Super Bowl LIV Preview

Super Bowl Sunday is only a few days away. Some of you will be preparing for parties, getting lots of good snacks, cold beers, talking trash about both teams and also not really caring who wins, unless you’re a Chiefs or 49ers fan.

I love this time of year. The beers will be flowing and a ton of food will be eaten. I, unlike some of you, am a trooper and go to work on hangover Monday.

But let’s get into this preview as the San Francisco 49ers (15-3) take on the Kansas City Chiefs (14-4) in Super Bowl 54!

Quarterbacks

Patrick Mahomes has been on a tear this postseason completing 65.7% of his passes for 615 yards along with 106 rushing yards and nine total touchdowns (to go along with no turnovers). He is on a hot streak here despite the team starting both postseason games with a deficit. He has been picking apart defenses left, right and everything in between.

For Mahomes, he gets the ultimate challenge of taking on a 49ers’ defense that has been total hell for quarterbacks all season, which has continued into the playoffs, as they only average giving up 211 passing yards to go with three touchdowns and three interceptions. However, the speed and weapons this Chiefs team features gives Mahomes an advantage over nearly every other offense the 49ers have played this season.

Jimmy Garoppolo hasn’t had to do much as he has relied on the running game to carry the load this postseason as he’s only attempted 27 total passes. Yes, you read that right, 27. I think in this game alone he will have to attempt well above that and should be somewhere closer to the 35-40 range. The 49ers are 9-1 when Garoppolo throws for 240 plus yards, and 3-1 when throwing the ball 35+ times. His ultimate challenge? The Chiefs offense. That’s right, not the defense, that’s the least of the battle. He has to keep up with Mahomes and the Chiefs juggernaut of an offense.

Advantage: Chiefs

Running Backs

Damien Williams is once again on his late-season surge of being a good “fantasy” asset, but his yards per carry have been a bit underwhelming (3.3). However, his low YPC is masked some by his ability to take it to the house at any moment. Will he get less than 10 carries? Probably not. I can see somewhere in the range of 12-15 with a handful of targets in the passing game as he’s totaled six in both playoff games. He is just one of many weapons for this 49ers’ defense to stop.

LeSean McCoy has not been active during the playoffs as he’s been dealing with an “illness” but is expected to suit up. Who knows what Andy Reid expects to do with him, only the game will tell.

Raheem Mostert was a monster in the NFC Championship game rushing 29 times for 220 yards and four touchdowns. It was a dream game for him and many expect him to be the top running back again on Sunday. However, don’t forget what he did the week before that – just 12 attempts for 58 yards – that’s it.

Tevin Coleman was a beast in the divisional round against the Vikings going for 105 yards and two touchdowns on 22 attempts, only to get injured in the NFC championship with a shoulder injury.

Then there’s Matt Breida. Yes the #2 or #3 option in this backfield. He only has nine carries through the two playoff games with just a lone carry in the game against Green Bay as Mostert was on a tear.

Andy Reid isn’t afraid to make the running game irrelevant, but I see Williams being the best running back for the Chiefs as he is awesome catching the ball out of the backfield. Kyle Shanahan is a product of his father – a term known as “Shanahanagains”. That’s when you think he will use a certain running back and ends up going with the other. You never know what’s going on under that designer hat, but he knows what he’s doing.

Advantage: 49ers

Wide Receivers

The cheetah himself, Tyreek Hill is so fast he can make a game-changing play from anywhere on the field. Defenses have a hard time stopping him because once those jets are at full speed, good luck catching him. Now he hasn’t had a 100-yard game since week 10, but that doesn’t matter as he can boom at any point of any game when he’s needed the most – and half the time it could be for a touchdown.

But let’s not forget about the other receivers on this offense. Sammy Watkins seems to finally be back in the swing of things for the first time since his explosive opening-weekend game against Jacksonville. The playoffs have been great for Watkins as he’s gone over 75 yards both games and had a touchdown against the Titans – where he had seven receptions for 114 yards. Both Mecole Hardman and Demarcus Robinson are great complimentary players and can go off at any time as Hardman is a Tyreek 2.0 in the making and Robinson is clutch when he needs to be.

Deebo Samuel has been the top receiver for the 49ers in the playoffs with five receptions for 88 yards. Mind you, that’s not just the NFC Championship game, but rather the entire playoffs. If you take a look at the 49ers receiving stats, you would almost think of it as one game as the team has been super heavy with the run, passing the ball just 34.6% of the time.

Kendrick Bourne is the team’s lone passing-catching option with a receiving touchdown in the playoffs. No one else. No tight end, no running back. Emmanuel Sanders hasn’t been asked to show up yet either as he has just two catches for 33 yards. He had no catches in the championship game against the Packers…. Yikes.

Advantage: Chiefs

Tight Ends

Travis Kelce is the best tight end in this game as he has 13 receptions for 164 yards and three touchdowns so far this postseason. Mind you 82% of the yards and all the touchdowns came in the divisional round in that awesome comeback and domination against the Houston Texans. However, don’t forget about guys few people have even heard of on this team either. Blake Bell snuck in a touchdown and Dion Yelder has a reception.

Now we can’t forget the name that everyone knows for the 49ers in George Kittle. When he is needed, he dominates. He was the 49ers leading receiver and the only one to go over 1,000 yards this season. Jimmy G is going to need his big man this weekend and he should deliver.

Advantage: Push

Defenses

The Kansas City Chiefs defense ended the season as a middle-of-the-pack defense finishing 16th in the league. Looking at their playoffs stats they have stayed the course, but have been pilling up sacks, recording eight in the team’s first two playoff games. Their downside is their secondary as they tend to play off on receivers, but when the game is close, they adjust. They will give up yards, but when you have a guy like Mahomes running your offense, having a stingy defense isn’t quite as big of a priority.

We all know how the San Francisco 49ers defense has been this season. They finished the regular season as the league’s #2 defense only behind the New England Patriots. Now that we’ve entered postseason play, we’re seeing much of the same as they became (statistically) the best defense in the postseason once the Patriots were knocked out in the first round by the Tennessee Titans. They know how to stop the run, or at least minimize it, and they force you into passing situations and quite often tend to intercept it as they already have three through two games this postseason. The Chiefs will be the true challenge.

Overall, I can see this game being very similar to when San Francisco played New Orleans back in week 14 and won 48-46. It should be a fun four quarters to watch as Jimmy G tries to keep up with Patrick Mahomes.

My theory in this one – running the ball wins games, but passing wins championships.

Prediction: Chiefs 38, 49ers 34

Picks: Chiefs PK, OVER 54

Ryan Miner is a featured blogger for the Loaded Box Podcast. Check out his article archive and find more from the Loaded Box on Twitter & Facebook

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