Super Bowl 57 In-Depth Breakdown, Picks, Predictions, and Odds
This is my ninth consecutive year of writing an in-depth Super Bowl breakdown. Over that span, I’m 6-2 predicting the outright winner and against the spread. For those of you who haven’t read any of my past Super Bowl previews, I include in-depth statistics and analysis, with the goal of making the game more predictable by adding context.
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Super Bowl LVII Matchup
- Matchup: Kansas City Chiefs vs Philadelphia Eagles
- Date: Sunday, February 12th, 2023
- Time: 6:30 PM EST
When The Chiefs Have The Ball
This Super Bowl reminds me a lot of the Panthers and Broncos Super Bowl from 2015, but in a different way than you would expect. In 2015, the Panthers' offense was rolling. They ranked in the top three in basically every metric and Cam Newton was in MVP form. It seemed like almost nothing could stop them with how dominant they were on offense. The biggest issue was that they hadn’t played any decent defenses. When they matched up against Denver’s elite defense, they were stifled. They couldn’t run or pass and Newton was under constant pressure. I don’t think that exact scenario is applicable here, but the overarching point is that strength of schedule matters. It matters specifically because the Eagles are the top ranked pass defense in terms of efficiency (Football Outsiders’ DVOA), yet rank 31st in terms of strength of schedule.
When analyzing a matchup it’s really important to understand the context of every ranking and metric. The Eagles ranking first in pass defense would tell most people they are elite. When you dive in deeper, the numbers tell a different story. During the regular season, the Eagles played against just five teams ranked in the top half of the league in offensive efficiency.
I broke down all of the splits here against bottom-10 offenses, bottom-16 teams, and top-16 teams:
To summarize, the Eagles were very good against bad opponents but below average against any offense ranked in the top 16 of efficiency. What makes this even more interesting is that the sample of top-half offenses really aren’t teams you would consider to be elite.
Their toughest matchup on paper (5th in offensive DVOA) came in Week 1 against Detroit. The Eagles allowed 35 points and were shredded on the ground. It’s notable that the Lions had offensive success despite not really finding their offensive footing until Week 9. Detroit finished fifth in overall offensive DVOA on the season but was not playing anywhere near that well early on.
The same rings true for their next “tough” matchup against Jacksonville in Week 4. Despite being months away from their offensive peak, the Jags still put up 21 points.
Things got really interesting against the Cowboys in Week 16 and the Packers in Week 12. The Eagles' defense was largely healthy outside of when safety Chauncey Gardner-Johnson missed the game against Dallas. Dak Prescott scorched the Eagles for 347 yards on 35 pass attempts, completing 27 of them for three touchdowns. This amounts to a 77% completion rate and 9.9 yards per attempt for a total of 40 points for the Cowboys. I think the Cowboys are the most similar to the Chiefs in terms of overall explosiveness but are still far behind them in overall efficiency.
The Packers put up 20 points in the first half against the Eagles before Aaron Rodgers got hurt in the third quarter. Even Jordan Love was able to come in and add a touchdown late. The Packers finished with 33 total points.
The last team in the sample of top-half offenses is the Giants—one of the biggest overperformers we have seen in recent memory. Their roster was deprived of talent but still found a way to be relatively efficient offensively.
Those are the best offenses the Eagles have played against this season. Nine of their 19 games came against bottom-10 offenses or backup quarterbacks.
The common rebuttal to strength of schedule is “We can’t blame them for who they played!” Of course not, but looking for the closest comparisons to their current opponent is very helpful when trying to predict the outcome. I also want to be clear that the Eagles' defense isn’t bad, they just are massively overrated by any statistical measure due to their cakewalk schedule and now face the best offense in the league.
The Chiefs offense is No. 1 in offensive DVOA, EPA, yards per game, points per drive, and play success rate. There was a lot of offseason hoopla about the departure of Tyreek Hill and the Chiefs' perceived tough schedule in the AFC West. Patrick Mahomes proceeded to set a career-high in yards and completion rate.
Let’s forget about the points I made above about the Eagles' defense being overrated. If we assume the Eagles are a top-tier secondary, it’s important to see how Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs have played against strong pass defenses.
