In-Depth Prediction, Preview, and Odds
49ers vs. Chiefs Prediction
Arrowhead Stadium, Kansas City
Table of Contents
- Introduction & Team Review
- The Running Game
- The Passing Game
- Final Outlook & Prediction
- Second Opinion on this pick from StatSalt.com
- Insiders' Best Bets
Last Updated: Saturday, February 1, 2020 at 9:41am EST
After 256 regular-season contests over 17 weeks and 10 postseason games spread over three weeks, we’ve reached the pinnacle of the season, the Super Bowl. The San Francisco 49ers are the visiting team as they face the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV down in South Beach. San Francisco earned their seventh Super Bowl berth as they crushed Green Bay 37-20 in the NFC Championship Game at home on January 19. Kansas City reached the Super Bowl for the third time in franchise history as they rallied past the Titans 35-24 at home in the AFC Championship Game on January 19. The 49ers lead the all-time regular-season series 7-6 but the Chiefs won the last matchup, 38-27, at home on September 23, 2018. This marks the first time that the teams have met in postseason play.
San Francisco 49ers Review
San Francisco finished the regular season with a 13-3 mark to win the NFC West crown and secure home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. The 49ers rolled to an 8-0 start to the season before losing in overtime at home to Seattle in week 10. That loss proved important as the season wore on, which we’ll get to. San Francisco rebounded with two wins before losing to Baltimore on the road on a field goal as time expired in Week 13. That was followed by a wild 48-46 win in the Superdome over the Saints in Week 14 and another last-second loss, 29-22, at home to the Falcons in week 15. San Francisco rallied to edge the Rams 34-31 on the road in week 16 to set up a winner take all week 17 clash with the Seahawks in Seattle. The 49ers prevailed 26-21 after stopping Jacob Hollister less than a yard short of the end zone on fourth and goal with 12 seconds to play. That win gave the 49ers the division crown and home field advantage, plus the first-round bye. Had they lost, they would have been a wild card team on the road. In the NFC Divisional Playoff, San Francisco shut down Minnesota 27-10, limiting the Vikings to only 21 rushing yards and seven first downs, to reach the NFC Championship Game.
In the NFC Championship Game, the 49ers faced a Green Bay team that they walloped 37-8 at home back in week 12. With a Super Bowl berth at stake, San Francisco clearly answered the call. The 49ers used their power ground game to batter the Packers and build up a hefty lead, allowing them to just play the clock game in the second half en route to the Super Bowl. San Francisco ran the ball 42 times for 285 yards and four scores in the contest while throwing the ball only eight times. The 49ers were up 27-0 at the half thanks to 10 points in the final two minutes of the half. Raheem Mostert did the damage, carrying the ball 29 times for 220 yards and four scores. It marked the first time in NFL history that a running back ran for more than 200 yards and four touchdowns in a playoff game. Mostert’s performance was the second-most rushing yards in a playoff game, behind only Eric Dickerson, who went for 248 for the Rams against the Cowboys in a 20-0 Los Angeles win on January 4, 1986. San Francisco was edged 358-354 in total offense with most of Green Bay’s yards coming with the game long decided. The 49ers were edged 21-19 in first downs and 31:13 to 28:47 in time of possession. San Francisco won the turnover battle 3-0, turning those takeaways into 10 points.
Kansas City Chiefs Review
Kansas City finished the regular season 12-4 and ran away with the AFC West title as no other team in the division finished better than 7-9. The Chiefs started the year 4-0 before losing three of their next four games to reach the midway point of the year 5-3. Kansas City played two and a half games without Patrick Mahomes, who dislocated his knee against the Broncos in week 7. That injury kept him out in a loss to Green Bay in week 8 and a win over Minnesota in week 9. Mahomes returned in a 35-32 loss to Tennessee on the road in week 10 but the team caught fire after that last-second loss. The Chiefs won their final six games. Their win over the Chargers in week 17, coupled with Miami’s last-minute rally to stun the Patriots in Foxboro, gave Kansas City the second seed in the AFC and a first-round bye, while dropping New England to the wild-card round. In the AFC Divisional Playoff against Houston, Kansas City found themselves in a 24-0 hole early in the second quarter before finding their groove. Once the Chiefs got started, they blew the Texans out of the water, outscoring them 51-7 the rest of the way en route to a 51-31 win. That sent them to the AFC Championship Game for the second straight year.
