The 2022 NFL season was full of crazy ups and downs, but now we are left with two teams remaining: the Kansas City Chiefs and the Philadelphia Eagles. Although this year saw lots of upsets, unexpected ascensions and collapses, and dramatic storylines, football fans ended up with the number one seed from each conference as the last teams standing. The AFC-champion Chiefs earned the conference’s number one seed by finishing 14-3 in the regular season, and they finished first in the NFL in both scoring and total offense, according to Pro Football Reference. The NFC-champion Eagles were also the number one seed in their conference by finishing with the same 14-3 record. The Eagles finished second in the NFL in both scoring and total offense, behind only the Chiefs, but the Eagles also finished third in total defense (the Chiefs were a middling 12th). It is safe to say that we ended up with the best team from each conference playing in the Super Bowl, but how did they get here?
The Eagles have had just about the most straightforward run to the Super Bowl possible. They were the best team from the beginning of the year when they started the season a perfect 8-0, and even after collecting their first loss they still kept rolling, going on a five-game winning streak. Their only real hitch came when quarterback (QB) Jalen Hurts injured his shoulder and missed two games, both of which the Eagles lost. However, he was able to return in the final week of the season to lead the Eagles to a win against the New York Giants that secured the number one seed in the NFC and a first round bye in the playoffs. After their week off, the Eagles showed no rust, annihilating the Giants in the divisional round and knocking out the San Francisco 49ers with similar ease in the NFC Championship Game. It should be noted that the 49ers lost their starting QB Brock Purdy (who himself was already the third stringer) early in the first quarter to an elbow injury. Then they lost their backup Josh Johnson to a concussion early in the second half, leaving them without a capable passer. But the Eagles beat who was in front of them all season long, and they usually did it with relative ease.
The Eagles are a very complete team, with arguably the best offensive line (OL). The strength of their OL has allowed them to have a 1,000-yard rusher in Miles Sanders (1,269 yds, 11 TD) and has assisted the passing game to allow for two 1,000-yard receivers in AJ Brown (88 receptions rec, 1,496 yds, 11 TD) and Devonta Smith (95 rec, 1,196 yds, 7 TD). But the real star of the offense is the aforementioned QB Hurts. Hurts has had an outstanding season, and likely would have been a real threat to win league MVP if he hadn’t gotten hurt. Hurts is a dual-threat quarterback who had a career year both on the ground and in the air (66.5 completion percentage, 3701 passing yards, 22 passing TD to 6 interceptions, a passer rating of 101.5, 760 rushing yards and 13 rushing TD). Hurts, a former second-round draft pick, was the starter in 2021 where he put up pretty mediocre passing numbers. This year was seen as a prove-it year for him, and boy did he ever.
But the Eagles’ impressive roster extends to the other side of the ball as well. Their defense boasts a fearsome pass rush with players like Pro-Bowl linebacker (LB) Haason Reddick (16.0 sacks), defensive tackle (DT) Javon Hargrave (11.0 sacks) and defensive ends Josh Sweat (11.0 sacks) and Brandon Graham (11.0 sacks). On top of that, Pro-Bowl cornerback (CB) Darius Slay (3 INT) and Safety CJ Gardner-Johnson (6 INT, tied for league lead) hold down the secondary.
The Eagles are the most complete team in the NFL, and it is going to be hard to slow them down.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs, like the Eagles, also had a relatively smooth regular season. They did lose nail-biting games to two other AFC contenders, the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals, which sowed some doubt about their dominance, but still cruised to 14 wins behind a high-flying offense led by arguably the best player in the entire league, QB Patrick Mahomes. Mahomes is the favorite to win his second MVP in just his fifth season as starter. The run of dominance to start his career is unheard of. In addition to reaching the AFC championship in all of his first five seasons as starter, he has won the Super Bowl, has now reached two others, has led the league in passing touchdowns twice, has been named to the Pro Bowl five times, has an absurd 64-16 record as a starter and has an inhuman career passing rating of 105.7. This season was easily his best since he won league MVP in 2018. In 2022, he threw for a league-leading 5,250 passing yards, had 41 passing touchdowns to just 12 interceptions, had a career best 67.1 completion percentage and finished with a 105.2 passer rating.
Although Mahomes doesn’t pose the rushing threat that Hurts does, he is known for making magic with his feet, dancing around to extend plays, scrambling when necessary and launching deep throws down the field while he flies around behind the line of scrimmage. That is why it was so potentially devastating when Mahomes went down with an ankle injury in the divisional round against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Kansas City fans held their breath when they saw Mahomes get his ankle crushed in an awkward position by a Jaguars defender and then exit the game. Backup QB Chad Henne played admirably in Mahomes’ place, but every Chiefs fan exhaled deeply when Mahomes returned to the field later in the game. Kansas City held on to win the game, but afterwards tests revealed that Mahomes had a high ankle sprain. His status was never in doubt for the AFC Championship Game against Cincinnati, but his ability to use his agility for some Mahomes magic certainly was. The Chiefs were able to pull out a thrilling victory in front of their home crowd with a heroic effort from Mahomes, but he was clearly hobbled. With two weeks until the Super Bowl, it is certainly reasonable to think that Mahomes’ ankle could see some improvement, but it is a serious injury that definitely will not heal fully by then. Mahomes made some great throws and had a gutsy run at the end of the game to set the Chiefs up for the game-winning field goal, but it was obvious that he could not move around very well. On top of Mahomes’ injury, the Chiefs lost their top three receivers (Juju Smith-Schuster, Kadarius Toney and Mecole Hardman) to various injuries during the AFC Championship Game, as reported by Yahoo! Sports. Their status for the Super Bowl is unknown as of right now. That could prove to be disastrous against the powerhouse pass rush of the Eagles.
Aside from Mahomes, the Chiefs’ offense saw solid production from running back Isiah Pacheco (170 rushing attempts, 830 yds, 5 TD) and wide receiver Juju Smith-Schuster (101 rec, 933 yds, 3 TD), but the real dominant weapon was tight end Travis Kelce. Kelce had his usual incredible season with 110 receptions, 1,338 receiving yards and 12 receiving TD. The Chiefs do not have a defense anywhere near as dominant as the Eagles, but they are led by All-Pro DT Chris Jones (15.5 sacks) who can occasionally will the defense to make big stops, as he did with his key sacks against Joe Burrow in the AFC Championship Game.
For the Chiefs, a Super Bowl win would put them on the path to becoming a dynasty and would only add to Mahomes’ unreal legacy. For the Eagles, a win would mean a validation of their dominant regular season and would be the cherry on top to Jalen Hurts’ magnificent breakout season. Both teams absolutely earned the right to be in this Super Bowl. Although the Eagles benefitted by playing in a considerably weaker NFC and did not have to face a real quarterback in the NFC Championship Game, I think they will win the Super Bowl. A fully healthy Chiefs team can beat anybody, but I am doubtful that Mahomes will be close enough to 100 percent to be able to avoid the Eagles’ fearsome front seven. Additionally, with the status of his top receivers in question, I don’t expect him to see many open targets. This will force him to hold the ball longer and inevitably end up taking sacks because he won’t be able to extend plays with his feet.