Super Bowl LIV has arrived. The Kansas City Chiefs will take on the San Francisco 49ers in Miami on February 2 to determine the champion of the 2019-20 NFL season. The Chiefs were the second-ranked team in the AFC with a 12-4 record in the regular season while the 49ers were the top-ranked team in the NFC with a 13-3 record in the regular season. The line for the Super Bowl is one of the lowest ever favoring the Chiefs by 1.5 points as it is being predicted as one of the most evenly matched Super Bowl ever.
Super Bowl History
This has been a long time coming for the Chiefs who have made the playoffs every year since 2015 and with its closest appearance just a season ago when it lost to the Patriots in the AFC Championship. The Chiefs have only won one Super Bowl in just two appearances in its franchise’s history with the last one having been against the Vikings in Super Bowl IV of the 1969-70 season.
While the San Francisco 49ers are known for having been one of the most successful teams in NFL history with five Super Bowl wins, the last Super Bowl win for the Niners was in 1994-95 season against the Chargers with Steve Young still playing quarterback. The 49ers have made just one Super Bowl appearance since which was its 34-31 point loss against the Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII in the 2012-13 season.
How Each Team Stacks Up
The Chiefs and 49ers have had as much success but the teams have found ways to win in completely different ways. The Chiefs have attacked teams through the air winning games with the passing game while being one of the least successful defensive teams in both the regular and postseason. The 49ers, on the other hand, rely on a productive ground and pound game to wear out defenses while their defense gets teams off the field quickly.
The Chiefs have one the highest power offenses in the NFL with the reigning MVP quarterback, Patrick Mahomes. Even with two missed games due to injury, the Chiefs managed to have the sixth-ranked offense, which averaged 379.2 yards per game, in the NFL led by its fifth-ranked passing game, which averaged 281.1 yards per game. The ground game emerged as an issue for the Chiefs this season as it experienced injuries that set them back to be the 23rd-ranked rushing team averaging just 98.1 yards per game. Defensively, the Chiefs ranked in the bottom half of the league allowing 349.6 yards per game with the 26th-ranked rush defense that allowed 128.2 yards per game. The pass defense made up for some of the lack of rush defense ranking 8th allowing just 221.4 yards per game in the air. Nonetheless, the Chiefs outscored their opponents this season 451 to 301 which is an average win of 28.2 points scored to 19.2 points allowed per game.
The Chiefs have been scoring at in incredibly clip this postseason scoring 86 points over two games but also allowing 55 points. This makes their postseason average 43 points scored to 27.5 points allowed for a larger win differential. The Chiefs have had the third-ranked offense this postseason as it has put up 419 yards per game led by the second-best air-attack going for 304 yards per game. The rushing game has continued to lack as it ranked seventh at 115 yards per game. The defense has continued to not be a strong spot on the team as it has allowed the ninth-most yards per game at 368.5 with the ninth-ranked pass defense at 279 yards per game. The rush defense has seemed to step up significantly this postseason going from one of the worst in the regular season to the third-ranked rushing defense in the postseason allowing just 89.5 yards per game.
Most Important Player
This is easy to pinpoint as the reigning MVP quarterback Patrick Mahomes has been essentially the sole reason for the team’s success through this playoff run. Mahomes has been almost perfect since leading the Chiefs in a massive comeback against the Texans in the Divisional Round where they went down 24-0 quickly and he carried the Chiefs back to a 51-31 win. He has completed 46 of 70 pass attempts (65.7%) for 615 yards (307.5 yards per game) and an 8 to 0 touchdown to interception ratio. These numbers add up to a 131.5 passer rating while he has also run the ball a total of 15 times for 106 yards (7.1 yards per attempt). Mahomes also has to give a lot of credit to his offensive line who have helped to protect him incredibly well allowing just two over the two games. For the Chiefs to have any chance at winning this game, it will be up to Mahomes to continue this level of play and keep the offense rolling against one of the best passing defenses in the NFL.
Other Key Players
Although Mahomes is the best player on the team, it would be impossible to not mention his offensive weapons that play a huge role in his success. The first player is his pro-bowl tight end, Travis Kelce, who has had a great postseason with 13 receptions for 164 yards (12.6 yards per catch) and three touchdowns. Kelce had a phenomenal regular season as well with 97 receptions for 1,1229 yards (12.7 yards per catch), his fourth consecutive 1,000-yard receiving season, to go along with five touchdown catches. Another key component in this game will be Mahomes’ speedy wide receiver who will have a tough matchup against some of the leagues’ best cornerbacks. Hill has caught eight passes this postseason for 108 yards (13.5 yards per catch) and two touchdowns. Hill was suspended for four games this season but managed to catch 58 passes for 860 yards (14.8 yards per catch) and seven touchdowns.
