Why the Eagles could spring a surprise upset against the Chiefs

PHILADELPHIA, PA – AUGUST 12: Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Quez Watkins (16) celebrates his touchdown with Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts (1) during the preseason game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Pittsburgh Steelers on August 12, 2021 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire)

The Philadelphia Eagles will face the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field. Former Eagles head coach Andy Reid will return to the Linc for the first time since 2013, his first season with Kansas City after finishing 4-12 in his final year in Philadelphia in 2012. 

First-year head coach Nick Sirianni and the Eagles have their fair share of issues, and they will be considerable underdogs on Sunday. However, their 1-2 record surprisingly matches the mark of the last-place Chiefs. They should not enter Sunday’s game in awe of their opponent simply because they appear to be the inferior team on paper.

Reid’s Chiefs at a Crossroads

Reid has led the Chiefs to consecutive Super Bowl appearances, winning his first Lombardi Trophy in Super Bowl LIV against the San Francisco 49ers. They have featured the premiere offense of the NFL with star players like Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill, and Travis Kelce

Their slow start should not be considered a sure-fire sign of an impending collapse or even a reason for Eagles fans to consider their team on an even playing field. The Chiefs have lost consecutive games to the Baltimore Ravens and the Los Angeles Chargers, both teams with more acumen than the Eagles. The 1-2 record remains, however, and a loss in Philadelphia would bring legitimate panic for a Kansas City team in the basement of a suddenly stacked division.  

The Chiefs have uncharacteristically turned the ball over six times in their first three games. They excelled in close games last season, remarkably winning seven straight one-possession games, but their fortunes have changed the past two weeks in dramatic fashion in the final minutes.

They must also face the simple fact that sustained success at the top of the NFL over long periods is incredibly difficult to achieve. The New England Patriots made nine Super Bowls during Tom Brady’s 20-year tenure, a span that created an outlier for NFL norms in many ways. The last team other than the Patriots to reach the Super Bowl in three consecutive seasons was the Buffalo Bills during their infamous early ‘90s stretch of four straight losses in the big game. The trend of Super Bowl losers missing the playoffs the following season also resurfaced in 2019 and 2020. 

Eagles fans know Reid’s strengths and weaknesses. He was a great coach for 14 years in Philadelphia, but his tenure came with a sky-high pile of frustrating defeats. He achieved sustained success in reaching four consecutive NFC Championship Games from 2001-2004 and a berth in Super Bowl XXXIX. However, even after one of (if not) the best era in franchise history, the Eagles put up a dismal 6-10 record in 2005 the year after going 13-3 and winning the NFC. Reid also experienced his fair share of hiccups early in the season throughout his tenure with the Eagles.  

The sky is not (yet) falling in Kansas City, but there is reason to believe that it could be soon.

Chances for an Eagles Upset

Sirianni, Jalen Hurts, and the Eagles will not overwhelm the Chiefs with superior talent on Sunday. Mahomes will be even tougher to contain than Dak Prescott was in their Week 3 loss to the Dallas Cowboys. However, they should not approach the back-to-back AFC champions the same way they approached the rival Cowboys. 

Sirianni noted after the loss, “We wanted to make sure we were able to keep up with them,” referring to Prescott and the Dallas offense. He worked the game plan around this notion and committed too heavily to the passing game early. The Eagles fell in a 20-7 hole in the first half and couldn’t recover.

He should not be afraid to approach the game aggressively, but that doesn’t mean he should ignore Miles Sanders and the running game from the start simply because he fears the ability of Mahomes and the Kansas City offense to put up points. He should act confidently and attempt to dictate the game with his own strategy instead of mimicking Reid’s expected strategy.

Every year, NFL fans mark down predicted wins and losses when the schedule comes out. Every year, the predictions fall by the wayside because of unforeseen circumstances and the level of parity that exists in the NFL. Virtually no NFL game is unwinnable, including Sunday’s matchup between the Eagles and the Chiefs. Given Sirianni’s constant emphasis on intangible strengths, his team should enter Sunday with that knowledge on their minds. 

Photo Credit: Icon Sportswire