We are finally there.
After an 18-week regular season, a month of playoff games and a week-long media circus in Las Vegas, the NFL will present its annual Super Bowl and it will pit the Kansas City Chiefs against the San Francisco 49ers.
Like 2020, but not quite.
You don’t need me to remind you that in Patrick Mahomes’ first Super Bowl, the Chiefs won the duel against the Niners 31-20. Just like there’s no need to point out Taylor Swift’s appearance with Travis Kelce.
Stories abound with just over two days until Super Bowl LVIII and after all the noise, the game will finally be on the field. A clash without tomorrow to crown the season’s champion in the NFL.
The Chief knows the smell of victory. The 21st-century 49ers, for their part, have had their share of disappointments despite excellent seasons since Kyle Shanahan arrived at the helm of the team. He himself, in his own little box of nostalgia, has a painful memory of the Patriots’ comeback in 2017 when the Falcons blew a 28-3 lead.
The Super Bowl has the nature of having a lot of memories, while increased media attention brings to the surface the smallest details and most trivial memories of all the artisans of the finalist teams.
Everything is checked. Sprinkle this circus with a little dose of Las Vegas and you’ll have a classic before even kick-off.
So, the big question: Who will win Super Bowl LVIII?
Before I offer you my humble prediction, let’s talk a little about the upcoming match.
Who will have the last word in the attack?
Since 2018, when Patrick Mahomes became the starter in Kansas City, the Chiefs’ offense has been the measuring tape for the rest of the NFL.
With two seasons of over 5,000 yards passing, in addition to two Super Bowl rings, the Chiefs quarterback has become the new face of the NFL and his approach to the game still amazes all observers.
When the temperature rises around him, Mahomes (almost) always finds a way to lead his troops to victory.
Even knowing all this, it’s strange to talk about the 2023 season as a time of uncertainty for the Chiefs. Statistically speaking, this was Mahomes’ least productive season. In 2019, due to one less game, he had fewer touchdowns and yards, but the Chiefs still won their division and 12 games.
This year, the offense has struggled with a receiver rotation unable to connect with Mahomes. Obviously, the team got back into shape at the right time and since the start of the playoffs, Travis Kelce has once again become the target of big opportunities.
So everything is fine, right? no way.
Despite impeccable performances against the Ravens and Bills, we can’t completely dismiss the uncertainties of the regular season when talking about the Chiefs’ offense, especially since it will face a tough challenge posed by the Niners’ defensive line.
With some injuries on the offensive line, Mahomes’ creativity will be tested as pressure comes from both sides. Without saying that Kansas City’s offense is one-dimensional, it always passes through Mahomes’ hands.
If the quarterback struggles to hold his own, the matchup could get tough for the Chiefs early on.
This is where the 49ers may have an offensive advantage due to the team’s very diverse ammunition.
Yes, Christian McCaffrey is the workhorse of Kyle Shanahan and his team’s creative system, but “RUN CMC” can also break down and catch balls in addition to making good blocks for his receivers and other versatile weapons at cornerback. Disposal of Brock Purdy.
This casts Purdy as the driver of a strangely powerful locomotive behind which a train full of talent keeps pace without much hesitation. Simply put, the Niners quarterback needs to find ways to get the ball into the hands of impact players around him, and there are plenty of them. In addition to McCaffrey behind him is Swiss army knife Kyle Juszczyk, who is officially listed as a fullback while doing everything within the attack. Again, George Kittle is more discreet in terms of statistics, but his impact is undeniable as we must keep an eye on him at all times on the field. This provides man-to-man coverage for Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk and both receivers are able to explode at the right time to make a big play.
Like I said, Purdy just has to put the ball in the right spots and he does that very well. Without being purely the product of a system, let us assume that everything is arranged to highlight its properties. It’s strength in numbers and here, it’s at its peak due to the numbers, the contractual reality of the Niners, and Purdy’s ridiculously low salary based on being selected with the last pick in the draft.
