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Title photo by Icon Sportswire / Getty Images  |  All odds courtesy of BetRivers.com 


I really don’t think you could ask for a more polarizing Super Bowl matchup to cap off the NFL’s 100th season. That is, out of the teams who deserve to be there. (Sorry New England, America is just not that into you anymore). The new-age flair of Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs’ offense versus the tenacious defense of the 49ers. Now that’s a headline. And then there’s the story of Andy Reid going for that elusive Lombardi trophy, the missing piece to an otherwise legendary coaching career.

 

This game will be decided in a handful of key areas; I’ll break down the four most important and how they can impact the outcome of Super Bowl LIV. I’ll also shed some light on the spread, still stuck on -1.5 in favor of the Chiefs, and which side you’ll want to be on come Sunday.

Time of possession

Think about what the Titans were able to do in the first 25 minutes against Kansas City in the AFC Championship game.

Kansas City time of possession: 8:15                   Tennessee time of possession: 16:45

Those lopsided ball control numbers translated to a 17-7 lead for the Titans with five minutes to go in the second quarter. Then Mr. Spagnuolo caught on. It is crucial for San Francisco to survive the first wave of adjustments made by the Chiefs’ d-coordinator on Sunday. Odds are, Jimmy Garoppolo will need to throw the ball more than eight times. The trick is keeping Kansas City honest with the constant threat of play action. The 49ers may want to take a page or two from the Colts’ Week 5 performance in the “City of Fountains”. Talk about a super lame nickname.

Pass rush with the front 4

This one is easy. It’s not enough to try and disrupt Mahomes with the blitz. He is one of the most dangerous quarterbacks in the league when flushed out of the pocket. Instead, San Francisco’s defensive game plan should revolve around keeping #15 contained between the tackles. Let the organic four-man pass rush get there when it can and consistently drop seven into coverage. This isn’t out of character for the Niners, either, which is why I think a scheme of this nature will succeed. They have the option of bracketing Kelce or sending an extra safety over to Tyreek Hill’s side of the field without being at a numbers disadvantage.

Staying on schedule

Critical for both teams, but the 49ers really need to be in third-and-manageable throughout the game. Of the 15 quarterbacks with at least ten interceptions during the regular season, Garoppolo has the sixth-worst interception percentage (13 picks in 476 attempts; 2.73{e5a2c78333cd2b046c434d71e2429f0c16f5e72c19badef2b307d6f8033092f8}). The five QBs with a worse number than Jimmy G? Jameis Winston (4.79{e5a2c78333cd2b046c434d71e2429f0c16f5e72c19badef2b307d6f8033092f8}), Baker Mayfield (3.93{e5a2c78333cd2b046c434d71e2429f0c16f5e72c19badef2b307d6f8033092f8}), Philip Rivers (3.38{e5a2c78333cd2b046c434d71e2429f0c16f5e72c19badef2b307d6f8033092f8}), Kyle Allen (3.27{e5a2c78333cd2b046c434d71e2429f0c16f5e72c19badef2b307d6f8033092f8}), and Sam Darnold (2.95{e5a2c78333cd2b046c434d71e2429f0c16f5e72c19badef2b307d6f8033092f8}). Tough crowd to be a part of. The chuck-it-and-pray mentality of the signal callers in this group doesn’t fit Garoppolo’s style, but his high turnover rate will be a concern when San Fran is forced to make a play through the air on third-and-long. One guy that’s not “seeing ghosts”? Patrick Mahomes. He’s given it to the other team just five times in 484 pass attempts.

Chiefs’ run defense

The zone running principles of Kyle Shanahan’s offense are hard to combat. Especially when your team ranks in the bottom third of the NFL in rush yards allowed per game (128.2), yards per carry allowed (4.8), and stuff rate (used to calculate the percentage of runs stopped at or behind the line of scrimmage; KC has a 14{e5a2c78333cd2b046c434d71e2429f0c16f5e72c19badef2b307d6f8033092f8} stuff rate). Kansas City will probably have no choice but to put eight in the box and force Garoppolo to throw more than 20 times. If it becomes a matter of making 20 impactful throws to win a title, I like the 49ers’ chances.

The Pick

Again, the spread has sat on -1.5 for more than a week now, and I just don’t see value in the favorite here. Besides, Super Bowl underdogs have been on a roll covering the spread in the last 20 years. Kansas City has a ton of weapons, but the Niners can do so much defensively to counter explosive plays. This game will come down to the wire, but I’m siding with San Francisco’s ability to control the clock and keep Mahomes on the sidelines just long enough.

Pick: San Francisco 49ers +1.5

 

“Have a good time. Life is too short to get bogged down and be discouraged.” — Kobe Bryant