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All the Super Bowl talk is about the quarterbacks but that is not the biggest health issue for the big game. Patrick Mahomes and Jalen Hurts have injury issues but both should play well.
Lane Johnson at right tackle is where the game will be won or lost. He has heroically been playing thru core muscle injury that needs surgery but appears vulnerable. He graded out well but that was due to the 49ers containment rush as opposed to going all out to sack Hurts in the NFC Championship Game. Johnson tried to jump the snap count, had a deeper pass set but was pushed into his QB’s lap on several occasions.
How the Chiefs attack this will be key. On passing downs, perhaps Chris Jones lines up against Johnson. Of note, this type of groin injury affects an offensive lineman more against the pass and thus his run blocking is less affected as evidenced by his pancaking Nick Bosa on two run plays against San Francisco.
Mahomes’ high ankle sprain has held up so far as we expected at Outkick when it happened:
His 105.4 quarterback rating met our Sports Injury Central SIC score expectations of 84 (out of 100) and he should be 50% better towards full go today.
There has been a lot of chatter on Hurts sternoclavicular (SC) joint injury but our feeling is that he may have some soreness but should be fully effective. Sure his numbers have been down since his return but there were two blowout victories and why throw or jeopardize your QB on runs in that situation. Against the 49ers, the Eagles threw the ball eight of the first 11 plays and moved the ball. When the game script changes, Hurts understandably had lower production as there was no need. The bigger worry is potential rust than for lingering injury.
KC +1.5 versus PHI under 51
This is a battle of two overall healthy teams and that makes sense that they are the last two standing. However, there are some injury matchups to discuss.
Two of the three KC wide receivers will play. We expect Kadarius Toney to play and be effective with his inversion left ankle sprain. JuJu Smith-Schuster will definitely play through his likely knee tendonitis. Clyde Edwards-Helaire is back off IR for his high ankle sprain and will provide depth at running back.
Besides Hurts and Johnson, Landon Dickerson and Avonte Maddox are two areas of injury concern. We remain confident the left guard will play thru his elbow hyperextension with a brace. Maddox is a bigger question mark as he graded out well in his return game but that was 3/4ths of the game where the 49ers were not attempting passes with the Brock Purdy elbow injury.
With Johnson vulnerable on passing downs and better on run blocking added to the Eagles desire to run the ball and potential run game defense weakness of the Chiefs, we expect a lot of running plays that burn clock. Kansas City has not been and efficient and effective offense this season but not as explosive. This points to an under game. A close match up where we might slightly favor the Chiefs.
The key will be at right tackle but let’s see about the Eagles run game. It might be harder for Philadelphia to chase so the goal will be to establish the run and get out early.
Enjoy the final game of the season and may the best team win.