With two weeks till the large day, we’re taking an early have a look at what you possibly can count on within the matchup. Stephen Holder units it up with what to know, and our NFL Nation reporters Nick Wagoner and Adam Teicher look nearer at every workforce. Seth Walder crunches the numbers to present you some key stats to know, Matt Bowen dives into the sport plan with a key matchup and Eric Moody pulls out an X issue. Aaron Schatz solutions large questions surrounding the ultimate recreation of the season, and Jason Reid explores the quarterback matchup. And at last, we’ve early gut-reaction predictions from our specialists. Let’s dive in.
Few groups have change into extra synonymous with the Tremendous Bowl than the Chiefs and 49ers. Kansas Metropolis is headed to its sixth Tremendous Bowl, together with a outstanding fourth up to now 5 seasons. If that is not a dynasty, what’s? For the 49ers, they’re making an eighth look within the Tremendous Bowl, however have an opportunity to win their first since 1994.
This matchup of Tremendous Bowl LIV after the 2019 season, gained by the Chiefs, offers an opportunity at immortality for all concerned. However, extra particularly, it provides the Chiefs the chance to proceed a run that has been hardly ever seen within the NFL. Successful back-to-back Tremendous Bowls has proved to be extremely troublesome, however the Chiefs can accomplish the feat for the primary time for the reason that 2003-04 Patriots did it almost 20 years in the past. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes turns into the youngest quarterback to begin his fourth Tremendous Bowl, whereas coach Andy Reid prepares for his fifth Tremendous Bowl, trailing solely Invoice Belichick (9) and Don Shula (6) in appearances.
For the Niners, it is an opportunity to lastly break by means of after advancing to the NFL Championship Recreation seven instances since 2011 and not using a single Tremendous Bowl title. As nice because the franchise has been, the fact is it has been 29 seasons for the reason that 49ers final gained a championship, with Steve Younger successful MVP in Tremendous Bowl XXIX. Brock Purdy is not any Steve Younger, however successful his first Tremendous Bowl could be a giant first step for the younger 49ers quarterback. — Holder
Common season: 12-5 | NFC seed: No. 1
Cause for hope: Skilled star energy. No workforce in soccer has a much bigger galaxy of stars than the Niners. That they had a league-high 9 gamers chosen to the Professional Bowl, 12 extra chosen as alternates and 7 gamers who earned first or second-team All-Professional honors. What’s extra, the Niners have loads of gamers and coaches who’ve participated in deep playoff runs, together with eight gamers who performed significant snaps in Tremendous Bowl LIV. Once they’re rolling, the Niners look each bit the a part of a juggernaut, successful their 12 regular-season video games by a median of 19 factors, second finest within the league.
Cause for concern: Latest historical past. The 49ers do not precisely have fond recollections of taking part in the Chiefs on a giant stage. The Niners misplaced to the Chiefs of their final Tremendous Bowl look 4 years in the past. And whereas the Niners have not performed the Chiefs since Oct. 23, 2022, they misplaced by three touchdowns that day and haven’t defeated Kansas Metropolis in a recreation with Mahomes at quarterback. None of that ought to forestall the Niners from turning the tables, however there’s one thing to be stated for the concept the Chiefs are merely a foul matchup for them. — Wagoner
Common season: 11-6 | AFC seed: No. 3
Cause for hope: They’ve Mahomes and he performs at his finest within the postseason. In his previous six postseason video games, Mahomes has accomplished 70% of his passes with a yards-per-attempt common of seven.0 and 11 touchdowns with out throwing an interception. And the remainder of the offense has proven indicators of life lately. They’re getting extra large performs and had a season-high eight performs of greater than 20 yards within the divisional spherical win over the Payments.
Cause for concern: Sloppy offensive play. The Chiefs through the common season led the league in dropped passes, had been second in offensive penalties and tied for seventh in turnovers. They’ve gained within the playoffs regardless of their sloppiness. Contained in the purple zone alone within the wild-card win over the Dolphins, they dropped a go, botched a shotgun snap and had a penalty that worn out a TD on three completely different drives, main them to kick area targets. Mecole Hardman Jr.’s goal-line fumble within the divisional spherical allowed the Payments to remain shut. How for much longer can the Chiefs proceed to beat good groups by taking part in this manner? — Teicher
Chiefs high Ravens in AFC title recreation to earn spot in Tremendous Bowl LVIII
Patrick Mahomes leads the Chiefs to a different AFC title, defeating the Ravens 17-10.
