Super Bowl LIV Preview: 49ers V Chiefs, who lift the trophy?

Super Bowl
Jan 28, 2024; Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce (87) celebrates his touchdown against the Baltimore Ravens during the first half of an AFC Championship NFL football game. Mandatory Credit: Alex Brandon-Associated Press

Super Bowl LVIII will be played on February 11 at Allegiant Stadium, Las Vegas. The NFC Champion San Francisco 49ers will take on the AFC victors, the Kansas City Chiefs. This is the 4th Super Bowl appearance in the last five years for the Chiefs, arriving as the defending champions. 

Of the past three, the Chiefs have two wins and one defeat, one of those successes coming at the expense of the 49ers in Super Bowl LIV. The 49ers won the first five Super Bowl games that they played, losing their last two, their other loss coming against the Baltimore Ravens who were the other AFC finalists.

Looking at the odds to win Super Bowl, there is very little between these two teams with the 49ers a small favourite, giving up less than a field goal. If the bookmakers have the odds right then we could be in for a tight and potentially excellent end to the season.

Both of these teams were in the top three of the fewest points conceded during the season so this maps out to be a lower-scoring Super Bowl game and it could be one that is going to be won by the team who avoids turning over the ball. Let’s take a look at the two teams and what we predict will happen.

Super Bowl LIV

It was four years ago that the 49ers and Chiefs clashed in the greatest show on turf, that year the game was in South Florida at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami. 31-20 was the final score in a game that was a slow burner in the first half but fireworks in the second.

Tied 10-10 at the half, the 3rd quarter saw the 49ers score 10 points, cashing in on intercepting Patrick Mahomes with seven points. They picked Mahomes again but were unable to make it count the second time, entering the final quarter with a 20-10 lead,

Three touchdowns in the 4th quarter capped a fine comeback from the Chiefs. With 8:53 on the clock, they were still down 20-10 but touchdowns on three consecutive drives flipped the game on its head. 

It is interesting to note that the referee that day was Bill Vinovich who is in charge again on Sunday. In 17 games Vinovich has been in charge of this season, there have been an average of 11.6 penalties accepted per game which is the most he has given since 2015. There were nine penalties accepted when these teams met in Super Bowl LIV.

49ers road to Vegas

The 49ers were streaky during the regular season, winning their first five games before losing three straight heading into their bye week. That seemed to give them the break that they needed to win their next six before a loss to the Baltimore Ravens.

Winners of both of their playoff games at home by three points over the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions, they had to work harder than many thought they would have to given that they were 9.5 and then 7-point favourites in those two games. The spread is much smaller now that they take on the Chiefs and this looks like being another tight one.

49ers offence

Only two teams scored more points than the 49ers during the regular season. It was a remarkably well-balanced attack in San Francisco with not only one of the best running backs in the league but also a three-headed receiving attack. 

Brock Purdy led the NFL in a number of categories this season, including passer rating and yards per pass attempt with 7% of the passes he threw resulting in a touchdown. He only really had one poor game all season against the Ravens in a game where the 49ers had five turnovers. Purdy was picked four times but the Chiefs were not a team that picked up a lot of interceptions during the season.

With 1459 yards and 21 touchdowns, Christian McCaffrey led the NFL in both categories. With 564 yards receiving as well to go past 2,000 yards of total offence on the season. He has two touchdowns in each of the 49ers’ first two postseason games and is very short odds to add another in the Super Bowl itself.

Brandon Aiyuk, George Kittle and Deebo Samuel had 1,342, 1,020 and 892 receiving yards respectively for seven, six and seven touchdowns. Samuel also had five as part of the rushing game for more than 200 yards on the ground. Add to that the human Swiss army knife that is Kyle Juszcyk and it is a receiving core that is deeply talented.

Aiyuk has not had such a good time in the playoffs with just six catches from 14 targets for a total of 100 yards over the two games that the 49ers have played. Kittle has also been a little quiet and he has missed practice of late with a toe injury. That should not be enough to stop him from playing in the Super Bowl but it is not an ideal preparation either.

49ers defence

Only two teams conceded fewer points than the 49ers during the regular season. Reigning Defensive Player of the Year Nick Bosa had 16 tackles for a loss which was top 10 in the NFL. 10.5 sacks was a fair way below his career-best but his overall performance has taken him to a Pro Bowl for the 4th time in his five seasons in the league.

Fred Warner had 132 combined tackles, going past the 130 barrier for the 3rd straight season. Add to that his four interceptions (his career high) and four forced fumbles and it is no surprise that he was also a Pro Bowl selection, his third in the last four seasons. 

