As the line goes from Brad Paisley’s Welcome To The Future, “Look around, it’s all so clear…..Wherever we were going, well we’re here”. I’m not sure how many pundits felt that these two teams would outlast their respective conference opponents, but as they square off on Sunday in the biggest global tv spectacle of every year, this game has all the makings of an epic engagement.
Kansas City has the most efficient, quick-strike offense in the league. They can be stymied for 45 minutes of a game, and then their blitzkrieg offense can hang 35 points on the board so fast it sucks the air out of the stadium….and the opposing defense. I can’t recall a team that can score so much so fast, ever.
San Francisco has a ground pound game that can consume vast tracts of regulation time, keeping their field constantly tilted downhill. They also have a defense that is quick at getting to the place the offense wants plays to happen, before the offense themselves get there. Tough.
Let’s look at the matchups:
Coaches – Andy Reid is widely accepted as one of the better coaches in the league, having success wherever he coaches, liked and respected by his players, and a good schemer. He does have a propensity to mismanage the clock, especially late in close games, and this has cost him on the biggest stages. His teams also have a habit of making undisciplined, costly mistakes in big games. The questions isn’t whether Reid’s teams can get over the hump and win it all; it’s whether HE can.
Kyle Shanahan is also highly respected as a smart tactician, inspiring leader and decent disciplinarian. He has been assigned the blame for Atlanta’s Superbowl faint against the Patriots, but surely this is unwarranted if Dan Quinn doesn’t carry equal blame. Shanahan is in his first head coaching job…but he seems to learn from his mistakes, unlike his counterpart. Edge: Niners.
Quarterbacks – Not really a contest as to who’s better. Garoppolo has a very good skillset, and he manages games efficiently. His arm is adequate, although he is forced to rely on it less than most other QBs. But Mahomes appears to be a generational player. Their respective W-L records are very similar, as are their completion percentages and yards per game. Where the numbers diverge are TD-INT ratio, where Mahomes smokes Garoppolo. The MVP’s ratio is 5 td’s for each interception, while Jimmy G’s is 2-to-1. If KC can force SF to rely on Garoppolo’s arm (and judgment), they stand to win the game. We KNOW what young Mahomes can do when under pressure. Edge: Chiefs.
Running Game – This will almost certainly decide the outcome. If the Niners can retain possession enough to keep Mahomes standing next to Reid, they can bleed the clock like a wounded boar, starving Eric Bienemy’s offense to death. The Niners have that kind of run game. Coleman, Mostert and Breida are Cerberus, the mythological 3-headed dog, striking fear into opponents. They ARE the definition of clock management, as well as potent scoring threats in the Red Zone. Shady McCoy, Darwin Thompson and Damien Williams are very solid…but not dominant. Edge: Niners.
Receivers – Both teams have superb, top-echelon tight ends. Kittle gets the nod for better all-round play with his blocking, while Kelce gets open more (because he never blocks anyone, ever). The wideouts are capable on both teams, with the exception of Tyreek the Freak, who has no equal in football. Edge: Chiefs.
Defense – The Chiefs have made excellent strides tightening up their weak spots over the season. Their pass rush improved with Suggs coming over late. He’s not the force he once was, but that kind of top-tier experience can really pay out in a key play or two on the big stage, and Terrell has a history of that. The pass defense has tightened up as well, with Breeland, Claiborne and Mathieu improving. That said, this is still KC’s weak spot. The Niners have been DOMINANT on all aspects of defense this year, with their quickness and brutal efficiency. They will need to be against this offense for 60 minutes, but they are capable of pressuring Mahomes with stifling pass coverage and run-stopping. Edge: Niners.
Special Teams – By this, we pretty much mean kickers. Harrison Butker is a beast, 89.5% conversion rate on FGs, he has distance, stamina, and a stoic demeanor. Gould is ‘solid’ for the Niners, but at 74% FG rate, he lags his counterpart in percentage and distance. If this game comes down to kicking, which it probably won’t, Buttkicker is the bet. Edge: Chiefs.
Other factors – Health is a wash, as both teams report no injuries. Experience favors the Chiefs, as San Francisco was 4-12 in 2018, and 6-10 the year before that. KC has been to the playoffs five years running, including the last two AFC championship games. Distractions this year have largely been limited to Sammy Watkins already openly contemplating his next team, before the Superbowl. Not good. With a retractable roof, the venue should not favor either team.
Pigskin Pundit’s Pick: So much that is important favors the Chiefs this year…and yet, the most balanced team in the NFL was the 49ers. Defense does win championships, and this team has it in spades. But they also have an offense that can beat you several ways, and more importantly, put a lock on the clock. Like KC, they can put points up in a hurry too. And they have defeated tougher opponents than the Chiefs have….twice. When all that goes into my sausage maker, it’s Edge: 49ers.
Enjoy this epic game! Thanks to all of you for joining me this season.
-Pigskin Pundit (Nate Clark)