Ross Williams has enjoyed a profitable season so far, and he picks out his three best bets for Super Bowl LVII.
2pts Kansas City Chiefs to win at 11/10 (SBK)
2pts Patrick Mahomes to be named Super Bowl MVP at 29/20 (Coral, Ladbrokes)
2pts Travis Kelce 79.5+ receiving yards and a touchdown at 9/4 (Sky Bet)
It’s finally here.
The biggest game on the American sporting calendar has arrived and the match-up is as mouth-watering as the mountains of edible decadence that will fill tables up and down the United States as the country comes to its annual standstill.
The #1 ranked team in the AFC takes on the #1 ranked team in the NFC in a desert showdown, with the (albeit slightly comical) title of ‘world champions’ up for grabs.
At the time of writing, after a volatile few days in the betting markets, the Philadelphia Eagles - led by second-year coach Nick Sirianni and quarterback Jalen Hurts – command favouritism and it isn’t too difficult to make their case.
Their two-pronged offence that mixes a dominant ground game with the catching prowess of A.J. Brown and Devonta Smith is the envy of franchises across the league, and their average age all but guarantees extended success beyond this coming Sunday.
Then there’s the Philadelphia defence, which leads the league in sacks with a massive 78 on the year and only falls short to the mighty 49ers in a number of key categories.
The Eagles are an incredibly well-rounded unit and they’ve been built to win. But, there’s an almighty task ahead of them. Despite the Eagles generously giving their opponents 1.5 points on the handicap this Sunday, this isn’t a foregone conclusion.
Far from it.
There’s no denying how impressive Philadelphia have looked during their 16-3 campaign, but there is an elephant in the room.
Patrick Mahomes is the best quarterback they’ve faced this season and it’s not even remotely close.
Through 19 games, the Eagles have faced just two of Pro Football Focus’ top ten-ranked quarterbacks.
Kirk Cousins in an early-season primetime game, a situation in which he notoriously struggles, and Andy Dalton - a passer who is well beyond his prime but managed to be efficient in a mediocre Saints offence.
It’s certainly worth noting that Andy Dalton’s Saints came out with the win.
It isn’t game, set and match Mahomes right out of the gate based on this information. Besides, Philadelphia didn’t choose their schedule and the old adage goes that you can only beat what’s in front of you.
But, I believe it does give Kansas City an edge and this context does slightly affect the way in which the Eagles’ 2022 season stats should be viewed.
Philadelphia can play serious defence – no one secures a 70+ sack season by accident – but the step-up from facing Daniel Jones and Josh Johnson to Mahomes is simply enormous.
The Chiefs’ star quarterback – and de-facto 2022 MVP – is still dealing with a high ankle sprain and that will affect his mobility on Sunday, but it’s also two weeks better than it was in the AFC Championship game, where Mahomes ultimately dug into his reserves and used his legs to secure the victory in the dying embers.
I doubted him before that clash with the Bengals and that won’t be happening again.
The key for Kansas City is offensive aggression. You only have to look at Philadelphia’s yardage stats this season to glimpse the blueprint. When conceding fewer than 300 offensive yards, the Eagles have won every single game they’ve played this year.
Each of their three losses came against teams that went for 300+.
So that’s a marker for Mahomes to hit, and he’s more than capable, despite the best efforts of an impressive secondary unit. The Chiefs have averaged 407 yards per game over the course of 19 weeks, after all.
Pivotal to KC’s success in the Super Bowl will, of course, be Travis Kelce.
One of the NFL’s greatest-ever receiving tight ends, Kelce has over 1,500 yards to his name this year and 15 touchdowns. All told, he’s on pace for one of the finest seasons a tight end has ever had, and yet it seems perfectly normal and expected.
Kelce is a phenomenon and a match-up nightmare for any team he comes up against and it’ll be no different this weekend.
The Eagles have been good against tight ends all year, but in relation to the aforementioned point, they simply haven’t faced a quarterback-tight end combination fit to lace the boots of Kelce and Mahomes.
Kelce hitting his yardage line and continuing his run of postseason touchdowns will be vital and I fully expect the superstar to oblige.
Heading into this game, a lot has – understandably – been made of the Eagles’ pass-rush and their defence generally this season. Philly have been great to a near-historic level and their continued proficiency on Sunday will be vital in keeping this one close.
However, lost in the noise is the fact that Kansas City’s defence haven’t been slouching either.
Although not quite as explosive on paper as their counterparts in green, the Chiefs rank just behind Philadelphia for sacks this season, with 62 from their 19 games. Chris Jones, in particular, has been sensational for KC and he’s finally over his postseason sack hoodoo after bringing down Joe Burrow last week.
His match-up is particularly interesting as it brings the second Kelce into the fold. Travis’ brother, and Eagles’ centre, Jason.
The hulking offensive lineman is a stalwart of the Philadelphia franchise and his record of not giving up a single sack all season is extremely impressive.
But, he has his hands full on Sunday with Jones on the war path and that collision is something to keep an eye on throughout the evening. If Jones begins to break through and put serious pressure on Jalen Hurts, I don’t think the Eagles will be able to keep up with the Chiefs’ rampant point-scoring.
Philadelphia live and die by the run and for that, they need time for their rushers to get going. With Jones camped in the back-field like he has been for much of the season, that won’t be possible.
All told, Super Bowl LVII has produced a fantastic match-up and neither result would shock a soul that’s seen either team play this season. But, when push comes to shove, the quality of the quarterback often wins out in these situations.
Jalen Hurts has had an exceptional year in his own right, but Mahomes is on a different trajectory.
Whereas most quarterbacks aim for the Hall of Fame, the Chiefs’ passer is perhaps the only player alive capable of one day reaching the lofty heights of a certain ex-Patriot and Buccaneer that announced his retirement this past week.
Fresh off his fifth-straight AFC Championship game and another MVP-winning season, Mahomes has a shot at a second Super Bowl ring this weekend and it isn’t an opportunity he’s likely to pass up.
Having played top opposition, in big games, consistently for the last few years, we know Andy Reid’s Chiefs bend under the pressure, but generally find a way to get over the line.
Sirianni’s Eagles haven’t faced this level of stress yet and, in the heat of battle, I’m opting for the team that I know for sure won’t break.
Odds correct as of 1245 GMT (08/02/23)
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