Lombardi: A look ahead to Super Bowl LVII

February 4, 2023 01:15 PM


Remember in The Godfather when Sonny was telling Tom Hagen his brother Michael was taking the shooting of his father “personal.” Michael replied, “It’s not personal, Sonny. It’s strictly business.” Well, Super Bowl LVII might appear strictly business, but it is going to be personal—very personal. Ignore all the nice comments from both sides. Whenever divorce occurs in the NFL between head coach and owner, there is a personal grudge that flows from both directions, and its deeper than any Sicilian family feud, if that’s possible. Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie wants to prove he made the right choice, and the Chiefs coach Andy Reid wants to prove the owner wrong. In fairness, each man has won a Super Bowl, their first without one another, so you might think the vendetta has subsided. You thought wrong; the grudge has only escalated.

And much like the code of silence within Mafia families, neither side will admit to the rancor. Both will profess their love and admiration for one another, keeping their friends close and their enemies even closer. Super Bowl LVII will hold special meaning for the winner—because the win will come at the expense of a former partner. Octogenarian Somerset Maugham summed up this game perfectly when he once told a friend in 1961 “Now that I’ve grown old, I realize that for most of us, it is not enough to have achieved personal success. One’s best friend must also have failed.” And when a once best friend fails, the victory is sweeter.

With so much at stake for either side, the game planning and work details will be intense. Chiefs coach Andy Reid, always a great strategist when having a week off to prepare, will spend time reviewing the Week 4 game of 2021 when his team went into Philadelphia and crushed the Eagles 42-30 as a seven-point favorite. Both teams are vastly different, as the Chiefs don’t have game-changing receiver Tyreek Hill, and the Eagles are a completely different team offensively and defensively. The game will serve no basis for the game plan Reid will craft, only to help him understand the specific player matchups.

Before each team boards their plane for Arizona, the game plan will be 95% completed. There will be tinkering throughout the week leading up to the game centered around the injury report. The style and way each coach has assessed to play, giving them the best chance to win, was done this past Wednesday. Reid knows the health of his team—knows he will have Smith-Schuster and Toney, at receiver, and a healthier Patrick Mahomes. What Reid doesn’t know for certain is whether the Chiefs can block the Philly defensive front. In the 2021 Super Bowl against the Bucs, Reid lost his left tackle Eric Fisher during the end of the Conference Championship game. Without Fisher, Reid used a makeshift line that hindered his offense. Even with a healthy Mahomes, they lost 31-9. Some might blame the off-the-field incident involving Reid’s son as a huge distraction and cause of the lopsided loss—which has a tint of validity. Yet, the tape doesn’t lie, and the Chiefs got their ass kicked up front by the Bucs the entire game. Over the last four Bengals games, the Chiefs struggled to block the Cincinnati front. They had been outplayed in every game, which is why the Bengals hold a 3-1 record in those games.



For all the offensive ingenuity that Reid displays, he must not allow a repeat of the Bucs game. He never helped Mike Remmers, his starting left tackle, nor did the other players in the line respond. The results of that game forced the Chiefs to spend for left guard Joe Thuney, trade for Orlando Brown and draft Creed Humphrey in the second round and Trey Smith in the sixth. They have rebuilt their line, with Andrew Wylie as the sole returning starter from the Bucs game. So before Reid draws new plays, and runs the Ring Around the Rosie huddle, he must determine whether he can block the Eagles front which is better than that Super Bowl champion Buccanners’ defense.

This Chiefs' offense is different, which can help. No longer are they looking to make explosive plays down the field with Hill. They play a ball-control passing game, spreading the ball to different receivers with short passes. What must worry Reid, and it worries me greatly, is how can the Chiefs convert third and short (less than two yards) against the Eagles. For all the talk about the explosiveness of the Chiefs, getting the gritty tough yards shows their lack of power in the offensive line and against this front of Philadelphia, they will have a hard time.

The Eagles will study the Titans tape and see how they allowed the Chiefs to move the ball, but dominated the game up front—rushing four, playing zone, and frustrating Mahomes. Mahomes threw the ball 68 times in the game. He completed 48 passes and held the ball for 41:28. The Titans couldn’t move the ball—they had one first down after the second quarter—yet still forced the game into overtime. It took two quarterback scrambles from Mahomes to tie the game in the fourth. And don’t forget, this game was played after the Chiefs' bye week when Reid had time to prepare.

The Eagles know if they hold the Chiefs' offense to under 24 points, they win. All the Chiefs' best offensive production in terms of points have occurred on the road. In their nine road games, only two—the Colts and Bengals—have held them to 24 and under.

All the Eagles talk about their schedule getting to the game is meaningless. The Eagles defeated who they played convincingly, and they’re the healthy team. They know if they get into a track meet with the Chiefs, they can lose. They must control the tempo and win first down. The Chiefs want to force one negative play a series—either from blitzing or their front creating a sack. They don’t care about yards allowed. They only care about creating the one negative play which can get the ball back to their offense.

The Birds' offense will challenge the Chiefs on the outside, and if this game becomes a man-to-man game, can the Chiefs' corners holdup? I am not sure. If the Birds control the pace and play from in front, which they always do, the Chiefs won’t flinch. But they might have a hard time protecting. The Birds know the Chiefs can play catch-up, and Reid has enough in his arsenal to get points. But it always comes back to one simple question: Can the Chiefs block the Eagles' front?

And it always comes back to this game being personal, which should make it a great game. Check back next week for more breakdowns and our picks and favorite props. When it comes to prop betting, make sure you understand how the game will be played—then plan your props accordingly


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