In the AFC Championship Game, the Chiefs got off to a slow start again, much as they did in the AFC Championship Game loss to New England last season and in the AFC Divisional Playoff last week against Houston. Kansas City trailed 10-0 early in the contest and was down 17-7 after allowing Tennessee to embark on a 15 play, 75-yard drive that chewed 9:07 off the clock. The Chiefs rallied to lead 21-17 at th half with two touchdown drives in the final 6:39 of the first half, including a 27-yard touchdown run by Patrick Mahomes with 11 seconds to play before halftime to take the lead for good. All told, Kansas City reeled off 28 unanswered points after falling behind 17-7 with Mahomes’ 60-yard touchdown pass to Sammy Watkins with 7:40 to play in the game the backbreaker. The Chiefs held a 404-295 edge in total offense, rolled up a 27-20 advantage in first downs and overcame a narrow 30:10 to 29:50 disadvantage in time of possession. There were no turnovers in the game and Kansas City held Derrick Henry in check as he finished with 19 carries for 69 yards and a score.
The Running Game
49ers Running Offense
Kansas City Chiefs Running Defense
49ers Running Offense
San Francisco has used a power run game to move the sticks, pile up points and grind the clock on opposing defenses. The 49ers have been extremely effective with the run game, rotating backs and pounding teams into oblivion. San Francisco has run for more than 100 yards 11 times this season and has two other games of at least 98 yards on the ground. In their last six regular-season games, the 49ers have racked up at least 112 yards on the ground in each contest. That included a 23 carry, 119-yard performance last week in their win over the Rams. In their regular season finale against the Seahawks, San Francisco ran for 128 yards in their division-clinching victory.
Matt Breida is second on the team with 123 carries for 623 yards plus a score this season as one of a three-headed committee for the 49ers. Raheem Mostert contributes 137 carries for a team-high 772 yards plus eight scores while Tevin Coleman has 137 carries for 544 yards and six touchdowns. Jeff Wilson Jr. (27 carries, 105 yards, four TD) proved to be a solid short yardage back while Coleman was out and provides depth in the backfield. The 49ers have 16 run plays that have covered at least 20 yards this season. Breida, Deebo Samuel (14 carries, 159 yards, three TD) and Coleman each have four to lead the team. Mostert adds three while Wilson Jr. adds the other such carry this season. San Francisco has moved the chains 110 times via the ground so far this season.
In the postseason, the 49ers have been aggressive pounding the ball on the ground. San Francisco ran the ball 47 times for 186 yards against Minnesota in the NFC Divisional Round and added 42 carries for 285 yards against the Packers in the NFC Championship. Mostert has led the way with 41 carries for 278 yards and four scores on the ground. Coleman has 28 carries for 126 yards and two scores while Samuel (three carries, 49 yards) and Breida (nine carries, 19 yards) have seen some work as well. Coleman suffered what appears to be a dislocated right shoulder in the NFC Championship Game but coach Kyle Shanahan expects that he’ll have a good chance at playing.
Kansas City Chiefs Run Defense
The Chiefs have had their problems stopping opposing on the ground this season, much as they did in 2018. Kansas City suffers at stopping opposing teams as their bend but don't break strategy led to some quick strikes by the opposition. The Chiefs have had their struggles so far this season as they've given up more than four yards per carry in 13 of their 16 contests. Kansas City has allowed more than 100 yards on the ground in 10 games with three other games where they’ve allowed at least 93 yards. Their week 15 game against the Broncos in a blowout win saw them turn in their best performance against the run all season, allowing just 52 yards on the ground. In week 16, they allowed 22 carries for 101 yards to the Bears before giving up 25 carries for 108 yards in week 17 against the Chargers. The postseason has seen the Chiefs hold the Texans to 21 carries for 94 yards while Tennessee was limited to 23 carries for 87 yards on the ground.
Linebacker Damien Wilson (forced fumble) is second on the team with 81 tackles on the year. Anthony Hitchens (team-high 88 tackles, forced fumble), Charvarius Ward (74 tackles, forced fumble), Juan Thornhill (58 tackles) and Tyrann Mathieu (75 tackles) are among the team's leaders in tackles. Frank Clark (37 tackles, three forced fumbles, fumble recovery) leads the team with 13 tackles for loss. Emmanuel Ogbah (32 tackles, forced fumble) has eight tackles for loss while Tanoh Kpassagnon (29 tackles, forced fumble, fumble recovery) and Chris Jones (36 tackles, forced fumble, fumble recovery) are right behind with 7.5 and 9.5 on the year, respectively. As a team, the Chiefs have racked up 79 tackles for loss while forcing 13 fumbles and recovering seven so far this season. Kansas City has returned two fumbles for scores this season.
