Jason La Canfora's early Super Bowl 57 lean: Why the Eagles are set up for success against the Chiefs
My early lean for Super Bowl 57 is to the Philadelphia Eagles, due in large part to the multiplicity and efficiency of their rushing attack, and some lingering issues I have with the Kansas City Chiefs' ability to handle an 11 Personnel attack (one back, one tight end and three receivers).
After some very early line movement, this spread has held firm at Eagles -1.5 into midweek, and it feels right to me. The Eagles proved to be the more balanced team through the season. They have seemingly fewer health concerns (though Jalen Hurts didn't look quite right for me in the NFC Championship Game) and are the rare team built with the kind of quality, depth and assortment of body types/athletes along the defensive line to get after Patrick Mahomes and exploit Kansas City's issues at offensive tackle.
If you can generate that type of pressure without having to bring six or seven pass rushers, bleed the clock on the ground, and finish drives with touchdowns (no one scores more rushing TDs than the Eagles), you have the ingredients to topple Mahomes and Andy Reid. Philly has all of that. Add in the element of a truly special mobile quarterback – another issue that presents problems for this Chiefs defense – and you can win this game by a field goal or more.
Let's start with the Eagles' willingness to run the ball. They've run the ball exactly 50% of the time in the regular season and playoffs, the third-highest percentage in the league in 2022 (all stats are per research using TruMedia). The Chiefs (16-3 including playoffs) are just 5-3 against teams with more than 25 carries in a game this season – the Bengals botched the first quarter and ended up with just 17 total rushes last week – and even the games they won should give you pause, especially when you consider the opposition:
|Week 3||Colts (27 Rushes)||L 20-17|
|Week 8||Bills (31)||L 24-20|
|Week 9||Titans (29)||W 20-17 OT *|
|Week 11||Chargers (30)||W 30-27 (Final minute comeback)|
|Week 12||Rams (28)||W 26-10 **|
|Week 13||Bengals (34)||L 27-24|
|Week 15||Texans (28)||W 30-24 OT ***|
|Week 16||Seahawks (31)||W 24-10|
*Faced Malik Willis, who was benched
** Faced Bryce Perkins, who was benched
*** Faced Davis Mills, who was benched
Of the above teams, the only one that really ran the ball well in 2022 was the Titans, and n that game Willis was basically running the wildcat. Tennessee wasn't throwing the ball and still should have won at Arrowhead.
In every game in which the Chiefs faced a quarterback that could run (Joe Burrow twice, Trevor Lawrence twice, Russell Wilson twice, Justin Herbert twice, Josh Allen, Kyler Murray) in which that QB ran more than two times, the QB produced at least one run of 12 yards or longer. There were 10 games in which one of those QBs ran at least three times, and in nine of them that QB had a run of at least 14 yards. They combined, in those 10 games, for 58 total rushes for 322 yards (5.6 per carry) with three TDs. In their last five games against mobile QBs (Burrow, Lawrence, Wilson, Wilson and Burrow) they have allowed 7.7 per carry to the QB. And none of those players can do what Hurts can; he's tied for second in the NFL with 15 rushing TDs between the regular season and playoffs and is second in rushing first downs as well (74).
He and the Eagles do a lot of that damage out of 11 Personnel. That's bad news for the Chiefs.
The Eagles are arguably the game's best team at maximizing value – in the run and pass game – out of their personnel group. The 11 Personnel package is a strategy that the Bengals – a thorn in the Chiefs' side – have had great success with the past two years, rolling up a 3-1 record against K.C. While Burrow wasn't his usual otherworldly self throwing out of 11 personnel on Sunday (a 129 rating in first three meetings) he was still very good, going 20-for-32 for 214 yards, two touchdowns, zero interceptions and a 102.9 rating. The Eagles are as adept running out of this package as they are as passing out of it, and while they don't use it quite as much as Cincy (who were second only to Sean McVay in adherence to 11), the Eagles were sixth in the league, running 72% of all plays out of it.
On the season, Hurts was the NFL's third-rated passer in 11 Personnel (99.2), completing 67% of his passes with for 18 touchdowns and six picks. He was second overall in yards per attempt out of the formation. The Eagles run the preponderance of their 11 Personnel plays out of the gun (89% of their plays are not under center), while the Chiefs are 28th in the NFL in opposer passing rating when not under center.
As for the Chiefs defending 11 Personnel passing, over the last two years (regular season and playoffs), they have allowed 57 passing TDs out of those looks, 13 more than any other team. They rank 25th in opposer passer rating (93.8) and 24th in completion percentage (65.6%). The average NFL team has allowed 36 passing touchdowns in that span, for perspective.
And unlike the Bengals, who were bottom three in yards per carry this season, the Eagles can gut you on the ground as well out of this personnel package. Over the last two years (regular season and playoffs), the Eagles have run 659 times out of 11 Personnel (second most in the NFL) for 3578 yards (most), picking up 5.43 yards per carry (fourth-most), with 36 TDs (nearly three times the league average and 12 more than any other team in that span). The Chiefs rank 14th in Defensive EPA vs. 11 Personnel runs over the past two years, though that ranking did improve to fifth in 2022 alone.
The combination of downfield weapons out of this formation, plus the ability of four potential backs to carry the ball in it (including the quarterback) combined with the way Hurts's speed and wiggle can leverage linebackers, has me backing the Eagles. They have the better defense and the superior run game. And while they don't have Mahomes, they too have an MVP-worthy quarterback.
As long as they can manage the first quarter well, harness their nerves and not get too cute, the Eagles can win this game. Play action deep shots should be there. And as good as the Chiefs defensive front and the interior of their offensive line are, I favor the Eagles in the trenches on both sides of the ball. That always resonates highly for me, especially in the postseason.
Philadelphia should be able to win.
Get more out of your SportsLine subscription!
- Picks: NFL | NBA | CFB | CBB
- DFS: Lineup Optimizer | Picks
- Early Edge: YouTube | Apple Podcasts
- Newsletters: SportsLine Daily | Fantasy
Qualifying SportsLine members receive a 30-day free trial of Paramount+ premium. Sync your account right here.
GET VEGAS EXPERT PICKS FOR NFL, MLB, NBA, CBB, GOLF, NHL, HORSE RACING AND MORE - PLUS ADVANCED COMPUTER SIMULATIONS, WINNING TOOLS, AND MORE!JOIN NOW
Share This Story