This is expected to be one of the most competitive Super Bowls ever. The spread for Super Bowl LIV has been Kansas City -1 or Kansas City -1.5 since the opening betting odds were released last Sunday night. Although most bettors like the Chiefs to win the Super Bowl, there has been a decent amount of sharp money on the San Francisco 49ers, keeping the spread close. However, we have seen a significant amount of action on the over. The total for this game opened at 51.5, and it has risen by three points since open.
— Official Bookmaker (@bookmaker_eu) January 27, 2020
Kansas City Chiefs -1 vs San Francisco 49ers, O/U 54.5
The Chiefs have the most dynamic quarterback in the league in Patrick Mahomes. Mahomes has shined in his four previous postseason games, completing 62.7 percent of his passes for 1,188 yards with 11 touchdowns and no interceptions. He has been virtually flawless in wins against Tennessee and Houston, leading Kansas City from behind both times to pick up comfortable wins and covers per the NFL betting odds. However, he may have a hard time finding similar success against San Francisco this week.
San Francisco has the best defense in the NFL. The 49ers have a great defensive line as a result of using at least one first-round pick on a defensive lineman in four of the last five drafts, and the front four can get after the quarterback. This team can create pressure without blitzing, and that creates all sorts of advantages for the 49ers.
That is part of the reason why San Francisco has the best pass defense in the NFL. The 49ers are conceding just 5.3 YPA and 173.8 YPG through the air, and both of those numbers are the best in the league by a decent margin. Richard Sherman has proven he still has a lot in the tank, becoming the shutdown cornerback that this secondary needed, and the safety play has been fantastic. Jimmie Ward and Jaquiski Tartt both have excellent instincts, so Mahomes could be baited into throwing his first postseason pick.
Kansas City hasn’t shown much in the run game in the playoffs, as Mahomes led the Chiefs in rushing against Houston and Tennessee. His elusiveness was on full display after he ran for a touchdown just before halftime against the Titans in the AFC Championship Game, but San Francisco has the speed to keep his legs in check. This front seven is exceptionally fast, and the only two quarterbacks that have run on this front successfully are Lamar Jackson and Kyler Murray.
The 49ers have an overpowering running game that they have rode through the first two rounds of the playoffs. Raheem Mostert set a record in the NFC Championship Game by running for 220 yards and four touchdowns, and that has led to Jimmy Garoppolo taking a back seat. Garoppolo has thrown for just a shade over 200 yards in San Francisco’s two previous playoff games, and Kyle Shanahan would love to do the same thing against Kansas City.
The Chiefs’ front seven was one of the worst at stopping the run in the NFL this season. The Chiefs allowed 4.9 YPC, and although they were able to contain Derrick Henry somewhat, that likely won’t stop Shanahan from keeping the ball on the ground and trying to pound this defensive line.
San Francisco’s X-Factor in this game is George Kittle. Kittle is the best all-around tight end in the league, and his run blocking prowess makes it difficult for defensive coordinators to stop him. If you put a slower linebacker on Kittle, Garoppolo will hit him down the middle of the field, but if you try to put a defensive back on him, he will take that safety out of the play with his strength.
Steve Spagnuolo has done a fine job in turning around this defense, but San Francisco has the personnel to control the clock and keep Mahomes off the field. I expect the 49ers to hold the ball for at least 35 minutes and grind out a close victory to tie Pittsburgh and New England as the most successful franchises in the Super Bowl era.
Check out the latest Super Bowl LIV betting odds and props.