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Stephen Vilardo’s 2024 NFL Super Bowl LVIII Preview

Both teams feature dominant defenses, and both are loaded with offensive playmakers

Posted on February 11, 2024


  By Stephen Vilardo, SuperWest Sports

Playing in the final game of the NFL season is nothing new for Kansas City or San Francisco.

The 49ers are appearing in their eighth Super Bowl all-time, tied for the second most appearances in the game. The Chiefs are playing in their sixth Super Bowl all-time and fourth in the last five seasons.

With a win today, San Francisco would equal Pittsburgh and New England with a record six Super Bowl wins.

A Chiefs victory would make them the first repeat champions since the Patriots did so in 2003 and 2004. There is no shortage of Super Bowl history in this game.

Both teams feature dominant defenses, and both are loaded with playmakers. This game will certainly not be devoid of star power—both on and off the field.

San Francisco 49ers vs Kansas City Chiefs

Sunday, February 11
3:30 pm PST, CBS
Las Vegas Allegiant Stadium

The two teams ranked second and third in the NFL in scoring defense during the regular season with the Chiefs second limiting opponents to just 17.3 points per game.

The 49ers are just behind them allowing 17.5 per contest.

During the playoffs, it has been different though. The Chiefs have held their three opponents in the postseason to just 13.7 points per game while the 49ers have seen their opponents score 26 points per outing.

Keeping a 49ers offense that was third in the NFL in scoring during the regular season will not be easy.

But the three teams the Chiefs met in the playoffs all were in the top six in regular season scoring with the Dolphins, Ravens, and Bills ranking second, fourth, and sixth respectively.

The 49ers offense is loaded with weapons and this season they became the fourth in NFL history with a 4,000-yard passer and four players with at least 1,000 scrimmage yards in a season.

The Niners averaged 28.9 points per game in the regular season and have averaged 29 points in their two playoff games so far.

The Kansas City offense is also star-studded but looked a little lost throughout much of the regular season.

KC averaged 21.8 points per game, ranking 15th in the NFL. Patrick Mahomes and his young receivers never seemed to get it going as the Chiefs led the league in dropped passes.

In the postseason, they seem to have gotten things figured out a bit.

The scoring has been upped to 23.3 points per game, not a huge improvement, but they are certainly closer to looking like the Chiefs offense of the postseason than they were in the regular season.

Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes vs Baltimore | Ulysses Munoz/The Baltimore Banner
Patrick Mahomes seems to play his best football when the lights are shining the brightest. Like many of the greats—Michael Jordan, Tom Brady, Derek Jeter—when the world is watching, they are at their best.

Mahomes has won his last six postseason starts over the last two seasons with 11 TDs, 0 INTs, and a 107.6 rating in those six games combined.

Mahomes is 14-3 as a starter in the postseason in his career and with a win on Sunday could become just the third QB in history with at least 15 wins in the postseason joining Joe Montana and Tom Brady.

In the Super Bowl, he is 3-0 with 341 passing yards per game and nine total touchdowns.

In Brock Purdy, the 49ers have a QB that can also get it done and while he does not have the flash of his opposite number in this one, he is becoming just as productive.

Against the Lions in the NFC Championship, Purdy orchestrated a 17-point second-half comeback win, the largest in NFC Championship Game history.

In the win, he accounted for 315 scrimmage yards (267 passing, 48 rush) and became just the fourth QB ever with four playoff wins in his first two seasons.

The postseason has been a continuation of an outstanding season for Purdy.

He led the NFL with a 113.0 passer rating and become only the fifth player in history with at least eight games in a season with a rating of 120+.

Purdy has plenty of weapons at his disposal. This season the 49ers became the first team ever with a running back, two wide receivers, and a tight end each with 1,000+ scrimmage yards in the same season.

Those four would be Christian McCaffrey, Brandon Aiyuk, Deebo Samuel, and George Kittle.

49ers QB Brock Purdy vs the Lions | Mark J. Terrill/AP
McCaffrey may be the most dynamic player in the league. The former Stanford Cardinal has thrived since his return to the Bay Area. He thrived in Carolina as well but has taken it to the next level in Kyle Shanahan’s offense.

He led the NFL with 2,023 yards from scrimmage in 2023 and had a league-best 1,459 yards on the ground.

