This year’s Super Bowl reminds me a lot of Super Bowl 50.
You might recall that games seven years ago. The Carolina Panthers entered the Super Bowl as the prohibitive favorites over the Denver Broncos. They’d gone 15-1 that year and rolled through the NFC playoffs without much problem, scoring easy wire-to-wire wins over the Seahawks and Cardinals.
Like the Eagles this season, the 2015 Panthers relied heavily on a balanced, ball-control offense and the talents of a dual-threat quarterback (Cam Newton) under center. It worked incredibly well for most of the season. Then the Panthers got to the big game, fell behind 10-0 in the first 10 minutes and came unglued under the white-hot pressure of the Super Bowl stage. Denver won easily 24-10, christening Peyton Manning’s Hall of Fame career.
I’m not predicting an easy Chiefs victory on Sunday (although I will make a small wager on it). But I do believe a similar fate could befall the Philadelphia Eagles this weekend.
By most accounts, the Eagles have been the better overall team this season and performed at a consistently high level throughout the year. That’s why they’re favored by 1½ points on Sunday.
But this isn’t a best-of-seven series. It’s a one-game scenario. And if the Eagles fall behind early on Sunday, things could easily go south on them the way they did on the Panthers in Super Bowl 50.
The Eagles have enjoyed one of the most charmed paths to the Super Bowl in league history. To reach the big game, all they needed to do was beat the New York Giants, whom they had handily defeated twice in the previous five weeks; and the San Francisco 49ers, who for all intents and purposes, were out of it after the first series when starting quarterback Brock Purdy was lost to injury.
The Eagles have not trailed for a single minute in any of their past three games. Everything has gone right for them, including most of the big officiating calls.
It’s not going to be as easy against the Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes, who are experienced big-game competitors.
If the Eagles fall behind early, it might spell trouble for Jalen Hurts and their ground-based offense. In fact, if the Chiefs win the coin flip, it wouldn’t surprise me to see head coach Andy Reid elect to take the ball on offense for this very reason. If they can seize an early lead and force the Eagles to play catch-up, suddenly the game dynamics will changed and Jalen Hurts and Nick Sirianni, who are both competing in their first Super Bowls, might feel the pressure of the big stage.
In what I expect to be a very entertaining game, I’ll side with Mahomes and Andy Reid. Mahomes, in particular, seems to be on a mission to get his second Super Bowl ring. When in doubt, go with the better quarterback. Mahomes is the best player in the league, and the Eagles defense hasn’t faced anyone close to his talent this season.
A couple of prop bets I like on Sunday:
Isiah Pacheco over 46½ rushing yards: Pacheco delivered big-time down the stretch for the Chiefs, averaging more than 70 rushing yards a game in the second half of the season. I expect him to have a prominent role against the Eagles. The Chiefs know they need to balance the offense to temper the Eagles’ top-ranked pass rush. I expect a big game from the electric rookie from Rutgers.
Chiefs’ alternate spread -6½ and -9½: If the game plays out the way I envision, it could get away from the Eagles. The alternate spreads are enticing, with a +220 payout on the Chiefs -6½ and a juicy +340 on them -9½. For me, both are definitely worth a small gamble.