In the postseason, Daniel Sorenson, filling in for the injured Thornhill, leads the team with 17 tackles (11 solo) to go with a forced fumble. Wilson adds 15 tackles while Mathieu contributes 12 on the year. Clark (eight tackles) leads the team with four tackles for loss while Kpassagnon (three tackles) has two. As a team in the postseason, the Chiefs have recorded 12 tackles for loss, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery on the year.
- 2nd in run play percentage (51.9 percent)
- 2nd in rushing attempts per game (32.6)
- 2nd in rushing yards per game (154.2)
- 6th in yards per carry (4.7)
- 1st in rushing TD (23)
- 4th in longest rush (83 yards)
- 10th in percentage of run plays against (39.88 percent)
- 17th in run plays per game against (26)
- 26th in rushing yards allowed per game (128.2)
- 29th in opposing yards per carry (five)
- Tied for 26th in rushing TD allowed (14)
- 15th in longest rush allowed (51 yards)
Who has the Edge?
While Kansas City has been decent against the run in the postseason, including last week against the Titans when they absolutely needed to, the fact remains that they are a below-average team defending the run. San Francisco just pulverized Minnesota and Green Bay on the ground in their two playoff games, totaling nearly 500 yards in those contests. Mostert had a phenomenal NFC Championship and will be the workhorse, especially if Coleman is hampered at all or missing. Steve Spagnuolo has to come up with a way to disrupt the San Francisco ground game but it's an uphill climb. Given the way we've seen the 49ers grind the ball all season, give them the edge here.
Advantage: San Francisco 49ers
Kansas City Chiefs Running Offense
49ers Running Defense
Kansas City Chiefs Running Offense
The rushing attack was a secondary option for Kansas City last season and things aren't all that different so far in 2019 either. The Chiefs are intent on trying to do damage through the air and making the run game only relevant when it comes to trying to bleed the clock or to set up something else. Kansas City was relatively effective early in the season, running for at least 100 yards in three of their first four games on the year. Since then, the Chiefs have mustered just four 100-yard games on the ground. In the last month, Kansas City has been more consistent with attempting to move the ball on the ground. The Chiefs closed the regular season with back to back 100-yard games as they ran 29 times for 106 yards against the Bears before racking up 162 yards on 23 carries against the Chargers. Kansas City continued their success running the ball in the playoffs as they picked up 21 carries for 118 yards against Houston in the divisional round and 27 times for 112 yards against the Titans in the AFC Championship.
LeSean McCoy, in his first season with the team after the Bills let him go, is second on the team with 101 carries for 465 yards plus four scores on the year. Damien Williams has 111 carries but has totaled 498 yards plus two scores. He's missed time this season with a knee injury. More than one-third (175 yards) have come on his two touchdown runs. Darwin Thompson (37 carries, 128 yards, TD) and Darrel Williams (41 carries, 141 yards, three TD) are further down the pecking order in the run game. Darrel Williams was placed on injured reserve in early December so the team added Spencer Ware (17 carries, 51 yards) to the mix in the backfield for depth purposes. Ware was placed on IR before Week 17 with a shoulder injury. Kansas City has 10 run plays that have covered at least 20 yards this season. McCoy leads the team with four such plays while Mahomes (43 carries, 218 yards, two TD) adds three. Damien Williams (two) and Darrel Williams have the others. The Chiefs have moved the chains 93 times via the ground game this season.
In the postseason, the Chiefs are led by Mahomes, who has run the ball 15 times for 106 yards plus a score. Williams has 29 carries for 92 yards and three scores while no one else has run the ball more than twice in the playoffs. Conspicuous in his absence is McCoy, who played just one snap against the Texans and was inactive for the AFC Championship Game. The Chiefs have three run plays of at least 20 yards in the postseason. Mahomes has two while Williams has one. Kansas City has moved the chains 19 times on the ground in the playoffs.
49ers Run Defense
San Francisco has had their struggles stopping the opposing ground game this season despite their success. The 49ers have given up more than 100 yards on the ground in 11 of their 15 games. Five times in that stretch, the opposition has picked up at least five yards a carry. Over the last month, the 49ers have allowed more than 100 yards in two of their four games. San Francisco actually has held the last two opponents under the century mark as the Falcons ran 20 times for 89 times while the Rams were held to 24 carries for 72 yards last week. The 49ers allowed Seattle to run 30 times for 125 yards in week 17. During the postseason, San Francisco has stifled the ground game as they limited Minnesota to 10 carries for 21 yards in the divisional round and Green Bay to 16 carries for 62 yards in the NFC Championship Game.
