PHOENIX — A stellar line-up of players in the trenches should determine the Super Bowl champion.
Of course, Patrick Mahomes and Jalen Hurts will play their part. But Sunday’s game will depend on which team controls the line of scrimmage.
The Philadelphia Eagles (16-3) got to this point mostly thanks to a dominant offensive line that allowed the Hearts to flourish. He became an AP NFL MVP and Offensive Player of the Year finalist behind a line that included All-Pro center Jason Kelsey and All-Pro right tackle Layne Johnson.
Kelsey, Johnson, left tackle Jordan Mailata, Pro Bowl left back Landon Dickerson, and right back Isaac Seumalo scored in the playoffs, helping the Eagles to 416 yards with two one-sided wins. The Eagles outscored the Giants and 49ers by a combined score of 69–14.
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The defensive line, consisting of four players with at least 10 sacks, has been beating opposing quarterbacks throughout the season. Haason Reddick crashed the game against San Francisco by eliminating Brock Purdy from the game.
The Kansas City Chiefs (16-3) know what it’s like to face a terrible pass in the Super Bowl. Behind a battered offensive line, Mahomes looked mediocre in a 31-9 loss to the Buccaneers two years ago.
They’re healthy this time around and have a pair of second-team All-Pros left-back Joe Tooney and center Creed Humphrey.
On the other hand, All-Pro defenseman Chris Jones has been a nightmare for opponents this season. Jones had 15 1/2 bags. If the Philadelphia O-line can’t slow him down, it could be a tough day for the Hurts.
WHEN THE BALL IS OWNED:
Mahomes, a two-time NFL AP MVP, is a wizard, even with an ankle injury that should feel better than he did two weeks ago against Cincinnati. He will frequently look for All-Pro tight end Travis Kelsey, who had 110 shots in the regular season and 21 in two playoff games.
Wide receiver Marques Valdez-Scantling had a big game against the Bengals, catching six passes for 116 yards and making a TD. Juju Smith-Shuster and Kadarius Toni are ready to go after their injuries in that game.
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The Chiefs were 20th in the league, largely because Mahomes led the NFL along the way. Rookie seventh-round pick Isaiah Pacheco had 830 yards in the regular season and 95 yards against Jacksonville, but only 26 in the AFC title game. Running back Jeric McKinnon is more of a pass catching threat. He had 56 receptions.
Mahomes’ defense will be critical to Kansas City’s success. The Eagles are five sacks away from an NFL record for a season. Reddick, Brandon Graham, Josh Sweet and Javon Hargrave had at least 10 sacks.
Cornerbacks James Bradbury and Darius Slay are among the best duos in the league, so it will be difficult for Mahomes to contact his receivers often. Travis Kelsey versus Philadelphia linebackers and defensemen is a mismatch that the Chiefs will try to exploit.
WHEN THE EAGLE HAVE THE BALL:
Eagles can defeat teams on the ground or in the air. Hurts can run 100 yards or throw 300 yards. This offense is versatile and Hurts leads the way. Miles Sanders rushed for 1,268 yards in the regular season. Kenny Gainwell leads the team with 160 yards in the playoffs. The Boston Scott is another option in the stacked backfield.
The Hurts are only 275 yards from a playoff pass, but the Eagles haven’t had to throw. They succeeded, created big leads and kept them in place to chew through hours.
If they go public with it, wide receivers AJ Brown and DeVonta Smith are among the best tandems in the NFL, and tight Dallas Godert is underrated. The Chiefs have allowed 33 TD passes this season, a league record, so it could be a big day for Hurts and his wide receivers.
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It all starts for the Eagles on the O-line. They defended the Hurts, paved the way for runners, and imposed their will on the defense throughout the season.
Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnolo is a two-time Super Bowl champion who has a history of closing major Super Bowl offenses. Just ask Tom Brady. Spagnolo is known for throwing QB off the beat. Considering Hurts has a huge performance hit after Blitz, expect Spagnolo to pick him up.
If the Hurts have time, Kansas City’s four rookie defensemen have a long day ahead.
Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker scored in two Super Bowls, scoring four extra points and four field goals. Player Tommy Townsend had an All-Pro season with 45.6 yards.
Both return teams of the Chiefs were in the top seven.
Eagles kicker Jake Elliot scored all three field goals and two of three extra points in his only Super Bowl five years ago.
Player Arren Siposs may return for the first time since he was sidelined in December with an ankle injury. Veteran Brett Kern replaced him and will make his first Super Bowl appearance in his 15-year career.
The Eagles have at times had problems with their covering units this season.
Chiefs coach Andy Reid meets with his former team. He has won more games than any coach in Eagles history in a 14-year period. Reed is second behind Bill Belichick (31) with 21 playoff wins. He’s 1-2 in the Super Bowl, including a loss to the Eagles.
Sirianni is 25-12 in two seasons as head coach, including 2-1 in the playoffs. Like Reed, he is an excellent game planner. Sirianni is also aggressive and not without confidence.
Reed vs his former team. Sirianni against the coach who fired him. No additional motivation for the Super Bowl is required. Both teams have vocal, loyal fan bases that flood Phoenix for the game.
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