As Jalen Hurts and the Philadelphia Eagles make their final preparations for Super Bowl Sunday, I can’t help but feel some anxiety brewing in the pit of my stomach.

To this point, the Eagles have enjoyed somewhat of a charmed existence. They cruised through the regular season before easily dispatching the Giants and the 49ers to earn their trip to Glendale. After enduring a week of hearing about the greatness of Daniel Jones and Brian Daboll, the Eagles ran New York off the field in the divisional round. As soon as the final whistle blew, the same media analysts touting the resurgence of the Giants busied themselves letting the air out of the balloon.

Meanwhile, San Francisco Forty Whiners fans and players will be quick to remind you that Philadelphia only advanced past their team because starting quarterback Brock Purdy and Josh Johnson were knocked out of the game, leaving the Niners without a viable signal caller. Purdy did gamely return in the second half, but his inability to throw with a damaged elbow grounded a dynamic offense. Amid all the wailing and protesting, there hasn’t been much criticism of offensive genius Kyle Shanahan, who assigned backup tight end Tyler Kroft to block elite pass rusher Haason Reddick on the pivotal play that effectively closed the chapter on San Francisco’s season. Alas.

None of it matters anymore. The Eagles have landed in Arizona, and the only obstacle standing between the franchise and its second Lombardi Trophy is a team that has wrestled the title of AFC juggernaut from the New England Patriots: the Kansas City Chiefs.

The Chiefs are talented and well coached. I’m old enough to remember, with more honesty than his army of critics in the Delaware Valley will allow themselves, the greatness of Andy Reid. No one lasts a quarter century patrolling the sidelines without knowing a thing or two about the game. Reid has also demonstrated a remarkable ability to evolve, marrying his traditional West Coast offense with some of football’s innovations, including the spread and the Air Raid principles that made his star quarterback, Patrick Mahomes, so effective during his college years at Texas Tech.

Reid’s teams in Philly might have been a bit too tight during playoff games, a bit lacking in talent at the wide receiver position, and a bit too hamstrung by a head coach who was a bit too conservative. That version of Andy Reid is gone, replaced by a guy who values speed at the skill positions and is happy to throw caution to the wind so long as Mahomes is the one holding the kite. 

One aspect of Reid’s coaching that hasn’t changed is his ability to prepare, especially when given the advantage of a bye week. The Chiefs’ head coach enters play Sunday with a 27-4 record in such situations, and it’s likely he has found a series of plays that will mitigate the strength of the Eagles’ defense while exposing some of their weaknesses. 

Reid also has the ultimate cheat code in Mahomes. His latest magic act dispatching the Bengals on a bum leg cemented his place as the best quarterback in the NFL among the chattering classes, who began to make some noise about Cincinnati’s Joe Burrow eclipsing him. Mahomes’ ability to rally Kansas City to a tie, and eventual overtime victory, with 13 seconds on the clock against the Buffalo Bills last year is all the evidence one needs to conclude that the Chiefs are never out of a game if he is on the field.

With Mahomes in the fold and the decade of excellence Reid has brought to Kansas City, I’m sure Chiefs fans feel supremely confident heading into Sunday. It’s enough to make this Eagles fan a little worried.

But then I relax when I realize that even though Kansas City has the best player, they don’t have the better 53. The Eagles possess an embarrassment of riches at every position and a depth chart that can compensate for an untimely injury. The Chiefs might not have a better offensive lineman than Eagles reserves Andre Dillard and Cam Jurgens. Their hobbled receiver corps doesn’t match the 1-2 punch of A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith. Their youthful secondary lacks the reputation Darius Slay and James Bradberry have established. And their defensive line doesn’t generate the pressure Philly’s ferocious pass rush can create.

Most importantly, the Chiefs do not have Jalen Hurts. Despite the focus-bordering-on-obsession on the skills Hurts lacks, what the Eagles quarterback’s detractors consistently underestimate are his intangibles. You can’t measure leadership, poise, maturity, preparedness, heart, and confidence with an easy counting stat. You can’t treat an underwhelming draft evaluation and the accompanying modest expectations as destiny for a player who is determined to improve. And you can’t count out a winner.

Hurts captured the sentiment better than I ever could at a Super Bowl press conference:

He’s met the moment before, at Alabama and then Oklahoma. He walked into a dysfunctional situation in Philadelphia and outlasted the previously anointed franchise quarterback. Last year, Hurts took Nick Sirianni’s claims of an open competition in stride and paid his rent. He honed his craft and kept working to smooth the rough edges of his game.

This year, Hurts emerged as one of the NFL’s most accurate passers. He was more patient in the pocket, waiting for plays to develop down the field instead of taking off when his first read was covered. Hurts ran the read option to near perfection, almost always putting the defense in conflict and creating space for himself, his running backs, or his receivers to exploit.

Green grass is the most valuable currency in the NFL, and the Eagles’ offensive attack is wealthy primarily because the man piloting their offense is so dynamic. While you can’t know exactly whether Hurts will run or throw on a given play, you can rest assured he will make the right decision. He protects the football, extends drives, and routinely breaks down defenses.

Above all, he wins games. The Birds are 16-1 with Hurts this season. Bet against him at your peril.

Eagles 31, Chiefs 27.

Go Birds.