Congrats to everyone who bet on the Philadelphia Eagles! And if you were in on the San Francisco 49ers, then at least that Christian McCaffrey anytime TD bet paid out. Meanwhile, it was slow going at Arrowhead to start. By the end, though, the corn and the props were popping.
My win rate has remained above 50% throughout the season. But I'd like to finish strong with a perfect Sunday slate. Let's roll up our sleeves and manifest. Utilizing ESPN's metrics database and some assistance from stats ace Kyle Soppe, we're securing the bag while closing out the 2022 NFL season.
Pick: More points after halftime than before it (-145)
Before digging in on the Chiefs and Eagles specifically, let's take a look at Super Bowl trends over the past 10 years. The average depth of target (aDOT) in the first half of Super Bowls played in 2013 through 2022 came out to 7.88 yards. In the second half of contests played over the same time span, however, that number jumps to 9.74 yards. That's not all, though. Red zone scoring also increased from 51.4% over the first 30 minutes of action to 61.8% over the final quarters of play.
Given the stakes surrounding the big game, it makes sense that opposing offenses would become more aggressive as the clock winds down. It also makes sense that defenses would allow more scoring as they became more tired. This is true for Philadelphia and Kansas City as both defenses ranked inside the top half of teams in red zone drives allowed over the first half of games (meaning fewer points allowed), but both fell outside of the top 20 over the second half of contests (meaning more points allowed).
The Eagles enjoyed early leads for much of this season. Since they weren't often chasing points, the team's first-half and second-half metrics don't vary much from one another. The chances of salting away the clock in a contest with a 1.5-point spread versus the Chiefs, however, are much less smaller, particularly because Patrick Mahomes has a penchant for late-game heroics. Statistically, this is evidenced by the fact that his yards per completion jumped from 11.5 in the first half of games to 12.3 after halftime this season.
Pick: Jalen Hurts OVER 10.5 rush attempts
To quote my favorite researcher, "Hurts breaks a lot of math." Thirsty Kyle is 100% correct. Hurts' talent is difficult to quantify. Even though I'm anticipating elevated levels of passing, it's hard to believe Hurts' legs won't be featured.
After all, 85% of his runs over the postseason have been designed (up from 60% over the regular season). More specifically, Hurts managed 10 designed runs last week at San Francisco. Regardless of game script, that number figures to hold steady in a matchup versus the Chiefs, a defense that gave up the third-most rushing attempts (94) to QBs over 2022.
Pick: Isiah Pacheco OVER 11.5 rushing attempts
Pacheco is extra. I've been saying it since the summer. The man runs like I feel after stepping on a Lego. (Parents, you feel me.) That hard-driving running style sets up nicely against an Eagles defense that's ranked 28th in YAC allowed to RBs.
Furthermore, Andy Reid trusts the rookie. He touched the ball three times on the Chiefs' first five plays last week. He also cleared this number in eight of his past 11 outings. That's a trend that figures to continue, especially when noting the limitations to Mahomes' ankle. In fact, the star QB has managed just six carries over the length of the postseason. That's a telling dip considering Mahomes averaged five carries per playoff outing for his career heading into 2022.
Pick: DeVonta Smith OVER 5.5 receptions
So much for the low-volume argument. Smith closed out his sophomore campaign as fantasy's WR9, hauling in 95 balls (WR9) for nearly 1,200 yards. He also hit the over on reception-related player props at a rate of 78.6% (WR2). Additionally, he was one of just three players to draw eight or more targets in 10 straight games (the other two were Ja'Marr Chase and Chris Godwin).
Interestingly, Kansas City allowed an opposing player to catch six or more passes 24 separate times throughout 2022. Given an over/under of 50 points, there figure to be plenty of opportunities for Smith to lean into that trend. And I like his chances of converting, especially since he has recorded just a single drop over his past eight games (70 targets).
Additionally, working in his favor is an aDOT of 9.9 yards per game (WR65). That might not bode well for his yardage total, but it lowers the degree of difficulty on his catches and helps him soar toward at least six grabs. It doesn't hurt that Kansas City allowed the fifth-most catches per game on balls thrown less than 10 yards. Cha-ching!
Pick: JuJu Smith-Schuster OVER 3.5 receptions
Smith-Schuster averaged 4.9 catches and 58.3 receiving yards per game over the regular season. Assuming he's folded back into practice and good to go on Sunday -- as reports currently suggest -- he figures to remain Mahomes' second-favorite option in the passing game (behind Travis Kelce). He certainly has gained his QB's trust, as the former Steeler hasn't recorded a single drop since Week 10.
In fact, Smith-Schuster led the Chiefs' receiving corps in targets (101), outpacing Marquez Valdes-Scantling by 20 looks throughout 2022. With Mecole Hardman on IR and Kadarius Toney banged up (ankle), the volume should continue to lean in his favor.
There's no doubt the Eagles' pass rush will be coming in hot, forcing Mahomes to check down. It's a common occurrence for offenses facing Philadelphia's secondary, as evidenced by the fact that the defense boasts the fourth-lowest aDOT against. While that's problematic for the Chiefs' passing game on the whole, it sets up nicely for Smith-Schuster, who managed an aDOT of 6.21 yards in Weeks 11 through 20 (a 25.8% dip since Weeks 1-10). A plethora of quick and short passes to Smith-Schuster in what projects to be a close and high-scoring game figures to provide him with enough opportunities to convert on four balls.
Pick: Eagles Score First/Eagles Win (+170) OR Chiefs Score First/Chiefs Win (+210)
Choose your fighter, friends.
Think the Eagles are hoisting the Lombardi Trophy? Then bet on them to score first and win at tastier odds than a basic money-line wager (-125). If, however, you believe Chiefs Kingdom will reign once again, then speculate on Kansas City to land the first punch while making yourself some extra dough (+105 ML).
Both teams have been victorious when dominating in the red area early. Philadelphia won 12 of 14 times (12 of 13 with Hurts at QB) when finding the end zone before its opponents. Meanwhile, Kansas City went 12-0 when scoring first.
Pick: Haason Reddick OVER 3.5 tackles
Fresh after a yearlong stint in Carolina, Reddick's addition helped invigorate an Eagles pass rush that was second to last in sacks (29) a season ago. The Temple product has managed at least one sack in seven of his past eight games. I like the odds of him recording a sack on Sunday (-170), but the chances of four tackles are solid while paying out at better odds (+116).
Noting an average of three tackles per game over the regular season (49 total, 35 solo), a bump in aggression makes sense given the stakes of the contest. This becomes even more likely when examining the linebacker's usage over the postseason. Reddick has taken just 2 of 113 snaps (1.8%) in coverage over his past three contests. Obviously, the odds of a tackle shoot way up if he's closer to the line of scrimmage.
Pick: Shortest TD of the game UNDER 1.5 yards
Short scores are up. In fact, each of the past seven Super Bowls has featured at least one touchdown from inside the 1-yard line. Jalen Hurts has dominated at the goal line. His success is partially why the Eagles have recorded the highest percentage of TDs from a single yard out (25.6%). Additionally, Philadelphia managed the fifth-most 1-yard scores (10) over the regular season. My money's on the Iggles to punch one in again on Sunday.
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