The Super Bowl stage is set, featuring a matchup between the Eagles and the Chiefs. The great stoic Epictetus once said: “If you want to improve, be content being thought of as foolish and stupid.” Such is the default setting of any aspiring sports prognosticator, who aims to be both bold and accurate.
In the words ahead, we will disseminate 13 predictions for the upcoming game, the lot of which most of you will care about only in a social way. But there is so much cosmic thickness to this game beyond chicken wings and FanDuel parlays. Yes, maybe we will look stupid and foolish trying to delve into it, but we want to improve. There is a higher standard to aspire to when it comes to predicting happenings in a football game.
So, without further ado, welcome to the future …
I. A.J. Brown will have six catches for 84 yards and a touchdown. Brown, whom the Eagles stole from the Titans on draft night, has been quiet over the last few weeks and has not scored a touchdown since Jan. 1. But, to get the ball out of Jalen Hurts’s hands quickly, the Eagles will start their opening few drives by heavily utilizing Brown on short passes on the line of scrimmage. The hulking Brown will eventually break a sloppy tackle and rumble for 19 yards into the end zone to open the scoring.
II. Travis Kelce won’t lead the Chiefs in receiving. The Eagles, statistically, do not get scorched by tight ends. Kelce’s intimate knowledge of Mahomes and his pocket movement are the main reasons he is so prolific. However, Philadelphia’s secondary is versatile, and it will employ a two-faceted attack against the brother of Eagles center Jason, which includes a hard chip at the line of scrimmage and dedicated man coverage in the secondary by one of Philadelphia’s best cover corners. The strategic shift puts Kansas City’s offense in the hands of Skyy Moore, who will be used out of the backfield and on intermediate passes to help relieve the pressure applied by Philadelphia’s pass rush. Moore will break at least two long-ish receptions that are bundled into his impressive Super Bowl stat line: nine catches for 112 yards. Moore will enter next season as one of the most oft-discussed but least understood players available in your fantasy football league.
III. Clyde Edwards-Helaire will log a rush of more than 40 yards. Edwards-Helaire will come off injured reserve, enter the game midway through the second quarter and take a misdirection handoff aimed at trapping Eagles edge rusher Haason Reddick for 43 yards, which will help set up a Kansas City field goal. Edwards-Helaire will say to himself: “Yeah, great run Clyde.”
IV. Patrick Mahomes will throw for 466 yards and break the NFL record for most touchdowns scored in a single quarter, which currently stands at two. Amid this torrid stretch to rewrite the record books, Mahomes will assault a tired Eagles defense in the third quarter. Following some frantic halftime adjustments, Mahomes will ignite a crowd made up of mostly ambivalent attorneys, real estate developers trying to use football to reconnect with their emotionally distant children, and the cast of Fox’s 9-1-1: Lone Star, hitting Travis Kelce for one touchdown, Jerick McKinnon for another and running in for a third.
V. Your life will truly begin at Austin’s Super Bowl party. You will feel mostly content with ordering pad thai and watching the game on television alone in your apartment. But then something will move you—something invisible and sacred, something both unfamiliar and ancient. You will shave and put on a clean shirt. You will bring a bottle of Decoy Pinot Noir 2020, which has received 93 points in the most recent issue of Wine Enthusiast. She will be the first person you see when you walk through the door. Her name is Hannah, and she is a nurse in the Mount Sinai Health System. Your wrists will collide while fishing for the same carrot in a vegetable tray. In five years, you will be married with two children and a bichon frise that you sometimes carry in a BabyBjörn. You will endearingly call the bichon your first child. Your wedding song will be “Speechless” by Dan + Shay. One of your two human children will play collegiate volleyball. You will live to be 87.
VI. Robert Quinn will have more quarterback hits in the Super Bowl than he has had during his entire time as a member of the Eagles, and he will force a massive turnover at a critical point in the game. One of the team’s veteran midseason acquisitions (the Eagles also brought in Ndamukong Suh and Linval Joseph), Quinn has been quiet. He had one tackle in Sunday’s win over the 49ers and played his highest snap rate since joining Philly (31%) in a blowout win over the Giants in the divisional round. But on the grandest of stages, when the game breaks down beyond scheme, Quinn’s Rolodex of pass-rushing moves and decade of experience—which have helped him amass 102 career sacks—will be essential in identifying a forward lean in the left tackle, which is a tendency that exposes the team’s desire to pass. He will then use the tackle’s weighted foot against him, swooping to the outside and knocking the ball from Mahomes’s grasp.
VII. Eagles long snapper Rick Lovato will perfectly complete all of his long snaps. Lovato, who is 30 and hails from Middletown, N.J., was rated a “32” overall, out of a possible 100, in Madden this year. Secretly enraged, Lovato will thumb his nose at the video game establishment by twirling five perfect long snaps on punts, four perfect long snaps on PATs and another gem on a last-second field-goal attempt. Eagles punter Brett Kern, who is also the holder on field goals, will tell reporters after the game that “Lovato was in the zone tonight. Honestly, that thing was coming out hot. Hot, hot, hot.”
