It’s often said that defense wins championships, and at least on paper it is looking like that very idea will be tested when the Chiefs and 49ers face-off for Super Bowl LIV as San Francisco and Kansas City align almost perfectly in terms of their strengths. Because of that, you’re finding that those in the betting world’s football betting odds are either favoring the high-flying Chiefs as a one point favorite, or that the game is essentially a push.
That’s rare in the sports betting world and it’s a testament both to that high flyer…y of the Chiefs’ offense, helmed by perhaps the brightest new star in the NFL in Patrick Mahomes. Behind Mahomes, who missed two games this season, the Chiefs ended the 2019 regular season with the fifth-best passing offense (according to NFL.com’s team stats). The Niners, on the other hand, finished the regular season FIRST against the pass, allowing a paltry 169 yards per game.
The Vikings learned that first hand the weekend before last, with their quarterback Kirk Cousins (who at times in the 2019 season mirrored the output of 2018 MVP Patrick Mahomes), throwing nearly that average with only 171 yards through the air (or the struggles that the once elite Aaron Rodgers had in the NFC Championship) . What’s amazing about this Niners defense is that no one really saw their recent excellence coming, with many in the national media picking the Vikings to upset the Niners before their Divisional Round match-up.
The return of stars like Kwon Alexander and Dee Ford clearly pushed this good Niners team into elite status, a status that’ll be tested at every level when they face Mahomes and company in Miami a week from Sunday. While the talk is rightfully about Mahomes vs. the Niners D, this game could very well come down to 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and the defense of the Chiefs.
The Niners haven’t had to rely on Garoppolo much this post-season, as the defense and run game dominated the Vikings and Packers. Between two post-season games Garoppolo has only completed 17 passes, despite the Niners putting up 64-points in the process. There was even a stretch in the Green Bay game where Garoppolo didn’t attempt a pass for over an hour-and-a-half. It’s been said that Jimmy didn’t even have to ice his arm after the Packers game, and while it’d probably mean great things for the Niners if that was the case after the Chiefs game, for obvious reasons.
On the other hand… The Vikings and Packers don’t have Mahomes and/or his ability to orchestrate that highly talented supporting cast that the Chiefs offense is comprised of. That could mean that the Niners may end up playing catch up (something they aren’t necessarily built to do, at least not built to do on a level near how they play when they’re ahead (and running the ball well)).
The Chiefs defense, on the other hand, may be in for an even longer day than the Packers or Vikings. While the Pack and Vikes finished the 2019 season as 23rd and 13th against the run, respectively, the Chiefs unit is 26th against the run. The Niners were behind only the Ravens RPO-heavy offense in terms of rush yards per game, something they showed over-and-over again, especially, against the Packers in the NFC Championship.
While many have said that, again, the game may come down to Garoppolo’s arm, it very well could be Mahomes that has to keep the Chiefs in the game against the Niners, assuming he gets on the field. Behind that dominant run game, the Niners tend to dominate time of possession, meaning that the Chiefs will need to capitalize on each drive if they want to either dictate the flow of the game (instead of having the flow dictated by the Niners) or keep up with the Niners on the scoreboard.
While you may know where I stand on the game based on what I’ve said (or didn’t say) above, I may be, as a Vikings fan/writer, still reeling from the absolute beat down the Vikings faced at the hand of the Niners and thus a bit biased. But, it is truly safe to say that for the first time since I started covering the Vikings for a living, I really don’t know how this game will go.
That means that this game has the workings of an instant classic, and while I’m clearly still reeling from the Divisional Round of the playoffs, I’ll be excited to watch the game along with our new online community, VikesGeist (Click Here to register for that, and for our message board, where you can let US know your thoughts on Chiefs/Niners).