Let us begin with the obvious. The New England Patriots are the team to beat until proven otherwise. But that spoils all the fun. Let’s look elsewhere for our matchup in the Super Bowl.
How about Kansas City vs. Philadelphia in Miami on Feb. 2? The Chiefs and the Eagles for the Lombardi Trophy. Mahomes vs. Wentz. Reid vs. Pederson. Reid vs. his former employer.
New faces in new places, and the Chiefs could be favored by 2½ – the number that the Westgate posted as an early line with the AFC winner over the NFC champion. That speaks to one aspect of this Super Bowl possibility: The Chiefs are more likely to make it than the Eagles.
The Chiefs came within a coin fip of making it a year ago, when Tom Brady and the Patriots advanced down the feld in overtime. Frankly, I wish the NFL had spent more time on making it fairer for both teams in a postseason overtime than working so hard on sending pass interference up to the replay booth. Having that foul judged by slow motion will lead to all kinds of unexpected problems. But that’s just my opinion.
Back to the Chiefs. Mahomes threw for 5,097 yards and 50 touchdowns last season. Peyton Manning is the only other quarterback to throw for at least that much in a single year. Even an expected regression leaves Mahomes as elite.
The Chiefs were handed the key to a long playoff run when the NFL did not suspend Tyreek Hill after his signifcant other refused to talk to league investigators about whatever happened between them. Hill is the most dangerous deep receiver in football. Barring injury, he will be a Mahomes target for the entire season. So will Travis Kelce, the best tight end in the NFL, and second-round pick Mecole Hardman from Georgia gives Mahomes yet another downfeld threat.
The only question about the Chiefs is the other side of the ball. After they lost the AFC Championship to the Patriots, defensive coordinator Bob Sutton was fred and replaced by Steve Spagnuolo, who spent eight years as an assistant coach under Andy Reid at Philadelphia. With Spagnuolo comes a change from a base 3-4 to a 4-3. Coaches around the AFC West are not convinced that the Chiefs have the right personnel for the 4-3. Time will tell. Even though three of their games in September are on the road, the Chiefs have an excellent chance to start 4-0. They open at Jacksonville, go to Oakland, return to Arrowhead to host Baltimore and then close out the month at Detroit.
Circle Dec. 8 on your calendar as perhaps the biggest day of the year in the AFC. That is when the Chiefs travel to Foxboro to play New England. The teams scored 68 points in the AFC title game last January, and all eyeballs are likely to be on the rematch.
Now to the NFC. Truth be told, I was going to pick the Minnesota Vikings instead of Philadelphia. But the difference is their divisions. While the Vikings will have their hands full with four games against the Bears and the Packers, the Eagles have four games against the Giants and the Redskins. The advantage clearly sits in Philly.
Even though the Eagles are without their fallback weapon in Nick Foles, healthy quarterback Carson Wentz should be able to lead them to their second Super Bowl title in three years. Their September schedule is a little bit trickier than the Chiefs’. They open in Philly against the Redskins, travel to Atlanta to play the dangerous Falcons, return home for a layup against Detroit and then have a quick turnaround to meet the Packers in Green Bay on a Thursday night. The key date for the Eagles could be Dec. 22, when they face the Dallas Cowboys for the second time.
The Eagles against the Chiefs next winter would also give us a meeting of the Kelce brothers. The Eagles’ Jason is as good a center as any, and that would give the media a nice storyline as a buildup in south Florida. The addition of wide receiver DeSean Jackson gives Wentz a four-pack of elite receivers. Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor and tight end Zach Ertz already cause defensive coordinators around the league to stay up late at night before they meet the Eagles.
Philadelphia’s defense is Super Bowl-ready. It is led by Fletcher Cox, who is as good a defensive tackle as there is anywhere. And head coach Doug Pederson brought in former Jaguar Malik Jackson to join one of the most talented front sevens in the NFL.
The Eagles-Chiefs would be a heck of a Super Bowl that the public would like. It would be a terrifc game. Yes, Bill Belichick is the greatest coach and Brady the greatest quarterback, but I am ready to see them in Canton and get some new faces in the Super Bowl.
Maybe the only way that the Patriots don’t make it is if owner Bob Kraft wants to avoid spending time in south Florida. But why would he want to do that?