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Almost a year ago, the Chiefs beat the Eagles 38-35 in a thrilling Super Bowl after both teams captured the one seed in their respective conferences. They were the two best teams in the league and both worthy of winning a championship, but a year later, both limped into the postseason. The Chiefs were 2-3 in Patrick Mahomes' final five starts, while the Eagles were 1-5 in their last six games. Kansas City had its worst season on offense in the Mahomes era after Eric Bieniemy left, coupled with an inexperienced, mistake-prone WR room. Philadelphia lost both its coordinators this offseason and made a late-season change, giving Matt Patricia the reins to a defensive unit that finished 30th in points allowed.

The panic meter may be high in both cities, and for good reason. Only three teams since the merger have won a Super Bowl after having a losing record in the month of December, and none since the Ravens in 2012 (also the 1997 Broncos and 2006 Colts). 

However, both could still flip the switch. They are still two of the most talented teams in the NFL and are generally healthy (we'll see about Jalen Hurts and A.J. Brown).

There may not be a ton of historical precedent for teams struggling in December winning it all, but plenty of recent Super Bowl champions overcame adversity:

  • The 2005 Steelers were the first six seed to win a Super Bowl
  • The 2006 Colts went 3-4 in their final seven games, including back-to-back losses where they were gashed for nearly 600 total rush yards
  • The 2009 Saints lost their final three games after a 13-0 start
  • The 2010 Packers were the second six seed to win a Super Bowl and were 3-3 in their final six games
  • The 2011 Giants were 1-5 in a six-game span while finishing with a negative point differential and 9-7 record
  • The 2012 Ravens were 1-4 in December
  • The 2015 Broncos won when Peyton Manning had nine touchdowns and 17 interceptions for the year and didn't start the final seven games of the regular season
  • The 2017 Eagles won after Carson Wentz (MVP favorite at the time) suffered a season-ending ACL injury with about a month left in the season

If those teams can win, then you can't rule out these two. I'm pretty sure you can never count the Eagles out of anything after what they pulled off in 2017, capped with the "Philly Special."

Kansas City Chiefs

You don't have to look far to see this isn't the same Chiefs team that won the Super Bowl last year. They had by far their worst offensive season of the Mahomes era, and his numbers were the worst of his career across the board. 

Chiefs offense this season
Next-worst in Mahomes era



28.2 (2019)

Points per drive


2.57 (2019)



379 (2019)



25 (2021)

Yards per play


5.9 (2021)

Third downs


47% (2019)

Travis Kelce had his first season under 1,000 receiving yards in eight years, was hampered by injuries early in the season, and finished with a career-low 10.2 yards per catch. 

Mahomes had the worst TD-INT ratio targeting WRs at least 10 yards downfield this year (1-6). The Chiefs WRs had the most drops (28) and highest drop rate (12.0%) in the league, and mistakes against the Lions, Eagles and Bills legitimately cost them three wins. Frustration boiled over after an offside call on Kadarius Toney that cost them a win vs. Buffalo (and canceled out one of the greatest plays ever) led to Mahomes' sideline tirade. 

This team had the fewest fourth-quarter points in the NFL this year and even went three straight games without scoring in the second half. They lost to a Raiders team at home that had zero completions in the final three quarters! We can all chuckle about some sort of Taylor Swift curse, too. 

Kansas City is in uncharted territory. Even when it slumped in 2021 (21.1 points per game in an eight-game span), it still ended on a high note, averaging 35.4 points per game in the last five games entering the postseason.

Patrick Mahomes
KC • QB • #15
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Despite all that, there's plenty of evidence the Chiefs can still flip the switch. At the most fundamental level, they still have a two-time Super Bowl MVP QB, Hall of Fame head coach, and one of the best defenses in the league, easily the best in the Mahomes era. 

I don't know about you, but I'm not counting Mahomes out. Despite two new offensive tackles, the Chiefs still led the NFL in ESPN's pass block win rate this year, which measures how often teams hold their blocks for at least 2.5 seconds (aka the average time to throw a pass). Kansas City still posts elite numbers in terms of target separation at the catch and yards after the catch. It also has an emerging star in rookie wide receiver Rashee Rice. Rice was top 10 in yards per route run this year (2.4). He finished third in yards after catch over the entire season (654) and ranked top five in receiving yards from Weeks 12-17 (518 yards in six games) as he was given more opportunity. He can open up the Chiefs offense if they start using him more like this:

The Chiefs may finally have some positive momentum going, too. They averaged 7.0 yards per play in Week 17 vs. the Bengals, their second-best rate of the year. Mahomes averaged 13.6 yards per attempt targeting WRs, his best rate of the year. It may have had something to do with Skyy Moore (IR) and Toney (hip/ankle) not playing and a WR rotation tightened to Rice, Justin Watson, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Richie James. Although they settled for six straight field goals in that win, we know Reid and co. always have tricks up their sleeves in the red zone come playoff time. 

In some ways, this Chiefs team could be a sleeping giant if they minimize some uncharacteristic mistakes. They finished with 28 turnovers this season, their most in a season under Reid. Their loss to the Eagles epitomized their execution struggles. Mahomes and Kelce each turned it over in the red zone, while Valdes-Scantling dropped a deep ball that probably would have won the game. Those mistakes are fixable.

