Super Bowl LVII - Chiefs & Eagles Player Projections

Feb 5th 2023

Hayden Winks

The primary Super Bowl LVII Preview is here, but this one is for the true sickos. In fact, this is a true sickos warning column. I'll go player-by-player with the relevant matchup, playing time, and film notes. We at Underdog Fantasy will have dozens and dozens of player Pick'em projections to take the higher/lower on for The Big Game. Use promo code 'UNDERBLOG' to match your first deposit up to $100. It's a great app (with fantasy drafts, too).

Before we go further, please note that my player projections don't necessarily equate perfectly to player prop lines, as these are mean projections and we should be using median projections for props. I've made notes and charts as I see fit to close that difference. Use this as a starting guide to your sweats. Good luck!!!

Eagles Super Bowl Player Projections

Eagles Passing & Receiving Projections

  • Compared to their season averages, we should expect the Eagles to pass more because Philly has a +9 point differential average this year but they're only 2-point favorites in the Super Bowl. This game should be tighter than usual for Philly.

  • Compared to their season averages, we should expect the Eagles to also have more plays because they're expected to be in more neutral situations. According to Football Outsiders, the Eagles' seconds per play goes from 25.6 when the game is within six points (close game) to 27.9 when they're up by seven-plus points. A similar trend exists in the first half (25.4) versus second half (29.0) of games.

  • Possibly more than any team, the Eagles change their offensive game plan weekly, though most of the time it starts with above-average pass rates in neutral situations. Is there anything about the Chiefs defensive scheme/talent that would make the Eagles pass or rush more in neutral situations? Offenses facing the Chiefs have a 50% neutral pass rate, which is 14th in the NFL, so that doesn't help. Football Outsiders' DVOA has the Chiefs' defense 20th against the pass and 14th against the run, while expected points added (EPA) has KC ranked 14th and 20th respectively. In other words, the classic efficiency stats don't suggest an obvious relative weakness. The only other angle is injuries. We'll have to see if slot CB L'Jarius Sneed (concussion) can clear in time after leaving in the Conference Championship, but in general, I think the Eagles should have a normal call sheet based on matchup.

  • A.J. Brown is the most explosive player in the Super Bowl, but he's coming off some of the worst games of his season (0.96 and 1.08 YPRR), possibly because he's been playing with a bit of an injury but likely because his two deep targets went incomplete. Hopefully with a week off, Brown and Hurts are back to their usual selves (2.59 YPRR before Hurts injury). I'm projecting a bounce-back to near pre-Hurts shoulder injury stats (2.30 YPRR), especially after seeing how much the Eagles were going out of their way with short passes early last week before the game got out of reach with Brock Purdy's elbow tearing. We do have to regress some of Brown's numbers, however. He's scored 3.5 more TDs than my model's expected based on his usage. This week, he'll face rookie CBs.

  • DeVonta Smith is a total dog, who has averaged 2.01 YPRR with Hurts before his injury and is on a stretch of 7+ targets in 9 of his last 11 games. Compared to AJB, Smitty is a tad more consistent because his targets come closer to the line of scrimmage, 10.1 yards downfield versus 12.8.

  • Quez Watkins is a 3-WR set only player, who gets an occasional screen and deep target. NextGenStats has Watkins dead last in yards after the catch over expected (-1.4 yards per catch) and I don't think he's that bad, so some positive regression could come his way. The volume likely won't. He averaged 25.6 yards per game without Goedert, only 16.1 with him healthy as he goes from third on the target tree to fourth. The latter average also includes the two 50+ yards plays he has this year. The more the Eagles trail, the better Watkins' odds are of being on the field.

  • Dallas Goedert is an every-down stud TE, who ran a route on 90% of dropbacks and played 93% of snaps with Jalen Hurts last week. Goedert's season-long 1.81 yards per route run number is very strong, and my projections are more bullish than the market despite projecting a more modest 1.6 YPRR this game.