He has had at least 50 yards and a TD in all six of his career playoff games, and if he can replicate that in the Super Bowl, he’d become just the third player in NFL history with those numbers in his first seven postseason games.

The offensive player who might be the most important to the San Francisco offense is Deebo Samuel. This season the wideout has missed all or most of four games.

The Niners went 1-3 in those contests and the scoring average went from 32.8 per game to 18.8 in those four games.

After missing most of the Packers game with an injury, it looked like there were no lasting effects as he posted a career playoff-best eight catches for 89 yards in the win over Detroit.

For the Chiefs, the offensive performers have shown up in the postseason and have seen an emergence of another threat on the outside.

Rashee Rice came on strong at the end of the regular season and his good form has continued in the playoffs. The rookie has at least five receptions in eight of his last nine games and caught eight passes in Baltimore.

He has hauled in 20 passes in Kansas City’s three playoff games, and with six catches in the Super Bowl, he would surpass Ja’Marr Chase for most playoff catches ever by a rookie.

Rice stepping up and becoming a true option in the offense has opened things up for the other stars on that side of the ball, stars that always seem to up their game in the postseason.

Isiah Pacheco has had at least 75 scrimmage yards in all six of his career playoff games. He has found the endzone in each of his last seven games played and the last four he has played in the postseason.

San Francisco’s Fred Warner vs Detroit | Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
Any worries about the decline of Travis Kelce should be put to rest after his 11-catch, 116-yard performance against the Ravens.

He may not be the most popular person on the Chiefs’ offense, or in his own home nowadays, but he is one of the most prolific TEs in NFL history and thrives in the playoffs.

For his career Kelce has 156 postseason catches, the most ever, while his 1,810 playoff receiving yards and 19 playoff TD receptions are both the second-most ever.

Kelce may be the best receiving and route-running TE in NFL history, and this week he will be matched up against perhaps the best coverage LB in the NFL right now.

Fred Warner has been able to drop into coverage his entire career. This season the former BYU standout has been especially good in coverage with career-highs in interceptions with four and passes defended with 11.

He also led San Francisco with 132 tackles this season and picked off Mahomes in Super Bowl LIV.

The matchup between Kelce and Warner could be the biggest key to the game. Whoever gets the edge in that head-to-head could have a leg up.

Nick Bosa and Arik Armstead will provide the pass rush against a Chiefs line that will most likely still be missing Joe Thuney.

The other key will be the matchup between the lines when San Francisco has the ball.

The Chiefs were second in the NFL with 57 sacks in the regular season. The 49ers allowed 34 sacks this season which was the seventh fewest in the league.

The 49ers had an allowed pressure rate of 40.8% in the regular season, which was 27th in the league and that rate has jumped to 44.2% in the playoffs.

Chiefs Nick Bolton (32) vs the Ravens | Alex Brandon/AP
The Chiefs had an NFL-leading 8.6% sack rate this season. Despite the high-pressure rate, the Niners allowed sack rate was just 6.2%, ninth in the NFL.

A lot of that is the McCaffrey effect. The Chiefs will have to get pressure and stop the screen pass and checkdowns.

The Chiefs’ defense has been very good this season. Up front Chris Jones and George Karlaftis anchor the line. Karlaftis had a sack in the win over the Ravens and has had at least one sack in three of the last four games.

They could have big games and if they do spend a lot of time in the backfield then it could swing things in favor of Kansas City.

Dru Tranquill and Nick Bolton are tackling machines in the middle of the defense and L’Jarious Snead and Justin Reid make it difficult to pass against KC.

This game should come right down to the wire. In the end, I think the line play of the Chiefs and the defense will be the difference.

The Chiefs have held every opponent this season to 28 points or less. They are the first team in NFL history to do that over the course of 20 games in the same season.

Four teams were able to accomplish that feat 19 times in a season during the Super Bowl era and all four won the Super Bowl.

Patrick Mahomes coupled with an elite defense and an offensive unit that is improving lead me to think this one goes the way of Kansas City.

My Pick: Kansas City 23, San Francisco 20

[Advice: The 49ers are favored by two, I think the Chiefs cover that and win the game outright. The total is 47.5, this is a tough call, but with a Chiefs win I see that staying under.]




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