Super Bowl LVIII is finally here, and for the second time in five seasons, the San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs will be locked in the NFL championship game. The two teams last faced each other for the Lombardi Trophy four years ago and will meet again in Las Vegas. Both have consistently made deep playoff runs over the last five years, with San Francisco going to four conference championships and the Chiefs to five in that span.
The biggest difference between the 49ers and Chiefs is their number of recent Super Bowl titles. The Chiefs are the NFL’s current dynasty, having won two Super Bowl titles in the last four seasons (they’re looking to become the first team since the 2003-04 New England Patriots to repeat. The 49ers have gone to the Super Bowl in that span). Bowl and blew a 10-point fourth-quarter lead to the Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV, costing them their first championship since the 1994 season.
Chiefs head coach Andy Reid is looking for his third Super Bowl win, while 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan is still looking for his first. The biggest difference in this game is Brock Purdy, who will be under center for the 49ers in place of Jimmy Garoppolo, even though both rosters have undergone significant changes over the years.
Either way, the 49ers and Chiefs are back in the Super Bowl, four years after “Wasp” became one of the most memorable plays in NFL history. The 49ers are still trying to avenge that loss, while Patrick Mahomes is trying to add to his Hall of Fame legacy.
Who will win Super Bowl LVIII? Here’s a quick overview of what you need to know ahead of the match, plus a prediction.
How to watch Super Bowl LVIII
Date: Sunday February 11 | Time: 6:30 PM ET
TV: CBS, Nickelodeon | Current: CBS airs on Paramount+
Opening Odds: 49ers -1.5, O/U 47.5
The Chief’s defense steps up against elite offenses
The Chiefs defense has been elite all season, a complete turnaround from the other Super Bowl teams in Kansas City. Although these teams were carried with Mahomes and the offense, the Chiefs actually produced top-10 defenses in points allowed per game in three of the previous four seasons.
This unit has stepped up and ranks second in points allowed per game and yards allowed per game. The Chiefs haven’t had a second or better defensive finish in yards allowed per game since 1995, and their 17.3 points allowed per game is the lowest for Kansas City since the 1997 season (14.5). The defense is the lowest among all Andy Reid-coached teams since the 2004 Philadelphia Eagles (16.3) and among all teams with Steve Spagnuolo as head coach or defensive coordinator.
The Chiefs allowed fewer than 28 points in every game this season, the first team in NFL history to do so in 20 games per season. The four teams in the Super Bowl era that allowed 28 or fewer points in a season 19 times each won the Super Bowl (2000 Baltimore Ravens, 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers, 2010 Green Bay Packers).
Even more impressive about the unit is their ability to stop top offenses. The Chiefs have held two of the top four regular-season scoring offenses to 10 points or fewer this postseason: the Miami Dolphins (29.2) and Baltimore Ravens (28.4). This unit has been tested all year long as the offense has been figuring things out and rising to the challenge.
X Factors: Isaiah Pacheco and Rashee Rice
Mahomes and Reid are the main reasons why the Chiefs offense got back on track, but the unit’s resurgence cannot be predicted without Pacheco and Rice. Pacheco has 451 rushing yards in the last two postseasons for the Chiefs (six games), the sixth-most for any player in NFL history after two seasons in the NFL. Pacheco averaged just 2.8 yards per carry in the AFC championship game win, but also didn’t fumble the ball and scored a rushing touchdown.
Pacheco isn’t the main third down back for the Chiefs (nor does he get many opportunities to run because of Mahomes and his passing ability), but is averaging 7.1 yards per carry on third down in his 15 carries this year (two touchdowns) . He recorded a first down on 66.7% of those carries.
Rice has 223 receiving yards this postseason as Kansas City’s leading wide receiver, the fourth-most for a rookie in league history. He hasn’t dropped a pass since Week 12, with 55 catches for 634 yards and three touchdowns in that span (11.3 yards per catch). Rice has emerged as the No. 1 wide receiver for the Chiefs, freeing up Travis Kelce between the numbers.
The Chiefs are going to Pacheco and Rice for a reason. They trust them to make plays.
I usually make a Super Bowl prediction based on which team has the advantage in the battle in the trenches. The Chiefs offensive line has allowed just 30 sacks in the twenty games they have played this season, a sack rate of 3.9% (both rank second in the NFL). That sack percentage has dropped to 1.9% in the postseason, and Kansas City didn’t have Joe Thuney in Sunday’s win over the Ravens.
The 49ers have a pressure rate of just 30.8% in the playoffs (13th out of 14 teams) with a sack rate of just 2.6%. The matchup there favors the Chiefs offensive line.
The 49ers offensive line has allowed a sack rate of 4.1% (fifth among playoff teams) and a pressure rate of 44.2% allowed (13th among 14 playoff teams). In the regular season and playoffs combined, the 49ers allowed a 40.8% pressure rate (27th in NFL), but only a 6.2% sack rate (ninth in NFL). The Chiefs led the NFL with an 8.6% sack rate and were 11th in pressure rate at 37.6%. In the play-offs that pressure is only 30.4%.
The Chiefs have the battle in the trenches in their favor. They also have Reid and Mahomes, the best head coach-quarterback duo in the NFL. Also difficult to bet against.
The 49ers have the better roster, but the Chiefs have the championship pedigree and an edge in the trenches. Kansas City is ready for its third title in five years. Not a gambler, but the spread is -1.5, so they cover too. Choice: Chiefs 30, 49ers 24
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