American Football

Super Bowl LVII Pre-Preview


Super Bowl LVII Pre-Preview
Aaron Schatz
06 Feb 2023, 09:34am

Chiefs LB Nick Bolton and Willie Gay

I’m currently working on my 20th Super Bowl preview. We tend to run that on Thursday afternoon before Super Bowl Sunday, but this means waiting until the end of the week before unveiling all the stat tidbits that get you ready for the big matchup. It was one thing when we were the only site doing a Super Bowl preview packed with advanced stats. Now you can get all kinds of advanced metrics from all kinds of websites. So last year, for the first time, I introduced our pre-preview on Monday morning. This is just me emptying my notebook with five of the cool stat splits that I’ve found while preparing our Super Bowl LVII preview. Not a lot of commentary here, I’ll leave that up to the readers in the comment thread. These stats will all appear again when we get to the actual Super Bowl preview at the end of the week, but here’s a little taste of what we’ve found.

1) First, let’s look at the trends for both teams. We’ll start with the Eagles offense and the Chiefs defense. For the Chiefs, I used the natural split of the bye week which was Week 8. For the Eagles, I just used midseason and I left out the two games started by Gardner Minshew. Minshew had strong pass offense DVOA in Week 16 but the Eagles did not run the ball well in those two games without Jalen Hurts to help take the defense’s attention.

Eagles Offense by Week, 2022
Weeks Pass Rk Run Rk All Rk
Weeks 1-10 35.7% 3 14.5% 3 22.2% 3
Weeks 11-21 (not 16-17) 10.2% 16 30.0% 1 14.7% 6

You can see that the Eagles’ passing game has not been as strong over the second half of the season, but their running game has been phenomenal. Over a full season, 30.0% would be the second-highest run offense DVOA ever, trailing only the 2000 Rams! They aren’t just No. 1 running the ball since Week 11; they’re No. 1 by a lot.


Chiefs Defense by Week, 2022
Weeks Pass Rk Run Rk All Rk
Weeks 1-7 16.4% 27 -8.8% 11 7.7% 24
Weeks 9-21 -5.7% 9 -2.0% 22 -4.2% 14

The Chiefs pass defense has improved significantly since the early part of the season. The run defense hasn’t been quite as good but it’s not a huge difference. That improvement against the pass means better defense overall since their bye week.

Now let’s look at the Chiefs offense and the Eagles defense. The Chiefs offense has no trends at all. It’s pretty much been the best passing game (or close to it) with an average running game all year long.

Chiefs Offense by Week, 2022
Weeks Pass Rk Run Rk All Rk
Weeks 1-7 43.2% 1 -0.8% 17 25.6% 1
Weeks 9-21 39.4% 3 0.6% 11 24.4% 1

Doing the Eagles defense is interesting because they have two significant, completely different trends. The run defense improved around midseason, around when they signed Linval Joseph and Ndamukong Suh. The pass defense, however, is better split into three parts. It declined for most of the second half of the season and then reversed in the last few weeks and has been really strong.

Here’s what the Eagles defense looks like split at midseason. There’s a good argument that you should take the conference championship out of this, since the Eagles could just tee off on the 49ers’ run for half the game without a functional quarterback. So I ran a third line that shows what the Eagles look like without that game.

Eagles Defense by Week, 2022
Weeks Pass Rk Run Rk All Rk
Weeks 1-10 -26.2% 1 8.1% 29 -11.9% 5
Weeks 11-21 -11.1% 7 -15.7% 10 -13.2% 5
Weeks 11-20 (no NFCCG) -8.5% 7 -12.1% 13 -10.1% 8

Here’s what the Eagles defense looks like if you split the season into three sections according to when their pass defense got worse and then really good again:

Eagles Defense by Week, 2022
Weeks Pass Rk Run Rk All Rk
Weeks 1-8 -31.2% 1 2.7% 24 -19.1% 2
Weeks 9-16 4.5% 16 -7.6% 16 -1.4% 16
Weeks 17-21 -39.9% 2 -5.8% 18 -23.6% 3

2) Both of these teams are better when blitzing, and both of these quarterbacks were better in 2022 when opponents were not blitzing. Yes, that includes Patrick Mahomes.

Mahomes is legendary for destroying blitzes, but this season he actually did have a slightly lower DVOA against the blitz. The Chiefs had 44.9% team offense DVOA without a blitz (7.7 yards per play) but 29.6% DVOA with a blitz (6.6 yards per play).

The Eagles defense blitzed 24.2% of the time, 16th in the league. They allowed -33.7% DVOA (second) with a blitz, just 4.4 yards per play. They allowed -7.9% DVOA (fourth) without a blitz, or 5.4 yards per play. Still good, but not as good as when they sent an extra pass-rusher or two.

Let’s flip it around and look at Jalen Hurts. Hurts had 34.9% team offense DVOA without a blitz, or 7.8 yards per play. That dropped to -0.3% DVOA with a blitz, or 6.1 yards per play. That includes scrambles.

Meanwhile, the Chiefs defense blitzed 24.7% of the time, 13th in the league. The Chiefs had -13.6% DVOA with a blitz (eighth) for 5.4 yards per play, but allowed 13.9% DVOA without a blitz (24th) and 6.0 yards per play. The difference was less about yards per play and more about takeaways coming about 50% more often on blitzes. 

(Note: These blitz frequency numbers are from Sports Info Solutions and may be different from others on the Internet.)

3) The Eagles’ offensive line is, of course, fantastic. But it’s intersting to note that the Eagles ranked only 12th in ESPN’s Pass Block Win Rate this season. ESPN’s numbers suggest that the (relative) weakness on the line is left tackle Jordan Mailata. Here is where the five starting linemen ranked in PBWR at their respective positions:

  • RT Lane Johnson, first out of 64
  • LG Landon Dickerson, second out of 64
  • C Jason Kelce, eighth out of 32
  • RG Isaac Seumalo, 15th out of 64
  • LT Jordan Mailata, 56th out of 64

On the other side of the ball, the Kansas City Chiefs led the league in Pass Block Win Rate but the Eagles led the league in Pass Rush Win Rate.

4) The Chiefs allowed a 36.1% DVOA on “short middle” passes, which ranked 30th in the league. A big part of the problem appears to be linebacker Nick Bolton, who allowed 7.7 yards per pass in coverage with a 33% success rate. Jalen Hurts famously avoided the middle of the field last year but that was not a problem at all this season. In fact, Hurts ranked third in DYAR on passes to the short middle, trailing only Jared Goff and Tua Tagovailoa.

A.J. Brown was Hurts’ most common target in this area with 26 targets, but Dallas Goedert was the one who had the most success: 12-of-14 for 169 yards plus an 8-yard DPI. There were also 12 short middle passes to DeVonta Smith, eight to Kenneth Gainwell, and seven to Quez Watkins.

5) Can the Eagles cover Travis Kelce? Nobody can, really, but the Eagles may be closer than most teams. Their linebackers had stellar pass defense coverage stats. T.J. Edwards allowed 3.6 yards per target with a 74% succss rate. Kyzir White allowed 3.7 yards per target with a 63% success rate. The Eagles ranked sixth in DVOA against tight ends. When these teams played early in the 2021 season, Kelce had only four catches for 23 yards. But it’s hard to learn a lot from a game where Tyreek Hill had 186 receiving yards and three touchdowns while Kyzir White was still on the Chargers.

Our full Super Bowl LVII preview will appear on Thursday afternoon, but I hope you enjoyed this pre-preview.

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