  • Jack Stoll is the TE2, while Grant Calcaterra cleans up as the TE3. They'll play more with leads, something we shouldn't expect given the tight point spread versus the Eagles' regular season ass-whopping. When Goedert missed, the Eagles immediately threw to their TEs at the lowest rate in the NFL. They simply don't want to throw to these dudes.

Eagles Rushing Projections

  • Jalen Hurts averages more yards on scrambles (7.8 YPC) than designed runs (3.7 YPC) and scrambles more often when trailing or in neutral situations, something we should expect more often versus the Chiefs. In other words, Hurts' rushing numbers are interesting to me.

  • Miles Sanders is used on early downs, especially in neutral situations. In the 16 games when all three RBs were healthy, Sanders has led the backfield with 60 touches (77% RB share) in the first quarter compared to Kenneth Gainwell's 14 and Boston Scott's 4.

  • Kenneth Gainwell is used on passing downs. 30% of his touches come on third down, compared to Sanders' 7%. I have a metric called "Passing Situation Targets" that only count RB targets when trailing, on third/fourth downs, or during the two-minute drill. Gainwell leads the Eagles' RBs in this receiving metric with 1.4 targets per game. Scott sees 0.2 per game, while Sanders has yet to see a single passing situation target when all 3 RBs have been active. They simply don't trust Sanders on passing downs because of his pass protection. In the Conference Championships, routes were: Gainwell (13-of-30), Sanders (8), and Scott (8) of course noting that was a massive blowout win.

  • Boston Scott is used more often in garbage time. In fact, 73% of Scott's touches have been with the in-game winning percentage at over 90% or under 10% when the game was essentially over. Only 9% of his touches have been in neutral situations.

  • All are used at the goal line (along with Jalen Hurts), which makes the touchdown lines harder to figure out. In the 14 games when all the RBs and Hurts were healthy, inside the 5-yard line opportunities go: Hurts (1.36 per game), Sanders (0.78), Gainwell (0.43), and Scott (0.38). These goal-line touches favor Hurts and Sanders slightly more when looking at the first half of games because Scott's goal line opportunities more often come in garbage time.

    • However, Scott does seem like the most trusted (not best) RB on the team based on his usage in must-run-the-ball-out situations throughout the year. In the Eagles' last three games (all of which were must-win), Scott has handled the last three inside the 5-yard line RB touches, including the only one that happened in the first half of a game this playoffs. Is that noise? Is that a trend? It matters for First TD odds, which I have down the column.

Chiefs Super Bowl Player Projections

Chiefs Passing & Receiving Projections

  • Mecole Hardman (pelvis) is doubtful, per Andy Reid. I'm assuming he's out for everything in this column.

  • JuJu Smith-Schuster (knee) is expected to play in almost all 2-WR and 3-WR sets. He ran a route on 18-of-22 dropbacks before his injury (82%), which is in line with his 88% route rate in the divisional round. When healthy during the playoffs, JuJu has only subbed out in 1-WR sets (for Justin Watson in the divisional round and MVS/Kadarius in the conference championship round). In other words, JuJu remains the best bet for WR playing time assuming health. He has a 1.67 yards per route run on the year and will at least partially avoid the Eagles' stud CBs on the perimeter depending on personnel/formation. Due to his injury, recency bias, and some bad luck (he's scored 2.3 fewer TDs than expected per my model), JuJu may be underrated. I have his YPRR at 1.5 here, lower than his season-long rate. His route rate at 77% to adjust for injury risk.

  • Marquez Valdes-Scantling should play in almost all 3-WR sets and some 2-WR sets, with the chance to play in some 1-WR sets if Justin Watson and Kadarius Toney play less than I expect. In the divisional round, MVS ran a route on 68% of dropbacks. That was 59% in the five drives before JuJu's injury last week. After he left, MVS went off in an every-down role. I project him for 68% routes this week, and he has a 1.31 yards per route run on the season. His matchup against Darius Slay and James Bradberry on the perimeter is a difficult one, but he's also due for some slight positive regression on deep targets and on yards after the catch. NextGenStats has MVS third-worst in yards after the catch over expected (-1.0 yards per catch) and I don't think he's that bad.

