Some of Super Bowl LVII’s stars. (courtesy of usatoday.com)
Nicholas Signoretta, Editor
Super Bowl LVII kicks off in a little under a week and this year’s big game has some obvious meaning to the local Philadelphian community that La Salle University finds itself nestled into. The matchup will feature the Philadelphia Eagles and the Kansas City Chiefs in what is expected to be a hard-fought battle highlighted by a thrilling duel between MVP finalist quarterbacks. With another chapter of the NFL finale looming on the horizon, the La Salle Collegian is here to break down the information you have probably already read on ESPN or TikTok but are willing to read again because you’re in a justified football craze.
To start off with the basics that need to be known for Sunday’s contest, Super Bowl LVII (57 for those who couldn’t be bothered to remember some random symbols they were taught in grade school) is set to kickoff Sunday, Feb 12th, at 6:30PM EST from State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. For those not lucky enough to have a golden ticket to the event (the cheapest seat is currently north of $4,400), the game will be broadcast on Fox and will feature Kevin Burkhardt with the play-by-play and Greg Olsen with the color commentary. This will be the duo’s first appearance as Fox’s big game broadcasters, as the network formerly trotted out the pair of Joe Buck (play-by-play) and Troy Aikman (color), who called both Super Bowl XXXIX and Super Bowl LIV, both games that will be addressed later. The halftime show is set to star Rihanna, while the United States national anthem is to be sung by Chris Stapleton.
Now that the logistics have been sorted out, attention must shift to the game itself and the teams contesting the NFL’s greatest prize. The location of this Super Bowl is a great place to start. State Farm Stadium, home of the Arizona Cardinals, was constructed in 2006 and will be hosting its third Super Bowl. The previous two installments, Super Bowls XLII and XLIX, were two of the most iconic games in the storied championship’s history (think 18-1 New England Patriots and Malcolm Butler interception, respectively). With the location addressed, the competitors are obviously the next big thing to get into for Sunday’s finale. The Eagles and Chiefs are no strangers to the big stage, as both squads are making their third appearance in the big game in the twenty-first century, tied for third most behind only the Los Angeles Rams and the Patriots. The Eagles enter the contest boasting a 1-2 all-time Super Bowl record, with losses in Super Bowl XV and XXXIX and a triumph in their most recent trip, Super Bowl LII. The Chiefs bring in a cool record of 2-2, with early appearances in a Super Bowl I loss and a victory in Super Bowl IV complemented by a more recent run of good form with back-to-back showings in a Super Bowl LIV win and Super Bowl LV loss. Both squads having Super Bowl appearances in the past six years might lead one to think these two sides have been consistent contenders in recent history, but a deeper dive into the teams will tell the true story of who is playing for the Lombardi Trophy.
Jalen Hurts has been a machine this year, amassing 13 rushing touchdowns. (courtesy of The New York Times)
First, it feels right to start with the Eagles, the team that went from preseason NFC East favorite to league juggernaut in just a couple of months. There is no other place to begin talking about the Eagles than starting quarterback Jalen Hurts. Throughout the offseason, much of the Eagles potential success involving the 2022-23 season revolved around the third-year signal caller taking the next step to becoming the Eagles long-term answer under center. Hurts was being asking to take a leap forward so his team could do the same, but Eagles general manager Howie Roseman was going to make sure the former Heismann finalist had all the pieces around him to make it happen. Picks were sent to the Tennessee Titans for former Pro Bowl wide out A.J. Brown, who Roseman would then hand a four-year contract extension. To take pressure off Hurts’ offense, the defense was bolstered too. Linebacker Haason Reddick and cornerback James Bradberry were signed in free agency. Safety Chauncey Gardner-Johnson entered the fold via trade with the New Orleans Saints. A first-round draft pick was spent on run stopping defensive tackle Jordan Davis. The result, a 14-3 record that was good enough for the NFC’s #1 seed with Hurts joining his new teammates Brown, Reddick, and Bradberry as AP Second Team All-Pros, while two more Eagles were selected to the First Team (right tackle Lane Johnson and center Jason Kelce, both pieces from the Philly’s last Super Bowl run). The Eagles played dominant football, scoring 28.1 Points Per Game (3rd in NFL) while only letting up 20.2 (7th in NFL) and registering 70 sacks (3rd most in NFL history). They dodged major setbacks, keeping a relatively healthy lineup while playing to such a level where most games were won with certainty and ease. They have hammered their playoff opponents by a combined score of 69-14, and they have just one test left to cap off a dream season for second-year head coach Nick Sirianni.
