The stage is set – the Philadelphia Eagles and Kansas City Chiefs will face off in Super Bowl LVII, and we’ve already seen some significant line movement. The Chiefs opened up as 1.5-point favorites at FanDuel, but immediately big money started to pour in on Philadelphia. As it sits now, the Eagles are 2-point favorites at most sportsbooks. Here’s a way-too-early” dissection of this contest from a betting perspective.
Chiefs vs. Eagles (-2), Total: 50
Where I set the line: EVEN, Total: 47.5
On Sunday, we watched two different games play out. One offered more entertainment than the other. Regardless, let’s break down both contests and the effect they have on the betting lines. As you can see, I don’t think either team should be favored, but I understand why the line quickly moved in the Eagles’ favor.
Why the Eagles Should Be Favored
I’ll cover some of the more controversial aspects of this game in the next segment, but I’d be remiss to ignore the many dominant aspects the Eagles displayed on Sunday. Despite Brock Purdy getting injured on the 49ers’ first drive, the Eagles’ defense deserves credit for their performance. They held one of the best offenses in the NFL to only 164 total yards, forced three turnovers, had three sacks and allowed the 49ers to gain only 11 first downs.
Jalen Hurts had a typical game. He didn’t do anything particularly game-changing, but he was efficient enough (15-25, 121 yards, no TDs, no INTs). He led the Eagles on several key touchdown drives, including an immediate response after the 49ers tied the score in the second quarter.
He also used his legs (11 carries for 39 yards) to gain several integral first downs. Hurts, Miles Sanders, Boston Scott and Kenneth Gainwell gained 148 yards on the ground behind an assertive offensive line, one that pushed around the 49ers’ front seven for most of the game. The Eagles controlled the time of possession with ease (37:26 to 22:34).
The Eagles are united, confident and full of veteran leaders on the field. They don’t need to play perfectly to beat great teams. They’re insanely talented at every position, and they have tremendous depth on both the offensive and defensive lines. When they’re healthy, they look virtually unstoppable, and it’s no wonder why sharps like their chances against a hobbling Patrick Mahomes.
Why the Eagles Being Favored Is Questionable
On paper, the Eagles’ win looked like just another dominant performance by the NFC’s best team. Those who watched the game from start to finish know quite a few things went in the Eagles’ favor from the start of the game.
- DeVonta Smith dropped a pass on fourth and 3 on the opening drive. It was called a completion, but if San Francisco would have challenged the play, it would’ve been overturned
- On the 49ers’ first drive, Purdy was sacked by All-Pro defensive end Haason Reddick, sending the ball flying into the air and injuring Purdy’s elbow. Josh Johnson, the fourth-string quarterback, a 14-year journeyman quarterback took over. It’s hard to be as impressed by Philadelphia’s defense with Purdy out
- In the second half, Johnson then got injured, forcing Purdy to come back onto the field and merely act as QB since he couldn’t throw the ball. The 49ers’ offense became all too predictable from that point on
- On a key touchdown drive in the second quarter where the Eagles went up 14-7, the 49ers gifted the home team with three penalties, one after a crucial third third-and-7 stop in Eagles’ territory
- The Eagles ran the ball nine times and passed the ball only four times on a second-quarter drive, calling the Eagles’ trust in Hurts into question. Hurts nearly threw an interception on the same possession
- The Eagles then went up 21-7 after San Francisco fumbled the ball deep in its own territory on the proceeding possession. The game felt like it was over at that point
- The 49ers had 11 penalties for 81 yards on Sunday, and many were egregious calls that kept the Eagles’ drives alive. Philadelphia was only penalized four times for 34 yards
Of course, even if the game played out differently and Purdy was healthy, there’s no telling if the result would have been any different. The Eagles are an extremely hard team to beat because of the talent they have on the field, but I still don’t necessarily trust Hurts to lead his offense against a great defense in big moments. We have yet to see that in his career, but the truth is we may not need to see it for Philadelphia to win a title – that’s how elite their roster is.