The Niners’ window, as currently constituted, will never be opened wider. We can afford to attract key players to the full position because of the savings associated with Purdy’s contract. Everything is finely oriented to maximize this window of opportunity.
The Niners’ offensive arsenal was a great display of strength in numbers in the second half against the Detroit Lions in the Conference Finals. No gains can be made when big plays can come from all areas of the offense.
This incredible versatility is a perfect storm that the Chiefs will have to combine with what will, in my opinion, be a great showcase of surprising strategies for finding profitable territory.
So, are we betting on Mahomes or the entire Niners offensive unit? Asking the question this way is somewhat like answering it, even though historically betting against Mahomes isn’t the best way to protect your savings.
Two extraordinary rescues
A famous paradox raises a thought-provoking question: What happens when an irresistible force meets an unyielding obstacle?
In my opinion, this image nicely encapsulates the inevitable clash between two very good offenses and two excellent defenses.
For example, the Chiefs, under the watch of mad scientist Steve Spagnuolo, limited the Ravens to 10 points in the conference finals and the Dolphins to 7 points to start the playoffs. We’re talking about the two best offenses in the AFC in a one-on-one game.
In 2023, it was the Chiefs defense that held the rudder of the ship on the way to the Super Bowl. Mahomes and Kelce are the stars of the team, but it has been the defense that has had a roll up its sleeve throughout the campaign to make sure the wins continue no matter everything.
And during this Super Bowl LVIII, it is also the Chiefs defense that will have the mandate to dictate the tone and prevent the Niners from exploding with big plays. To do that, we’ll have to rely on the weak link in a well-oiled machine: Brock Purdy’s inexperience.
The Lions first drafted this plan by completely smothering the Niners with sustained pressure and fake attacks during the Conference Finals. Spagnuolo certainly paid attention to the whole thing and he knows the key to derailing the Niners’ offense is to unsettle Purdy.
The steadfast obstacle here is the Chiefs’ tertiary and Spagnuolo’s endless creativity in making the right plays at the right time.
On the other hand, the irresistible force is the Niners’ defensive front led by Nick Bosa and Chase Young, two extraordinary headhunters with the same mandate on Sunday: beat Mahomes from behind him as often as possible.
The Niners’ two rushers have Fred Warner patrolling the middle of the field and determining the position of all the linebackers around him. In fact, Warner’s presence is more than a luxury, it is the heart that beats a highly effective defense with the tools to shut down any attack.
Maybe even the Chiefs on Sunday.
Mahomes will be in a position to take advantage of the Niners’ secondary, as he has been able to do against every team in the NFL. It will be the linebackers’ role to take the middle of the field out of the equation.
We remind you that in the middle of the field is the permanent residence of Travis Kelce.
It’s not easy to remove from the equation the man who will undoubtedly be the hottest tight end of his generation when he hangs out his clits to hum sweet songs with his sweetheart across the four corners of the planet.
In short, we get lost.
All this is to say that the stakes on defense will be high and ultimately, it is a defensive game that will slow down the ambitions of one of the two teams.
Now it remains to be seen who will get this honour.
So who will win the match?
I’ll leave the advanced stats to you, because we could spend weeks here. Every aspect of this match can be examined to find a strong trend.
But basically, it’s relatively simple. Will the Niners be able to slow down Patrick Mahomes in the Super Bowl?
The only person to accomplish this feat was Tom Brady, who is also known as the most decorated player in history with seven championships.
This is a word that is in the headlines and in America’s sights in a big way.
Except that if any team can do it, it’s this edition of the 49ers. All elements are in place. The players tasted failure with two consecutive defeats in the association finals before returning in the final match. Kyle Shanahan would like to add a big win to his name to shed the label of a coach who doesn’t win match.
This Super Bowl will feature a fierce battle between two ambitious safeties. In my opinion, Christian McCaffrey’s legs will take the Niners to the promised land and, propelled by the wind, he will give California fans their first big win since the glory years of Steve Young.
Prediction: 49ers 27, Chiefs 21 and an MVP title for McCaffrey