The Kansas City Chiefs are only a few years out from potentially becoming the next generation’s equivalent of the hated Patriots of the past two decades when it comes to consistent dominance. This year marked the team’s fifth straight AFC Championship appearance (all five contests played at home) and their third victory in that game in the past four years. At the center of the whole operation is former (and favored to soon be two time) league MVP Patrick Mahomes. Clocking in at twenty-seven years of age, Mahomes has already built the foundation for a potential GOAT argument a decade from now and watching him on any given Sunday will show you why he is arguably the most talented quarterback who has ever graced the NFL with his presence. Mahomes is a Madden cheat code on the field, slinging passes and escaping pressure with ease, inventing new ways for viewers’ jaws to drop to the floor week after week. While some may have believed the former Texas Tech man was going to take a step back after losing All-Pro wide receiver Tyreek Hill to free agency, Mahomes just walked right back out and continued to display his greatness without missing a beat. With Hill gone, it became easier to appreciate Mahomes’ future Hall of Fame counterparts, tight end Travis Kelce and head coach Andy Reid. Both men are going to be two of the biggest narrative cogs in this year’s contest. Kelce is the younger sibling of the previously mentioned Jason Kelce (a future Hall of Famer himself), while Reid was the man patrolling the Eagles sideline only a decade ago, leading them to the earlier mentioned Super Bowl XXXIX, which he lost 24-21 to the Patriots. Reid has since gotten his ring, winning with this core of Mahomes and Kelce just three years ago in the Super Bowl LIV. Kansas City’s two most prominent ballers can’t be the only ones focused on here as, like the Eagles, the roster is loaded with star talent. Defensive tackle Chris Jones is a Defensive Player of the Year finalist and joined Mahomes, Kelce, and punter Tommy Townsend as AP First Team All-Pros, while left guard Joe Thuney and center Creed Humphrey made the Second Team. Free agency like wide receivers JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling have combined with draft selections like wide receiver Skyy Moore and running back Isiah Pacheco to keep Kansas City’s offense as potent as ever, while the defensive has been strengthened by the selections of cornerback Trent McDuffie and defensive end George Karlaftis. The pieces are here for the Chiefs to win the ultimate prize and solidify their position as the NFL’s next great dynasty.
Mahomes hoisting the Lombardi Trophy after winning Super Bowl LIV. (courtesy of telegraph.co.uk)
So, who wins? What’s the verdict? Who’s going to Disney World after their crowning as Super Bowl LVII champion? Las Vegas likes the Eagles, with Philly clocking in as a 1.5 to 2 Point favorite depending on the sports book, which reasonably makes sense. They are the team on a roll, with the wind at their back, and the world liking their odds (ironic when you consider the narrative surrounding their last Super Bowl run). Despite all this though, I can’t reasonably pick the Eagles to win. Or better way to put it, I can’t reasonably pick Mahomes to lose. The man is Tom Brady 2.0 in every way. The only time I ever used to believe the Patriots were dead was when the clock read zero and they had less points. I always assumed they were winning until that moment because, as the Atlanta Falcons showed, anything is possible when you have strange voodoo magic in sports. I believe Mahomes has that strange voodoo magic. The man has already clawed back from the abyss of a major fourth quarter deficit in one Super Bowl, so why would I bet against him to do it again? Could this just turn out like Mahomes’ other trip to the big game, where he was hounded for sixty minutes by a dominant Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive front? Yes, I believe the previously mentioned Reddick, along with other double-digit sackers Brandon Graham, Javon Hargrave, and Josh Sweat could kill Mahomes in a defensive bloodbath. But I’m taking the dude who I think is going to retire as the greatest man to ever throw the pigskin. Whatever happens, both teams should be proud of themselves for the seasons they put together. In the end, the NFL is just the friends we made along the way.