America’s most watched event will be back this Sunday for the 54th time. This Super Bowl matchup will feature the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers.
On the American Football Conference side, the Chiefs’ path to Super Sunday was not easy, to say the least. Securing a divisional round spot with a 12-4 record, the Chiefs hosted Deshaun Watson and the Houston Texans. Falling into a 21-point deficit after the first quarter, the Chiefs appeared to have left their best play in the regular season.
With the score 24-0 in favor of the Texans, wide receiver Mecole Hardman breathed life into the Chiefs offense with a 58-yard punt return. Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes then took the reins on the same possession, finding running back Damien Williams for the touchdown.
For the rest of the game, Mahomes had his way. Finishing the game with five touchdown passes and zero interceptions, Mahomes, alongside the stout Chiefs defense, finished the game by outscoring the Texans 51-7.
The Chiefs then had to face the underdog Tennessee Titans, who were fresh off of wins against the heavily favored New England Patriots and the Baltimore Ravens. Revenge must have been on the minds of the Chiefs, as the Titans edged them out with a score of 35-32 in an earlier November matchup. However, the Titans came ready to play.
Thanks to a field goal and a rush by Derrick Henry, the Titans took an early 10-0 lead, but it would not take long for the Chiefs to respond. The very next possession, running back Tyreek Hill was able to score on a flip pass from Mahomes.
The Chiefs were able to take control the rest of the game thanks to another great performance by Mahomes. Finishing with three touchdowns and no interceptions, Mahomes and crew pulled the Chiefs to victory.
Finishing the regular season with a record of 13-3, the San Francisco 49ers came into the playoffs as a favorite to reach the Super Bowl on the side of the National Football Conference (NFC). Led by quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo on offense and defensive end Nick Bosa on defense, the 49ers lived up to their expectations.
In their first round game against the Minnesota Vikings, the 49ers burst out into a 7-0 lead in their first drive off a touchdown from Kendrick Bourne. The Vikings responded on the next possession as quarterback Kirk Cousins was able to find wide receiver Stefon Diggs for a 41-yard touchdown.
At halftime, the game hung in the air for either team to take as the 49ers held a modest four-point lead. The 49ers defense stole the show in the second half, completing a shutout. Bosa led the way with six tackles, including two sacks.
After taking down the Vikings 27-10, the 49ers advanced to face the Green Bay Packers. The offense held no punches, jumping out to a 27-0 lead thanks to three rushing touchdowns by Raheem Mostert and a pair of field goals. Despite a valiant effort by the Packers to come back, the early deficit was too much to overcome, and the 49ers took the NFC crown.
These games set the stage for this Sunday. The Chiefs are back for the first time since 1970, while the 49ers will be vying for their sixth title in franchise history.
I believe that the Chiefs will be this year’s Super Bowl Champions.
It would be easy to point at regular season statistics, which finds the 49ers as the first-ranked defense in yards allowed per game and the number-one rushing team.
It would also be easy to look at the Chiefs’ head coach Andy Reid and his history of falling short in the playoffs. But beyond this year’s numbers or any other quantitative measure, the Chiefs have their X-factor in Mahomes.
Unlike Garoppolo, Mahomes has experience on the big stage, as he almost led his team over the eventual Super Bowl champions New England Patriots last season. Although it is only one year of playoff experience, Mahomes’ performance last year shows that he will not shy away on the big-time stage.
Supplementing Mahomes is a cast of proven weapons such as Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins. In addition, the Chiefs’ defense ranked in the top ten in overall yards allowed and number three in rushing yards allowed.
As mentioned, however, I will restrict myself from looking solely at the numbers to support my case for the Chiefs. That is not to say relying only on my gut feeling that the Chiefs will win is any better.
I will concede that it is a mix of both the statistics and the intangibles: The Chiefs are not far behind the 49ers in both defensive and offensive categories, and I feel that it is time that Reid breaks his unlucky streak.
With the balance of experience, numbers and luck, the Chiefs are my pick. Regardless of whichever team gets to hoist the Lombardi, this matchup should bring memorable moments and usher in a new generation of football superstars.
As we bid farewell to the Tom Brady-Peyton Manning-Ben Roethlisberger dynasties, we welcome the Patrick Mahomes-Jimmy Garoppolo-Lamar Jackson trio to take over. That in itself is a reason to celebrate.