The Chiefs and the 49ers square off this Sunday in Super Bowl 54 and though the Patriots are not involved in the big game for the first time since January 2016, it should be an excellent matchup of the two most balanced teams in the NFL.
After a tough stretch that saw Patrick Mahomes miss multiple games with a knee injury, the Chiefs found their stride and regained their explosive offensive touch. Even double-digit point holes early in games haven't been able to hold down the Chiefs offense that can hit unstoppable mode and put huge points on the scoreboard in a hurry.
The 49ers might not have quite the explosive passing attack of the Chiefs, but their defense and running game might make them the better overall team. The 49ers barely needed to throw a pass to knock off the Packers in the NFC Championship, running all over Green Bay to get back to their first Super Bowl since the 2012 season. The 49ers have all the elements you'd want from a football team and should give the Chiefs their biggest challenge of the playoffs.
This week's Samsonite Make Your Case question is...
Who will win Super Bowl 54?
Mike Dussault says...
While I think the 49ers might be the better overall team, there's just no way I can pick against the Chiefs offense, even against San Francisco's very good defense. Schematically there's a lot to unpack, as the 49ers prefer zone defense that the Chiefs have prospered against. So the pressure is on San Francisco to come up with an answer, and that answer must be pass rush pressure with just four players. If Nick Bosa and company are consistently getting to and, more importantly, finishing off Patrick Mahomes this one will be close. If not, it could get ugly.
Jimmy Garoppolo's passing skills are flying under the radar and while San Fran's offense has more balance than any of Kansas City's previous playoff opponents, he might need the passing game of his life if the Chiefs get a lead. There are routes to a San Francisco win, but nearly all involve an unusual off day for the Chiefs offense.
How the game unfolds will be critical. The Titans got as good of a start as they could've hoped for in the AFC Championship, but they could not maintain it and the Chiefs quickly erased a 10-point deficit late in the first half and never looked back. San Fran needs that kind of start and an even better second half.
I expect the Chiefs to come out firing on all cylinders, take the 49ers out of their comfort zone of running the ball, then put the hammer down late to seal it and win their second Super Bowl in franchise history.
Paul Perillo says...
This is shaping up to be a terrific Super Bowl with both teams offering plenty of reasons for optimism. While I expect a pretty even game, I feel the Niners will wind up on top for a couple of reasons.
First, San Francisco has the better defense. For most of the season the Niners have been outstanding on that side of the ball, especially when the front four has been healthy. I feel the ability of that front four to provide heat on Patrick Mahomes will be the key to the game, and based on the postseason I expect that to happen.
Nick Bosa, Dee Ford on the outside of Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner compile one of the most dangerous pass rushes in football. When this group has been healthy they've tortured opposing quarterbacks. Couple that with Kansas City's spotty protection and Mahomes may need to do more improvising than he's comfortable with on Sunday.
My final reason for backing the Niners is their vastly underrated offense. Jimmy Garoppolo has done little more than hand the ball off this postseason and that has led some to view him as incapable. Garoppolo can throw when he needs to and he's been at his best on third downs and in the fourth quarter of close games. San Francisco can flat out, averaging 30 points per game. So even if Mahomes makes plays, the Niners can keep up.
Balance – both on offense and defense and with the running game – will lead to San Francisco's sixth Super Bowl title.