It is Friday of Super Bowl week, so we are finally here. Forty eight hours (depending on exactly when you're reading this) away from what should be a fascinating matchup, in large part because I'm confident these are truly the two best teams in football — Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs taking on Jimmy Garoppolo and the San Francisco 49ers.
While both quarterbacks are fairly young, their legacies, in many ways, begin on Sunday. One will be on their way to hope that they can be the next Tom Brady. The other will be a footnote, for now, seeking their first championship, alongside recent names like Jared Goff, Matt Ryan, and Cam Newton.
There are plenty of legacies that can be swung with a win on Sunday. Niners CB Richard Sherman would become a two time Super Bowl champion, one each with Seattle and San Francisco. Tyrann Mathieu can validate his league leading safety contract and punctuate his return to All Pro status with a title. Andy Reid can finally add a Lombardi trophy to a Hall of Fame career.
There's a lot going on here! For my money, these are the four most intriguing wrinkles of a game involving these two teams, specifically:
Contrary Super Bowl franchise pedigrees are intriguing!
While it's been 25 years since the 49ers won a Super Bowl, and since then just one Super Bowl appearance in 2013, the Niners are undoubtedly one of the franchises viewed as a dynasty fo the Super Bowl Era, alongside the Patriots, Cowboys, and Steelers, all with five or more rings. Meanwhile, this is the first time in 50 years that Chiefs have been BEEN to a Super Bowl. So we will either have one of the "old kings" regaining their throne in the Niners, or we will have a virtual Super Bowl absentee firing their first salvo in what could be a multi-year title run. Fun times!
The head coaching matchup is intriguing!
I love the fact that we have two of the best play designing/calling head coaches in the business — Andy Reid for the Chiefs, Kyle Shanahan for the 49ers — going up against, respectively, an elite Niner defense (coordinated by Robert Saleh) and a very solid Chief defense with a Super Bowl winning coordinator in Steve Spagnuolo. On top of that, these are two head coaches seeking some personal redemption from past Super Bowl game management gaffes — Reid versus New England in 2005 with some abominable clock management, and Shanahan, whose play calling directly left the door open for the Patriots to overcome a 28-3 deficit against the Falcons in 2017, when Shanahan was the Falcons' OC.
The QB acquisition method for each team is intriguing!
I hate the notion that NFL teams need to strip their teams down and tank seasons in order to get as high a draft pick as possible to take a future franchise quarterback. To that end, I'm excited that these are two teams that were creative and opportunistic in acquiring their signal callers. The Chiefs traded up from the 27th spot in the 2017 draft to the 10th spot overall to snag Mahomes, while during the 2017 season, just before the trade deadline, San Francisco stole Garoppolo from the Patriots for a second round pick. No tanking, just ingenuity and pouncing on things at the "right place, right time." This super Bowl should send the message that you don't HAVE to be picking in the top five to turn around the fortunes of your franchise.
The razor thin element of luck for each team's path is VERY intriguing!
Consider the path to the Super Bowl for each of these teams and just how much luck is involved in making the deepest of playoff runs. First, let's talk about the Chiefs. They finished the regular season 12-4 and won the AFC West, but if the Dolphins don't pull off the biggest upset in point spread history, beating the Patriots in New England in Week 17 as a 17.5 point underdog, the Chiefs would not have gotten a bye in the first round of the playoffs. Here's how that affected the Chiefs' playoff run:
KC OPPONENTS (actual): BYE, vs HOU, vs TEN
KC OPPONENTS (likely, if NE won Week 17): vs TEN, @ NE, @ BAL
So instead of three games, including two at the top two seeds, the Chiefs got a bye and then played the 4-seed and 6-seed at home. I mean, YIKES. That would be one thing concerning me, if I took the Chiefs in this game — do we really know how good they are?
Similarly, if the 49ers don't stop the Seahawks on the goal line to preserve a Week 17 win and clinch the NFC West, they would have dropped from the 1-seed to the 5-seed in the NFC. Here's how that tackle affected the Niners' playoff run:
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SF OPPONENTS (actual): BYE, vs MIN, vs GB
SF OPPONENTS (likely, if they lose to SEA in Week 17): @ PHI, @ GB, @ NOLA
So instead of three straight games on the road, all at least two time zones away, and two in cold weather, the Niners got a bye and two home games against NFC North teams. On top of this, it's reasonable to say that neither had to play the second best teams in their conference, in my opinion — Baltimore in the AFC, and New Orleans in the NFC.
PREDICTION: Niners 27, Chiefs 24
SPREAD: Chiefs -1.5
LAST WEEK: 1-1
SEASON NFL ATS RECORD: 53-57-2 (48.2 percent)