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NFL Championship Key Matchups

Football is considered the ultimate team sport and it will have taken a special effort from all 46 players on the winning sideline by the time the Gatorade bath takes place this Sunday.

But an NFL Championship can be decided by certain key matchups within the game and this weekend's meeting of the Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles at State Farm Stadium will feature several.

WhatKansas City Chiefs v Philadelphia Eagles, NFL Championship 2023
WhereState Farm Stadium, Glendale, Arizona
When6:30pm ET, Sunday, February 12th, 2023
How to watchFox Sports & NFL+ app
Odds KC Chiefs +105, PHI Eagles -125

Chiefs DT Chris Jones v Eagles offensive line 

Jones was voted the third-best defensive player of the year in 2022 and stands just ahead of the Eagles' Haason Reddick in terms of the influence that he can potentially exert on this game. 

He's an every-down player with a proven all-round ability to disrupt both running and passing plays, which he did in the Chiefs' NFL Championship success of 2020. 

Although he recorded only one tackle against the San Francisco 49ers, Jones forced the game's first turnover and spiked two passes from Jimmy Garoppolo at the line of scrimmage like he was playing back-yard volleyball. 

The former Mississippi State star has been a consistent force since he entered the NFL in 2016, ranking third in the league for QB pressures and tied-seventh for sacks with 65 and counting. 

When deployed off the edge rather than his familiar interior spot, Jones easily beat Cincinnati right tackle Hakeem Adeniji to smother Joe Burrow for the key fourth-quarter sack that ended a potential game-winning Bengals drive in the AFC Championship game. 

Eagles offensive coordinator Shane Steichen will be concerned about two matchups on his O-line that Jones could exploit - against right guard Isaac Seumalo and left tackle Jordan Mailata. 

Seumalo's 61.5% pass-block win rate is nine points below the league average for his position and rugby league convert Mailata is only just holding his own above the NFL baseline of 72.9% for his spot. 

The ability of these two Philadelphia starters will be severely tested by the Chiefs, who will line Jones up against each at certain times in a bid to deny Jalen Hurts a clean pocket.

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Chiefs TE Travis Kelce v Eagles CB Avonte Maddox 

Kelce was a huge factor in the Chiefs' offensive efficiency this year as he continually founds ways of getting open for QB Patrick Mahomes. 

The tight end caught at least four passes in all 19 Kansas City games this season, surpassing 40 receiving yards or scoring a touchdown in all but one. 

The future Hall of Famer not only gets open at an alarming rate for defenses, but he also punishes tacklers and produces crucial extra yardage after the catch. 

His domain for doing that has primarily been the slot with Kelce lining up there 300 times, compared to running 173 routes as an outside receiver and an additional 139 from the traditional tight end position. 

A similar emphasis on Sunday will put him the wheelhouse of Eagles slot corner Maddox, who could be a rare bad matchup for Kelce because of his sticky coverage ability. 

According to Stats Perform's matchup data, no corner in the NFL can claim to be superior to the Eagles man in terms of open percentage allowed across both man and zone coverage this season. 

Maddox, who has been nursing a toe injury lately, allowed opposing receivers to get open on just 18.1% of his matchups in season and ranked fourth among slot CBs in defensive stop rate (5.4%). 

Tellingly, when Maddox was on the field, opposing offenses lost -13.9 EPA (Expected Points Added) when targeting him, good enough for second in the NFL behind the Miami Dolphins' Kader Kohou.

Eagles QB Jalen Hurts v Chiefs defensive line 

Despite dealing with a recent shoulder injury, Hurts is expected to be a crucial factor in the Eagles' game plan when it comes to running the ball. 

Philadelphia's diverse running game, built around the zone-read and read-option, has kept defenses guessing all season long - when Hurts has been healthy. 

This presents a significant challenge for the Chiefs, whose primary weakness on defense is stopping the run. 

The Chiefs have struggled in run defense since the start of the postseason, ranking 17th overall and 24th in neutral situations. 

Philadelphia's offense excels in creating doubt in the defense over what play is coming, as demonstrated in the NFC championship game. 

The Eagles will target Kansas City's weak run defense, as the starters, Nick Bolton and Willie Gay Jr., have below-average run defense win rates. 

It will take a smart, controlled approach from the Chiefs' aggressive defensive front and exceptional awareness to avoid a difficult evening on the big stage.

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