Breaking down the Eagles’ three major mismatches over the Chiefs in Super Bowl 57
Finally, the wait is almost over.
Super Bowl 57 is one week away, with both teams safely arriving in Arizona to brace for the onslaught of media attention in the upcoming days.
By now, you probably have seen every aspect of this game broken down, from Patrick Mahomes’ dropbacks and scrambling ability post-ankle injury to every positional matchup in the big game. With so much information to process, plus the daunting amount of prop bets available for Super Bowl 57, let’s start with the basics. Using PFF’s seasonal grading tools, the Eagles hold three distinct advantages over the Chiefs (on paper) that can be worthwhile player prop bets on Sunday.
Super Bowl 57 Mismatches
1) WR AJ Brown/DeVonta Smith vs. CB Jaylen Watson/Trent McDuffie
Despite fielding two rookies in the secondary, Steve Spagnuolo’s defense evolved over the season and hasn’t surrendered more than 250 passing yards since December 4th. Kansas City’s third-year cornerback L’Jarius Sneed (PFF’s #10 CB, 78.4 grade) suffered a concussion on the opening drive in the AFC Championship game but appeared to be progressing through the league’s protocol.
With Sneed’s ability to lock down the slot, rookies Trent McDuffie and Jaylen Watson handle the outside responsibilities. At five-foot-eleven, McDuffie was the 21st overall pick in the 2022 draft and projected as a nickel cornerback. However, the former Washington Husky put together a fantastic campaign out wide in Spagnuolo’s defense.
On the other side, the 243rd overall pick in last year’s draft, Jaylen Watson, survived his rookie learning curve but looked susceptible in the AFC Championship against the Bengals’ talented wide receivers. The Washington State product allowed five catches on seven targets for 81 yards and a touchdown but had another interception (two this postseason) and a pass breakup.
With Steve Spagnuolo likely sticking to the same Cover 2 scheme he employed against Cincinnati, the rookie cornerbacks will have safety help over the top against AJ Brown and DeVonta Smith. That could leave the middle of the field wide open for Dallas Goedert to shake and bake a linebacker in coverage.
2) DE Haason Reddick and Brandon Graham vs. RT Andrew Wylie
During the regular season, defenses sacked Patrick Mahomes only 26 times (3rd fewest in NFL). The interior of center Creed Humphrey, along with guards Joe Thuney and Trey Smith, presents a brick wall of pass protectors. However, their tackle play has been anything but predictable this season, even after trading for Orlando Brown Jr.
Acquired for a first-round pick in 2021, the former Ravens’ left tackle allowed 47 pressures during the regular season, tied for seventh most in the NFL. Not to be outdone by his partner on the other side, right tackle Andrew Wylie surrendered 49 pressures of his own, 5th most in the NFL. Josh Sweat will battle Brown Jr on the left side of the offensive line, while Haason Reddick will continue to create destruction from the right side.
Depending on which tackle is struggling more with their assignment, Andy Reid will keep his second tight end, Noah Gray, in to help double or chip one of the Eagles’ elite edge rushers. If left unchecked, Haason Reddick has that rare ability to take over a game from the defensive line, as seen multiple times throughout this postseason.
3) CB Darius Slay Jr and James Bradberry vs. WR Valdes-Scantling, Smith-Schuster, and anyone healthy
Priority number one for Jonathan Gannon’s defense is negating the seemingly unstoppable connection between Travis Kelce and Patrick Mahomes. The All-Pro tight end leads all players in the 2023 NFL Playoffs with 21 receptions and scored three touchdowns in two games. Kelce’s team-high 26 targets are lightyears away from second-place Marquez Valdez Scantling’s ten pass attempts thrown his way.
Former Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster aggravated a knee injury and missed most of the AFC Championship game. Regarded as solely a slot receiver in Pittsburgh, JuJu now spends most of his snaps out wide with Andy Reid running mainly two tight end sets. Smith-Schuster did not practice last week but says he is still on track to play in Super Bowl 57.
The Chiefs’ other new weapon for Mahomes, Kadarius Toney, is in the same boat as JuJu only he is dealing with an ankle suffered against Cincinnati after returning from a hamstring injury. He is also on track to play on Sunday, but the Chiefs placed speedster Mecole Hardman on injured reserve today with a pelvis injury sustained last week.
As bleak as it looks for Kansas City’s wide receiver room, Travis Kelce demands the full attention of the Eagles’ secondary. Suppose Slay and Bradberry can lock up any combination of wide receivers in single, island coverage. In that case, it gives Jonathan Gannon more flexibility to bring a safety into the box to stop the run or double-team Travis Kelce. If Andy Reid does try to test Slay or Bradberry, I expect the league’s best cornerback duo to respond accordingly with a timely turnover that shakes up the momentum of Super Bowl 57.
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