- Week 2 vs. LAC (10th in Pass DVOA): 24-of-35 (68%) for 235 yards, 2/0 TD/INT, 27 points
- Week 6 vs. BUF (9th in Pass DVOa): 25-of-40 (62.5%) for 338 yards, 2/2 TD/INT, 20 points
- Week 7 vs. SF (5th in Pass DVOA): 25-of-34 (73.5%) for 423 yards, 3/1 TD/INT, 44 points
- Week 7 vs. LAC (10th in Pass DVOA): 20-of-34 (58%) for 329 yards, 2/0 TD/INT, 30 points
- Week 14 vs. DEN (7th in Pass DVOA): 28-of-42 (66%) for 352 yards, 3/3 TD/INT, 34 points
- Week 17 vs. DEN (7th in Pass DVOA): 29-of-42 (69%) for 328 yards, 3/1 TD/INT, 27 points
I would consider this to be a very successful string of performances against top-tier opponents. The Chiefs won all but one of those games as well.
Turning our focus to the ground game, the Chiefs drafted a late-round gem at running back in Isiah Pacheco this year. He gets the yards that are given to him, plus a few more. The Chiefs running game ranks ninth in efficiency as a whole and Pacheco plays a large part in that success.
On paper, the Eagles look ripe to be attacked on the ground. They rank just 21st in run defense DVOA and have been routinely gashed. A lot of that came early in the season, though. They lost Jordan Davis for a few weeks (out from Week 8 to Week 13). They suffered their first loss of the season against the Commanders in Week 10, largely getting rinsed on the ground. After that, they signed both Ndamukong Suh and Linval Joseph to shore up the defensive line. Now that Davis, Suh, and Joseph are all healthy, they have been significantly better at stopping the run, ranking eighth in run defense DVOA from Week 13 on. While the defense as a whole and secondary are probably overrated, the run defense is a bit underrated.
The question for props will be, which running back will see the most work?
Jerick McKinnon out-snapped Isiah Pacheco for six straight weeks before the Conference Championship.
In the Conference Championship, though, things changed:
- Pacheco: 57.4% snap rate
- McKinnon: 38.2% snap rate
Pacheco also ran a route on 54% of the teams' dropbacks, a new season high. McKinnon has been leaned on heavily in crucial situations until the Conference Championship when Pacheco operated as both the lead back and pass-catcher. Maybe there will be reports throughout the week that will answer why, but at the moment, it’s tough to pinpoint. I have no idea if that type of usage will stick. If it does, Pacheco overs are a great look in the prop market. If McKinnon regains his pass-catching-plus role, his overs are a smash.
Handicapping the Chiefs' pass-catchers is a bit of a mess right now. By the end of the Conference Championship, the Chiefs were trotting out Marcus Kemp as a starting wideout—a former undrafted free Agent with four career receptions prior to his snag against the Bengals.
The reason Kemp saw any play time was due to injuries. JuJu Smith-Schuster only played 45% of the snaps, Kadarius Toney played just four snaps before hobbling off, and Mecole Hardman played 15 snaps before suffering an injury. This left the Chiefs with Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Skyy Moore, and Marcus Kemp as their primary receiving options. That being said, with two weeks of rest, both Smith-Schuster and Hardman will be good to go. I would caution against betting any overs on ancillary pieces as Valdes-Scantling, who didn’t catch a single pass until midway through the second quarter after wideouts started going down.
Travis Kelce will be far and away their best option and has recorded at least 78 receiving yards in each of their last eight playoff games. The Eagles are sixth in DVOA against the tight end position but rank 15th in yards per game allowed. On top of this, the best tight ends they faced were probably Pat Freiermuth (4 receptions for 57 yards), Zach Ertz (6 receptions for 48 yards), and Dalton Schultz (3 receptions for 43 yards). Despite a top-10 efficiency ranking at defending tight ends, when factoring in schedule, they are just average. I also don’t know who is going to be able to cover Kelce. Darius Slay and James Bradberry are both fantastic on the perimeter and Avonte Maddox has had a solid season in the slot. The issue is Maddox is 5-foot-9, 184 pounds, so lining him up against Kelce would be a mistake.
The Eagles' secondary plays man coverage at an above-average rate (10th, 30%) but still plays zone 54% of the time. They have allowed the fewest yards per cover snap against play action but the Chiefs have been incredible themselves on play action. They frequently take shots when using play action—evidenced by Patrick Mahomes' splits:
Patrick Mahomes with Play Action:
- 9.6 Yards per attempt
- 70% completion rate
Without Play Action:
- 7.5 yards per attempt
- 66% completion rate
The only key piece of data I could find that may hinder the Chiefs' offense would be the Eagles' pressure. The Eagles defense leads the league in adjusted sack rate at 11.2%. The next closest team is Dallas at 8.9%. The Chiefs haven't played a single team in the top-5 of adjusted sack rate this season with the best being Tampa Bay (8th).
