In the aftermath of the Eagles’ 31-7 destruction of the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game, fans around the NFL began speculating that the league was scripted and biased in favor of the Eagles. After all, how could one explain all the penalties that went against San Francisco during two of Philadelphia’s scoring drives after the defense had knocked Brock Purdy from the game?
It had to be a set-up, right?
Boston Scott rush loses 4-yds face mask penalty by Dre Greenlaw puts the ball at the SF 10#49ers 7 #Eagles 14 2ɴᴅ pic.twitter.com/rZLMqwu9Zi— Sᴘᴏʀᴛs 24/7 (@Sports_24x7_) January 29, 2023
Hmm... seemed like he actually grabbed the facemask there...
Another penalty by the San Francisco 49ers! #SFvsPHI pic.twitter.com/JyZbi1PkkI— Swapty Sports (@SwaptySports) January 29, 2023
...looked kinda late to me...
11 penalties for the 49ers and 4 penalties for the Eagles called by the John Hussey crew. 4 on one drive against the Niners defense. Plus roughing the kicker after he was pushed by the Eagles blocker number 89. Eagles are 7-0 with him. Tell me the @NFL isn’t #rigged #nflrigged pic.twitter.com/XNXyZbpcwy— Thomas Blunt❄️ (@MistedTwister) January 29, 2023
...and as we all know, even if that had been running into the kicker, it would have set up a 4th and 1, the Eagles would have sneaked, converted the first down and scored anyway.
Nevertheless, the argument was that the league wanted the Eagles against the Chiefs because of all the storylines it would set up. And, yes, an Eagles-Chiefs match-up certainly carries more storylines with it than Niners-Chiefs would have.
In my mind, there are four main ones heading into this game, all of which have been covered ad nauseum, and we asked SB Nation fans, which are your favorite?
Even the Kelce brothers are sick of the brothers storyline and, to be honest, it’s not terribly interesting to me, either. I also didn’t get worked up about the Aaron Nola-Austin Nola brother match-up in the National League Championship Series, so maybe I’m just biased against brothers. I do like the Andy Reid vs. his Old Team narrative, but the storyline with the most juice, to me, is Hurts vs. Mahomes.
If Mahomes wins, he catapults up the all-time greatest QB lists, while a Hurts victory establishes him as one of the NFL’s true superstars, a marketing juggernaut, and cements legend status in Philadelphia. Not only that, both quarterbacks are dealing with injuries, have similar playing styles, and are the key factors in which team will win.
It’s an incredible match-up between the league’s two best players this year. That’s a storyline.
Another major storyline is injuries, mostly on the K.C. sideline. The Chiefs are dealing with some ouchies coming into the game, many of them happening in their AFC Championship win against Cincinnati. Which injuries are most concerning to Chiefs fans?
We already know Mecole Hardman isn’t playing in the Super Bowl, which is perhaps why he only generated 1% of the vote here. Cornerback L’Jarius Snead’s absence could be a huge blow for Kansas City, as he is dealing with a concussion, although it appears he may clear the protocol in time to suit up. Rookies Trent McDuffie, Joshua Williams and Jaylen Watson all stepped up big-time against Joe Burrow and his talented cadre of receivers last week, but asking them to do it again, against A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith and Hurts in the Super Bowl, is asking a lot.
It’s also fair to wonder how effective Mahomes can be going without Hardman, JuJu Smith-Schuster and/or Kadarius Toney for the second straight week, especially with the Birds’ cornerback trio of Darius Slay, James Bradberry and Avonte Maddox all slated to start. But Mahomes is Mahomes, and he usually finds a way.
Regardless of who suits up for Kansas City, the Eagles come in about as healthy as one could expect them to. And given their +55 point differential in postseason victory over the Giants and 49ers, fans around the league are feeling confident about the Birds heading into Phoenix.
However, that doesn’t mean that’s what they want to happen.
I imagine most of you will disagree.
One week left.
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