts completed 66.5% of his passes in the regular season for 3701 yards with 22 touchdown passes and an 8.0 yards per attempt average. The offseason addition of A.J. Brown unlocked the explosive potential for the Philadelphia passing game with him presenting a very challenging skill set for opposing defenses that were already worried about speedster DeVonta Smith at wide receiver. Hurts added 760 rushing yards in the regular season with another 13 touchdowns. Behind the best offensive line in the league, Sirianni became very comfortable going for it on fourth-and-short with Hurts nearly unstoppable on quarterback sneaks. Despite his shoulder injury, Hurts had run the ball 20 times for 73 in the Eagles’ two playoff games this season with two touchdowns and six first downs. With the two weeks of rest for the Super Bowl, we thought he should be a big threat with his legs against Kansas City. If Philadelphia was able to put up 30 points in early October against the Chiefs who had Tryann Mathieu at the time, they should be able to at least match that number now against a Kansas City team with three rookies in their secondary.
The Eagles had scored 29 or more points ten times this season, and they have scored 31 or more points in three of their last five games despite the Hurts injury. Philadelphia came into this game on a three-game winning streak, and they have played six of their last eight games over the number when they have won three or more games in a row.
Patrick Mahomes was his usual self in that October game against the Eagles last year. He completed 24 of 30 passes for 278 yards with five touchdown passes in leading his team to 42 points. Tyreek Hill was on that team, yet Mahomes has demonstrated that he can still operate the Chiefs’ offense at a high level even without him. Kansas City averaged 28.7 points per game this year going into the Super Bowl, and they scored 27 or more points twelve times. Injuries at wide receiver held the Chiefs offense back in the AFC championship game as Kadarius Toney, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and Mecole Hardman all got knocked out of that game. Hardman has been declared out for the Super Bowl, yet head coach Andy Reid thought both Toney and Smith-Schuster would be ready to play in the Super Bowl.
The key for Kansas City may be with their running game with rookie Isaih Pacheco and the now-activated Clyde Edwards-Helaire who missed multiple games with injuries. Philadelphia allows their opponents to average 4.6 yards per carry, and the Chiefs had played ten of their last twelve games in the second half of the season over the number against opponents who allow 4.5 or more yards per carry. Kansas City’s ability to run the football should open things up for Travis Kelce and the Chiefs’ wide receivers. The Eagles had a great secondary that holds their opponents to 5.4 yards per pass attempt. Yet Reid had two weeks to prepare schemes against this Philadelphia defense, and Kansas City has played six of their last seven games over the number against opponents who do not allow more than 5.7 yards per passing attempt. The Chiefs had played eight of their last thirteen games over the number when the oddsmakers install them as a favorite of up to three points or as an underdog of up to three points.
The oddsmakers expected a close game, and a tight contest lends itself to both teams scoring points back and forth against each other with the offenses having the upper hand. We concluded that expecting 72 combined points again may be too much to ask from the game between these two teams sixteen months ago, yet a combined score that reaches the 50s was highly likely. In hindsight, our caution on expecting another game that had more than 70 combined points was too conservative.
Philadelphia dominated time of possession in the first half and went into the locker room at halftime with a 24-14 lead. Yet when the Chiefs scored a defensive touchdown when Nick Bolton picked up a fumble and returned it for a touchdown midway in the second quarter, the game seemed well on its way to finishing comfortably over the number. Ten combined points were scored in the third quarter which put the over within one more scoring play, and when Kadarius Toney scored on a five-yard touchdown pass from Patrick Mahomes at the 12:04 minute mark of the fourth quarter, the over was in hand. With another 18 combined points scored in Kansas City’s 38-35 victory, the over covered easily.
In hindsight, our confidence in Hurts was more than justified. He completed 27 of 38 passes for 307 yards with a touchdown pass and no interceptions. Brown and Smith combined for 13 receptions for 196 recovering yards. Hurts added another 70 yards on the ground with three more rushing touchdowns. Sirianni kept the offense on the field for three fourth-and-one plays in the game, and they converted all three to keep their drives alive. The Eagles finished the season by converting 27 fourth-and-one plays which led the league.
Mahomes completed 21 of 27 passes for only 182 yards but three touchdown passes and no interceptions. Smith-Schuster caught seven balls for 53 yards and Toney caught the go-ahead touchdown pass in the fourth quarter. Pacheco ran the ball 15 times for 76 yards with a touchdown.
In the end, it was a satisfying conclusion to a successful NFL season for the Team.
Good luck - TDG.