The Eagles are also first in pressure rate despite only blitzing at the 14th-highest rate in the league (26%). If they can consistently get pressure on Mahomes and his ankle injury doesn’t heal much in the two weeks leading up to the Super Bowl, it could cause some problems. The issue is, the Chiefs' offensive line has been stellar this year and Mahomes hasn't been phased by pressure. They have a top-five offensive line boasting the fourth-best adjusted sack rate allowed and are above average at pressure rate allowed. On top of this, even when Mahomes does get pressured, he has been very good. Against pressure, he ranks sixth in yards per attempt (6.6) and possesses the best pressure-to-sack rate in the league. That means he is taking sacks at the lowest rate in the NFL when pressured (10.2%).
The last note to make on the Chiefs' offense is that they use motion at the third-highest rate, shotgun at the fifth-highest rate in the league, and are among the league leaders in 12 and 13 personnel.
The Chiefs are a really tough offense to stop due to their multiplicity. Now they square off against a defense that has been leaky against any formidable opponent.
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When The Eagles Have The Ball
The Eagles' offense has rolled throughout the playoffs with massive wins over the Giants (38-7) and 49ers (31-7). They rank ninth in passing offense DVOA, first in rushing DVOA, are third overall, and are tied with the Chiefs for the most points per game on offense (28.7). They are known for being an incredible rushing team but actually rank ninth in pass rate over expectation in neutral game scripts. They have absolutely dominated the majority of their opponents this season and for good reason. They have the best offensive line in the league, two great wideouts in A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith, a versatile tight end in Dallas Goedert, a dominant running game, and a dual-threat quarterback who took a step forward as a passer this season. They now match up against a Chiefs defense strong in a few areas but with a couple of glaring weaknesses.
The Eagles have a massive advantage on the ground here. They are the best running team in the league and should be able to do whatever they want against the Chiefs.
The Chiefs have only played in six games against teams who rank in the top half of the league in run-offense efficiency:
- Week 13 against CIN (4th in run DVOA)
- Samaje Perine rushed 21 times for 106 yards (5.04 YPC)
- Week 6 against BUF (11th in run DVOA)
- Devin Singletary rushed 17 times for 85 yards (5 YPC)
- Week 5 against LVR (8th in run DVOA)
- Josh Jacobs rushed 21 times for 154 yards (7.3 YPC)
- Week 18 against LVR (8th run DVOA)
- Josh Jacobs rushed 17 times for 45 yards (2.64 YPC)
- Week 7 against SF (13th in run DVOA)
- First game for Christian McCaffrey, who rushed 8 times for 38 yards. Jeff Wilson rushed 7 times for 54 yards. They combined for 92 yards on 15 carries (6.13 YPC)
I don't think the Bengals' game in the Conference Championship game matters much for this sample given they lost 3 starting offensive linemen and the only game they played well against a good run defense was in Week 18 against Josh Jacobs. Jarrett Stidham was also the starter for that game. Any time the Chiefs have played against a competent rushing team, they have largely gotten crushed. Not to mention that the Eagles are significantly better at running than all of those teams. The closest opponent to the Eagles is the Bengals, whose DVOA is 7%, roughly 8% less than the Eagles (15%).
As I noted above, running backs on good running teams have thrashed the Chiefs but the Eagles have an extra dimension with Jalen Hurts’ rushing ability. The Chiefs did a relatively good job containing Josh Allen in Week 6 (12 carries for 32 yards) and Kyler Murray in Week 1 (5 carries for 29 yards). They were a bit leaky against other athletic quarterbacks, though, allowing 57 rushing yards to Russell Wilson, 50 to Jarrett Stidham, 48 and 30 to Joe Burrow, 44 to Bryce Perkins, and 40 to Malik Willis. With Hurts still dealing with an SC joint injury, the Eagles didn’t go all in on designed runs. He had six in the Divisional Round against the Giants and four in the Conference Championship against the Niners. The major caveat is that both games were blowouts. With two weeks to rest up, I imagine they will design plenty of runs for him in the Super Bowl.
