Super Bowl 57 Preview: Which Key Matchups Should You Be Keeping Your Eye On?

An american football on the pitch
Henry Durand

For many, early February marks the return to Hallward, lectures, and seminars, but for others, Super Bowl excitement takes control. This Sunday, 157 days after the start of the NFL season, the Philadelphia Eagles and Kansas City Chiefs will face off in Arizona for the top spot in the NFL’s ever-changing game of thrones. Henry Durand takes a look at some of the crucial matchups both teams will be focusing on heading into game day. 

Jalen Hurts vs Patrick Mahomes 

Unsurprisingly, in this quarterback-centric league, the Eagles’ Jalen Hurts and the Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes take centre stage. With a combined age of 51 years and 337 days, the pair will become the youngest Super Bowl quarterback matchup in league history. Nevertheless, don’t mistake their youth for a lack of ability; the bookies currently have the pair as the top two in the race for the MVP (Most Valuable Player). 

The 53rd pick of the draft in 2020, Hurts has thrived in his second full season as a starter for the Eagles

In what is expected to be an explosive matchup, both players rightly believe they belong at the very top of the QB ladder. The ascension of Jalen Hurts is one which is still relatively fresh. The 53rd pick of the draft in 2020, Hurts has thrived in his second full season as a starter for the Eagles, throwing 22 touchdowns and only six interceptions.  

A definite concern before his breakout, Hurts has impressed with his accuracy throughout the year. The emergence of wide receiver Devonta Smith alongside the acquisition of former Titans wide out AJ Brown has undeniably helped Hurts, but he deserves credit regardless.  

It’s on the ground, however, where Hurts has hurt opponents the most. A true dual-threat QB, Hurts has run for 15 touchdowns and 833 yards in the regular season and play-offs. This is where the Eagles man has the potential to seriously threaten Kansas City. 

Hurts is appearing in his first Super Bowl. Whilst he has played in big games in college, he’s never played in a game of this magnitude since entering the NFL. His opposite number, however, is now beginning to become a frequent visitor to the Big Game. Super Bowl 57 will mark Mahomes third Super Bowl in six years as a starter for the Chiefs. A 50% rate of success, pretty impressive if you ask me.  

Mahomes is coming off one of the most impressive seasons of his still short career. Leading the Chiefs to the first seed once again, he has thrown for 41 TD’s and helped Kansas achieve the #1 offence in the NFL. Let’s not forget, this was also achieved after the loss of star wide receiver Tyreek Hill.  

Since the culmination of the regular season, Mahomes has once again made his name where he always does: the playoffs. Suffering a high ankle sprain in the Chiefs’ opening divisional round game against Jacksonville, he has somehow found a way to maintain his incomparably high level of performance. This culminated in the AFC championship game against the Bengals, where – still hobbling around – his late run (helped by an unnecessary roughness call) put his team in field goal territory for the game winning kick.  

Time and time again, Mahomes consistently finds a way to help his team win when you think it’s impossible. Winning on Sunday would elevate Mahomes to a conversation beyond just the Hall of Fame and instead to the Mount Rushmore of NFL quarterbacks. 

I would never take any QB (past or present) to outperform him on the biggest stage

The magic Mahomes possesses, hurt or not, means I would never take any QB (past or present) to outperform him on the biggest stage. His enigma like qualities, alongside Jalen Hurts recent struggles throwing the rock (below 73 QBR in three of his last four), means there’s only one winner of this matchup.  

My Pick: Mahomes! 

It’s also important to recognise this will be the first time two black QBs have started in the Super Bowl. For a league that has so often struggled with diversity and equality issues, it is a significant moment to see an all-black matchup in the sports’ biggest game! 

Sorry – that was a lot of time spent on just two players. Let’s not forget the other 104 men who will be playing in Arizona. Outside of the quarterback matchup, there are so many other key clashes you should be keeping your eyes on this Sunday. 

