2023 Super Bowl Outlook: Old vs. New as Eagles Will Use Brute Strength on Sunday
“There is no present or future – only the past, happening over and over again-now.”
- Eugene O’Neill
The universe is a never-ending cycle of creation and destruction. It’s the story of all history. It’s the story of empires. Of nations. And we see the same pattern in every discipline of human study. From science to politics, to art to fashion… to football.
The Philadelphia Eagles will take on the Kansas City Chiefs at 6:30 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 12 to decide Super Bowl LVII. The game will take place at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, and the Eagles are slight -1.5 favorites. The total of the game is set at 51.0.
Kansas City’s goal is in this game is creation. Philadelphia’s goal is destruction.
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The Chiefs are hoping to create a dynasty. They won Super Bowl LIV just three short years ago, and this is their third trip to the championship game in four years. That title in 2020 was first championship for both quarterback Patrick Mahomes and head coach Andy Reid. It was supposed to harken the beginning of the league’s next dynasty.
They were denied a repeat title the following February, though, when Tom Brady and the Bucs trounced them in Super Bowl LV. And now Kansas City finds itself in a precarious position. A win this weekend cements their legacy as one of history’s Winners. A loss subjects them to the scrutiny of Losers and curses them with disappointment of unfulfilled expectations.
However, the mortality of Kansas City’s fledgling empire should be a secondary concern. The more immediate problem for the Chiefs is the rampaging savagery and viciousness of the Eagles. Philadelphia plays the game with a style that was seemingly long forgotten. And they will attempt to crush the Chiefs’ hopes with the same blunt force of a sledgehammer striking a stone.
In a way, the Football Gods and The Past are seeking revenge. For Kansas City was only able to create its current football utopia thanks to the decimation and disembowelment of Old School Football.
Early this century, the Powers That Be started to slowly, but surely, dismantle the sport of my youth. Football, born of blood and mud, had become too violent, you see. People were starting to ask questions. And NFL rulers sensed shifting sands on the dunes of American taste and decency.
The result was an attempt to make the game “nicer”. Less assaulting. Less cruel. The NFL owners, a group of perverts and sociopaths unlike any in our nation’s history, started to do what they despise: they started to legislate. They tried to push the violence out of the sport. They created rules and structures meant to support quarterbacks and receivers. These changes were meant to promote passing – a decidedly safer, more artistic form of football – and stimulate big plays and more points.
And it worked.
Scoring has soared over the last 15 years, surging from an average of around 40 points per game at the dawn of the millennium to an average of nearly 50 points per game in the fever-dream COVID season of 2020.
NFL handlers thought they had killed the Old Way of Football, destroying it, and creating a newer, better game in its place; something acrobatic and fast-paced and palatable to coastal soccer moms worried about their kids’ minds being polluted with the bloodlust that these Sunday sports orgies engender.
The Man also created the perfect space for a team like the Chiefs to flourish. Reid has always been a cutting-edge offensive mastermind. And Mahomes is a savant, an impresario, who would lead a contemporary wave of offense and create the peak form of the modern NFL. A wave of jaw-dropping and record-setting performances followed.
But for every action, there is a reaction.
There has always been a specific ebb and a flow to the history of this sport. From the wishbone to the invention of the forward pass to the West Coast Offense to the no-huddle; offensive innovation has always outpaced defense. But then the defenses start to adapt.
Over the last 5-10 years, we’ve seen the defensive response to the sophisticated, multifaceted offensive attacks of the 2010’s. Teams have started to cultivate sleeker, faster defenders. Schemes put more cornerbacks and safeties on the field, opting for lighter and faster defenders. Speed, not strength, is the buzzword around NFL defenses.
That created an opportunity. One that the Eagles have exploited beautifully. And it started with an idea brilliant in its simplicity: if the defenses are getting smaller, why don’t we get bigger?
The result has been the return of an old friend: the raging brutality and unrelenting force of old-school, smashmouth football.
In 2016, which at the time was the second-highest scoring season in NFL history, not a single team rushed the ball more than 500 times that season. Only four teams ran the ball on more than 45 percent of their plays.
In 2022, the second-lowest scoring season since 2010, there were 10 teams, including the Eagles, that ran the ball at least 500 times. A whopping 13 teams used running plays on at least 45 percent of their offensive plays.
The past was happening again.
This year’s league-wide trend doesn’t just make schematic sense. It also makes financial sense. The average NFL offensive line, starters plus backups, costs approximately $43.1 million dollars. Philadelphia, widely considered to have the best line in the game, spent $41.7 million for its starting offensive line and $59 million overall for the massive man-movers that they employ at the point of attack.
Comparatively, top tier NFL quarterbacks generally cost their team somewhere in the range of $35-$50 million per year.
So where should teams spend their money? Should they sink $40 million into Ryan Tannehill or Dak Prescott? Or should they spend that money on a dominating offensive line? Beyond that, there are only so many Patrick Mahomes. And certainly not enough to go around.
The Eagles answered this question brilliantly. And the result has been one of the most physically imposing NFL teams that we have seen in over a decade.
This is the central conflict in this year’s Super Bowl. It is the past, coming with full force and fury, after the present. It’s old vs. new. It’s creation vs. destruction.
Football is a violent, brutal game. So, the team that is more violent and brutal will usually win. Only the strong survive, and this truism has proven itself time and time again from the bloody pulp of this gladiatorial sport.
Reid and Mahomes will lean on everything they have. They will muster all the skill and savvy and experience that they have compiled and will attempt to drive a knife through the heart of The Old Way and score a win for The New.
Philadelphia is looking for exactly the opposite. They want to destroy the crystal palace of lies about ‘player safety’ in this rugged, brutish game. The Eagles want the fight. They thirst for it. They want to wreck Kansas City’s hope for building something better or pure. And the want to drag the game of football back to primeval roots.
You can’t kill The Beast. Football will forever be a ritual of violence and speed featuring carbon-fiber-clad sociopaths with hyperactive pituitary glands mauling and maiming one another. You can’t change that. No matter how hard you try. They’ve held The Beast back for long enough. And I think on Sunday the past will once again swallow the present and future, destroying both so that they may create something better in its place.
Carpe diem. Good luck.
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