VIII. The NFL will pretend there is absolutely nothing wrong with its various officiating crises during Roger Goodell’s annual state of the union address. Yes, being an official is hard. Yes, the league has options at its disposal to stop some of the egregious fifth-down gaffes as we saw in Sunday’s game between the Chiefs and Bengals. Yes, instead of entertaining those ideas, the NFL will continue to cite a house statistic that their officials hit on calls with 97% of regularity, which is almost impossible to prove. A few years ago, I wrote about how it’s too difficult to reasonably expect officials to do their jobs in real time. The reasons are myriad. But, additionally, the fact that the league is now partnering with sportsbooks and casinos demands more scrutiny. It doesn’t matter that aggrieved fans online are just spinning their wheels on Reddit about a perceived no-call that impacted someone financially. There have been high-profile officiating scandals in other sports. There is a nonzero chance it could happen in the NFL. Moving to a more regimented system removes those doubts. Instead, Goodell will talk about how a lot of games were close this year and then field a preselected, rehearsed question from an entertainment reporter. He may also, if needed, field a second question from a child reporter who will ask: “Why is football so awesome?” (It will not be a member of Sports Illustrated Kids’ Kid Reporter team.) Meanwhile, a wild-eyed Zac Taylor starts training for his officiating exam. Upon his retirement from coaching, he will don the stripes and try to reform from the inside like Chadwick Boseman in 21 Bridges.
IX. There will be at least one “insidery” report about the perceived extravagance of Jalen Hurts’s contractual demands and the Eagles’ willingness to pay as much, which will rock Super Bowl week with absolute stupidity. While this will largely amount to nothing—outside of the Browns’ humiliatingly forking over a fully guaranteed contract for Deshaun Watson, most of these negotiations follow a familiar rhythm, and if the Eagles are going to keep Hurts they are going to pay him something reminiscent of that structure—it will feel in the moment as if it has some kind of tangible effect on the outcome, much like the rumors of Sean McVay’s and Aaron Donald’s retirement were believed to be ingrained in Rams’ preparations for the Super Bowl a year ago.
X. Rihanna’s Super Bowl halftime performance will be elaborately introduced through a cavalcade of aging rock ’n’ roll musicians with loose to moderate ties to the area. The performance will start out with the remaining, living members of the Eagles parked in a dusty old white Chevrolet Bel Air playing their hit “Take It Easy,” which includes a reference to “standin’ on a corner in Winslow, Arizona / Such a fine sight to see / It’s a girl, my lord, in a flatbed Ford / Slowin’ down to take a look at me.” The “girl” then appears from some raised platform designed to look like a cactus, shrouded in smoky darkness and there we see Stevie Nicks, the lead singer of Fleetwood Mac, who will perform the re-viralized hit “Dreams,” accompanied by the background harmonics of the Eagles. Deeply embedded in this show will be a subtle but significant shot taken at Nicks’s former lover and Fleetwood Mac bandmate Lindsey Buckingham, who was recently kicked out of the band. The hand motion will be a reference to the moment their creative and personal relationships dissolved, sending Buckingham into a social media rage of pronounced heartbreak. “Dreams” will then seamlessly bleed into Rihanna’s “Diamonds,” which will be her opening number of an elongated set that causes delays to the game’s restart by another 20 minutes, causing at least one player from each team to get too cold from the inactivity and aggravate a soft tissue injury in the first five minutes of the third quarter.
XI. Cleared of any potential tampering, Tom Brady will begin to lay the groundwork for revealing his next destination via a series of cryptic social media messages aimed at both his future and funneling marketing cash into his various business interests and budding feature-film production career. At first, the Instagram posts will seem benign, reflecting the uninteresting musings of a dad in his late 40s. But after the third, all of which are posted at 7:02:12 each morning, it becomes clear that, when peeled back to depict broader scenes and landscapes, these are not only ads for various electric vehicles, non-fungible token investments and sandwiches that he would never eat, but also indicators of his desire to return to the field for a 24th NFL season. The final post will be made 12 hours before the Super Bowl. Brady will sign a contract with the Raiders (area code 702) on a transparent stage in the middle of a manmade fountain at the Bellagio. A pyrotechnic display commemorating his arrival will kill four birds. Las Vegas will finish the 2023 season 10–7, good for third place in a competitive AFC West.
XII. Derrick Henry will storm radio row to introduce a new Old Spice fragrance. The beloved deodorant brand, which has been around since 1937, will celebrate its 86th anniversary by creating a blend of perfumes and antiperspirants based around the earliest available spices known to mankind. Currently dominated by Old Spice’s lean into “woodsy” scents such as “pine” and “sandalwood” and “cedar,” the deodorant brand will immerse itself in coriander, black pepper and myrrh. The most expensive products in the line will, like the earliest perfumes dated back to the Biblical times, be sold in alabaster casings, available for either a payment of $45 or a trade of other various spices, fruits, vegetables or farming tools that are unknown to your specific region. Henry, via these myriad promotional appearances, will also be asked about his desire to have Brady as a member of the Titans. He will say, “I love [Ryan] Tannehill. He’s done a lot for this franchise. But as we know, the NFL is a business. That’s why I control what I can control. Everything else is in God’s hands.”
XIII. The Philadelphia Eagles will defeat the Kansas City Chiefs, 31–30, in Super Bowl LVII.
The Eagles, unlike the Bengals, will have an answer for Chris Jones after bottling up Dexter Lawrence and Nick Bosa in consecutive weeks. Philadelphia will get out to an early lead, scoring on their first two possessions. The Chiefs will storm back to take a lead that holds into the fourth quarter, before the Eagles kick a game-winning field goal as time expires. It will be a big second half for x-Factor Kenneth Gainwell. An advisory warning will be broadcast everywhere, cautioning that anyone who desires to play a drinking game that includes imbibing every time an announcer mentions the fact that Andy Reid used to coach the Eagles will need the assistance of an IV to rehydrate the following morning.