Stats to know
San Francisco’s plethora of playmakers is a big cause why the workforce just isn’t solely within the Tremendous Bowl, however has boasted the very best offense all season. ESPN’s receiver monitoring metrics present the domination, as every of their high targets leads their place in a minimum of one class. Brandon Aiyuk leads all receivers in catch rating (96) and total rating (98), Deebo Samuel leads all receivers in YAC rating (83), George Kittle leads all tight ends in total rating (84) and Christian McCaffrey leads all working backs in catch rating (99). Possibly a protection can take away certainly one of them, but it surely’s virtually not possible to cease all of them.
Mahomes had the worst statistical common season of his profession in 2023, rating nineteenth in QBR on passing performs. So how did the Chiefs make it to the Tremendous Bowl? Nicely, throwing is barely a part of the way in which Mahomes impacts the offense. And in 2023, taking part in with the worst receiving corps within the league when it comes to RTM’s catch rating, it is the opposite varieties of performs the place Mahomes has excelled. He has prevented sacks (second-lowest sack fee behind Josh Allen) and scrambled extremely nicely (second most scramble EPA, once more behind Allen). After all, a high-end Kansas Metropolis protection has made the entire distinction, too. — Walder
Contained in the matchup
Chiefs LB Nick Bolton vs. 49ers RB McCaffrey
The run recreation is a foundational a part of Kyle Shanahan’s offense, so I am specializing in Bolton’s skill to restrict McCaffrey in early-down conditions. Bolton is fast to key and diagnose and has the play velocity to scrape to the perimeters. That is a vital aspect in opposition to a 49ers unit that may use formations and movement to achieve quantity benefits to the play aspect. McCaffrey averaged 5.4 yards per carry this season with 44 rushes of 10 or extra yards. He makes this offense go. — Bowen
X issue: Isiah Pacheco, RB, Chiefs
Pacheco has change into the undisputed chief of the Chiefs’ backfield, and his workload displays it. Over the course of six profession postseason video games, he has averaged 18.7 touches and 90.5 complete yards. There’s a notion that the 49ers’ protection is among the many finest within the league. However of their path to the Tremendous Bowl, they’ve given up a variety of dashing yards to working backs equivalent to Aaron Jones, David Montgomery and Jahmyr Gibbs. Pacheco is the second Chiefs participant with a dashing landing in 4 consecutive playoff video games. His streak might proceed in opposition to the 49ers behind a Chiefs offensive line that has been excellent this postseason. — Moody
Answering large questions
What is the largest distinction with Steve Wilks as 49ers defensive coordinator?
The distinction for the 49ers’ protection this season has been a better wrestle with stopping the run. The 49ers ranked fifteenth in run protection DVOA through the common season after rating second and first within the earlier two seasons.
The most important concern has been stopping runs that get downfield somewhat than stopping runs proper up entrance. The 49ers’ run cease fee is similar because it was final season, 32%. However in 2022 the 49ers had been the very best protection within the NFL, stopping second-level runs (5-10 yards) and open-field runs (11 yards or extra). This season, they rank seventh and twenty first in these classes, respectively.
Final season, the one place the 49ers had an issue in opposition to the run was brief yardage. They allowed a 71% conversion fee on these runs (third down, fourth down or objective line with 1-2 yards to go). This season, they allowed a 79% conversion fee on these runs.
Did Travis Kelce take a step again from his normal Corridor of Fame play within the common season?
Sure, completely. However he hasn’t taken 20 steps again into the land of “common tight finish.” He is nonetheless among the finest within the enterprise, even when he could not match his earlier superior performances.
This season, I launched a brand new model of my receiving DYAR metric based mostly on routes somewhat than targets. It does a greater job of valuing the flexibility of receivers to get open and entice targets on a gradual foundation. Kelce led the NFL in 2022 at 642 yards above substitute. No different tight finish was above 450. This season, Kelce led the league once more, however solely with 399 DYAR. Kittle was proper behind him at 395.
ESPN’s receiver monitoring metrics inform an analogous story of a lesser, however nonetheless sturdy, 2023 season. Final season, Kelce was second behind Kittle with a 75 RTM rating. This season, Kelce dropped to seventh with a 58 RTM rating. His open rating and YAC rating dropped barely, and his catch rating dropped considerably.
