Eagles vs. Chiefs. One-seed vs. one-seed. Coaching prodigy vs. coaching legend. Cheesesteaks vs. BBQ. Loud fanbase vs. even louder fanbase. Everything is at stake when these two juggernaut franchises meet in Sunday’s championship game.
For the Eagles, it’s a chance for quarterback Jalen Hurts and head coach Nick Sirianni to stamp their names in Philly sports lore just a few years into their blossoming careers.
For the Chiefs, it’s an opportunity for Patrick Mahomes to win his second ring and cement his status as face of the league, and for head coach Andy Reid to be considered one of the top coaches in NFL history.
But Mahomes, Hurts, Reid, and Sirianni are just a few of the many that will play a role in deciding Sunday’s matinee.
Let’s take a look at the top things to consider ahead of the biggest event on the sports calendar.
|What||Kansas City Chiefs vs Philadelphia Eagles, NFL Championship 2023|
|Where||State Farm Stadium, Glendale, Arizona|
|When||6:30 ET, Sunday, February 12th 2023|
|How to watch||Fox Sports & NFL+ app|
|Odds||KC Chiefs +105, PHI Eagles -125|
Should you throw out the box scores and stat sheets from the regular season and playoffs when trying to predict this game?
No, but a huge factor in most every NFL game – home-field advantage – won’t play a part on Sunday.
Either team would have a big advantage, as we saw in each conference championship game, if the contest was being held at their respective home fields. Instead, State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona will play host to the big game for the third time since 2008. The unique environment is enough to throw off some players, particularly first-timers.
“It felt like a dinner party and we were the entertainment,” Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow said on The Colin Cowherd Podcast following last year’s championship game loss. “It just took a second to get used to. It didn’t feel like a playoff football game. It was a weird feeling at the beginning for sure.”
For the Eagles, Jason Kelce, Lane Johnson, Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham are the primary pieces still in town since the last championship run in 2017. Hurts and Sirianni, arguably the two most influential pieces of this year’s run, have never made it this far in their current roles.
The same goes for potential x-factors A.J. Brown, Haason Reddick, Miles Sanders, and DeVonta Smith – none of them have ever played in the big game.
Despite the Chiefs’ roster turnover this year, including saying sayonara to star WR Tyreek Hill and S Tyrann Mathieu, they have far more experience on football’s biggest stage.
Mahomes and top target Travis Kelce have played in two championship games. Reid will be coaching in his fourth. Defensive standout Chris Jones has been a part of all three KC teams to appear in the big game.
Experience on the big stage doesn’t equal winning the game, but it sure can help.
Both teams, more notably the Chiefs, have injury concerns for key players heading into Sunday.
Kansas City’s wide receiver corps was virtually non-existent at the end of the conference championship game vs. the Bengals. The statuses of those who left or did not play in that game remain up in the air.
WRs JuJu Smith-Schuster (questionable), Kadarius Toney (questionable), and Mecole Hardman (out) are all injury worries ahead of the game. LB Willie Gay and CB L’Jarius Sneed are also questionable.
Mahomes’ high-ankle sprain suffered in the Divisional Round was healed enough for him to play against the Bengals, and should have recovered much more since then. He may still not be at his peak mobility, however.
On Philly’s end, RT Lane Johnson, CB Avonte Maddox, G Landon Dickerson, and DE Robert Quinn are all listed on the injury report but expected to play.
Hurts’ right shoulder, which forced him to miss two games at the end of the regular season, has not hindered him yet in the playoffs. He continues to receive treatment on it in the lead up to Sunday, but the injury is unlikely to affect him very much.
Mahomes and Hurts make history
Sunday will be the first time in league history two Black QBs - Mahomes and Hurts - start the championship game. It is the 57th edition of the game, which has existed since 1966. Only seven Black quarterbacks have started a championship game before this year.
“To be on the world stage and have two Black quarterbacks start in (this game), I think it’s special,” Mahomes told reporters at the Chiefs facility last Thursday.
Andy Reid’s influence
Another major talking point heading into Sunday is Kansas City head coach Andy Reid’s involvement in both teams’ reaching the big game.
Reid, who coached the Eagles from 1999 to 2012, drafted three of Philly’s integral pieces of this year’s (and 2017’s) run. Center Jason Kelce, edge rusher Brandon Graham, and defensive tackle Fletcher Cox all ended up in the city of Brother Love thanks to Reid.
More than a decade later, those players will try to keep their former head coach from collecting his second ring.
Many are calling Sunday’s contest the ‘Kelce Bowl,’ and for good reason. Jason (Eagles) and Travis (Chiefs) have been two of the most important players for their teams and two of the league’s top players for multiple years. It will be the first time two brothers face off against each other in the championship game.
In addition to being elite football players, the brothers have become two of the most media savvy, likeable characters in the league. ‘New Heights,’ a podcast they co-host together, debuted shortly before the 2022-23 season. It is now the top sports podcast in America.
“The stars are aligned, and I ain’t mad at it,” Travis said on last Wednesday’s episode.
Both brothers’ performances will directly impact how well their team plays on Sunday.
Sirianni revenge tour?
Eagles HC Nick Sirianni is coaching his first championship game in just his second season as lead man in Philly. He had never been a NFL head coach before 2021.
Where did the 41-year-old spend a bulk of his career before eventually landing the Eagles job?
In Kansas City, of course.
Sirianni spent four seasons on the Chiefs staff from 2009-12, working his way up from assistant QBs coach to wide receivers coach. He primarily worked under offensive coordinator Todd Haley.
When Reid came to town in 2012, Sirianni, along with a lot of KC’s offensive staff, was let go – a decision made by Andy himself. The current Eagles HC dismissed any presumptions that there was bad blood between him and Reid, though.
“He was awesome,” Sirianni said of Reid’s meeting with him back in 2012. “It was actually an awesome conversation I had with him. And I really respected the fact that he took time to meet with me, tell me what he had heard about me.”