The Eagles can pass, but if they can dominate in the running game they tend to stick with the run. There is less risk and it can open up opportunities for deep passes. When they do throw, I expect a lot of play-action. Of Jalen Hurts’ dropbacks, 30% were on some sort of play action or RPO, which is the seventh-highest rate in the league. On those dropbacks, the Eagles took advantage of defenses focusing on defending the run and used it to expose them deep, averaging more than half a yard more per pass attempt.
Jalen Hurts with Play Action:
- 8.2 yards per attempt
- 63.3% completion rate
Without Play Action:
- 7.6 yards per attempt
- 67% completion rate
Against play action, the Chiefs allowed a 69% completion rate, 7.9 yards per attempt, and a 92.2% deserved catch rate, which was the fourth-highest mark in the league. If you look at the Chiefs' EPA on play action, they look really good, but that’s because they only gave up four touchdowns. I tend to think touchdowns are a bit more volatile than yards and completion rate.
Beyond play action, Hurts will have plenty of opportunities to attack the Chiefs' secondary. The Chiefs rank just 17th in explosive pass rate allowed but play MOFO (Middle of Field Open) coverage at the second-highest rate in the league (56%). This means they are playing a lot of Cover 2 (man or zone) and Cover 4. Against MOFO (Cover 2, Cover 4), Jalen Hurts has completed 67.9% of his passes, averaging 8.0 yards per attempt (3rd) with an average depth of target of 9.8. This is slightly better than his already strong season-long metrics.
Looking at how Hurts’ receivers performed against these coverages, Smith outperformed Brown, averaging 1.9 yards per route run compared to just 1.6 for Brown. Both players had a high average depth of target (12+). Along with that came middling completion rates of 55% for Brown and 58% for Smith. This was also on a sample of 160+ routes run for each player, so it’s definitely worth noting but not an end-all-be-all. Goedert specifically excelled against these coverages on his 121 routes—2.0 yards per route run, 12.2 yards per target, and a 90% catch rate. It makes sense that if the safeties are split on the hash marks, there is more room for Goedert to operate in the deep middle of the field.
Given the information we have and how the Eagles match up against the Chiefs, we will likely see a lot of runs and deep shots. The Eagles' opening script has called for frequent passing at times but most of that is matchup-dependent. Against the Giants in the Divisional Round, the Eagles had a -6% pass rate over expectation because the Giants' run defense is abysmal. Against the 49ers, it was +1.9% because the 49ers have a top-three run defense but just a top-10 pass defense. Given what we know about the advantages in the running game, I foresee the Eagles running plenty in neutral game scripts.
The Eagles run 11 personnel (1 RB, 1 TE, 3WRs) 75% of the time, and are in shotgun 92% of the time, the highest rate in the league. They also run no-huddle at the second-highest rate in the league when you exclude garbage time.
One concern for Hurts would be the Chiefs' ability to get pressure. The Chiefs are second in adjusted sack rate and sixth in pressure rate defensively. Hurts hasn’t been all that good under pressure this season either. He has a 45% completion rate, averages 5.5 yards per attempt, a 4/2 TD:INT Ratio, and a 20.9% pressure-to-sack rate. For reference, the pressure-to-sack rate is double that of Mahomes. The good news for Hurts is that he has seen pressure at the 10th-lowest rate in the league and the Eagles' offensive line is substantially better than what Frank Clark and the Chiefs just ran roughshod through against the Bengals
Another thing to think about is what the Chiefs will do if L’Jarius Sneed isn’t cleared from concussion protocol. Sneed is the Chiefs' primary slot cornerback, which is a big deal against a team like the Eagles, who utilize 3-WR sets more than 75% of the time. The Chiefs responded last week by moving Trent McDuffie to the slot—he played 59-of-65 snaps there. This left Jaylen Watson and Joshua Williams on the outside. Williams is a fourth-round rookie who has played more than 40 snaps in six games this season. In those six games, he allowed 62.5 yards per game and a 75% completion rate. He allowed 15.5 yards per reception on the season, which ranks 126th out of 142 cornerbacks with 200+ snaps. Williams played both LCB and RCB in the Conference Championship but in previous outings with a full allotment of snaps, he largely played LCB. Brown and Smith tend to line up everywhere so there isn’t a specific edge for either player here.
I expect both the Eagles and Chiefs to have a ton of success offensively. The Eagles are the best first-half team in the NFL for a reason and will get off to a hot start, winning the first half. In the end, Patrick Mahomes finds a way to win another Super Bowl and Super Bowl MVP on a game-winning touchdown to Travis Kelce.
Score: 31-28 Chiefs
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