Fred Warner led the team in the regular season with 118 tackles (89 solo) plus three forced fumbles so far this season. Richard Sherman (61 tackles), defensive end DeForest Buckner (62 tackles, two forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries, TD), Dre Greenlaw (92 tackles) and Jimmie Ward (61 tackles) are among the team leaders in tackles this season. Nick Bosa (47 tackles, forced fumble, two fumble recoveries) leads the team with 16.5 tackles for loss while Arik Armstead (54 tackles, two forced fumbles, fumble recovery) contributes 13.5 on the season. Buckner has 12 while Warner chips in 8.5 and Ronald Blair III (21 tackles, fumble recovery) adds eight on the year. The 49ers have recorded 108 tackles for loss, 23 forced fumbles and 15 fumble recoveries, with two scoop-six scores, on the year as a team.
In the postseason, Warner leads the team with 13 tackles (six solo) while Bosa (10 tackles) and Greenlaw (10 tackles, forced fumble) are next in line. Bosa leads the team with three tackles for loss while K’Waun Williams (nine tackles, forced fumble), Armstead (five tackles, forced fumble) and Buckner (six tackles, forced fumble, fumble recovery) each have two. As a team in the playoffs, the 49ers have 14 tackles for loss, four forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries on the season.
- 23rd in run play percentage (38.42 percent)
- 27th in rushing attempts per game (23.4)
- 23rd in rushing yards per game (98.1)
- 20th in yards per carry (4.2)
- Tied for 13th in rushing TD (16)
- 1st in longest rush (91 yards)
- 11th in percentage of run plays against (39.87 percent)
- 5th in run plays per game against (23.7)
- 17th in rushing yards allowed per game (111.8)
- 21st in opposing yards per carry (4.4)
- Tied for 4th in rushing TD allowed (10)
- 6th in longest rush allowed (40 yards)
Who has the Edge?
The ground game is a secondary option for the Chiefs, as it has been since Mahomes took over under center last season. That has become more prevalent in the postseason this year. Part of that is that the Chiefs have gone done double digits in both playoff games but the fact remains that the run game hasn't been a feature even when the team has the lead. Mahomes leads the team in rushing yards in the playoffs, which isn't ideal, even with a mobile quarterback. With that said, the 49ers have struggled against the run all season. They've been good in two playoff games but they were gashed repeatedly during the regular season. This one is a wash because there isn't enough positive momentum on either side here to push the needle to one direction or the other.
The Passing Game
49ers Passing Offense
vs. Kansas City Chiefs Passing Defense
49ers Passing Offense
San Francisco hasn’t had to rely on the passing game as much this season as the run game has done the job beating teams into submission. The 49ers have thrown for more than 300 yards just four times in a game this season. San Francisco racked up 312 yards in a blowout win against the Bengals back in week two. Two of their other 300-yard games came against the Cardinals as they went for 317 yards plus four scores through the air in week nine along with a season-high 424 yards and four scores against them in week 11. The final such game came in that track meet against the Saints when the 49ers went for 384 yards and five scores. In the final two weeks of the regular season, San Francisco threw for 248 yards against the Rams and 285 yards against the Seahawks. The passing attack hasn’t been necessary in the postseason thanks to the run game as the 49ers threw for 131 yards against the Vikings and 77 yards against the Packers.
Jimmy Garoppolo has hit 329 of 476 passes for 3,978 yards with 27 touchdown passes against 13 interceptions on the year. He has been sacked 36 times this season, losing 237 yards in the process. Dante Pettis completed his lone pass attempt for 16 yards while Emmanuel Sanders threw a 35-yard touchdown on his one pass this season. Tight end George Kittle has reeled in a team-leading 85 passes for 1,053 yards and five scores this season. Deebo Samuel (57 receptions, 802 yards, three TD) and Marquise Goodwin (12 grabs, 186 yards, TD) are the next most reliable options in the passing game. The 49ers acquired Emmanuel Sanders (36 catches, 502 yards, three TD in 10 games with the team) from Denver earlier this season to add depth to an inexperienced group. San Francisco has 62 pass plays that have covered at least 20 yards this season. Samuel leads the team with 17 while Kittle is right behind with 16 such plays this season. Sanders has six such receptions while Kendrick Bourne (30 receptions, 358 yards, five TD) adds four this season.
