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All times Eastern

Wild Card: Rick: 2-2; Coin: 4-0
Divisional: Rick: 3-1; Coin: 0-4
Conference: Rick: 1-1; Coin: 0-2
Playoffs Totals: Rick: 6-4; Coin: 4-6
Cumulative: Rick: 128-131-7; Coin: 120-139-7

Super Bowl LIV (54)
6:30 pm Kansas City Chiefs (-1 1/2, 54 1/2) vs. San Francisco 49ers - On the surface this looks like a game which could go either way. In truth, almost every game in the NFL could be more or less a coin flip, but this one matches the two best teams in the league. There's hardly any argument on that point.

The fact that the two share almost identical rankings in the large scheme makes for some daunting handicapping when it all comes down to the only thing that matters: as Jim Rome might say, "Scoreboard." The team that will have scored the most points at the end of the game is what we're all seeking.

While the game looks tight on paper, there are any number of reasons why the Chiefs could have been favored by more than the mere 1 1/2 points which has held up for mare than two weeks since the line opened after San Francisco knocked off Green Bay, 37-20, completing the match-up of the NFC champs with their AFC rivals, the Chiefs.

Kansas City has a number of slight advantages which ends up having to lean toward a Kansas City victory. Here are some highlights (all stats are from the regular season):

Offense: Kansas City: (28.2 points per game); San Francisco: (29.9)
Defense: Kansas City: (19.3 points per game); San Francisco: (19.4)

Now, one would assume that the 49ers to be given a slight advantage, being they scored an average of 1.7 more points per game and only allowed 0.1 more points than the Chiefs. Fine, OK, so much for raw numbers. Let's consider match-ups, as in man-on-man, face-to-face, in hand-to-hand combat.

San Francisco's offensive line versus KC's defensive line. That looks to be a very, very slight edge to the Chiefs. The 49ers block well, especially on running plays. When SF QB Jimmy Garoppolo is passing, the Chiefs will get some penetration and pressure, possibly throwing off Garoppolo's timing and maybe coming up with a few sacks.

On the opposite side, San Francisco's defensive line has an edge over Kansas City's O-line, as they have against just about every other offensive line in the league. Nick Bosa will be the focus and how Kansas City handles him will determine the success or failure of the 49er defense. Also, a good deal of consideration has to be awarded Kansas City QB Patrick Mahome's shambling ability. That factor could erase any edge the 'Niners have in their pass rush.

San Fran's run game matches up well with Kansas City's. While the Chiefs don't run nearly as often as the 49ers, they are quite capable, especially when you throw in Mahome's scrambling. The 49ers will want to control the clock and field position by running the football. They're likely to have some success doing so, but they will be forced to pass at some point. How well they mix up their plays will be an important consideration.

The biggest advantage is in the passing game. Kansas City's secondary should be heads up agains the 49er receivers, but, when the Chiefs have the ball, it may be no contest. Kansas City's receivers, especially with the recent emergence of Sammy Watkins, may cause considerable havoc in the SF secondary.

Both teams have capable special teams, with game-breaking potential in their punt units, either blocking kicks or returning for sizable gains and advantageous field positioning.

Among the largest edges for the Chiefs are experience and coaching. While neither team can make claim to having been to the Super Bowl recently, the Chiefs have been building towards it for at least three years, since Mahomes was drafted in 2017 and first set foot on an NFL field. He played in just one 2017 game, but he was being prepared, watching, practicing, and by 2018 he was ready. The Chiefs also have plenty of playoff experience as they've been to the playoffs every year since hiring Andy Reid in 2013 except for 2014, when they finished second in the AFC West at 9-7, but didn't get a wild card spot.

The 49ers have also been building for three years, ever since they named Kyle Shanahan head coach in February 2017. Three seasons and the coach has his team at the pinnacle of success. 2017 was also the season the 49ers picked up Jimmy Garoppolo from New England and made him the starter. Garoppolo was limited to just six games that season and only three in 2018, due to injury. This year, he's played all 16 games.

As for the coaches, it's new school versus old school, as the novice, Mike Shanahan, faces off with old master, Andy Reid. Now, Reid's been an NFL head coach for 21 years. He coached the Philadelphia Eagles from 1999-2012 and came to Kansas City in 2013. His post-season coaching record is not very good, however, with 14 wins and 14 losses. With Kansas City, he's 4-5, 2-0 this season. And this is his second Super Bowl appearance. He lost to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl 39. Reid gets the slightest of nods over Shanahan just on experience. As far as live game-time decision-making is concerned, it may be a toss-up. Shanahan may turn out to be a better head coach, long term.

Since the game may come down to a field goal,

San Francisco's Robbie Gould was just 23-for-31 on field goal attempts this season, and he was 0-4 this season on kicks 50 yards or longer.

Kansas City's Harrison Butker was 34-for-38 on field goals this season, 13-13 from 40-49 years and 3-6 at 50 yards or over. His longest was 56 yards. KC also has an edge in the punting department. Dustin Colquitt has deep DNA and a 15-year resume in the NFL.

Adding it all up, there's a very slight lean to the Chiefs. Kicking, coaching, overall experience, and, perhaps most important of all, their receiving corps is exceptional as is QB Mahomes. San Francisco gets a nod in the running game and defensive front, but not much of an advantage in either department.

It's entirely possible that the 49ers could win this game. No doubt about that. However, there seems to be more ways for the Chiefs to come out on top. Jimmy Garoppolo is a fine quarterback with superstar potential. Mahomes is already there.

Coin Flip: Kansas City

Prediction: Chiefs 38 49ers 34

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