Super Bowl LIV Primer: Analysis, Trends, Prediction

Super Bowl LIV: Chiefs (14-4) vs. 49ers (15-3)
Spread: Chiefs -1.5
Total:
54

This Super Bowl may be the most refreshing in years. For the first time since 2016, the Patriots are not representing the AFC. For the first time since 2005, Andy Reid is back in the big game looking to redefine his legacy. Kyle Shanahan is one of the bright young minds in the NFL. Patrick Mahomes is the most electric quarterback in the league. Jimmy Garoppolo has emerged from the shadow of Tom Brady to stare destiny square in the eye. Both teams play significantly contrasting styles. Neither is a huge public side. Super Bowl LIV is shaping up as one for the ages.

WHEN THE CHIEFS HAVE THE BALL
The talent is so significant on the offensive side that the Chiefs are pretty much impossible to hold down for 60 minutes with Mahomes under center. There is no question that Reid would like to get the Niners into a track meet early. The best way to do that is by beating the San Francisco defense over the top. Kansas City led the NFL in plays of 40-plus yards, yet Mahomes threw only five interceptions — a remarkable juxtaposition given the inherent variance of deep balls. Part of that is attributable to the fact that the Chiefs are able to generate explosive plays purely on the talent of their receivers, who cumulatively ranked second in the NFL with an average of over six yards after the catch (YAC). The Niners will try to pressure Mahomes, but that effort may be futile: Of the 32 quarterbacks who threw for at least 1,500 yards this season, only Drew Brees (4) was sacked fewer times than Mahomes (5). The Chiefs will want to go deep and strike fast. They will also want to bait the Niners into believing it’s pressure that will kill them, when it’s in fact pressure that they seek.

WHEN THE 49ERS HAVE THE BALL
San Francisco showed its hand last week by blowing away the Packers with the run. Garoppolo threw just eight passes in the victory, as Shanahan’s zone running scheme opened up hole after hole for Raheem Mostert to scamper through. If Tevin Coleman’s should injury prevents him from suiting up, Shanahan will lean on the combination of Mostert, Matt Breida and potentially even Jeff Wilson against a porous Chiefs run defense. The Niners ground attack was among the league’s best this season, ranking second in both rush yards per game and runs of 20-plus yards while leading the NFL in rushing touchdowns. The Chiefs, meanwhile, ranked fourth-worst in yards per rush at 4.9 — although they have stiffened in the playoffs, holding the Texans and Titans to a combined 4.1 yards per carry. Simply put, the Niners want to run — and they’ll be able to if their defense holds.

IN-PLAY MARKET TO WATCH
Kansas City in the second quarter. The Niners averaged more points than the Chiefs in the first, third and fourth quarter this season. It is the second quarter that will determine the Super Bowl. The Chiefs averaged a league-best 12.2 points in the second quarter this season, with only one other team averaging more than 9.5. Given their recent track record, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Chiefs were to fall behind early. If that’s the case, bettors could have the opportunity to unlock some value on KC in the second quarter.

KEY TRENDS

  • The Niners have covered their last five as an underdog
  • San Francisco is 6-1 ATS in its last seven against teams with a winning record
  • The Chiefs have covered seven straight as a favorite
  • The favorite has covered just five of the last 18 Super Bowls
  • The over has hit in five of the last seven Super Bowls

PREDICTION
Defense wins titles and that is what will get the Niners home in what should be a magnificent Super Bowl. Teams with a two-two defense — San Francisco is No. 2 — are 15-5 in the Super Bowl. They are well coached and won’t get lured into any Chiefs trap attempting to entice pressure. They will look to contain Mahomes and ensure his receivers have no room to move. The moment won’t be too big for defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, who has been outstanding in situational football. This one figures to go down to the wire, but look for the 49ers to get the job done and hoist their sixth Lombardi Trophy.

49ers 28
Chiefs 24

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