It’s finally here! For two long weeks, we’ve been waiting for Sunday, February 2nd; at 6:40 PM ET, the 49ers and Chiefs will face off in Miami in what should be an amazing Super Bowl. In my opinion, this is the most evenly-matched Super Bowl since Super Bowl XLIX, in which the Patriots defeated the Seahawks 28-24 on the infamous Malcolm Butler interception at the goal-line. Therefore, the spread has Kansas City as a mere 1-to-1.5-point favorite, and even then, there has been zero general conclusion on who will win this game. After deep analysis into every micro-detail, I’ve made my pick- I’m taking the Chiefs to win a high-scoring affair, 38-35.
The case for the 49ers is a very strong case. With arguably the game’s best defense and a top-five offense, they’re easily the most well-rounded team in the NFL. Plus, they have several advantages facing a weak Chiefs defense with linebackers that can be easily exploited, so head coach Kyle Shanahan will attack them with a lot of two-running back sets. They’re also just more talented than Kansas City, and with a two-week break and more rest that comes with longer commercial timeouts during the Super Bowl, they should have a much fresher defense than usual. They’ve also displayed the capacity to win in a variety of ways, whether it be a 48-46 shootout in New Orleans, blowout wins against the Packers, or in a defensive slugfest. They certainly have a great chance to win this game, and if they were able to control the outcome from the get-go, I wouldn’t be surprised.
So, why am I taking the Chiefs? You may think it’s simply about Patrick Mahomes, and you’d be right to a degree. This is a quarterback whom Pro Football Focus stated was in the midst of the greatest postseason run in NFL history, and when you look specifically at games in which he’s been healthy, the results are magnificent. There appears to be a persisting argument that “defense wins championships” or that in previous Super Bowls, explosive offenses have been contained. However, it’s 2020 and we’re in the most favorable era for offenses of all time, and when it comes to Kansas City’s offense versus San Francisco’s defense, the former holds all the advantages.
The 49ers run a lot of cover-three and cover-four zones, as they are committed to not allowing the big play. However, the Chiefs, especially Mahomes, has destroyed these types of coverages all year, as the blueprint to slowing them down has been tight man coverage. Sure, defensive coordinator Robert Salah could opt to run more man-coverage in this game, but that’s not how San Francisco is built, so it’d be foolish to do so. In that case, expect Kansas City to exploit the 49ers’ secondary; Richard Sherman and Emmanuel Mosley have been fabulous this season, but they aren’t the type of cornerbacks that can contain the speed of the Chiefs offense. Even if they can, there’s also tight end Travis Kelce, and if we’ve learned anything from watching San Francisco take on the likes of Jared Cook and even Jacob Hollister, this is an area in which they can be exploited.
The Chiefs offense is a bad fit for the 49ers defense beyond the personnel- their scheme should exploit San Francisco’s flaws. San Francisco’s linebackers are very aggressive, which is generally a positive, but makes them vulnerable to play-action and pre-snap motion. Well, what does Kansas City utilize often? You guessed it! They integrate play-action and pre-snap motion into their offense tremendously, which teams haven’t done enough of against the 49ers. Need more convincing? Mahomes is up there with Drew Brees for the quickest release in the NFL, and who did San Francisco’s pass rush, and defense as a whole, struggled to contain. Brees scored 46 points with ease, and the Chiefs are simply a better offense than the 49ers. In fact, considering that the back-end of the 49ers defense may be their one vulnerability, it’s a surprise that teams don’t use 11-personnel more against them. Well, one team did, and that’s the Cardinals, who scored a combined 51 points in two matchups against the 49ers, and that’s with Christian Kirk, Maxx Williams, and Larry Fitzgerald serving as Kyler Murray’s top playmakers. The 49ers defense is great, but they haven’t played an offense like the Chiefs. Should Jimmy Garoppolo have one misstep, whether it be taking a sack, fumbling the ball, or throwing an interception, then San Francisco could be in major trouble for this game.
The 49ers may be the better overall team, but this is an offensive league, and there is no doubt in mind the Chiefs have the most unstoppable offense in the NFL. Kansas City has so many advantages versus San Francisco’s defense, and as we saw when the 49ers played the Saints, even their defense can be torn to shreds against high-octane offenses. My main concern with this pick is Shanahan dialing up a perfect gameplan to exploit the Chiefs’ lackluster defense, but even then, Mahomes is so talented, that it feels like less has to go in their favor for them to win this game. It’ll be super close, but in the end, I expect Andy Reid to finally get the Super Bowl title he has long deserved.
*Information Obtained By Warren Sharp of Sharp Football Analysis/Stats, as well as Pro Football Focus