Super Bowl Tale Of The Tape: Eagles-Chiefs Need-To-Know Stats
It's easy to see why Philly has settled in as a favorite
It’s hard to argue that Super Bowl LVII is anything but a championship showdown between the two best teams in the NFL.
The Philadelphia Eagles and Kansas City Chiefs will throw down in the desert Sunday at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. When they do, it will be a meeting of two clubs that have held strong for pretty much the entire season as the cream of the crop in the NFL.
ESPN’s Field Yates uncovered the borderline hard-to-believe similarities between the two teams with a tweet that went viral Monday morning to kick off Super Bowl week.
The point spread also reflects as much. The Chiefs opened as slight favorites, and there has been some movement either way, but Philly has settled in as the 1.5-point favorite at most sportsbooks. If that’s where the number eventually lands, it will be the first time since Super Bowl LIV in 2020 that the kickoff number was below two points. In fact, it would be just the fifth time in Super Bowl history that the closing point spread was two points or shorter.
So, these teams are evenly matched. The consensus is the Eagles might be slightly better, but the Chiefs certainly have the advantages in some areas.
To better handicap the matchup, we did a deeper dive into the numbers for a statistical-based tale of the tape for Super Bowl LVII.
Kansas City Chiefs vs. (-1.5) Philadelphia Eagles
Football hasn’t exactly had the analytical revolution that baseball has, but the nerds are coming for the gridiron, too — and we mean that in the most endearing way possible. Obviously, you can look at stats like yards and points and your traditional numbers, but those don’t always tell the whole story. They often lack important context. The goal of these sorts of stats is to make everything and everyone equal before sorting.
The two most respected fancy stats are DVOA (efficiency on every play compared to league average) and expected points added (the value of each play as defined by likelihood of scoring).
Anyway, both teams are good.
Special teams DVOA
Advantage: Slight Eagles (based mostly on Chiefs’ defense)
Ball security is job security, right? Unless you’re going to safety your way to a win, you need the ball in your possession to score points in football games. It’s sometimes that simple. With that in mind, the Chiefs are an anomaly. The 2015 Broncos with the corpse of Peyton Manning were the last team to win a Super Bowl with a negative regular-season turnover differential. KC was minus-3 for the season, which was closer to the Bears than the Eagles.
Points off turnovers per game
Giveaways per game
Advantage: Heavy Eagles
Almost every Super Bowl in the modern era had a legitimately big game-changing play. From Rod Smith to Isaac Bruce to James Harrison to Tyreek Hill, the last 25 years alone are littered with plays on either side of the ball (but mostly offense) that completely flip the field. Typically, those teams win. It makes sense, right? It’s a one-game sample. Sometimes you need just one big play. In an evenly-matched game like this, it’s hard to give anyone a real advantage.
Big plays per game
Big plays allowed per game
Advantage: Eagles (but Patrick Mahomes is on the other side)
There wasn’t a more talented team in NFL history than the 2007 Patriots. They outscored opponents by an average of 20 points per game on the way to an unblemished 16-0 regular season. But they couldn’t finish the job in the Super Bowl, shocked by the wild-card-winning Giants. The biggest reason was New York’s ability to bully Tom Brady, who was pressured on 23 of 53 dropbacks and sacked five times. Teams that can control the line of scrimmage on both sides typically are the ones left standing, and in one game, it can make all the difference in the world. The Chiefs certainly know that. An all-world season from Mahomes was derailed in 2020, in the Super Bowl, when Tampa Bay pressured him, already hobbled by a foot injury, on 31 of 56 dropbacks.
Pressures per game
Pressures allowed per game
PFF pass-block grade
PFF pass-rush grade
The Eagles are just slight betting favorites, despite the fact that a lot of this data points to Philly being the clear choice. If you wanted to poke holes in that, you could point to a couple of things. The first is that Kansas City has a decided advantage when it comes to experience, especially in the Super Bowl. You could also argue the Eagles, who haven’t played a road game since Christmas Eve, just didn’t play a lot of quality competition this season. Here’s the thing: Teams with the Super Bowl experience at quarterback are just 19-15 straight-up and 16-18 against the spread. Teams with coaching experience in the Super Bowl are just 18-17 and 16-19 ATS. Meanwhile, the Eagles went 7-0 against playoff teams with Hurts under center.
The biggest X-factor might be the Chiefs’ top-end talent. Mahomes and Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce might be the two best players in the game, but Mahomes is dealing with an ankle injury, while Kelce’s back issues linger.
Anything can happen in one game, but the Eagles are deserved favorites.