Super Bowl LIV preview

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Hayden Davidson

The Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers meet in Miami for Super Bowl LIV Feb. 2. Art by Hayden Davidson.

Anything can happen in sports, especially in high-stakes, heat-of-the-moment games. In the Super Bowl’s recent history, we’ve seen a two-point conversion play that earned its own nickname (the “Philly Special”), a comeback from 28-3 at halftime and a puzzling pass play call at the goal line with time about to expire.

But the best indicator of the future is the past. Looking at some of the stats of both teams’ offenses and defenses, each team’s track record from the regular season reveals who has the advantage in matchups. 

The 49ers rush offense earned the most touchdowns and second-most yards among all 32 NFL teams in 2019. The Chiefs defense allowed the seventh-most rushing yards (the six teams that allowed more were nowhere near making the playoffs). Kansas City passed for the fifth-most yards and fifth-most touchdowns in the regular season, but San Francisco’s defense counters that with the fewest passing yards allowed in the league. 

Who do you think will win Super Bowl LIV?

  • Kansas City Chiefs (75%, 3 Votes)
  • San Francisco 49ers (25%, 1 Votes)

Total Voters: 4

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How the Chiefs can win

Let 2018 NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes run the show, but design offensive schemes specifically for Travis Kelce. The All-Pro tight end was fairly ineffective in the conference championship, but his contribution of 10 receptions, 130 yards and three touchdowns in the Chiefs’ 51-point onslaught of the Texans in their first game of the playoffs proved to be the X-factor in the offense’s success. Meanwhile, on the defensive side, Kansas City needs to contain the 49ers running back duo as much as possible and force 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to throw. 

How the 49ers can win

Garoppolo has only had 208 passing yards on 27 pass attempts through two postseason games. The 49ers haven’t used the passing game much simply because they haven’t needed to. Their game plan of running the ball through a strong offensive line has worked to perfection so far, with Tevin Coleman’s 105 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns against the Vikings and Raheem Mostert’s 220-yard performance with four touchdowns against the Packers. On defense, the Niners need to make Patrick Mahomes uncomfortable (if that’s even possible) with a strong course of blitzes and pressure the Chiefs to resort to their subpar run game more than they hope. 

Last year’s Super Bowl was an absolute letdown, and that may still be an understatement. A 13-3 New England Patriots victory over the Los Angeles Rams satisfied nobody (even Patriots fans had to have expected to score more). This year, the story is different. The NFC competitor in the Super Bowl has been a different team for six years in a row now, and this is the first year since 2013 that the AFC representative is not the Patriots or Denver Broncos. 

This is what people want. The Chiefs’ flashy, young offense is on display, with Patrick Mahomes getting the chance to show what he can do on the game’s biggest stage in his second season. But the 49ers have shown their 8-0 start to the season wasn’t just too good to be true. 

The verdict: 49ers 31, Chiefs 26

The 49ers will strike gold in the rushing game, poking holes through the Chiefs’ porous run defense. But the Chiefs’ strong passing game can be thrown off course by the 49ers’ similarly rated pass defense. The Chiefs dominated one of the NFL’s worst divisions, while the 49ers thrived in the most competitive division in the league.

The 49ers enjoyed a 27-0 lead at halftime over the Packers last round, but the Chiefs came back from a 24-0 deficit against the Texans in their first game of the playoffs. Likewise, Super Bowl games are often erratic (with the exception of last year), so anything could happen. But keep in mind, matchups almost always decide football games, and plainly looking at the numbers, the 49ers hold the edge.