Super Bowl week is finally here, and so are hundreds of NFL odds markets surrounding Sunday’s big game.
I’ve already recorded a few podcast episodes of The Lion’s Edge outlining how I’m thinking about betting the game, including my initial lean and some names I like for Super Bowl MVP.
Later in the week, I’ll have much more analysis – both audio and text – on prop bets and other exotic markets.
For now, though, I wanted to explore a key detail between the Chiefs and Eagles. It’s a discrepancy that I think is the biggest differentiating factor between Patrick Mahomes and Jalen Hurts; it’s also a major historical indicator of which team is likely to hoist the Super Bowl trophy at week’s end.
Patrick Mahomes vs. Jalen Hurts
This week, there will be much attention paid to the recent injuries that both Mahomes and Hurts have suffered. There will also be granular analysis of their recent box scores as Super Bowl bettors hunt for any kind of advantage they can find in the NFL props market.
What we likely won’t hear much tell of this week is… their contracts.
That’s a mistake. The biggest difference between Mahomes and Hurts isn’t their stats or their style of play but their annual salary.
Patrick Mahomes’ contract pays him $35.8 million for the 2022 season.
Jalen Hurts’ contract, on the other hand, pays him… $1.6 million. Hurts is still playing on his rookie deal.
Many Eagles fans are arguing for Hurts to get a big extension after this season, regardless of how the Super Bowl plays out. And perhaps he should! But right now, Hurts’ cheapness as a quarterback is the biggest asset that Eagles fans have.
You know all this talk about the Eagles’ incredible roster depth? That’s because they’re getting Pro Bowl play from Hurts at quarterback for less than $2 million. Philadelphia is at the peak of its power as a team right now because it’s gotten to build out a true 53-man roster with the full $208 million of their salary cap. That’s a direct function of getting great play out of a rookie contract QB.
As a general rule, there are only two kinds of teams that have won the Super Bowl over the last decade or two: teams with quarterbacks on their rookie contracts or teams with Tom Brady.
I plan to write about why Brady is unique in the coming days, but for now, let’s stay focused on the rookie quarterbacks.
NFL QB Contracts: Cheap Quarterbacks Win Super Bowls
No quarterback has ever won a Super Bowl while being counted 13% (or more) against his team’s overall NFL cap.
This is the single most important NFL trend we’ve seen in the 21st century. As media has exploded and quarterback market value has skyrocketed, we’ve seen a clear winning tax excised against quarterbacks who take too much for themselves and don’t leave the team with enough money to build a great, deep roster around them.
Now, remember that $35.8 million salary I mentioned for Mahomes? That’s 17.2% of the Chiefs’ overall cap.
It’s clear that Mahomes understands this dynamic about not taking too much money. Obviously, $36 million is a lot of money, but it’s more than $10 million less than he could have made if he had been on the open market. Mahomes wants to win more than he wants to make money. I respect the hell out of him for that.
Still, his salary cap hit is outside of the typical range we see for Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks.
On the other hand, Hurts accounts for about 0.8% of Philadelphia’s cap. And, amusingly, his $1.6 million salary is almost identical to the salary that Nick Foles collected when he won Super Bowl MVP with the Eagles five years ago.
As a result, the Eagles just have more talent everywhere on the field than the Chiefs.
Super Bowl LVII Prediction
The Super Bowl isn’t played on contract paper, so it’s impossible to use salary details as the sole predictive metric for who wins the Super Bowl this season.
Still, when you consider the Eagles’ superior run game and the roster depth advantages, I think this game lines up in favor of the Eagles.
There’s also the fact that Mahomes will be dodging Philadelphia’s No. 1 ranked pass rush with a high ankle sprain.
I believe the cheap quarterback trend will continue, but Mahomes and the Chiefs’ offense are certainly good enough to prove me wrong.
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