Garoppolo hasn’t been called on to do a ton in the postseason as he is 17 of 27 for 208 yards with a touchdown and an interception. He has been sacked three times, losing 17 yards in the process. Samuel leads the team with five catches for 88 yards in the playoffs. Kittle (four grabs, 35 yards), Bourne (four catches, 46 yards, TD), Sanders (two receptions, 33 yards) and Mostert (two catches, six yards) are the only other players with a catch in the playoffs for San Francisco. Samuel, Bourne and Sanders each have one pass play that has covered at least 20 yards.
One thing Garoppolo does as well as any quarterback is win games. He is 19-5 as a starter since he was dealt on Oct. 31., 2017 by the Patriots. In Week 3 of the 2018 campaign, he tore his ACL and missed the entire season.
"I was just thinking about it the other day, it’s pretty crazy," Garoppolo said. "About a year ago, I was learning to run again. This year has been a whirlwind (but) it’s been a great time though. I’ve just had a great time with this team.”
Kansas City Chiefs Passing Defense
Kansas City's big thing defensively last season came via their pass rush as the team was pounding opposing quarterbacks into the dirt on a regular basis. The Chiefs haven't had that success as much this season and it's proven to be a bit of an issue. Kansas City has allowed only three 300-yard games but their pass rush hasn’t been nearly as effective as last season. The Chiefs have recorded at least four sacks in a game four times. On the other side of the equation, they’ve been held without a sack twice while recording just one sack on two other occasions. That inconsistency could be a problem come playoff time. Kansas City allowed only 157 yards through the air to Chicago in week 16 but surrendered 281 yards to the Chargers in the regular-season finale. During the playoffs, the Chiefs were torched for 388 yards by Houston in the divisional round before giving up 237 yards to Tennessee in the AFC Championship Game.
The Chiefs had their ups and downs in getting after the quarterback this season. Chris Jones leads the team with nine sacks on the season. Ogbah (5.5 sacks) and Clark (eight) are right behind in that category. Mathieu leads the team with 12 pass defenses and Ward adds 10 while Bashaud Breeland (45 tackles, two fumble recoveries, TD) has eight of his own this season. Mathieu leads the team with four picks while Thornhill (TD) is right behind him with three. Ward, Daniel Sorenson (57 tackles, two tackles for loss, four pass defenses) and Breeland each have two. Clark, Derrick Nnadi (48 tackles, sack, five tackles for loss, pass defense, forced fumble) and Rashad Fenton (15 tackles, three pass defenses, forced fumble) each have one. As a team, the Chiefs have totaled 45 sacks, 65 pass defenses and 16 interceptions, including one pick-six, on the year.
In the postseason, Clark leads the team with four sacks, three of which came against Houston in the divisional round. Kpassagnon adds two while Dorian O’Daniel (three tackles, tackle for loss) and Fenton (nine tackles, tackle for loss) each have one sack. Mathieu leads the team with three pass defenses while Breeland (11 tackles) has two. The Chiefs have totaled eight sacks, recorded 10 pass defenses and have yet to pick off a pass in the playoffs.
"Talented group," said Garoppolo on 49ers.com. "It starts up front. (Kansas City Chiefs DT Chris Jones) No. 95, (Kansas City Chiefs DE Frank Clark) No. 55, they've got other guys that could get after it, too. But, their overall team speed, they mix it up in coverages. They don't really, they're trying not to give you anything easy. So, it makes it difficult."
- 31st in pass play percentage (48.1 percent)
- 3rd in completion percentage (69.2)
- 14th in passing yards per game (234.8)
- Tied for 5th in TD passes (28)
- Tied for 16th in INT thrown (13)
- 4th in net yards per pass attempt (7.7)
- Tied for 10th in longest pass play (75 yards)
- 7th in passer rating (103.1)
- 23rd in pass play percentage against (60.12 percent)
- 8th in passing yards per game allowed (221.8)
- 4th in completion percentage allowed (60.5)
- Tied for 18th in TD passes allowed (21)
- Tied for 15th in INT (16)
- 7th in sacks (45)
- 16th in passer rating allowed (90.5)
- 5th in net yards per pass attempt (6.1)
Who has the Edge?
The Chiefs took a hit in the regular-season finale when Thornhill was lost for the year with a torn ACL but Sorenson has stepped right in to make plays. His big open-field tackle on Houston's Justin Reid on a fake punt helped jumpstart the Chiefs' rally and he's been solid on the backline of the secondary as well. San Francisco hasn't done much through the air in the playoffs, mainly because they haven't had to. That's a double-edged sword as it's a good thing to not have to rely on the pass but it also means that they aren't overly tested in that department here. Kansas City's secondary is pretty good and the pass rush is solid. The Chiefs need to harass Garoppolo and make life tough for the 49ers' offense. This one leans toward the Chiefs.
