By Arnie Leshin
Both Super Bowl teams tried to resort to their own ways to announce they have landed.
The American Conference champion Kansas City Chiefs, landed first on Monday at Phoenix’ Goldwater Air National Guard Base, and with quarterback Patrick Mahomes calling the signals, the pilot hung a “Chuck Kingdom” flag out of the windows as players, coaches and staff came off the airplane and walked along the runway.
About an hour later, in came the National Conference champion Philadelphia Eagles to the same landing site, with “Its a Philly Thing” flag fluttering in the runway as Philly quarterback Jalen Hurts, head coach Nick Sirianni and others made their way to a fleet of buses.
With Super Bowl 57 now one week away from the game to to be played at Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., from out of the cold weather they came in the face of bright sunshine and temperatures in the low 70s, and most of the team personnel occasionally stopped to take photos and videos on the runway.
Welcome to Phoenix winter weather where the biggest stage in the National Football League will unveil the Eagles as a one and one-point favorite. In fact, these Las Vegas early line odds haven’t moved as this envisions a close contest.
Of course, the only thing that matters is the final score and you’ve got two talented confident teams with similar 13-3 overall records.
On hand was former Chiefs’ star Christian Okoye to pass out hats to Kansas City players as they exited the plane. The former running back lives in Southern California and made the short trip to Phoenix.
“Well, they called me,” he said, “and wanted me to come on down here to welcome the team, and I said, ‘Yes, of course, that’s my team over there ready to win the Super Bowl, and I will gladly greet them.”
In getting back to the odds, oddsmakers are expecting a good game, although they don’t agree with Okoye and are giving Philadelphia a slight edge. It was the Eagles opening as a 1 and 1/2-point pick and it’s stayed that way.
KC must have different thoughts.
It turned back a good Cincinnati Bengals team, 23-20, on a final-play 43-yard field goal off the foot of Harrison Butler, to advance to its third Super Bowl in four seasons. It was a bwack-and-forth tussle that the Chiefs have made a habit of winning.
Now they get a chance to hoist the championship trophy after losing to Cincinnati in last year’s conference championship game, and where the Bengals then lost to the Los Angeles Rams in the big show.
Meanwhile, the Eagles routed the San Francisco 49ers, 31-7 to win their conference, and have looked dominate in the playoffs after first romping over the New York Giants, 38-7, in the divisional round. And so they return to the big stage five years after getting past the New England Patriots, 41-33.
But this is also a mostly new generation of Eagles led by Hurts on the field and Sirianni on the sidelines.
On Monday night the teams will both take part in the Super Bowl LVII “Opening Night” in downtown Phoenix, where all the players and coaches from both teams are available for the annual media extravaganza.
From there it’s down to business. Kansas City will practice throughout the week at Arizona State’s football facilities while Philadelphia will do its preparation at the Arizona Cardinals’ practice facility.
There are no shortage of storylines: Chiefs head coach Andy Reid goes against his former team, one in which he led to Super Bowl 39, and now he has the initial matchup of Black starting quarterbacks in the Super Bowl with Hurts and Mahomes.
Plus, there’s also brother versus brother showdown between Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce and Eagles center Jason Kelce.