This has been the toughest Super Bowl to handicap in a long while. Both teams have distinct offensive identities that have worked well all season, with coaches who are the best in the business.
The statistics tell us this is an even matchup, as the Chiefs averaged 29.8 points and the 49ers averaged 30.2 per game. Kansas City averaged 383.6 yards to San Francisco’s 375.5 yards, while the 49ers gave up 18.9 points per game and the Chiefs 20.2. The raw numbers favor a close game, as does the betting line, as the Chiefs are favored by -1.5 points. That’s basically a pick ‘em line and this is basically a coin toss kind of game.
The 49ers have the most talent across the board. Their defensive players are better than the Chiefs defensive players on the whole and their offense, despite not having an elite quarterback, puts up more points and is efficient in all aspects of the game. Of course, the Chiefs are supremely talented, but overall I give the 49ers the edge. But, the Chiefs have a player who is the best in the most important position of the game. Patrick Mahomes, when healthy, is the best quarterback in the league. The question is, will he transcend the noise and be the deciding factor for a Chiefs win?
The Chiefs have one of the best offensive lines in the league and the 49ers have one of the best defensive lines in the league. The only thing that can slow down Mahomes is a consistent pass rush that also contains Mahomes inside the pocket when not blitzing. When blitzed, Mahomes quarterback rating go up and his interception percentage goes down, giving the 49ers extra incentive to find ways to pressure them with their front four.
The 49ers offense is best at running the ball but when called upon, Jimmy Garoppolo has been able to compete as a passer. The trouble is, Garoppolo isn’t used to carrying the team on his back, as he has just seven games with more than one touchdown pass and two of his three biggest passing games came against the Cardinals, the weakest pass defense in the league.
Garoppolo’s signature game as a passer came in New Orleans, where he completed 26-of-25 passes for 349 yards, four touchdowns and one interception in a 48-46 49ers win. That game along with his two other four-touchdown games against the Cardinals, show that he can take his team on his back when called upon. The question is, can he do it in the biggest game ever and against a good Chiefs pass defense?
We know Mahomes can play well in big games, as he has already started four playoff games and has averaged 297 yards passing, totaled 11 touchdowns to zero interceptions, and put up a 115 QB rating in those four matchups. Oh, and he has a rushing touchdown in there as well. That’s an average of three touchdowns per playoff game in his two seasons as the starter.
The 49ers should be able to run the ball. Kansas City has played better against the run of late and stopped Derrick Henry’s historic domination in the Championship game. Stopping Kyle Shanahan’s more varied run game will be a challenge, but, if Mahomes puts up points, the 49ers won’t be able to stick to the run game.
Yes, Garoppolo has shown he is capable of winning a game with his arm, but he’s also shown tendencies that could hurt his team this weekend. He is most comfortable throwing toward the middle of the field and will lock onto a receiver in a crowd. This is where Tyrann Mathieu could become a big part of the game. On average, Super Bowl winners turn the ball over 1.2 times per game while losers turn it over 3.2 times per game. Fumbles are nearly impossible to predict but some quarterbacks are more prone to interceptions and so far, Garoppolo has been more prone to throw an interception than Mahomes. Garoppolo threw 13 interceptions on 476 attempts for a 2.7 percent interception rate while Mahomes threw five interceptions on 484 attempts for a 1 percent interception rate. This game is going to be close and any turnovers will be big.
Trying to wrap your head around this game is likely to give you an aneurism, but there is no doubt that we have the two best teams and coaches in the league going head to head. Andy Reid is well known for his ability to coach his team to wins following a bye week, as he is now 23-5 and 19-9 against the spread.
My Pick: OVER 53.5 points
Only the Ravens averaged more points per game than the Chiefs and 49ers in 2019. There will be scoring in this game, but game flow will dictate just how much. If you think this game will be close throughout, you go with the over. If you think the 49ers get out to an early lead, there’s a good chance that Mahomes and company will be able to score and they won’t let up no matter how far they are down, which lends us to the over. If you think the Chiefs get out to a big lead, I like the under, as it will put the 49ers in a position where their offense will be predictable, pushing me to the under. I believe this game is close and both teams will be able to run their offense like they want.
My Pick: Chiefs -1.5
I’ve gone back and forth on this pick all week. I see plenty of reasons to like the 49ers to take this game based on pretty much every aspect of their coaching, offense and defense, but in the end, I’m going with Mahomes playing like Mahomes plays. His ability in the pocket, outside the pocket, with pressure and even his rushing chops, all point toward Mahomes being a transcendent talent that paired with Andy Reid’s play calling and a good offensive line, means he will be allowed to flourish.
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