February 10, 2023 12:00pm

The NFL and Super Bowl LVII

We asked Power Poll NFL.

Photo of Rick Gosselin
NFL Correspondent

Does defense still win championships…or is today’s NFL all about the quarterback position?

This week’s Super Bowl pits the Kansas City Chiefs against the Philadelphia Eagles. The Chiefs captured the AFC championship largely on the playmaking ability of quarterback Patrick Mahomes, this year's NFL MVP. The Eagles captured the NFC championship largely on the strength of the NFL’s 2 defense that led the league in sacks.

So in this week’s NFL Power Poll we asked our panel of former players, coaches, officials, talent evaluators, writers and broadcasters who they like in the Super Bowl, the Chiefs or the Eagles? Quarterback or defense? In our second question, we asked who would become the game’s MVP?

Essentially, it came down to a coin flip. Of the 212 voters that responded, 107 picked the Eagles and 105 picked the Chiefs. The Chiefs gained the most yards and scored the most points of any offense in the NFL this season. Mahomes was the league’s only 5,000-yard passer and threw for an NFL-leading 41 touchdowns.

In addition to finishing second in defense, the Eagles led the league in pass defense. Their pass rush was dominant – Philadelphia becomes the first team to take a 70-sack defense into a Super Bowl. The Eagles also featured a Top 5 rushing attack and have the best combination of offensive and defensive lines in the NFL.

“The old cliché is that the game is won in the trenches,” said former Hall of Fame voter Vito Stellino. “If so, the Eagles should win. They have the edge on both lines. The Chiefs have the edge at quarterback but the best quarterback doesn’t always win. Brady lost twice to Eli (Manning) and to (Nick) Foles. (Kurt) Warner lost to Brady when Warner was the league MVP and Brady was in his first year as a starter.”

Hall of Fame wide receiver Drew Pearson, who owns a Super Bowl ring himself from the Dallas Cowboys, had a more partisan take.

“Please understand how hard it is for me the pick the Eagles for anything, let alone a Super Bowl,” Pearson said, “But they have been the best team all season, from start to finish, and keeping Super Bowl champions in the NFC – and the NFC East – is preferred.”

Added NFL historian Bob Moore: “Defense in these matchups usually counts for more in these championships and Philadelphia certainly has a dominant one. But quarterbacks make a difference, too, and if the Chiefs can protect Mahomes he’s shown he can overcome most disadvantages. Clearly, he and the Chiefs have been in situations before where they weren’t favored. Moreover, they have long held the belief than can come from behind.”

Wayne Larrivee, the radio voice of the Green Bay Packers, likes the Eagles for what they can do on the other side of the ball. He saw what Philadelphia did in the NFC title game against the NFL’s best defense and second-best run defense – 148 yards on the ground and four touchdowns.

“The Eagles’ powerful offensive line will pave the way against the Kansas City defensive front. Jalen Hurts completes a storybook season with a three-touchdown passing performance.”

But, still, KC has Mahomes…

“Patrick Mahomes has earned the Tom Brady betting treatment, in my opinion,” said Alex Shapiro of NBC Sports. “I’m never going to pick against him.”

Not surprisingly, in the second question, Mahomes was the favorite to win MVP honors, receiving 88 votes. Philadelphia quarterback Jalen Hurts was next with 77 votes, followed by Philly edge rusher Haason Reddick with 20, KC tight end Travis Kelce with 15, Philly wideout A.J. Brown with 11 votes and KC defensive tackle Chris Jones with one.

“If the Eagles win, I would expect a defensive player to be the MVP,” said Tony Grossi of ESPN Cleveland.

Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press went with the other side of the ball.

“I picked Jalen Hurts because he would, with an asterisk, make Alabama the school that has produced the most Super Bowl winning quarterbacks,” he said. “Starr, Namath, Stabler…Hurts played his first three seasons at Alabama before transferring to Oklahoma.”

Countered Cory Curtiss, the sports director at WKRN in Cincinnati: “Working in Nashville, the capper for this disaster would be A.J. Brown winning MVP.”

But, repeating, KC has Mahomes…

“Mahomes is a force of nature,” said Ira Kaufman of JoeBucsFan.com. “He will find a way to slow down the Philly rush and make the winning plays in the clutch.”

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About Power Poll: Power Poll asks questions of significant key players in American sports today. It's member list draws on people from media, team management, and league management. It is not a scientific survey, but the results afford a fascinating glimpse into the thoughts, opinions, and beliefs of those who know most about the sport.

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