Recency bias is a helluva drug. And conference title games and the Super Bowl always shape the narratives for how to build a team, what kind of offense and defense to incorporate, what the rest of the league should prioritize in the team-building process, etc. It happens every year. The Eagles’ first Super Bowl win using the “run-pass option” made the RPO vernacular overnight. Mahomes’ Super Bowl win the following year pushed a new mold for the prototypical franchise quarterback.

Last year, I highlighted the league’s growing trend of going for fourth downs, passing on first downs and prioritizing YAC. Those trends aren’t going anywhere. Let’s touch on them briefly here – teams are still significantly more aggressive on fourth downs than they were even five to 10 years ago. That’s good.

The Bengals and Chiefs ranked third and fourth, respectively, in first down pass rate during the regular season. Eight of the 14 playoff teams ranked in the top 10 in first-down pass rate and first-down pass rate in one-score game scenarios. If the NFL is a copycat league, other teams need to copy what the best teams are doing, and one of those things is passing it more often than running it on first downs, even when the game is close.

And YAC has been here for a while. The Chiefs finished with the most total YAC in the regular season. The 49ers had the best YAC-per-reception average. Despite Jamar Chase missing four contests, the Chiefs were second in that category, while the Eagles were fifth and the Bengals 11th.

Sometimes these trends are drawn directly from the regular season. But they often draw from the playoffs.

Let’s identify those trends ahead of Super Bowl LVII.

Invest heavily in the offensive line

The 49ers made the Super Bowl after the 2019 season, eventually losing to Mahomes and the Chiefs. Less than two months later, they traded fifth and future third for future first-ballot Hall of Fame left tackle Trent Williams. big swing

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While they allowed rising guard Laken Tomlinson to bolt for free agency after the 2021 season, they drafted Aaron Banks in the second round in 2021 and spent a fourth-round pick on guard Spencer Burford last April, two players who were primary starters. Guard in the 2022 season.

After Burrow led the NFL in sacks (51) in 2021, the Bengals spent a combined $22 million in collective average-pear-year salaries on three blockers — Lael Collins, Ted Karas and Alex Capa — in the 2022 offseason. They did so despite drafting four offensive linemen since Burrow went No. 1 overall in 2020, and they drafted another blocker last April in fourth-round pick Cordell Volson.

Not surprisingly, sacks (51 to 41) and sack rate (8.9% to 6.3%) decreased from 2021 to 2022. His interception rate also dropped from 2.7% to 2.0%.

After a disastrous run from Super Bowl to Super Bowl — in a game without multiple starting offensive linemen — Kansas City now knows the pitfalls of that run: The Chiefs aren’t sitting on their hands. GM Brett Veach signed top free agent guard Joe Thuney to a five-year, $80 million deal with nearly $32M fully guaranteed, and traded several picks to land Orlando Brown from the AFC rival Ravens, but the rebuild didn’t stop. finished

In the draft, Veach selected longtime Oklahoma center Creed Humphrey in the second round and took a flier in the sixth round on guard Trey Smith, a big and talented SEC blocker who struggled with blood clots in college.

Now, Kansas City has the best blocking unit in the AFC.

The Eagles and GM Howie Roseman have long prioritized the trenches and have boasted one of the league’s most devastating offensive lines for some time. It’s mostly a veteran-laden group led by center Jason Kelce and right tackle Lane Johnson. But Roseman’s determination to build a blocking unit has once again paid big dividends.

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After Jordan Mailata was a seventh-round flyer in the 2018 draft, Roseman selected Andre Dillard in Round 1 in 2019. Dillard didn’t become the stud many thought he would be in the NFL. Mailata blossomed into a giant road-grader. The arrow moving forward didn’t stop Roseman from selecting do-everything blocker Landon Dickerson — who is now the starting left guard — in the second round of the 2021 draft, and taking uber-talented center Cam Jurgens in the second round as well. The 2022 draft is the ultimate Kelce replacement.

The Eagles have the best offensive line in football and have handled the top-ranked 49ers defense for most of the NFC title game.

During the regular season, only 12 qualifying quarterbacks managed a passer rating above 75 when under pressure. When cleaned, a total of 39 passers had a quarterback rating above 75.

When in doubt, take flyers on quarterbacks

In the 2020 draft, at pick No. 53, after selecting five quarterbacks, the Eagles selected Jalen Hurts after a highly productive season at Oklahoma that followed a unique career at Alabama. The pick came less than four months after the Eagles won the division title and star quarterback Carson Wentz was kicked out of a playoff loss. It was before that season that Wentz received a massive, four-year, $128 million extension that included $100 million guaranteed to the Eagles.

Wentz threw for over 4,000 yards with 27 touchdowns to just seven interceptions that season.

The Eagles could have gone in many other directions with that pick. But they understood the potential added value of selecting a quarterback there and did so. Wentz was separated in 2020 and subsequently traded. Hurts was then the quarterback of a seventh-seeded Philadelphia team that lost in the first round of the 2021 playoffs and will now start in the Super Bowl.

The 49ers reached the Super Bowl and the NFC title game with Jimmy Garoppolo and then decided to trade a litany of early picks to go up the draft board to select Trey Lance. Of course last April they used the last pick in the draft on none other than Brock Purdy.

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Be aggressive…be, be aggressive

The most ubiquitous cheer on the sidelines of high school sports in America to apply to the NFL. It’s somewhat a combination of the two points above, but … be aggressive. And I’m not suggesting more blitzes. I’m talking about being aggressive with roster building. It could really be an extension of what the Rams did during their Super Bowl-winning season a year ago.

Think of an example of this idea Roseman demonstrated last offseason. He traded a first round pick for AJ Brown on the first day of the draft. If that wasn’t enough — and is generally viewed as enough — he scooped up James Bradberry nine days after he was released by the Giants in May. Then, to really home in on his offensive style — Roseman traded the fifth and sixth picks in the 2024 draft and the seventh in 2025 in August for pesky safety/slot corner Chauncey Gardner-Johnson.

Don’t forget — and you’ll hear plenty of reminders in the next two weeks leading up to the Super Bowl — head GM Brett Veitch traded TYREEK HILL in the offseason, an idea that seemed unthinkable at first, to a complete non-starter.

It netted the chiefs:

  • Part of compensation package to trade to select CB Trent McDuffie
  • WR Skye Moore
  • $30M per year on average and $52.5M in full guarantees for Hill to avoid a deal
  • 2024 fourth round pick
  • 2024 sixth round pick

Kansas City had the money to sign Justin Reid, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Carlos Dunlop in July. It would also give the Chiefs flexibility to make their own signings this offseason.


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