Advantage: Kansas City Chiefs
Kansas City Chiefs Passing Offense
49ers Passing Defense
Kansas City Chiefs Passing Offense
One thing that we saw last season was that the Chiefs were aggressive with their aerial assault. The fact that Patrick Mahomes won the league MVP last season by lighting up opposing defenses is something that isn’t overlooked but is hard to stop nonetheless. Even with opposing teams knowing that the passing attack is the key of Kansas City's offense, it's something that has worked again this season. The Chiefs threw for at least 300 yards in each of the first five games of the season but have reached that mark only twice in the last nine games. Mahomes missed time with a dislocated knee that cost him a couple of games. In the last month, the Chiefs have gone over 300 yards through the air just once, with that coming in week 15 in the snow against Denver. Kansas City threw for 340 yards in that contest. Last week against the Chargers, the Chiefs threw for a season-low 174 yards in the win. In the postseason, the Chiefs threw for 321 yards against Houston in the divisional round and added on 294 yards against the Titans in the AFC Championship Game.
Mahomes has hit on 319 of 484 passes for 4,031 yards with 26 touchdowns and five interceptions on the season to date. He's been sacked 17 times for a loss of 127 yards. Matt Moore is 59 of 91 for 659 yards and four scores: he has been sacked eight times for a loss of 65 yards. Sammy Watkins is third on the team with 52 receptions for 673 yards plus three scores. Tight end Travis Kelce (team-high 97 grabs, 1229 yards, five TD) is his usual self while Damien Williams has 26 grabs out of the backfield for 183 yards and two scores. Demarcus Robinson (32 catches, 449 yards, three TD), rookie Mecole Hardman (26 catches, 538 yards, six TD) and Byron Pringle (12 receptions, 170 yards, TD) all stepped up while Tyreek Hill (58 catches, 860 yards, seven TD) and Watkins have missed time. The Chiefs have 59 pass plays of at least 20 yards on the season. Kelce has 13 to lead the team while Hill has 13. Watkins adds nine such plays while Hardman has nine as there is no shortage of playmakers for Kansas City.
During the postseason, Mahomes has completed 46 of 70 passes for 615 yards with eight touchdowns and no interceptions. He has been sacked twice for a total of two yards in losses. Kelce leads the team with 13 receptions for 162 yards and three scores. Watkins (nine catches, 190 yards, TD), Hill (eight grabs, 108 yards, two TD) and Williams (seven receptions, 65 yards, TD) are next in line. Kansas City has 11 pass plays that covered at least 20 yards. Kelce leads the team with four such plays while Hill and Watkins each have three. Demarcus Robinson (three catches, 35 yards) has the other.
49ers Passing Defense
San Francisco’s pass defense has gotten a fair amount of work, mainly because they’ve built up comfortable leads that have forced the opposition to the air. The 49ers have been solid against the pass, giving up just three 300-yard passing games this season. One of those came three weeks ago against the Saints, who threw for 349 yards and five scores on the fast track of the Superdome. The 49ers did get hurt by the passing game by the Rams last week as they allowed 323 yards and two scores. More importantly, San Francisco failed to record a sack for just the second time all season. Both those games have come in the last three weeks.
Armstead leads the team with 10 sacks with Bosa on his heels with nine on the year. Dee Ford (14 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, two forced fumbles, pass defense) adds 6.5 sacks this season while Buckner contributes 7.5 on the year. Sherman leads the team with 11 pass defenses while Warner and Ahkello Witherspoon (28 tackles, tackle for loss, TD) each have nine and Ward along with Emmanuel Mosley (50 tackles, two tackles for loss) each added eight on the year. Sherman (TD) leads the team with three interceptions on the year while K’Waun Williams (47 tackles, sack, 4.5 tackles for loss, three forced fumbles, two pass defenses) has two. Kwon Alexander (34 tackles, half a sack, 3.5 tackles for loss, four pass defenses, forced fumble), Mark Nzeocha (10 tackles, pass defense), Bosa, Moseley, Greenlaw, Warner (TD) and Ahkello Witherspoon each have one interception this season. As a team, San Francisco has picked up 47 sacks, 70 pass defenses and 12 interceptions with three picks returned for scores this season.
During the postseason, Bosa leads the way with three sacks while Armstead adds two. Williams, Buckner, Dee Ford (two tackles, tackle for loss) and Solomon Thomas (four tackles, tackle for loss) each have one. Moseley leads the team with three pass defenses while Sherman has two. Bosa and Warner each have one. Sherman has two picks while Moseley has the other in the postseason. The 49ers have totaled nine sacks, seven pass defenses and three interceptions in the postseason.
