Eagles

Eagles O vs. Chiefs D player matchups to watch in Super Bowl LVII

Eagles

In a battle of No. 1 seeds, the Eagles and Chiefs will face off in Super Bowl LVII from Glendale, Arizona, on Feb. 12.

Since this is the biggest game in the world, we’ve split our normal matchups post into two parts. We started yesterday with the Eagles on defense.

Today, we’ll look at the Eagles’ offense vs. the Chiefs’ defense:

Jalen Hurts vs. Steve Spanuolo’s defense

Hurts and the Eagles haven’t tried to hide the fact that the quarterback isn’t exactly 100 percent. And he’s just not going to get there by the time the Super Bowl starts. But that’s OK; he’s healthy enough.

We haven’t seen Hurts need to throw the ball very much in the two lopsided games in the NFC playoffs. He threw for just 154 yards against the Giants in the divisional round and just 121 yards against the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game. Not a huge deal because the Eagles had big leads and were running the ball so well. But they’ll likely need more out of Hurts’ throwing the ball in the Super Bowl if they’re to keep pace with the Chiefs’ offense.

Hurts did not have his best game against the 49ers. He missed several throws we’ve been used to seeing him make and the deep balls haven’t been there since he returned from injury. In the playoffs, Hurts has averaged just 2.8 completed air yards per pass attempt after averaging 4.2 in the regular season. The deep ball just hasn’t hit in the playoffs but he should have his opportunities on Sunday.

 

It’ll be interesting to see what Chiefs DC Steve Spagnuolo has in store for Hurts. When these teams played in Week 4 last year, Spags blitzed Hurts on 31.6% of his drop-backs and Hurts struggled. He was 7 for 15 on those plays for just 62 yards. But Spags hasn’t been as aggressive this season. As the NFL shifts shifts to more zone coverages and two-high safety looks, the Chiefs have adapted too. They’re blitzing less and playing less man. Though Spags is aggressive-mined and he might still try to pressure Hurts with the blitz in the Super Bowl.

The good news for the Eagles is that Hurts has been better against the blitz in 2022. In fact, Hurts was blitzed third-most in the NFL in 2022 but he really improved dealing with them. When blitzed this year, according to PFF, Hurts completed 55.6 percent of his passes for 9 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. He’s obviously better — like any QB — when kept clean, but he’s come so far in this area. How he handles blitzes on Sunday could really determine the game.

Eagles receivers vs. young Chiefs corners

Every week during the season we told you that the Eagles feel good in the matchup of their receivers against the opponent’s cornerbacks. That continues in the Super Bowl.

As a reminder, here’s a look at the Chiefs’ top three corners:

CB L’Jarius Sneed: Third year. Former 4th-rounder. Getting over a concussion.

CB Jaylen Watson: Rookie 7th-round pick

NCB: Trent McDuffie: Rookie 1st-round pick

And after Sneed left last week’s game, the Chiefs put another rookie, fourth-rounder Joshua Williams, in the game for him. So they had three rookies on the field at corner in the AFC Championship Game and still pulled out a win. That’s impressive.

Sneed is a pretty good player and the plan in last week’s game was likely for him to travel with Ja’Marr Chase but Sneed suffered a concussion on the fourth snap of the game. If you’re wondering, Sneed ranked as PFF’s No. 10 cornerback in the NFL this season. So he’s talented but the Eagles are still going to feel like they have an advantage with A.J. Brown on him. And as good as Sneed is, he still gave up a team-high 81 catches and 713 yards this season. And if Sneed presses, which these corners do a ton, Brown is great against the press.

If Sneed travels with Brown then it leaves what is perhaps the biggest mismatch on the field: Watson on DeVonta Smith. Smith has been a star all season and would be a WR1 on most teams. Watson last week gave up 5 catches for 81 yards and a touchdown but also picked off a pass. He had just one pick all regular season. That might be the best matchup the Eagles have going for them on Sunday.

Eagles run game vs. Chiefs run defense

In the last couple of games, the Eagles’ run game has been on full display. There are a few reasons this Eagles’ rushing attack is special and without any one of them, it doesn’t work the same. First, the Eagles’ offensive line is the strength of one of the most talented rosters in the league. Even with all the starts on this team, the O-line is still the ultimate star. And then the running backs are doing their jobs too. Miles Sanders had over 1,200 yards and 11 touchdowns this season and even though he’s been hampered a little down the stretch should be healthier after an extra week of rest. Kenny Gainwell has emerged as a legitimate threat in the playoffs and Boston Scott is always good for a few snaps. And third, Hurts’ presence is huge. The ability the Eagles have on read-options and RPOs makes their offense so unique. Even last week against really talented linebackers Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw, Hurts’ presence made the run game work. Players have to respect his ability on the ground.

 

Hurts’ over/under for rushing yards in the Super Bowl is 50.5 and that seems very much in play. The NFL record for rushing yards by a quarterback in a Super Bowl is 64 set by Steve McNair in Super Bowl XXXIV. The Titans lost that game 23-16 to the Rams.

Landon Dickerson (and others) vs. Chris Jones

Dickerson is expected to play in the Super Bowl after he hyperextended his elbow in the NFC Championship Game. He’ll probably wear a brace on that right arm. It’s great that the Eagles are going to get Dickerson back for this game but it won’t be an easy matchup for him. Jones is legitimately one of the best defensive players in the NFL.

Jones plays at a few different spots on the line but he got more snaps this year on the defensive right of the center, which sets up a matchup vs. Dickerson in this game. But Jones will also play on the defensive left and even gets some reps on both edges. So perhaps we see him take some reps against Lane Johnson if the Chiefs want to test out how that groin is feeling.

The Chiefs had a solid defense in 2022 but the one player who really scares you is Jones. Frank Clark against Jordan Mailata might be another matchup to watch but if there’s one guy you really have to worry about on this Chiefs defense, it’s Jones.

Dallas Goedert vs. Chiefs middle of the field

Chiefs All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce might go down as the greatest tight end to ever play in the NFL but Goedert is really good too. He’s been a steady contributor all season and has been really solid since returning to the lineup on Christmas Eve. The Eagles’ passing offense will always run through Brown, Smith and Goedert. The Eagles should be able to do damage throwing the ball to their wideouts against young cornerbacks but Goedert is always a part of the game plan.

The Chiefs have solid safety due with Justin Reid and Juan Thornhill but the Chiefs were a middle-of-the-pack defense against tight ends this season. They were 13th in the NFL this season in yards per game allowed to opposing tight ends but did give up 9 touchdowns to them. Just four teams gave up more. On PointsBet, Goedert is +185 to score an anytime touchdowns in the game.

 

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