We all the time needed to count on some decline from Kelce this season. The person is 34 years outdated! He simply set the report for receiving yards by a decent finish at age 34 or greater with 984. Tony Gonzalez was the one different tight finish to have a minimum of 850 yards at this age. (He did it thrice.)
Nonetheless, thus far within the 2023 playoffs, Kelce has caught 16 of 17 targets for 191 yards and three touchdowns. That is actually higher than his efficiency through the common season. — Schatz
Purdy vs. Mahomes
Chosen by the 49ers with the ultimate choose of the 2022 NFL draft, Purdy was that draft’s Mr. Irrelevant. However Purdy has been something however irrelevant to the 49ers. He has been extremely environment friendly and at instances spectacular whereas directing the offense. In solely 26 profession begins (together with playoffs), Purdy has a report of 21-5. That is a glowing .808 successful share. By making sound choices with the soccer, Purdy shortly earned the belief of Shanahan and the workforce’s many gifted playmakers on offense. With the 49ers trailing the Lions by 17 factors at halftime within the NFC Championship Recreation, Purdy stayed cool and led the 49ers’ spectacular comeback victory that places them again within the Tremendous Bowl for the second time in 5 seasons.
Already an all-time nice, Mahomes might be vying to change into solely the fifth quarterback in NFL historical past to have a minimum of three Tremendous Bowl championships, following Tom Brady (six), Joe Montana (4), Terry Bradshaw (4) and Troy Aikman (three). Mahomes, Brady, Peyton Manning and Montana are the one QBs to have a minimum of two Tremendous Bowl championships and two Related Press MVP awards. For the sixth consecutive season with Mahomes as their beginning signal-caller, the Chiefs reached the AFC Championship Recreation. The one streak longer is the New England Patriots‘ outstanding run of eight in a row from 2011 to 2018. — Reid
49ers rally previous Lions to win NFC title, guide journey to Tremendous Bowl
The 49ers overcome a 24-7 halftime deficit to defeat the Lions and arrange a showdown with the Chiefs in Tremendous Bowl LVIII.
The Chiefs are the ninth workforce up to now 20 seasons to tug off upsets within the divisional spherical and convention championship. And in accordance with ESPN Stats & Info, six of the earlier eight went on to win the Tremendous Bowl. Total, the Chiefs are 12-8 in opposition to the unfold this season, whereas the 49ers are 9-10. Since 2001, underdogs are 11-11 outright and 15-7 ATS within the Tremendous Bowl.
Intestine response predictions
Aaron Schatz, NFL analyst: Chiefs. Their protection is taking part in very nicely, whereas the 49ers’ protection has declined in current weeks. Each working backs ought to have good video games, however solely the Chiefs have Mahomes.
Dan Graziano, NFL nationwide reporter: Chiefs. Each time I do not choose them, they appear to make me really feel silly. They maintain discovering methods to win.
Dan Orlovsky, NFL analyst: Chiefs. Mahomes all the time provides them an edge, and the protection is superb.
Discipline Yates, NFL analyst: Chiefs. The Lions did a stable job of defending Jared Goff within the NFC Championship Recreation, which I count on the Chiefs to have the ability to replicate. Even when they’re unable to, Mahomes is undeterred by stress and can lead the Chiefs to their third Tremendous Bowl win in 5 years.
Jordan Reid, NFL draft analyst: Chiefs. San Francisco is seeking to avenge its loss to the Chiefs from Tremendous Bowl LIV, however I feel Kansas Metropolis will as soon as once more be an excessive amount of for the 49ers as they go on to win back-to-back titles.
Matt Miller, NFL draft analyst: Chiefs. I like a few of the situational matchups for San Francisco, however the playoffs are in regards to the workforce with the very best quarterback and head coach duo — and that is Kansas Metropolis.
Seth Walder, analytics author: 49ers. San Francisco’s playmakers might be too overwhelming for Kansas Metropolis. There is a cause the Niners had been the very best offense all yr lengthy — and they are going to be once more on Tremendous Bowl Sunday.
Seth Wickersham, NFL author: 49ers. Shanahan’s scars are lastly healed.
Stephania Bell, NFL damage analyst: 49ers. Shanahan will use the teachings discovered from giving up a lead (in addition to the arrogance gained Sunday evening that they will come again from behind) to tug out a win.