Why Kansas City Shouldn’t Be Underdogs
Let’s start with Mahomes. Even with a bum ankle, he was everything the Chiefs needed to gain a victory Sunday night. Underhand throws, sideways throws, precision bullets into coverage on one leg – you name it, Mahomes did it in the AFC title game. Inspired by the trash-talking all week from the Bengals’ community (including Cincinnati’s mayor, which was weird), Mahomes looked poised to show that he’s still the best QB in the NFL.
After Sunday’s win, that’s hard to argue. Mahomes went 29 of 43 (67%) for 326 yards, two TDs and no INTs. On the final drive of the game on a worn-out ankle, he found a way to run for a first down. That led to a personal-foul penalty on Bengals’ defensive end Joseph Ossai, putting Kansas City in field goal position to win the game. Harrison Butker nailed the attempt, and Kansas City won, 23-20.
Kansas City’s defense was also stellar throughout the game. Joe Burrow made some electric passes, but defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo had the right game plan. Burrow was sacked five different times, two by All Pro defensive tackle Chris Jones, and the Chiefs forced Burrow into two uncharacteristic interceptions. Allowing only 309 total yards, the Chiefs’ defense imposed their will on the Bengals in several key spots, restricting Burrow and company to three different “three and outs” and multiple drives with negative yards. It was one of their best defensive performances of the year, and it came at the perfect time.
The Chiefs have a championship pedigree. Their defense has an uncanny ability to show up and play their best in the postseason, and a motivated Mahomes seems impossible to stop no matter what the in-game circumstances are. The Chiefs’ roster and coaches have a ton of Super Bowl experience, their offensive line was mostly brilliant in protecting Mahomes and Andy Reid’s offense is one of the most dynamic in league history. Against an unfamiliar foe they won’t be an easy out, nor do I think they should be underdogs in two weeks.
Why Kansas City Should Be Underdogs
There are reasons to think the Chiefs shouldn’t be favored, however.
- Mahomes played well, but he’s clearly not 100%. The Bengals’ defensive line is good, but it’s not as elite as Philadelphia’s. The Chiefs’ offensive line will need to play brilliantly on every play to protect Mahomes in Super Bowl LVII.
- The Chiefs are injured. Wide receivers Juju Smith-Schuster, Kadarius Toney and Mecole Hardman all went down on Sunday. Linebacker Willie Gay and talented cornerback L’Jarius Sneed are also banged up.
- The Chiefs own the most explosive offense and the best passing attack in the NFL, but they’re going up against the NFL’s best defense in that area.
- Kansas City’s run defense played well against Cincinnati, permitting only 71 yards on the ground, but one week ago they allowed the Jaguars to run for 144 yards. They’ve been inconsistent throughout the season. They’re ranked 19th in yards per carry allowed (4.5). Against the Eagles, a top-five rushing team in most categories, that could be a problem.
- In most cases, Mahomes is simply the better quarterback, and that’s enough for the Chiefs to beat most teams. It might not matter as much in the big dance, though. Hurts rarely has to carry the Eagles; that’s just how dominant they are in the trenches.
One thing we’ll break down for the next two weeks is this game’s betting total. I think it’s too high. Kansas City’s defense overperforms in big games, and we know how good the Eagles’ defense is. Mahomes may not be 100%, and Hurts hasn’t proven he can lead an explosive offense against a top-tier defense. I think there’s value in betting on the under.
As far as betting on one side goes, I’m not committing yet. The sharps made up their minds early, betting big on Philadelphia and moving the line a full three-plus points. I want to take what I consider good value on the Chiefs. I have these two teams power-rated equally, but it’s hard to do that considering the injuries to Mahomes and other Chiefs’ skill players. I’ll lean toward the Chiefs and hope this goes up to a +3. When it does, I’ll be all over the underdog.