And as much as some might distrust the Chiefs, do you trust the other teams in the AFC more? The Ravens are 1-3 in the playoffs with Lamar Jackson and went one-and-done with a better team in 2019. The Bills are hot but still a similar team to the ones that didn't make a Super Bowl in previous years. The Texans have a rookie QB and the Browns have Joe Flacco

The Chiefs might already be set up for a nice win to kick off the playoffs. They get a Miami team dealing with tons of injuries on defense, and they might be playing in one of the coldest playoff games on record.

Finally, Kansas City has playoff Kelce and playoff Mahomes -- two cheat codes -- coming off a week of rest. Kelce has at least 75 receiving yards in nine straight playoff games, the longest streak ever. 

Mahomes shredded the league en route to last year's title while dealing with a high-ankle sprain. He's the only QB all-time with two league MVPs and Super Bowl MVPs in a five-year span. He's made a conference championship game every season of his career as a full-time starter and has the highest passer rating in playoff history (107.4). He's 28 and already has the eight-most touchdown passes (35), 10th-most passing yards (4,084) and eighth-most wins (11) by a QB in postseason history. 

The Chiefs have had a different formula this year with the defense leading the way. They are 8-0 when scoring at least 21 points this season. If the offense led by Mahomes, Kelce and Reid can elevate just enough, they are plenty capable of winning another title.

Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles' issues run a little deeper. They lost both their offensive coordinator (Shane Steichen) and defensive coordinator (Jonathan Gannon) this offseason, and Matt Patricia is now the de facto defensive coordinator after a change in the final month of the year, which yielded zero results. 

The Eagles went 1-5 in their last six games. No team has ever reached a conference championship game after finishing 1-5 or worse down the stretch. Two of those losses were lifeless efforts against the Cardinals (4-13) and Giants (6-11) where Philadelphia could not get a stop versus two of the more anemic offenses in the NFL. It allowed 25.2 points per game this year (30th in NFL), which would be the worst by a Super Bowl champ ever. 

Then there's these recent injury concerns. Hurts dislocated the middle finger on his throwing hand in Week 18 against the Giants, and he hasn't thrown a ball since Sunday (as of Thursday). Brown left Sunday's game with a knee injury and didn't practice Thursday. Injuries aside, the duo have only connected on one touchdown pass in the last eight games after Brown's historic run in the middle of the year (six straight games with 125 receiving yards.

Brown even led a players-only meeting last week urging players to start believing in coaches. Last month, players were reportedly upset with a "very predictable" offense, and a week later Hurts questioned the team's commitment after a loss to the Seahawks.

Jalen Hurts
PHI • QB • #1
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In the Eagles case, the evidence is much more damning from the coordinator changes, turnover issues, defensive struggles, overall unrest and results of the last six games. They were also blown out in back-to-back games by their biggest competition in the NFC: a 23-point loss against the 49ers and 20-point loss at the Cowboys. No team has ever won a Super Bowl after losing back-to-back games by at least 15 points. 

As much as I've uttered "no team has ever won a Super Bowl" with this Eagles team, they still aren't dead yet. 

Former star receiver Chad Johnson even thinks they might be "playing possum."

"I hope it's snowing, too. I know Eagles fans, y'all are upset, I think they are going to fix it. I think the Eagles players are playing possum. I know what they are doing: They are letting their bodies reset, their minds to mentally reset and watch what happens come playoff time, watch what happens next week, watch what I tell you. I tell you no lie. I like for you before I lie to you. Watch what them boys do. I knew it, I am familiar with their game. I know what they are doing."

That's one theory. Another for this team flipping the switch is this: they played the toughest schedule in the NFL this year and still started 10-1 before the collapse. They had won 27 of 29 regular season starts with Hurts before losing five of six games. 

They are still the best team in the trenches in the NFL and can re-establish that identity in the playoffs. They were the only team in the NFL this year that ranked top 10 in pass block win rate, run block win rate, pass rush win rate and run stop win rate. That's a lot of win rates, but all to say no team imposes its will in the trenches quite like Philadelphia. They also still have their secret weapon, the "Tush Push."

They were 6-3 versus 2023 playoff teams this year with wins over the Dolphins, Cowboys, Bills, Chiefs, Rams and Monday's opponent – the Buccaneers

As much as I'd like to hang my hat on those stats, there's not one game since the start of December that shows signs of life for this team. Its issues also don't come down to execution as much as the Chiefs. The Eagles lost five starters on defense from last year and have gone through two defensive coordinators since. James Bradberry and Darius Slay haven't locked down the outside cornerback spots like in 2022. 

Eagles Defense last two seasons20222023













Yards per play



Combine that with the uncertainty around injuries to Hurts and Brown, and Philly has a much slimmer chance to flip the switch. Not to mention, it doesn't have the championship pedigree of Mahomes and Reid to inspire the same amount of confidence. 

The rest of the NFC has its holes (do you trust Brock Purdy or the Dallas Cowboys?), but Philadelphia appears to have more red flags than the others.