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The entire NFL season comes down to this. The matchup for Super Bowl LVII is set: the NFC Champion Philadelphia Eagles face the AFC Champion Kansas City Chiefs. This is the first Super Bowl matchup between No. 1 seeds since 2018.
In the 2018 matchup, Super Bowl LII, the Philadelphia Eagles defeated the New England Patriots, 41-33. They will attempt to repeat history this year.
Las Vegas sees this matchup about as evenly on paper as possible, as the opening line for Super Bowl LVII is a pick’em between the Eagles and Chiefs. According to OddsShark, no Super Bowl has ever closed as a pick’em contest.
NFC Champion: Philadelphia Eagles
How the Philadelphia Eagles reached the Super Bowl
Philadelphia faced arguably the easiest playoff route in history as they demolished a 9-7-1 New York Giants team in the Divisional Round and then knocked San Francisco 49ers starting quarterback Brock Purdy out of the NFC Championship. They later also knocked backup quarterback Josh Johnson out, forcing Purdy to re-enter the game despite not being able to pass the football at all.
But the Eagles earned the #1 seed in the NFC by posting a conference best 14-3 regular season record, tied with the Chiefs for best in the NFL. Philadelphia started the season 13-1 before an injury to Jalen Hurts forced the starting quarterback to miss two games. The Eagles lost those two games, but Hurts returned to face the New York Giants backups in Week 18 (Giants had nothing to play for) to clinch the first-round bye.
Philadelphia Eagles keys to winning the Super Bowl
We still don’t know what will happen if/when Jalen Hurts needs to put the team on his back to win a big game. He was terrible in last season’s Wild Card loss and he has had to do very little in their two easy victories this postseason. In fact, he didn’t look particularly good against the 49ers, but he didn’t have to do much.
He missed several throws, including a wide open AJ Brown who likely would have a long touchdown. Hurts completed 15 of 25 passes for just 121 yards in the game. But he didn’t turn the ball over and that’s the key. He rushed 11 times for 39 yards and a touchdown, and his legs are absolutely a weapon.
But facing the AFC Champion brings a new challenge. The AFC is largely viewed as the better overall conference and Hurts can’t expect to just manage the game and win the Super Bowl. At some point, he’s going to have to make plays in the passing game and prove that he can make big throws in big games.
Can he do it? Maybe. But we don’t know just yet.
AFC Champion: Kansas City Chiefs
How the Kansas City Chiefs reached the Super Bowl
The Chiefs beat the Bengals in the AFC Championship game in a thriller, with Harrison Butker connecting on a game-winning field goal attempt with just three seconds left. Patrick Mahomes scrambled on his bad ankle to pick up a first down on the preceding play, and thanks to a late hit out of bounds by Cincinnati defender Joseph Ossai, the Chiefs got into range for the win.
The Chiefs benefitted from several questionable calls in the game, including a “do-over” down, which is the only time I think I have ever seen that happen. Regardless, Mahomes hobbled his way through a gutsy performance, and scrambling to get the team into position to kick the game-winner was an all-time tough guy move.
As mentioned, the Chiefs are the #1 seed in the AFC, so they also received a bye and faced Jacksonville in the Divisional Round. Although the Jaguars hung around, in part thanks to Mahomes’ injury, the Chiefs never seemed to be out-of-control and rolled to the win.
Exactly like the Eagles, the Chiefs came into the postseason following a 14-3 record, so we have a matchup between two teams sitting at 16-3 through 19 games played. With a pick’em spread set and two teams with identical records who won their conference’s regular season and postseason titles, it should be a highly-contested Super Bowl. Buckle up.
Kansas City Chiefs keys to winning the Super Bowl
Clearly, it’s the health of quarterback Patrick Mahomes. His performance was ridiculously special on Sunday, but it’s hard to think he can win another game on 1.5 legs, especially against an Eagles front that set an NFL record by having four players record 10+ sacks.
Another two weeks should give Mahomes time to be in better shape for the Super Bowl than the AFC Championship, provided he didn’t hurt it worse in the process. Since he was able to finish the game and even win it with his legs, that seems unlikely, but who knows how his body will respond following an intense game. Adrenaline certainly played a role.
Let’s hope, for everyone’s sake, that Mahomes is healthy when Super Bowl Sunday rolls around. We want to see the two best teams in the NFL battle it out while both squads are at full strength.
Get well, Patrick. We’ll see you again, soon.
Follow Dan Zaksheske on Twitter: @OutkickDanZ