Super Bowl 57 is in five days at the time of writing this article, and the Eagles vs Chiefs matchup is poised to be an offensive showdown for the ages. Each team features a young star quarterback, a variety of weapons, and an elite offensive line, setting the stage for a shootout. However, don’t let the talent of the offenses distract you from these defensive units. Each is filled with stars and can take over a game if need be, adding to the unpredictability of this matchup. Let’s take a deeper dive into each unit.
Eagles vs Chiefs: A Defensive Overview
QB’s Beware, There Are Some Dogs Up Front
These two defensive lines thrive for different reasons, but both can be dangerous. The Eagles carry a lot more depth and can collapse a quarterback’s pocket with ease, while Kansas City features one man who can wreck a game. Let’s start with Philadelphia.
The Eagles rotate ten guys through the defensive line, all of whom can seriously impact a game. Incredibly, four of these guys posted over ten sacks this year, those being Haason Reddick (16), Javon Hargrave (11), Josh Sweat (11), and Brandon Graham (11). As a team, the Eagles racked up 70 sacks during the regular season, good for third most all-time, highlighting just how dominant this defensive front has been all season.
However, against the run, the Eagles defensive front hasn’t been quite as stout… or at least not early in the season. The Eagles run defense got a major wakeup call week one against Detroit but seemed to hold it together until week five. From there, opposing offenses totaled over 120 rushing yards each game until week nine, hideously summarized by Damien Pierce’s 139 effort on Thursday night football. This and an ugly game against Washington the following week facilitated the signing of veterans Linval Joseph and Ndamukong Suh.
The Eagles’ run defense has still remained vulnerable–most notably, Justin Fields had his way against the unit in week 15–but it hasn’t been the problem it was earlier in the year. Against a weaker rushing attack in Kansas City (and given Patrick Mahomes health concerns), this shouldn’t be as big an issue as it has been.
As for the Chiefs, the defensive front isn’t overly impressive–Frank Clark is solid but aging, George Karlaftis has had a solid rookie season, and some of the rotational pieces, like Carlos Dunlap, can make some noise. However, none of these matter guys like one guy does: Chris Jones.
With the minor regression of Aaron Donald, Jones might be the best interior pass rusher in the league. His 15.5 regular season sacks led all interior d-linemen, with Quinnen Williams’ 12 being the next closest. He is a game wrecker–when he gets hot, it can spell big trouble for opposing offenses. Luckily for Philly, Jason Kelce leads an elite group of linemen who have the ability to halt the Chiefs’ main threat. Still, Jones is a really good player who will need to be game planned around.
How Much of a Weak Point Are Each Teams’ Linebackers?
Buried in incredibly deep rosters are four linebackers, two wearing midnight green and two wearing red. TJ Edwards and Kyzir White have manned the Eagles defensive midfield all season and with mixed results. During the Eagles run stopping struggles, the linebackers were often nowhere to be found, with White showing nearly zero run stopping upside. Edwards, on the other hand, was a tackling machine in 2022, tallying 159 total on the year. White was a fair distance behind with 110.
As for the Chiefs, their two linebackers have just five years of combined experience but have held down the defense just fine during their short playing careers. Nick Bolton, a 2021 second round pick, leads the team in tackles with a whopping 180, the second most in the league. He’s also grabbed two interceptions. Willie Gay Jr’s stats aren’t quick as impressive (he only has 88 tackles, 2.5 sacks, and a pick), but he completes a solid duo of backers.
Each team has two solid linebackers, one who clearly outperforms the other. However, neither are foolproof, giving each opposing offense an opportunity for exploitation. With guys like Travis Kelce and Dallas Goedert running routes and two quarterbacks with the ability to scramble, there’s a lot of pressure on these linebacker duos.
Elite Secondaries for Elite Quarterbacks
While much has been made about the talents that are Patrick Mahomes and Jalen Hurts, there hasn’t been much talk about the secondaries they have to throw into. The Eagles feature a Pro Bowl corner in Darius Slay, an all-Pro corner in James Bradberry, and one of the league leaders in interceptions in CJ Gardner-Johnson. Across the field, the Chiefs don’t have the top end talent of the Eagles, but still have a deep group of capable DB’s.
In terms of matchups, the Eagles probably have the upper hand. AJ Brown and Devonta Smith are better receivers than L’Jarius Sneed and Trent McDuffie are corners. That said, Sneed has had a very productive 2022 season, racking up 108 tackles and three interceptions, and McDuffie is still growing as a professional corner in his rookie season. While Brown and Smith have the advantage on paper, the Chiefs can manage with a solid gameplan.
For Philadelphia, nothing needs to change. Slay and Bradberry are two of the highest rated corners in the league this season, and the DB group has snagged a combined 16 interceptions on the year. This is a talented back end, and although Mahomes will be a handful, there is no group better suited to halt this passing threat.
Expect the Defenses to Make the Difference
While this is likely to be a shootout, expect the defenses to make the big plays down the stretch. This is a game where one turnover or one extra defensive stop could decide the game, and each unit has the star power to make these plays. The Eagles have the edge on paper and have been on a tear in recent weeks, but going against a high-powered offense, anything can happen.