- 10th in pass play percentage (61.58 percent)
- 11th in completion percentage (65.6)
- 5th in passing yards per game (281.1)
- Tied for 2nd in TD passes (30)
- Tied for 1st in INT thrown (five)
- 4th in net yards per pass attempt (7.8)
- Tied for 4th in longest pass play (83 yards)
- 3rd in passer rating (104.4)
- 22nd in pass play percentage faced (60.13 percent)
- 1st in passing yards per game allowed (173.8)
- 14th in completion percentage allowed (63)
- Tied for 10th in TD passes allowed (23)
- Tied for 14th in INT (12)
- Tied for 3rd in sacks (49)
- 5th in passer rating allowed (81.5)
- 1st in net yards per pass attempt (5.3)
Who has the Edge?
San Francisco has been good against the pass and their pass rush is a big reason why. A defensive line full of first-round picks that have been a force has completely revitalized the 49ers' defense and forced opposing quarterbacks to try and come up with plays quicker than they would like. San Francisco has a solid secondary to lean on, led by Sherman, who has returned to form from the Legion of Boom days. The problem here is that the 49ers are facing a collection of targets with a talent level that they haven't faced all season. Hill, Watkins and especially Kelce will create mismatches and test the 49ers secondary. Mixing Hardman into the offense in a three-wide set adds more speed than the 49ers are going to be challenged to contend with. Throw in that Mahomes can throw from any arm angle and extend plays with his legs to make things more difficult. Give the Chiefs the edge.
Advantage: Kansas City Chiefs
San Francisco enters this contest 2nd in the league in scoring offense as they put up 30.2 points per game this season. The 49ers are 6th in the league in total offense with 375.6 yards per contest and stand 4th in yards per play with an average of six yards a snap. San Francisco is 5th in scoring defense as they allow 18.9 points per game. On the season, the team is 2nd in total defense by allowing 278.6 yards per game and 2nd in yards per play allowed as they give up 4.7 yards per play on average. San Francisco is tied for 11th in the league in giveaway/takeaway with a +5 margin this season.
The 49ers are only 21st in the league in scoring touchdowns in the red zone as they cash in 54.29 percent of their chances. Defensively, San Francisco is below average as they are 25th in the league in red-zone defense by allowing 61.36 percent of drives to reach the red zone to end in touchdowns. The 49ers are above average in third-down conversions, ranking 4th by converting 44.59 percent of their third-down situations. San Francisco’s defense is solid in those situations, ranking 2nd as they hold the opposition to a 32.39 percent success on their third downs. The 49ers are 4th in the league in time of possession by holding the ball 52.8 percent of the time this season.
Robbie Gould has hit 41 of 42 extra-point attempts but is just 23 of 31 on field-goal attempts with a long of 47 this season. Chase McLaughlin hit eight of eight extra-point attempts and is seven of eight on field goals with a long of 48. Mitch Wishnowsky has averaged 44.9 yards per punt (41.6-yard net average) on 52 punts this season. He has dropped 23 punts inside the opposing 20-yard line with only two touchbacks on the year. Richie James Jr. has averaged 21.4 yards per kick return on 20 kick returns with a long of 81. He has averaged eight yards per punt return on 33 chances this season with a long of 32.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs continue to be an offensive juggernaut this season as they are fourth in the league with 28.2 points per contest. Kansas City stands 6th in the league in total offense as they average 379.2 yards per contest while ranking second in yards per play as they pick up 6.2 yards per snap. The Chiefs are currently 7th in the league in scoring defense by allowing 19.2 points per contest. Kansas City is 17th in the league in total defense by allowing 349.6 yards per game and 13th in yards per play by allowing 5.4 yards per snap. In giveaway/takeaway, the Chiefs are tied for 6th with a +8 ratio this season.
The Chiefs have struggled punching the ball into the end zone once they drive into the red zone as they are ranked 20th in the league by converting only 54 percent of their chances. Defensively, Kansas City has been very good so far this season, ranking 8th in red zone defense by allowing 50.88 percent of drives to reach the red zone to end in touchdowns. The Chiefs are at the top of the pack in third-down conversions, ranking 1st by converting 47.59 percent of their third-down situations so far this season. Kansas City’s defense is 12th in those situations as they hold the opposition to 37.13 percent success on their third downs. The Chiefs are 19th in the league in time of possession by holding the ball 49.10 percent of the time this season.