There were two other Pro Bowl picks on the defensive side in Javon Hargrave and Charvarius Ward. Ward was the only 49er to take an interception back to the house for a pick six, with his five interceptions leading the team. 

Arik Armstead is the main injury concern that the 49ers have on defence. He has a knee injury but his lack of participation in practice is seen as purely precautionary at this stage, though entering with an injury of any description is far from ideal.

Chiefs road to Vegas

It is quite remarkable that in the career of Patrick Mahones, he has never failed to make the AFC Championship game. While their 11-6 regular season record is not as bad as the New York Giants 9-7 when they won the Super Bowl, they have been a far cry from the Chiefs team that we have come to know during the regular season in recent years.

They were 7-2 at their bye week but the gap between games put them off their rhythm, losing four of their next six. Winning their last two games of the regular season started them on a run of five straight wins to get to this game as the old Chiefs began to reappear.

Chiefs offence

It has been a below-par season on the offensive side for the Chiefs with Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce both well off the pace. Mahomes set a career low for passing success rate, yards per completion and yards per game. 14 picks was the most he has thrown in any season with a 92.6 quarterback rating well below his career average.

Kelce failed to get to 1,000 receiving yards for the first time since 2015. Part of that can be explained by Mahomes’ year but after 1,338 last year and 1,416 in 2020, it is a long way short of what he can do. He only had five TDs as well, down from 12 and 11 in those two seasons above. Three in three postseason games has seen the partnership start to get back to what they do best.

Rashee Rice had seven TDs along with 938 yards, an excellent rookie campaign. With Kelce picking up in the postseason, he has not had as many passes come his way but he has a safe pair of hands and that is a big plus.

On the running side of things, Isiah Pacheco has led the way with 935 yards for seven touchdowns. He has gone over for a score in all three of the Chiefs playoff games and has scored in seven straight games going back to the regular season. 

Guard Joe Thuney is facing a battle to be fit for Sunday with a pectoral injury. He missed the game against the Ravens and would be a huge loss against a 49ers defensive line that can cause huge problems.

Chiefs defence

Without a doubt, this has been the strength of the Chiefs this season, their 294 points given up in the regular season was the second-fewest in the NFL. They have been led by Chris Jones who was selected to his 5th straight Pro Bowl. 

He finished 3rd in the voting for Defensive Player of the Year last season and although this time around he has not had quite the same success, he still tied a career high in quarterback hits as well as picking up 10.5 sacks. He has been limited in practice in the off week so Chiefs fans will be praying that he is good to go.

Trent McDuffie forced five fumbles in the regular season, just one off the league lead. He had a tackle for a loss in each of the Chiefs’ first two playoff games after three total in the regular season. Willie Gay had three fumble recoveries in the regular season which was a career-high.

The bad news for the Chiefs is that Charles Omenihu tore his ACL in the win over the Ravens so will not be available. He was with the 49ers last season so this would have been a game that he would dearly loved to have been healthy for after a season that saw him set a new career high in sacks.


LeoVegas Free Bet

The 49ers are favourites to win the game, having looked like the best team in the NFL for most of the season. Their only real blip in the second half came when the Baltimore Ravens came to Levi’s Stadium and beat them comfortably. 

Given the Chiefs shut down the Ravens on the road last week, restricting an offence that was scoring 30+ at home each week to only 10 suggests that the odds might be wrong. The Chiefs had a poor second half but they are hitting form at the perfect time and that can see them win another Super Bowl.

Betting is rarely ever quite as straightforward as that but that is the current form line that we have to go on and it is not like it was Week 1 that the Ravens beat the 49ers, it was on Christmas Day which at least gives some credence to it being the line to follow.

When it comes down to individual performances the winning quarterback almost always wins the MVP award so there is little value in having a bet at the odds as Purdy and Mahomes are the current favourites at the head of the market. 

Given the two teams were 2nd and 3rd in the fewest points given up during the regular season it was a bit of a surprise to see the point spread as high as 47.5. The 49ers are more than capable of putting up some big numbers when it comes to points but they might not find it quite so easy against the Chiefs.

Finally, things seem to be clicking again between Mahomes and Kelce with three touchdowns in their last two games. Kelce will be cheered on again by Taylor Swift and a touchdown in front of all the Swifties will cap off his season perfectly.  

  • Chiefs to win
  • Under 47.5 points
  • Kelce anytime TD Scorer

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