  • Kadarius Toney is a schemed up WR, who has the potential to be the best WR on the team or not suit up due to an ankle injury. He had a 30% route rate in the divisional game, then started the first quarter of last week running a route on three of the first seven dropbacks (43%) before turning an ankle. When Toney is on the field, he's getting the ball heavily. Jet sweep, screen, pick plays, downfield shots. All of it. Toney's 2.2 yards per route run (though on a small sample) is among the league's best. He'll avoid the outside corners on about half of his snaps, too, so everything comes down to health. It's worth noting Toney is also the preferred punt returner, with Skyy Moore acting as his backup.

  • Justin Watson is a big, situational WR, who missed the Conference Championship due to illness (or possibly as a healthy scratch). Watson plays to do two things: 1) use his size to block, and 2) go deep. This year, he has a 1.04 yards per route run on 20.0 average depth of target. In general, the former fifth-rounder is ineffective. However, everyone knows that and the narrative around his tough matchup on the perimeter will be loud, so he may be underrated here in all formats. He has a 20% drop rate this year (which should positively regress) and a 35% completion rate on passes 15+ yards downfield (when the league average is closer to 48%). More importantly, he just may play a whole lot depending on injuries. Since the Week 8 bye, Watson leads the Chiefs' receivers with 29 routes in 1-WR sets but is a distant third in 2-WR set routes (34) behind MVS (103) and JuJu (85) per Sports Info Solutions.

  • Skyy Moore is a tiny, situational WR, who has done basically nothing all year (1.30 yards per route run). His season-high six targets and 29 routes from last week were completely aided by Justin Watson's illness, JuJu Smith-Schuster's knee, and Kadarius Toney's ankle. In the three most recent games with those three WRs healthy, Moore has a 7% target share, 20% route share, and an 0.84 yards per route run. He'll need Toney's ankle to be worse than expected to play more. On that note, Moore is Toney's backup on punt returns.

  • Travis Kelce is unlikely to be effected by his back spasms with two weeks off. In fact, he'll be taking advantage of some of the Chiefs' WR injuries. In the Mahomes era, Kelce is averaging 8.0-90-1.08 receiving on 9.9 targets across 13 postseason games. Those numbers are better than his already-elite 2022 season averages (6.9-80-0.79 on 9.3 targets). Those are the numbers to care about -- let me repeat, those are the numbers to care about -- but it's worth noting just how good the Eagles have been against TEs. Including playoffs, they've yet to allow 70 yards to a single TE and have only allowed three total TDs. Expect to see coverage from Chauncey Gardner-Johnson and Avonte Maddox in the slot, and Darius Slay and James Bradberry when he lines up as the X-WR. TEs lined up in the slot or out wide against Philly have averaged 6.1 YPT (27th). The good news is the Eagles have yet to face a Kelce-like talent.

  • Noah Gray is the inline TE2 who runs most of his routes in 2-TE sets in particular. He played 64% of the Championship Round snaps after fluctuating between 52% and 60% over the previous two months, but with TE3 Joe Fortson back and with the WRs likely healthier, Gray's playing time should scale back. He's run 50% and 44% routes in the playoffs, with a 1.01 yards per route run this year.

  • Joe Fortson is a receiving only TE3, who ran a route on 9-of-14 snaps last week. 11 of his snaps came in 3-TE sets, so he's a potential formational matchup advantage if the Chiefs don't feel great about their WRs or if there's a 3-TE set red zone play ready to be dialed up. The agile TE3 has a career 1.06 yards per route run.

Chiefs Rushing Projections

  • Isiah Pacheco is an incomplete but fun rookie with an emerging role. His route rate has gone from 31% to 28% to 50% last week. On the ground, his carry share (including QBs and WRs) has been 40% and 50% in the playoffs, and I have it at 49% in my projections with Mecole Hardman doubtful to play. Pacheco's matchup is neutral, with Philly ranking 23rd in EPA per carry and success rate allowed, but those metrics go up to 7th overall since Week 13 when DTs Jordan Davis, Ndamukong Suh, and Linval Joseph were all back.

