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Chiefs-Eagles 7 questions with the enemy: myths about the Eagles' soft schedule

We welcome Bleeding Green Nation for answers to five questions about Philidelphia before Sunday’s game.

Syndication: USA TODAY Joe Rondone / USA TODAY NETWORK

On Sunday, the Kansas City Chiefs face the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl 57. According to DraftKings Sportsbook, the Eagles are favored to win. We welcome Brandon Lee Gowton of Bleeding Green Nation — our sister SBNation site covering the Philadelphia Eagles — for Five Seven Questions with the Enemy.

1. Do you get the feeling that there is a lot of respect between these two teams and fanbases? Why do you think that is?

Definitely. These are the best two teams in the NFL. The Eagles and Chiefs are peers who deserve to be here as opposed to one side looking down at the other.

The Andy Reid and Kelce brothers connection obviously helps. Reid frustrated his fair share of people in Philadelphia for never winning the big one… but that angst simmered down with the Eagles raised their first Vince Lombardi Trophy after winning Super Bowl LII. Eagles fans were then cool with Reid finally winning his own title two years later.

When Philadelphia last played in the Super Bowl, the New England Patriots were obvious villains. And not just because they won so much but because they blatantly cheated in the process. Wanting to beat Tom Brady and Bill Belichick also felt personal after losing to them in the final game of the 2004 season.

There is just no rivalry between the Eagles and Chiefs. We typically only see these teams play once every four years. Perhaps that could change if they continue to be awesome and meet up in this spot again.

For now, there’s really no shame to be on the losing side in this battle (barring a total blowout). The Eagles are in jeopardy of getting beat by the best quarterback and head coach combination of all time. The Chiefs are in jeopardy of getting beat by an extremely driven and talented quarterback who is paired with a loaded roster that features a historically accomplished pass rush.

2. Some say that the Eagles have benefitted from an easier schedule. Is this true? Or have they simply made teams look bad?

I often like to say that more than one thing can be true.

It’s true that the Eagles had a favorable schedule. It’s also true that they dominated their competition in a way that few teams have ever done.

Here’s some good context from The Ringer’s Sheil Kapadia:

“Per Football Outsiders, the Eagles faced the easiest schedule in the NFL during the regular season (the Chiefs faced the fourth easiest). But when the Eagles faced playoff teams, they went 7-1 with a plus-115 point differential. That was 51 points better than any other team. And their one loss to a playoff team (to the Cowboys, in Week 16) came with Gardner Minshew at quarterback. Did the Eagles catch some breaks this season? Sure. They got to face Cooper Rush early in the year, Davis Webb in Week 18 when they needed a win to clinch the no. 1 seed, and a combo of Josh Johnson and an injured Brock Purdy in the NFC championship game. But this was mostly a dominant team from start to finish—especially with Hurts on the field. Going into the Super Bowl, the Eagles rank second in Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric, which accounts for schedule strength.”

And here’s some more context:

Via Ed Werder — The Eagles are the 5th team to win the Divisional Playoffs and Conference Championship by at least 21 points. Each of the previous 4 teams won the Super Bowl. The others: 1989 49ers, 1988 49ers, 1985 Bears, 1978 Steelers

Via OptaSTATS — The Eagles are the first team in NFL history to score 30+ points while allowing fewer than 10 in back-to-back postseason games.

This idea that the Eagles should be criticized for having an easy path to the Super Bowl is silly to me. For starters, they earned that path by being the No. 1 seed! And people were not saying the New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers were unimpressive entering those games. Daniel Jones was getting credit for leading an upset against the Minnesota Vikings. Brian Daboll won coach of the year. Brock Purdy was undefeated. Kyle Shanahan was a coach of the year finalist.

But yes... Purdy got hurt. And so did his backup Josh Johnson. But it wasn’t like those were total fluke injuries. The Eagles roughed them up (entirely legally) with the NFL’s best pass rush. That’s part of the game.

Also, by contrast, what have the Chiefs done this season that is so much more impressive than the Eagles’ resume? Kansas City had the fourth-easiest schedule. They lost to the Colts, a team that the Eagles defeated (albeit narrowly). They went to overtime against the Houston Texans, a team that the Eagles beat by 12 points. They also went to overtime against rookie quarterback Malik Willis making his first start and completing just five passes for the Titans — a team that the Eagles blew out. They failed to cover the spread against an awful Denver Broncos team — not once but twice. Both teams beat the Jacksonville Jaguars and 49ers.

I don’t bring this up to say the Chiefs are bad. They’re clearly very good. And so are the Eagles!

3 - I actually picked this Super Bowl before the season. My only concern about it was the play of Jalen Hurts. What’s been the biggest difference in him this year?

Nice flex by you. Kudos!

Hurts was also my biggest concern entering the season.

Now he’s the biggest reason why I feel confident in the Eagles.

Hurts is simply much better than he was last year. He put the work in to get better and it’s paid off. His average time to throw has improved. Whereas he used to be guilty of holding the ball too long, he’s making quicker decisions and throwing with anticipation. He’s also utilizing the middle of the field more often after basically avoiding that area entirely — relatively speaking, at least — in 2021.