Biggest Matchup for Chiefs
The Chiefs had a very hard time defending the rush during the regular season and are now faced with the task of containing the best rush-attack in the NFL. During the regular season, the Chiefs ranked 26th against the rush allowing 128 yards per game. This has seen a significant improvement in the playoffs as it has been the third-best rush defense allowing just 89.5 yards per game. However, the 49ers were the second-best rushing offense in the NFL this year averaging 144.1 yards per game and the best in the playoffs averaging 235.5 yards per game. This is the best attack that the Chiefs have seen all year and will need to do whatever it takes to slow down the 49ers explosive run game and force Garoppolo to throw the ball which he has not needed to do much of this postseason.
The 49ers did not seem to have much of any weakness this season as it finished the regular season with the fourth-ranked offense averaging 381.1 yards per game and the second-ranked defense allowing just 281.1 yards per game. Offensively, the rushing game was the strong point with the second-most yards per game with 144.1 while the passing game was in the top half of the league with 237 yards per game. The defense for the 49ers led the league in passing yards allowed with just 169.2 yards per game against them and the 17th-ranked rush defense in the league allowing 112.6 yards per game. Overall, the 49ers averaged a very similar points scored-points allowed as the Chiefs with its average game being 29.9 points scored to opposing teams’ 19.4 points per game.
Just like the Chiefs, the 49ers have experienced a scoring outburst this postseason as it has outscored its opponents 64 points to 30 points allowed averaging out to 32 points scored per game to 15 points allowed per game. The 49ers have particularly excelled in the rushing game on both sides of the ball as they have both the top-ranked rushing attack going for 235.5 yards per game and rushing defense that has held opposing teams to 41.5 yards per game this postseason. The 49ers also have the top-ranked defense allowing just 252.5 yards per game with the sixth-ranked pass defense allowing 211 yards per game. With such a strong rushing game, the 49ers have hardly needed to pass, including an 8-pass attempt game in the Championship game and rank in last this postseason averaging just 95.5 yards per game through the air giving the team the seventh-ranked offense with 331 yards per game.
Most Important Player
Although it may not be their best player, the 49ers best shot at winning this game will be in the hands of running back, Raheem Mostert. He has been carrying the ball so incredibly well that the 49ers have nearly ditched the passing game and only hand him the ball. He dealt with an injury in the Divisional Round that limited him but more than made up for it in the Conference Championship where he carried the ball 29 times for 220 yards and four touchdowns. He has totaled 41 carries for 278 yards this postseason making for an outstanding 6.8 yards per attempt. The 49ers have proved that they can win games solely running the ball with its 235.5 rushing yards per game this postseason and less than 100 yards per game of passing. Mostert will get the lead role at running back in the Super Bowl and the 49ers will have to rely on him to move the ball down the field effectively and pick up first downs to control the game and give themselves the best chance of winning.
Other Key Players
It is impossible to mention any team without its quarterback, even on a very run-heavy team. Jimmy Garoppolo had a great season passing the football completing 69.1% of his passes and nearly threw for 4,000 yards with a total of 3,978 yards. He had a great touchdown to interception ratio at 27 to 13 and finished the season with a 60.2 QBR. Garoppolo has not needed to do much this postseason with the run-heavy offense working effectively as he has completed just 17 of his 27 pass attempts (63.0%) for 208 yards and one touchdown and interception. The next player for the 49ers is the best player on the roster as he is a top-5 candidate for defensive player of the year and leading-candidate for defensive rookie of the year, edge rusher, Nick Bosa. Bosa had an incredible first year in the league with nine sacks, 47 tackles, 16 tackles for a loss, 25 QB hits, one forced fumble, two passes defended, and one interception. He has not slowed down in the playoffs posting three sacks, eight tackles, two tackles for a loss, and four QB hits. To win this game, the 49ers will have to do what no team has managed to do yet this postseason, and that’s containing Patrick Mahomes. The best chance at doing this will fall on Bosa who has done it as well as any other player in football this year as he will have to play a huge role in this Super Bowl.
Biggest Matchup for 49ers
A strength of the 49ers is their pass defense which will be put one of its toughest tasks of the year against Patrick Mahomes. During the regular season, the 49ers led the league in passing yards allowed per game at 169.2 while landing in the middle of the pack in the postseason allowing 211 yards per game. The Chiefs are hot right now after having been ranked fifth in passing yards during the regular season averaging 281.1 per game and second in the postseason averaging 304 yards per game. The only team that was better than the Chiefs in this category was the Baltimore Ravens who beat the 49ers although the Niners had limited MVP favorite, Lamar Jackson, to just 105 yards through the air. Although this game resulted in a loss, the 49ers pass defense will have to play as good and possibly even better to give themselves a chance at slowing down Mahomes in the Super Bowl.
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