Super Bowl Sunday is finally upon us. After 20 weeks of high-octane football, just two teams remain in the race for the Lombardi Trophy. The Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers descend upon Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas for Super Bowl LVIII. A rematch of Super Bowl LIV, can the Chiefs become the first back-to-back champions since 2004? Or will the 49ers lift the Lombardi for the first time since 1995? Let’s make the case for both teams.
Kansas City Chiefs (Taylor’s Version)
BALTIMORE, MD – JANUARY 28: Patrick Mahomes #15 of the Kansas City Chiefs throws the ball during the AFC Championship NFL football game against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on January 28, 2024 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Perry Knotts/Getty Images)
For the fourth time in the seven years since drafting Patrick Mahomes, the Chiefs are in the Super Bowl. The NFL’s contemporary synonym for success, KC is looking to truly establish itself as a dynasty. However, the journey to become the first back-to-back champions since the ’04 Pats has been harder than in previous years. Going 11-6, the Chiefs were 9th in offensive yardage and 15th in scoring. The team continued to run through the established battery of Mahomes and Travis Kelce (23% of Mahomes passing yards, targeted 20% of the time). However, the Chiefs also found a draft gem in Rashee Rice (Drafted at #55, 938 yards). Furthermore, sophomore back Isiah Pacheco was nearly a 1000-yard running back.
However, the true power of this team was its defense. Justin Reid and Trent McDuffie (175 tackles between them) prowled downfield relentlessly. Meanwhile, Chris Jones and George Karlaftis (21 sacks combined) made opposing quarterbacks live in fear for 60 minutes a week. Overall, the defensive unit was second in yards allowed and points allowed. This has continued into the postseason, where three high-scoring offenses (Miami, Buffalo, Baltimore) have all been suffocated. This has been especially important in the latter two games, where the offense has struggled to run away with games.
Of course, we must also mention Taylor Swift, the team’s informal good luck charm after making her relationship with Travis Kelce public in Week 3. However, Swift will likely be absent from Vegas due to a quartet of Eras Tour shows in Tokyo ending the day before the Super Bowl.
If You’re Going To (The) San Francisco (49ers)…
SANTA CLARA, CA – JANUARY 28: Christian McCaffrey #23 of the San Francisco 49ers rushes during the NFC Championship game against the Detroit Lions at Levi’s Stadium on January 28, 2024 in Santa Clara, California. The 49ers defeated the Lions 34-31. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
The San Francisco 49ers return to the Super Bowl for the first time since 2020 when they lost to Kansas City. A 12-5 team in the regular season, the Niners were 2nd in offensive yardage and 3rd in scoring. Brock Purdy continued to prove that draft position means nothing, throwing for over 4200 yards and 31 touchdowns. The name of the game for San Francisco is overwhelming force. They had two 1000-yard receivers in Brandon Aiyuk and George Kittle. Add in the league’s best rusher Christian McCaffrey (1459 yards, 14 touchdowns) and you get an offense that simply cannot be stopped.
The defense also shone in the Bay. 9th in yards allowed and 3rd in points allowed is what you’d expect from a five-loss team but is still impressive nonetheless. It all starts with the defensive line itself. Linebacking duo Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw combined for 252 tackles while the edge wasn’t any safer with 10.5 sacks from Nick Bosa. Not to say the defensive backs are any less impressive, but it’s less of a concern when the ball often doesn’t get past the line of scrimmage.
However, are the 49ers simply waiting to choke? Both of their playoff wins have been by a field goal. Against the Lions in the Conference championship, they needed to make the largest comeback in NFC Championship history to erase a 17-point halftime deficit. Despite their dominance, despite the regular season accolades, the 49ers have been unable to build a lead and hold it when it comes to the playoffs.
Chiefs-49ers: Who Wins?
SANTA CLARA, CA – JANUARY 28: Brock Purdy #13 of the San Francisco 49ers scrambles out of the pocket during the third quarter of the NFC Championship NFL football game against the Detroit Lions at Levi’s Stadium on January 28, 2024 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images)
Super Bowl LVIII is widely expected to come down to the wire. The Niners enter as -1.5 favorites. However, the over/under is set at a surprisingly generous 47.5. The matchup features two of the hardest teams to score on in the league this season. that means yards and points will be at a premium. It is also where the 49ers’ edge in this game emerges from.
The Chiefs offense lives and dies with Patrick Mahomes. Especially with the Warner-Greenlaw tandem shutting down the run, the Chiefs need Mahomes connecting through the air. Meanwhile, Brock Purdy doesn’t need to carry the 49ers. If Reid and McDuffie create too much of a no-fly zone, Purdy can lean on CMC’s unstoppable legs. If the Chiefs lean hard into stopping McCaffery, there are two 1000-yard receivers for Purdy to connect with.
Prediction: San Francisco 49ers 23 – 20 Kansas City Chiefs. As mentioned, this is likely not going to be a game where touchdowns are traded back and forth for 60 minutes. This is a game that will be won on defense. With touchdowns at a premium, the 49ers go up three late in the fourth but are able to deny Mahomes his signature game-winning drive with a last-stand defensive effort. But let us know how you think the game will play out in the comments.
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