It’s finally here, folks; Super Bowl LIV is upon us. Before the day is over, one team will be crowned champion and will be on top of the world. This Super Bowl in particular seems like one of the more competitive matchups we’ve had in recent years. Both the 49ers and Chiefs have been absolute powerhouses this season, even with Mahomes missing a few games for the first time in his career this year. While these teams appear quite evenly matched on paper, their styles could not be more different.
Play-calling savant Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers have gone with a ground and pound approach throughout the season, with dazzling results as Jimmy Garoppolo hasn’t been asked to do much this year aside from not making too many mistakes. Mahomes and the Chiefs on the other hand have opted for a potent, high-flying aerial attack led by speed-demon Tyreek Hill and matchup nightmare Travis Kelce, among others. In this Super Bowl, we have another instance of opposites colliding; who will come out on top?
Matchup: KC vs. SF, 6:30pm ET, FOX
(Odds as of Sunday morning at 11:30am ET. Lines subject to change.)
Spread: KC (-1.5)
It’s not super surprising that these are the last two teams standing, as these teams have also been two of the healthiest teams throughout the whole year. Aside from Mahomes’s injury scare back in the middle of the year, these teams look healthy and ready to go.
I don’t see a whole lot of value on the spread as it stands right now. If you were one of the lucky ones to get San Francisco at +3 when the lines first opened, kudos to you as that’s the only place I really see value here.
The total is what I’ll be paying more attention to as we get closer to kickoff. It currently sits at 53.5, and there’s a chance we could see some gusty conditions at Hard Rock Stadium down in Miami.
While Mahomes and the Chiefs offense has been able to score seemingly at will the entire year, they have not yet gone up against a defense with as much talent as the 49ers. Their defense is perhaps the best at bringing pressure without actually blitzing and sending extra defenders, thanks to their star-studded defensive line headlined by rookie phenom Nick Bosa. I think the 49ers defense along with the SF rushing attack will be able to slow down this game a little bit, and limit the amount of possessions that Patrick Mahomes will get. There’s not a defense on the face of the earth that can completely shut down the Chiefs passing attack, but San Francisco should be able to at least limit it enough to keep themselves in this game.
All of that is why I’ll be leaning towards the under in this game. While I do think both offenses will be able to move the ball, there will simply be a lesser amount of overall possessions for both teams because of how the matchups on both sides of the ball set up.
The one way that the 49ers can ensure they stick to that game plan is by manufacturing long, slow, clock-killing drives on offense, something they have had no trouble doing at any point this year. This matchup sets up perfectly for them to do so, as the Chiefs weak spot on defense is their rushing defense despite them limiting Derrick Henry to under 100 scrimmage yards two weeks ago.
That obviously begs the question, can the Chiefs defense rise up to the occasion again and stop perhaps the strongest running game in the league? To their credit, they seemed over-matched on paper against Tennessee’s bruising running game, and they were able to take care of business.
I think the answer to that question lies somewhere in the middle. The 49ers rushing attack is a bit different from Tennessee’s in the sense that they have much more advanced schemes than the Titans do, and they don’t just have to rely on pure talent and athleticism at the running back position.
With Tennessee, all they really had to do was hand it off to Derrick Henry and let that locomotive disguised as a running back do his thing.
San Francisco’s rushing attack is a bit more sophisticated than Tennessee’s, and they will no doubt throw some new wrinkles into it to give KC some new, unfamiliar looks. SF relies a lot on scheming runs to the outside, and their athletic O-line allows them do so with wild success as we saw them absolutely dismantle the Packers defense while Jimmy Garoppolo threw less than 10 passes the entire game. The 49ers entire offense is predicated on their ability to run the ball successfully to set up play-action, so it is absolutely crucial that San Francisco establishes their ground game early if they want any shot of winning this game. I think they will be able to do this, and in turn be able to keep the game close for the entire 60 minutes.
The one thing that has me worried about the 49ers is the fact that mobile quarterbacks have given their defense a lot of problems throughout the year.
As I outlined in one of my previous articles, the 49ers had a lot of close games against teams with rushing quarterbacks, and they could have easily lost a few more of them. Look at their week 9 matchup against Arizona as a perfect example. The Cardinals were severely undermanned in that game, and because of Kyler Murray’s speed and mobility out of the pocket, they almost pulled off the upset of the year, falling just 3 points short of doing so.
