Happy Super Bowl Sunday, folks. Here’s a betting menu I’ve prepared for the big game.
(Odds provided by DraftKings Sportsbook.)
Chiefs +1.5 (-110)
The star-studded Philadelphia Eagles are one of the best title contenders in recent memory -- let’s get that out of the way. However, Philly has faced not just the easiest schedule by DVOA in the league this year, but the easiest schedule for a Super Bowl team since 2006 (via Clev Analytics).
Its +133 point differential ranked third in the regular season, but while waxing weaker opponents is a good sign of a good team, the Eagles don’t have any heavyweight wins on its resume. Even in the postseason, Philly only had to get past a 9-7-1 Giants squad and San Francisco’s emergency room of a quarterback unit.
Roster constructor Howie Roseman’s trench obsession has resulted in a undoubtedly terrifying pass rush -- Philadelphia’s 70 regular season sacks were the most by a team since 1989. It’s just that feasting on the likes of Carson Wentz, Kenny Pickett, and Davis Mills is a totally different sport compared to playing Patrick Mahomes.
Quarterbacks and their career EPA/play vs. top 5 passing defenses (minimum 500 dropbacks) pic.twitter.com/RPxLBjkMF7— Patrick Brennan (@paintingcorner) February 6, 2023
Among plenty of other league-leading statistics, this year’s Most Valuable had the lowest sack rate on pressured dropbacks this season (11.9% according to TruMedia). Mahomes has also benefited from his own general manager’s trench investments: Brett Veach splurged on offensive linemen following the Kansas City Chiefs’ 2021 Super Bowl loss, with opponents like this year’s Eagles in mind.
While the Chiefs did enjoy the NFL’s fourth-easiest regular season schedule, this team is also in the Super Bowl for the third time in four years. Head coach Andy Reid, offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, and defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo have combined for 94 playoff appearances and 15 Super Bowl appearances in their coaching careers. Eagles coach Nick Sirianni, offensive coordinator Shane Steichen, and defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon have combined for 23 playoff appearances and are all coaching in the Super Bowl for the first time.
Mahomes, who holds the all-time league record for career quarterback rating and passing yards per game, and Reid, who is 30-6 when his team has 10-plus days of rest in his career, present a challenge unlike anything Philadelphia’s defense has seen this season. I don’t expect the Eagles to collapse in the ring within the first few rounds, but Philly is probably a little overrated going into this game, with less experience to boot.
Jalen Hurts will be making just his fourth career playoff start with underwhelming postseason box scores to date. Hurts finished second in this year’s MVP voting to Mahomes, but the former QB teetered off after a Week 15 shoulder injury to his throwing arm.
Hayden Winks of Underdog Fantasy noted: “In his three games since returning from injury, Hurts’ EPA/play has dropped from +0.24 to +0.07, which is identical to Marcus Mariota’s mark this season. His completion percentage over expected has also fallen from +3.3 to -3.0, which is on par with Justin Fields’ accuracy.”
Hurts’ mobility and Philly’s monstrous o-line powers the best rushing attack in the NFL -- and it doesn’t stop there. Alpha-dog receivers A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith decimate any defense that overcommits to stopping the run. Sirianni’s Eagles are a well-oiled machine that placed second (behind only its Super Bowl opponent) in just about any offensive metric.
To win the big game, though, Hurts will inevitably need to make some grown-man throws in third-and-long situations. His few playoff performances, less-than-100% shoulder, and weakness against zone blitzes are all reasons for doubt if Philly falls behind. The Eagles haven’t been forced to pass out of a deficit all year, which speaks to its season-long dominance, but also means there’s a lot of unknowns if the offense finally gets forced into consistent dropback situations.
Kansas City’s defensive personnel is relatively young and modest, but its coordinator flips a switch in January like no other. As Ollie Connolly of The Read Optional said, “If anyone can deliver the right gameplan in the biggest spot, it’s Spagnuolo.”
Chris Jones is the sole star out of 11, but he’s a damn good one. Jones finished third in Defensive Player of the Year voting after leading all defensive linemen with 15.5 sacks on the season.
Double team rate at defensive tackle (x) by pass rush win rate at defensive tackle (y) for the 2022 NFL season.— Seth Walder (@SethWalder) January 13, 2023
(ESPN / NFL Next Gen Stats) pic.twitter.com/wXJS0c5CdV
Tight end Travis Kelce rounds out the group of Chiefs super-duper-stars. He and Jones will be double-teamed consistently, but if anyone can scheme them open against Philadelphia’s loaded roster, it’s Reid and Spags. Kelce will be put in motion often to grant him a free release from the line of scrimmage and challenge Philly’s coverage rules; Jones will also be utilized across the formation to grant him one-on-one opportunities and challenge Philly’s protection rules.
Above all else, the Chiefs have Patrick Mahomes. It’s as fair of an argument as it is lazy. I’ll be betting on Kansas City for its edges in quarterback talent and postseason experience.
Prop bets I like:
Patrick Mahomes to win MVP (+120)
Travis Kelce over 7.5 receptions (+105)
A.J. Brown longest reception over 26.5 (-120)
Jerrick McKinnon over 21.5 receiving yards (-115)
Jalen Hurts first touchdown scorer (+700)
DeVonta Smith first touchdown scorer (+1300)
Color of Gatorade poured on winning coach: Blue (+350)
1st half under 24.5 points (-120)