  • Jerick McKinnon is a volatile passing down RB, who's route rate was gone from 44% to 50% to 33% last week. This reduced role could be explained by noise, a slight ankle injury, or the emergence of Isiah Pacheco down the stretch. I'm splitting the difference for now at 40%. As a rusher, McKinnon plays more in the second half. First quarter touches since Week 10 when Pacheco earned a bigger role: Pacheco (47), McKinnon (17). That gap narrows in the second half (92 to 59).

  • Clyde Edwards-Helaire (ankle) hasn't played since Week 11, which is longer than initial timelines. Are the Chiefs hiding behind injury while ruling CEH inactive? It's possible. If CEH is active, it'd send Ronald Jones to the inactive list, and unless reports say otherwise, I expect CEH to be a distant No. 3 RB like RoJo has been given Pacheco's playoff success and McKinnon's reliability on passing downs. RoJo has two offensive snaps and zero special teams snaps this playoffs.

Super Bowl First TD Odds

These are the percentages I'd make in this market, but without a hold. If you can find these prices or better, you're in solid shape. ... How I got here: Use touchdown and snap data (with an emphasis on inside the 10-yard line snaps and not in garbage time) to project team touchdown share, then weigh odds of scoring first given the point spread. One thing I haven't accounted for is if either team has a lean on deferring the coin toss. Please DM me if you have this info, so I can share.

  • Jalen Hurts (11.8% or +750) --> Adjusting for missed time, he has 23% of the Eagles TDs.

  • Travis Kelce (11.1% or +800) --> Has 23% of the Chiefs TDs.

  • Miles Sanders (9.2% or +980) --> Has 19% of the Eagles TDs.

  • Isiah Pacheco (8.9% or +1025) --> Has 8% of the Chiefs TDs, way more coming late in the year.

  • A.J. Brown (7.8% or +1180) --> Has 16% of the Eagles TDs but has +3.5 more TDs than expected based on my TD model.

  • DeVonta Smith (6.8% or +1370) --> Has 12% of the Eagles TDs.

  • Jerick McKinnon (6.3% or +1480) --> Has 15% of the Chiefs TDs, but unsustainable rate.

  • Dallas Goedert (5.5% or +1720) --> Adjusting for missed time, he has 8% of the Eagles TDs.

  • Marquez Valdes-Scantling (4.3% or +2225) --> Has 6% of the Chiefs TDs but multiple WR injuries.

  • JuJu Smith-Schuster (4.3% or +2225) --> Questionable (knee). Has 4% of Chiefs TDs but has 2.3 fewer TDs than expected based on my model.

  • Kenneth Gainwell (4% or +2400) --> Has 7% of Eagles TDs, some in garbage time.

  • Patrick Mahomes (3.0% or +3200) --> Has 6% of the Chiefs TDs. Not expecting the ankle to be a major factor here.

  • Kadarius Toney (2.5% or +3900) --> Questionable (ankle) and a small sample.

  • Boston Scott (2.5% or +3900) --> Has 8% of Eagles TDs, some in garbage time. Most vs. NYG.

  • Chiefs D/ST (2.25% or +4300) --> These TDs accounted for 5.9% of scores league wide this year, but these teams turn the ball over fewer than most. Both teams also finished above average in kickoff coverage DVOA and below average in kickoff return DVOA, so 2.0% to 3.0% seems fair.

  • Eagles D/ST (2.25% or +4300) --> See Chiefs D/ST.

  • Noah Gray (2.0% or +4900) --> Has 3% of Chiefs TDs as blocking TE2.

  • Justin Watson (1.5% or +6500) --> Plays in 3-TE sets.

  • Joe Fortson (1.5% or +6500) --> Has 3% of Chiefs TDs. 3-TE receiving guy.

  • Quez Watkins (1.5% or +6500) --> Has 4% of Eagles TDs.

  • Skyy Moore (1% or +9900) --> Assumes JuJu, Kadarius, Watson all play.

  • Jack Stoll (1% or +9900) --> No TDs but plays in 2-TE sets.