Eagles Pash Rush vs Chiefs Offensive Line 

Yes, this may not be as glamorous as a comparison between quarterbacks, but it’s just as important. The Eagles defensive line is one of the greatest of all time, and that is no overstatement. At 55 sacks, they’ve reached the third highest season total in NFL History. That’s a scary stat. Led by talisman Hassan Reddick with 16 individual sacks, they pose a very legitimate threat to Mahomes, especially if he’s still nursing some sort of injury. The 2021 Super Bowl saw a similarly feared Tampa Bay D-Line tear an injured Mahomes to shreds in a 31-9 battering. There is a chance we could see a repeat of that come Sunday. 

Luckily for the Chiefs, however, their offensive line is much improved since that fateful day. In the 2022 season, the Chiefs only allowed 26 sacks, the third fewest across the league. This should give them significant confidence heading into their matchup against Reddick and co.  

The threat of the blitz is evident, and should the offensive line falter, we return to that man Mahomes again. Mahomes has been one of the best quarterbacks at succeeding against aggressive pash rushing since he entered the league. In last week’s AFC Championship, he faced the blitz 11 times. This saw a return of a 140.3 passer rating, eight completions and a touchdown. The Eagles will have to get creative if they hope to slow him down. 

My Pick: Chiefs Offensive Line! 


Travis Kelce vs Eagles Secondary

 In the biggest moments, Travis Kelce has consistently been the man Mahomes can rely on. Whether that was his dominant 14 reception performance in this year’s divisional round, or his catch and run to secure their 2021 AFC Championship victory against the Buffalo Bills with less than 13 seconds left on the clock, Kelce was there.  

As an entire defensive unit, they have amassed 17 interceptions, so Mahomes and Kelce will need to be at their best

The dynamic duo will now be facing one of their toughest tests to date. The Eagles secondary has impressed throughout the year, and key figures such as James Bradberry have held QB rating under 60 on targets (average rating has been around 92 this season). As an entire defensive unit, they have amassed 17 interceptions, so Mahomes and Kelce will need to be at their best. 

Whilst Kelce is a pure game-wrecker, the questionable fitness status of important Chiefs receivers such as JuJu Smith Schuster and Kadarius Toney mean the Eagles will be able to apply more focus on the Tight End. The two-week build-up to Sunday’s game after both teams’ respective championships will allow the Eagles to feel confident that they have built a defensive scheme capable of toppling the 6’5” man.  

Ultimately, the Chiefs’ chances will likely rely on third and fourth string receivers such as Marquez Valdes-Scantling, who had 116 yards receiving in the AFC Championship, to step up. 

My Pick: Eagles Secondary 

There are many more matchups worth keeping note of this Sunday. For example, the Eagles’ historic rush attack versus Chris Jones and the Kansas City defence is going to be a test of pure toughness in a show of proper old school football. 

Off the field we are also seeing a matchup between two very different coaches. The Eagles’ Nick Siriani represents a bright-eyed and enthusiastic newcomer. On the other hand, the Chiefs stoic and composed Andy Reid is now coaching in his fourth Super Bowl and will attempt to use every trick in the book to outwit the inexperienced newcomer.  

Finally, let’s not forget we are seeing a household face-off, as Travis Kelce will face off against his brother Jason, who plays at centre for the Eagles.  

The late night will be worth you missing your 9am for

There is simply so much to be excited about for Super Bowl LVII. Last month I wrote an article about the rise of American sports in the UK and why there’s simply so much to love. I can assure you, even if you know nothing about the game of American football, the pure spectacle will be worth the watch alone. From the national anthem sung with fighter jets flying overhead, to the almost ridiculously over-the-top halftime show, the late night will be worth you missing your 9am for.  

Henry Durand

Featured image courtesy of Dave Adamson via Unsplash. Image use license found here. No changes were made to this image. 

In article image 1 courtesy of @nfl via Instagram. No changes were made to this image.

In article image 2 courtesy of @nfl via Instagram. No changes were made to this image.

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