Harrison Butker is 45 of 48 on extra-point tries and has hit 34 of 38 field goals with a long of 56. Three of his four misses have come from beyond 50 yards. Dustin Colquitt has averaged 44.3 yards on his 48 punts with a 40.3-yard net average per kick. He does have 21 punts inside the opponent's 20-yard line. In addition, he has recorded three touchbacks plus one blocked punt. Hardman has averaged 26.1 yards on his 27 kick returns with a 104-yard kick return for a score against the Chargers in week 17. He has averaged 9.3 yards on 18 punt returns with a long of 36. Butker is 11 of 12 on extra points and hit his lone field goal attempt from 24 yards.
Who has the Edge?
San Francisco was second in the league in points per game behind only Baltimore this season while the Chiefs were fourth. There's not a lot to differentiate things there. Similarly, both teams are below average in the red zone, which means there have been a fair amount of field goal attempts this season. In that regard, you have to give the edge to the Chiefs as Butker has been much better in the kicking game as Gould has struggled. The return game slightly favors the Chiefs as Hardman has the ability to take it to the house on any potential return.
As maligned as Andy Reid is based on his postseason resume (14-14), it's hard to overlook that he has a 207-128-1 record in the regular season. While the pressure is amped up in the playoffs, the fact remains that he's been a head coach in the Super Bowl before and has been in the playoffs 15 times in 21 years. Kyle Shanahan did a great job with San Francisco and he has experience being that his father is Mike Shanahan. However, this is his first postseason as a head coach and he's 23-25 in the regular season. This is going to be a test for the 40-year old coach. The Chiefs get the upper hand here.
Advantage: Kansas City Chiefs
This is about as big of a clash of styles as you'll find in the postseason and it harkens back to Super Bowl XXV when the Giants and their ball control, run-oriented offense battled the high-octane K-Gun offense of the Bills. While the Giants prevailed in that one, it's going to be a challenge for the 49ers here to contend with the Chiefs' attack. San Francisco is going to have to rely on the ground game to batter the Kansas City defense and control the clock. The 49ers have to get points early and come up with stops, which is something that Houston and Tennessee failed to do in their playoff games with the Chiefs.
Kansas City is going to play their style and attack through the air. Mahomes has to get off to a better start than he has in recent games as his early struggles have helped put the Chiefs in double-digit deficits. As explosive as the Kansas City offense is, you have to think that this is their stiffest challenge as far as an opposing defense goes in the postseason. The big-play ability of the Chiefs is something that can't be overlooked and the 49ers are going to have a healthy respect for the speed that Hardman, Hill and even Watkins bring to the table. That could open up lanes in the run game for Kansas City, which, in turn, would slow down the San Francisco pass rush.
According to Covers.com, the Chiefs are 7-0-1 ATS in their last 8 games overall, 5-0 ATS in their last 5 games after accumulating more than 250 yards passing in their previous game and 5-0 ATS in their last 5 games after accumulating more than 350 total yards in their previous game. San Francisco has gone 4-12 ATS in their last 16 games after accumulating less than 150 yards passing in their previous game and 1-4 ATS in their last 5 games after allowing more than 250 yards passing in their previous game. In a game that likely goes down to the wire, Mahomes does enough to get the monkey off Reid's back and delivers the Lombardi Trophy to Kansas City for the first time in a half-century.
Prediction: Kansas City Chiefs -1Second Opinion on this pick from StatSalt.com
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Full-game Total Bet
We saw both teams put up some big point totals all season long. That trend continued in the postseason as the 49ers hung 37 points in the NFC title game against Green Bay while Kansas City's two playoff games blew past the total. The Chiefs put up 51 and 35 points in their two playoff contests with only seven of those 86 points coming in the opening quarter. With all of that said, just because we saw a ton of points in the postseason doesn't mean we should expect it here. Kansas City went under the total in five straight games between weeks 11 and 16 of the regular season (they had a bye week in Week 12) as their defense held five straight opponents to 17 points or less. San Francisco has hit the over fairly regularly of late but they went over several times against beaten-up defenses on sub-.500 teams. Those situations aren't the factor here.
The under is 4-1 in the 49ers' last five playoff games. Kansas City has seen the under go 4-1 in their last 5 games after accumulating more than 250 yards passing in their previous game. While the knee-jerk reaction is to jump on the over given the numbers the offenses have put up all season, including the playoffs, the fact remains that San Francisco's defense is rock solid and the Chiefs were tough in the second half of the season. One needs to look no further than last season's Super Bowl for a sobering reminder about how jumping on the over can be a fool's errand. Look for this one to end up short of the mark.