Patrick Mahomes and Jalen Hurts are set to make history at Super Bowl LVII as the first African American starting quarterbacks to lead their respective teams and play against one another for a chance to hoist the Lombardi Trophy.
The quarterbacks of the Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles are certain to get plenty of attention in the days leading up to the biggest NFL game in 2023.
Of course, it’s a team sport – and these signal callers wouldn’t be on this stage without some integral players beside them in the huddle.
Let’s take a look at 10 players who will make a difference at the 2023 Super Bowl:
Travis Kelce, TE, Chiefs
Heard of him? Yeah, sure – this is a bit of an obvious one but Mahomes’ top pass-catching target will define how much the Chiefs go up and down the field. And if the Kansas City offense stalls out with a lack of other receivers on the outside unlikely to make a big play, it will come down to the Chiefs' defense to stop the league’s top-scoring offense.
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In other words, an unlikely scenario. The Chiefs need another big performance from Kelce if they want to add a third Lombardi Trophy to their trophy case.
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Chris Jones, DE, Chiefs
Going with two KC players off the bat might seem a strange choice, but inevitably this contest will come down to the line of scrimmage and if the Chiefs can break through a dynamic Philadelphia offensive line.
Jones, along with Mahomes and Kelce, is a foundational player for the Chiefs’ recent playoff success. Expect the Eagles to have a game plan for taking Jones out but for Kansas City defensive coordinator Steve Spagnaolo to have a counter with the 2022 All-Pro pass rusher.
Brandon Graham, DE, Eagles
Jones won’t be the only Super Bowl-winning defensive lineman strapping it up on Super Bowl Sunday. Graham, who won Super Bowl LII with Philadelphia, is a 13-year veteran that had a career-best 11 sacks in 2022. Expect him to become familiar with Mahomes in Arizona.
Miles Sanders, RB, Eagles
Sanders has enjoyed a monster 2023 NFL postseason capped off by a two-touchdown performance in the NFC Championship game Sunday.
Sanders, Hurts and Philadelphia’s other backs (Boston Scott and Kenneth Gainwell) could end up running wild on Kansas City. The 25-year-old running back might be worth a dart throw for Super Bowl MVP.
When all else fails, running game never lets the Eagles down
Isiah Pacheco, RB, Chiefs
Pacheco has emerged as Kansas City’s best offensive player not named Kelce this month, and it comes at the perfect time with the Chiefs needing some sort of juice.
With Mahomes hobbled, the Chiefs are likely to stick to a more balanced approach than they had the last time they were on the Super Bowl stage. If Andy Reid learned one lesson from the 31-9 spanking two years ago, it's that 12 designed rushing attempts is not enough to win the Super Bowl.
Dallas Goedert, TE, Eagles
Goedert was surprisingly quiet against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday afternoon but Philly fans know that the Eagles’ pass offense is impossible to defend when No. 88 is finding the open seam in the defense.
Receivers A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith are likely to make the bigger plays for the Eagles in the Super Bowl but don’t forget that it’s because Goedert is able to keep Kansas City’s defense honest in the middle of the field.
He’s going to keep the Chiefs linebackers on their heels. Speaking of …
Nick Bolton, LB, Chiefs
The Chiefs don’t keep a lot of linebackers rostered, and fellow LB Willie Gay Jr. is going to be playing with an injury – if he suits up at all.
That leaves a ton of responsibility on the 22-year-old Bolton’s shoulders. He finished with 180 combined tackles during the 2022 NFL season so he’s proven more than capable.
However, the Chiefs have not faced a rushing attack as complex as Philadelphia’s ground game. Additionally, the Eagles' offensive line is a massive upgrade from the Bengals’ unit Bolton and Kansas City just manhandled at Arrowhead Stadium.
Jalen Hurts should have more time in the pocket, and when he escapes, it could prove to be very problematic for KC.
T.J. Edwards, LB, Eagles
Edwards and the rest of the Philadelphia linebacker group will be tested by the Chiefs' running backs and tight ends as Kansas City’s wide receivers almost all carry a health designation into Super Bowl week.
Kelce is the biggest problem for Edwards and Co. but Pacheo and fellow KC running back Jerrick McKinnon will generate plenty of targets from Mahomes, too.
Edwards, who finished with 159 tackles in 2022, will play an integral role in making the Chiefs' offense one-dimensional.
Creed Humphrey, C, Chiefs
A lot will be made about the game’s other center (Jason Kelce, Travis’ brother) but Humphrey made the NFL’s Second-Team All-Pro for a reason. He’s a dominant mauler who has helped lift what was once a dormant Chiefs rushing attack.
The 23-year-old offensive lineman will have his work cut out for him against Philadelphia, which rotates a cast of big men that leave most centers restless on Saturday night.
James Bradberry, CB, Eagles
He came over to Philadelphia in the offseason from the Giants and has mostly been a smashing success playing across Darius Slay and becoming a Second-Team All-Pro defensive back in his first season in Eagle green.
Despite the accolades and the great performance in 2022, Bradberry shouldn’t be surprised if Mahomes targets him in an attempt to keep away from the man otherwise known as “Big Play Slay.”
If the Eagles duo can play shutdown ball on the outside, it’ll make everyone’s job inside a lot easier. That could mean taking out someone like Kelce with double – or even triple-teams.
A lot hinges on what Bradberry can do against a banged-up Chiefs receiver group. All early signs indicate good things are coming but critics will point to the fact that Philadelphia has yet to be tested yet by a true vertical passing attack.
Does Kansas City possess one after the 2023 NFL playoffs? That remains to be determined.