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Super Bowl LVIII Preview

Twenty six weeks of unexpected outcomes, controversial decision-making, backups playing like superstars, and clutch moments all lead to this Sunday. This evening, the San Francisco 49ers attempt to topple the dynasty of Pat Mahomes, Andy Reid, and the Kansas City Chiefs. Two of the most efficient offensive systems take on two of the most menacing defensive units across the NFL, and only one will rise to the top. Let's break down both of these teams, their storylines, and what they'll have to do to be victorious!


Photo: Jed Jacobsohn/Associated Press

 

The Storylines


What We Know

  1. The 49ers come in as the favorites, despite the Chiefs long track record of beating teams who are better on paper. According to Statmuse, the Chiefs are 2-0 in the playoffs as underdogs.

  2. Mahomes is looking for his third ring, while Kyle Shanahan looks to get over the hump and claim his first title.

  3. The 49ers have the 1st and 2nd ranked offense and defense per PFF, respectively, while the Chiefs rank 12th and 15th in those categories.

What's Up in the Air

  1. How the Chiefs keep up; Kansas City has played better offensively down the stretch, but they will need to put up more than 20 points to keep up with San Fran, who have averaged 29 ppg in the postseason.

  2. How Chiefs G Nick Allegretti will hold up in place of Joe Thuney, especially against one of the best defensive fronts in the league.

  3. How the 49ers defense will perform after getting rolled in the 4th quarter of their last Super Bowl matchup four years prior.

What We Don't Know

  1. What type of game we'll get from the Chiefs receivers, they've been better lately, but have had some bad moments all year.

  2. If Kyle Shanahan will stick to his outside zone scheme, or try to exploit the inside run game more against a bad run defense.

  3. Who will emerge victorious (obviously).


The Analytics


Season Long Matchups


The combined regular season records of teams the Chiefs played against (at the time of playing them) was 61-72, while the 49ers faced a combined record of 73-61. Including the postseason, those combined records are now 98-88 and 97-74, respectively.


Over the course of the regular season and postseason, the Chiefs have a solid record of 6-2 against teams with a record at or above .500, while the 49ers are 10-4 in similar matchups. On the flip side, the Chiefs are 8-3 against teams below .500, while the 49ers are 4-1. The 49ers seemed to have the tougher road to the Super Bowl, and they have the record to show for it.


When the Chiefs played each team at or above .500, the opposing teams had a combined winning percentage of 67.3%


When the 49ers played each team at or above .500, the opposing teams had a combined winning percentage of 65.6%


The 49ers have the clear advantage in terms of schedule toughness, but the Chiefs faced a tougher slate of top-end opponents based on winning percentage.


Season Long Team Ranks


Per season long metrics, here are the following ranks for each major statistical category:

Stat

Kansas City Chiefs

San Francisco 49ers

Offense YPG

351.3 (9th)

398.4 (2nd)

Rush YPG

104.9 (19th)

140.5 (3rd)

Pass YPG

246.4 (6th)

257.9 (4th)

Points Scored Per Game

21.8 (15th)

​28.9 (3rd)

Defensive YPG

289.8 (2nd)

303.9 (8th)

Def Rush YPG

113.2 (18th)

89.7 (3rd)

Def Pass YPG

​176.5 (4th)

214.2 (14th)

Points Allowed Per Game

17.3 (2nd)

17.5 (3rd)

Sacks

57 (2nd)

48 (T-7th)

Takeaways

17 (T-27th)

28 (T-5th)

Giveaways

28 (T-23rd)

18 (T-6th)

Turnover Difference

-11 (T-29th)

+10 (T-5th)

The 49ers have a 6-4 advantage in all major stats from a numerical standpoint, so now let's how they fare on a more advanced level:

Stats

Kansas City Chiefs

San Francisco 49ers

​Pressure Rate

57.26%

57.85%

Pressure to Sack Rate

16.24%

12.40%

​Pressure Allowed Rate

31.24%

33.82%

Sacks From Pressure Rate*

8.04%

9.63%

Completion Rate Allowed

67.2%

70.1%

Forced Incompletions (%)

45 (8.89%)

54 (9.23%)

Passer Rating Allowed

91.6

84.3

Rush Yards Before Contact

722

856

Rush Yards After Contact

1,062

1,532

Yards After Catch

2,652

2,188

Missed Tackles Forced

63

112

* - stat is related to how many sacks were allowed from pressures


Based on these numbers, the 49ers have a 6-5 advantage advanced metrics, giving San Fran a 12-9 total advantage in basic and advanced metrics.


The Chiefs are bringing back a large chunk of their roster from last year's Super Bowl win, including eight starters on offense and nine starters on defense. As for the 49ers, they return eight players, including George Kittle, Deebo Samuel, Kyle Juszczyk, Fred Warner, Dre Greenlaw, Nick Bosa, Arik Armstead, and Mitch Wishnowsky. In total, there are 16 total players returning between now and Super Bowl LIV.


My Prediction


Even considering all of the main variables listed above, I'm leaning toward Kansas City to take home the Lombardi Trophy, meaning the Kansas City Chiefs will be your Super Bowl LVIII Champions.


I have a final score of 30-17, with Trent McDuffie picking off Brock Purdy in the final two minutes and taking it to the house, leaving Trent McDuffie as your Super Bowl MVP.


Photo: Cooper Neill/Getty Images

 

Final Notes:


This season had its fair share of ups and downs, but the two best teams prevailed despite their numerous struggles throughout the season. The Chiefs receivers got in check and have played great down the stretch, and Purdy has finally found his rhythm, all while being forced to make some tough throws all throughout the postseason. This game will come down to how well the 49ers can slow down the Kelce and Mahomes connection, and how aggressive Steve Spagnuolo and the Chiefs defense will be when it comes to generating pressure against the 49ers offensive front.


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