Hurts has undoubtedly benefited from the addition of A.J. Brown. He’s been awesome dating back to training camp. Having DeVonta Smith and Dallas Goedert to work with doesn’t hurt. Neither does having the league’s best offensive line. The Eagles are great at protecting Hurts and they help him out by leaning on the running game. Of course, Hurts’ mobility also aids the running game since teams have to respect the threat of his legs.

The coaching staff obviously deserves credit as well. Head coach Nick Sirianni, offensive coordinator Shane Steichen, quarterbacks coach Brian Johnson, passing game coordinator Kevin Patullo and assistant quarterbacks coach Alex Tanney have played roles in Hurts’ improvement.

At the end of the day, Hurts deserves the most credit. He is extremely driven. Sirianni has compared his “will to win” to that of Michael Jordan’s. All players want to win… but Hurts appears to be obsessive about it at an entirely different level.

4 - How do you expect the Eagles to attack the Chiefs' defense. Are we going to get a heavy dose of Miles Sanders?

The run game absolutely figures to be a factor. The Eagles dropped 268 rushing yards (6.1) and three rushing touchdowns on the Giants in the Divisional Round. Philadelphia put up 150 rushing yards (eliminating two Gardner Minshew kneels for a 3.6 average) and four rushing touchdown on the 49ers’ top-ranked run defense that was allowing just 79 yards per game.

I fully expect Kansas City to have a plan to try to stop the run and put the onus on Jalen Hurts to carry the offense with his arm. But that will prove much easier said than done. The Eagles’ offensive line is too good to not be able to get the running game going in some capacity. Hurts, Sanders, and Kenneth Gainwell (who has emerged out of nowhere in the playoffs) all have the ability to do damage on the ground.

Good question re: Sanders. As I noted on BGN Radio this week, the Eagles have used him relatively sparingly dating back to Week 17. He’s averaged just 13.25 touches over the last four games. The Eagles haven’t had to ride him super hard since they established big leads in their two playoff games. The belief here is that Sanders will be closer to 20 touches in this one. He should be fresh and ready to attack a defense that ranks tied for 19th in opponent yards per rush attempt.

5 - The Eagles are slight favorites, but the game is essentially a coin-flip. So what other bets do you like?

My BGN Radio co-host Jimmy Kempski and I actually recorded an entire podcast where we set 20 over/unders for this game. I’d recommend checking that out.

I like the over on A.J. Brown receiving yards. He’s been quiet in the playoffs thus far. He’s too good for that to continue. And it’s not like he’s been getting locked up. He got open for touchdowns in each of the past two games but was overthrown by Hurts. The Eagles’ quarterback still might struggle with the deep ball if his shoulder is bothering him… but that’s typically not an area where he’s ineffective. The extra rest could help Hurts get back on track. There will certainly be some deep shots to Brown. And even if there aren’t, well, Brown is quite capable of generating yards after the catch for big gains.

Also think Hurts might have a shot at breaking the Super Bowl record for QB rushing yards, which is currently held by Steve Young with 57. It’s not like the Eagles need to save him at this point. Last game of the season, let him run.

For a Chiefs bet, I like Travis Kelce’s chance of scoring multiple touchdowns. He’s just too much of a beast to be stopped and you know he’s going to want to get in the end zone in such a big game against his older brother.

6 - Brandon Ayiuk thinks the Eagles' defense can be scored on — and that the Chiefs will win the game. Is the team’s pass defense as good as the stats and rankings say they are?

The 49ers are radiating Big Loser Energy. Real embarrassing look for them that makes me believe they’re going to eat their words.

Philadelphia’s pass defense is hardly flawless. As I outlined in my “3 reasons why the Eagles will lose” post for Arrowhead Pride, there is reason to wonder if defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon can come up with a good plan to merely limit the damage that Patrick Mahomes can do. The Chiefs’ two-time MVP is more than capable of methodically picking the Eagles’ defense apart and sustaining long drives.

That said, I do like the Eagles’ matchup in the trenches. The Chiefs are certainly strong on the interior offensive line, so the teams might take turns getting the best of each other in there. But the Eagles undoubtedly have the advantage on the edge. Haason Reddick going up against Andrew Wylie is arguably the biggest mismatch in the entire game. Josh Sweat could also give Orlando Brown problems on the other side.

I’m not naive enough to think the Eagles can shut down Mahomes. But I do think they can do enough to force him into a turnover at some point.

7 - Go on then. Who’s hoisting the Lombardi trophy on Sunday— and how will the game play out?

I’m expecting a coin flip game that goes down to the wire.

Ultimately, I’m envisioning Hurts coming through in a big spot to win the game as time expires. There’s a reason the Eagles are 16-1 this year when he’s started — and, no, it’s not just the supporting cast around him. I genuinely believe he wants to win more than any other player in this game. And though I was once a skeptic, I am in no longer in a position to doubt him.

Eagles win, 30-28.

Be sure to check out the answers I gave to their questions by clicking here.

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