San Francisco’s closest games of the year all came against teams with mobile quarterbacks (Kyler Murray, Russell Wilson (twice), Lamar Jackson).
Patrick Mahomes has proven that he’s a very capable scrambling quarterback, as evidenced by one of the plays of the year he made against the Titans, scrambling for 27 yards and a score to give the Chiefs a lead they would never relinquish.
There is also an X-factor that could turn this game absolutely sideways if it does indeed come to fruition. That is Mecole Hardman and the Kansas City special teams unit.
Hardman has proven he has close to the same game-changing speed that Tyreek Hill has, and I would not be at all surprised if we see him take one all the way to the house on a kickoff return. He’s averaged nearly 30 yards per return, which is unheard of in today’s NFL, especially as a rookie. Hardman earned a Pro Bowl nod this year just as a returner, and if I was the 49ers kicker, I would not want to kick it anywhere near Hardman. Simply put, no one on the field tonight is as fast as Hardman or Hill, and that could be one of the deciding factors in this game.
I think the real betting value in this game comes from the litany of prop bets that the Super Bowl has to offer.
Prop bets have historically been easier to predict and usually have less of a standard deviation than regular line bets do, because it is easier to predict what one player will do as opposed to an entire team, where there are much more variables to account for. This is why prop bets have lower limits than straight line bets do, and the Super Bowl is a perfect opportunity to take advantage of an enhanced selection of prop bets and players to choose from. Let’s dig in.
First prop bet angle to take: Patrick Mahomes under 30.5 rushing yards (-105 odds)
Oh, good ole’ recency bias, you never let us down. After the entire world saw Mahomes’s dazzling scramble for a touchdown to give them the lead against the Titans, the betting market has overreacted in a big way with this prop bet. Tennessee had a bend-don’t-break defense that allowed a lot of yards to be gained, but tightened up once they got their backs into the redzone. The 49ers defense is not at all like this.
Mahomes will have a much harder time breaking off long runs against this elite defense, and while I do think he’ll have success through the air, I don’t want to bank on him having a similar performance on the ground like his game against Tennessee.
Second prop angle to take: Tevin Coleman under 27.5 rushing yards (-118 odds)
It was a question all this week as to whether Coleman would even be able to play in this game, as a shoulder injury hampered him all week despite being removed from the injury report on Friday. However, I think he plays a reduced role in this game, and I don’t think he’s currently 100% healthy.
The undrafted, unsung hero of the playoffs for SF so far has been Raheem Mostert, and he looks to get the bulk of the carries in this game. Mostert has been the ‘hot hand’ in the 49ers run game throughout the entire playoffs, and Kyle Shanahan has no reason to deviate from that game plan. With KC being vulnerable against the run, expect another solid game from the one they call “Colonel Mustard.”
Third prop angle to take: Damien Williams over 3.5 receptions (-135 odds) OR Damien Williams over 29.5 receiving yards (-120 odds)
While Williams usage was a bit volatile throughout the regular season, he’s been ‘the guy’ in the playoffs so far. My thought process here also stems from how good the 49ers defense is at generating pressure.
When Bosa and Co. start to get after Mahomes, it will lead to a lot of quicker, shorter dump-off passes, of which Williams (and Kelce, to a lesser extent) will be the main beneficiary. I think we see a lot of these shorter throws and screen passes from Mahomes, and this will lead to Williams having a slightly inflated receiving line.
I’m also not worried about any other backs in the KC backfield, as Damien Williams has received the majority of the work in the playoffs, and has been successful enough that Andy Reid has no reason to take him out. This is especially true when you consider Andy Reid’s career-long preference of using a one-back system.
Summary of all bets I’ve made on this Super Bowl:
KC Moneyline (-120)
Patrick Mahomes under 30.5 rushing yards (-105 odds)
Tevin Coleman under 27.5 rushing yards (-118 odds)
Damien Williams over 3.5 receptions (-135 odds) OR Damien Williams over 29.5 receiving yards (-120 odds)
Picture Source: Clickondetroit.com
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