On Sunday, you can be sure the big boys up front will be putting it all on the line with everything they’ve got. Since there are only two teams left, this space will be a little bit different this week. Yes, I’ll still rank who I think is better on each line. However, I’m going to focus on the matchups between the Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles’ lines since that is what will matter most for Super Bowl LVII.
Offensive Line Rankings
1. Philadelphia Eagles
Last Week: 1
LT: Jordan Mailata
LG: Landon Dickerson
C: Jason Kelce
RG: Isaac Seumalo
RT: Lane Johnson
They started the postseason as my top offensive line, and they’re ending it at the top. They’ve been battle-tested by some tough fronts this playoffs (including the previously top-ranked San Francisco 49ers), and they have passed the test, earning the right to play in the big game.
2. Kansas City Chiefs
Last Week: 3
LG: Joe Thuney
RG: Trey Smith
RT: Andrew Wylie
The Chiefs didn’t generate much up front in the running game against the Cincinnati Bengals, but that was OK because they succeeded in their top two objectives: winning the game and keeping Patrick Mahomes from suffering a setback to his injured ankle. In fact, coach Andy Reid said Wednesday that Mahomes hasn’t been limited by injury this week.
Defensive Line Rankings
1. Philadelphia Eagles
Last Week: 2
Eagles DL: Fletcher Cox, Javon Hargrave, Jordan Davis, Ndamukong Suh, Linval Joseph
Eagles Edges: Brandon Graham, Haason Reddick, Josh Sweat, Robert Quinn
The Eagles’ front has gotten to the quarterback often this year, and that trend continued in the NFC Championship game. Their ability to get to the passer significantly altered the game, resulting in 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey playing some quarterback after Brock Purdy suffered a torn UCL ligament and Josh Johnson suffered a concussion.
The Eagles have a ferocious front, especially when they get to pin those ears back, so they end the postseason in the top spot.
2. Kansas City Chiefs
Last Week: 4
Chiefs DL: Chris Jones, Khalen Saunders, Derrick Nnadi, Brandon Williams
Chiefs Edges: Frank Clark, George Karlaftis, Carlos Dunlap, Mike Danna
A Chiefs front built to play with a lead did exactly that, putting Joe Burrow under pressure consistently throughout the night. Unsurprisingly, Jones led the charge, not only sacking Burrow twice but making his presence felt on numerous occasions. Those were Jones’ first two postseason sacks in his 14th career playoff game.
Matchups to Watch
When the Eagles Have the Ball
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, this Eagles offensive front is fast, physical and capable of causing problems for even the best defensive fronts. The Chiefs front’s strength is their pass rush, but they could stand to be a bit more consistent. The Eagles offensive line’s consistency and ability to take over a game give them a clear advantage in this matchup.
Something to watch from the Eagles: I expect Philadelphia to attack the Chiefs on the ground to keep Kansas City’s front guessing and slow down its pass rush, allowing Jalen Hurts more time to take shots downfield. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Eagles run at Jones, putting faith in their combo blocks to get some push while keeping Jones from using his quickness to wreak havoc in pursuit from the backside. In pass protection, I’d expect to see Jason Kelce turn to Jones’ side more often than not.
Something to watch from the Chiefs: You’ve heard it from commentators a lot: Steve Spagnuolo always has something dialed up for big games. I expect this game to be no different. He’ll try to give the Philadelphia’s front some looks they haven’t seen on film before, especially in high-leverage situations. While he’s known for his blitz packages, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Kansas City mug up at the line of scrimmage showing blitz and dropping out at the snap. This creates just enough hesitation from the offense to lead to advantageous pass-rush matchups.
When the Chiefs Have the Ball
After a regular season chock-full of sacks, the Eagles’ front displayed their dominance against a quality San Francisco front in the NFC Championship game. The Chiefs’ offensive line, on the other hand, has been inconsistent. While this matchup is a bit closer, Philadelphia has proven it has the depth to keep rotating players without much drop-off. The Eagles’ depth is what helps give them the advantage in this spot.
Something to watch from the Chiefs: While he is a couple of weeks healthier, Mahomes’ health likely isn’t quite what you’d like it to be heading into this game. Andy Reid has had plenty of time to think about how to keep his star quarterback upright against the team that led the league in sacks.
Having watched the NFC Championship video, I highly doubt they will have the hubris to try single-blocking Reddick with a tight end. With that out of the way, there are a number of things I expect them to do to keep Mahomes comfortable. They have a good blocking back in Jerick McKinnon who can help chip, they have speedy receivers who can take jet sweep touch passes, and Travis Kelce is known to rumble on a TE screen from time to time. All of these things help slow the rush down and are things the Chiefs already have shown to have in their bag of tricks. This will help buy enough time for those big downfield shots.
Something to watch from the Eagles: The Eagles would love to see Kansas City drop back to pass, something the Chiefs are often happy to oblige, as it will give their front a chance to get home. They haven’t had to rely on stunts and twists this season, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see them utilize a few more stunts on Sunday. Those could muddy up the middle and help neutralize a few of the things the Chiefs might want to do to slow them down.
Those stunts force offensive linemen to move and communicate, and it allows rushers to disappear from any chips while the wrapper pulls around into any middle screens. Containing the outside of the pocket can be an issue with this strategy, but the Eagles have the quickness to get there. While Mahomes wasn’t hesitant to leave the pocket when opportunities were presented against Cincinnati, that little bit of lost escapability from what he normally has is probably enough to make this a viable wrinkle for the Eagles.
The Eagles have the advantage on both fronts so, obviously, they have the overall advantage. Of course, there are other players on the field, and football is the ultimate team sport. That said, the big fellas up front have an outsized impact on the game, and if we’re going to put the game on the lines, the Eagles will fly out of the desert with the Lombardi Trophy.
Maxx Forde is a former CFL and FBS defensive lineman, playing for the BC Lions from 2015-2018 after a standout career at the University of Idaho from 2010-2014 where he was a two-year team captain and three-time Coaches Award winner.