After both teams won their conference championship games in convincing fashion, we have a compelling matchup in Super Bowl LIV between the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers. Kickoff is scheduled for 6:30 EST on Sunday, February 2 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida. The game will be televised on Fox.
Despite some early movement in the betting line, the Chiefs are currently listed as slim 1-point favorites over the 49ers. The over/under for the game is set at 54.5 points.
From start to finish, one could argue that the 49ers have been the best team in the NFL this season. They were the last team to suffer their first loss of the season, starting the year 8-0. Despite a few setbacks along the way, San Francisco won back-to-back games against the Rams and Seahawks to close out the regular season and solidify home-field advantage in the playoffs. The 49ers took full advantage of playing at home while knocking off the Vikings and Packers at home, both by a comfortable 17-point margin. They are back in the Super Bowl for the first time since the 2012 season when they lost the Har-bowl to the Ravens. With a win, the 49ers will capture their sixth Super Bowl title in franchise history, tying the Steelers for the most all-time.
As for the Chiefs, they began the season as a trendy Super Bowl pick and have proven a lot of people right by getting here. Kansas City had some doubters after hitting a rough patch in the middle of the season, losing four of six games. But Andy Reid’s team has come on strong down the stretch, winning six in a row to close out the regular season. The Chiefs have remained hot in the playoffs, overcoming an early 24-0 deficit to blowout the Texans 51-31 before taking care of business against the Titans in the AFC Championship Game. Historically, reaching the Super Bowl is a big deal for the Chiefs. The franchise hasn’t been in the big game in 50 years, beating the Vikings in Super Bowl IV but never making it back until now.
The last time these two teams met was Week 3 of the 2018 season. That game is notable because it was the game when Jimmy Garoppolo suffered his season-ending knee injury, essentially ending San Francisco’s season. For what it’s worth, the Chiefs won that game at home 38-27.
At first glance, this game looks like a battle between a strong San Francisco defense and the potent Kansas City offense. However, it could come down to how well the San Francisco offense fares against the Kansas City defense. At this point, I have a little more faith in the 49ers in that battle after they’ve scored 64 points in their two playoff games. The Chiefs probably have the best player on the field in Patrick Mahomes, but I think the 49ers are the more balanced team, giving more San Francisco more paths to victory. In a virtual tossup, I’ll lean toward the 49ers to win Super Bowl LIV.
Let’s start with the San Francisco defense. The 49ers were one of the best defensive teams in the NFL all season and nothing has happened in the playoffs to change that. In the Divisional Round, they completely shut down one of the most potent rushing attacks in football, giving up 10 points against the Vikings. They were stout against the run again in the NFC Championship Game. In fairness, Aaron Rodgers was able to complete 31 of his 39 passes. But he was also sacked three times and threw two interceptions, which is a rare occurrence.
The key to the San Francisco defense remains their incredible pass rush. The 49ers have nine sacks in two playoff games after totaling 48 during the regular season. More importantly, 41 of those 48 sacks came from the defensive line. The 49ers are a threat to win one-on-one matchups at every position on the defensive line. That means they won’t need to blitz to put consistent pressure on Mahomes, allowing them to dedicate seven defenders to covering Kansas City’s receivers.
To play devil’s advocate, the Chiefs allowed the third-fewest sacks in the NFL this season, largely because Mahomes is athletic and elusive enough to escape pressure. But the 49ers are no stranger to mobile quarterbacks. They faced Russell Wilson twice, Kyler Murray twice, and even held Lamar Jackson and the Ravens to just 20 points. They should be prepared to face an athlete like Mahomes at quarterback Typically, the Chiefs have no problem throwing the ball on a majority of snaps. But with San Francisco’s pass rush, that could turn into a problem. Keep in mind that Damien Williams rushing for less than 50 yards in both playoff games. A lack of balance from the K.C. offense could be a problem for the Chiefs.
On the other side of the ball, the Kansas City defense deserves a lot of credit for being able to slow down Derrick Henry in the AFC Championship Game. However, San Francisco’s rushing attack was second in the NFL this season. Also, they will create a different kind of challenge for the Chiefs. With Raheem Mostert, Matt Breida, and Tevin Coleman (assuming he’s healthy), the 49ers have three backs with distinct skillsets to throw at the K.C. defense. Slowing down all three is a little different from game planning to stop Henry.
At the same time, the 49ers are more of a threat in the passing game than Tennessee was in the AFC Championship Game. San Francisco isn’t afraid to lean a little on Garoppolo. They might even throw the ball early to help set up the run. With the speed of receivers like Deebo Samuel and Emmanuel Sanders, the Chiefs won’t be able to sell-out against the run and leave a lot of space in the secondary. Kansas City’s defense also struggled against tight ends this season, which could mean a big day for George Kittle despite modest production in the playoffs thus far.
To be honest, this game could go either way. While the 49ers don’t have many flaws, Mahomes and the skill players around him are good enough to make any defense look average. The Kansas City defense has also come on strong over the last two months. However, top to bottom, the 49ers are the better team and the more balanced team. That’s the kind of team I want in a Super Bowl, so I’ll take my chances with San Francisco winning Super Bowl LIV.