You can watch the Super Bowl this Sunday at 6:30 pm on RDS and RDS.ca.
Vanguard leaders c. 49ers
We finally got there.
After an 18-week regular season, a month of playoff games and a week-long media circus in Las Vegas, the NFL will host its annual Super Bowl and pit the Kansas City Chiefs against the San Francisco 49ers.
Like in 2020, but not quite.
There is no need to remind you that the Chiefs won the game against the Niners, 31-20, in Patrick Mahomes’ first Super Bowl. Just as it is not necessary to point out the presence of Taylor Swift with Travis Kelce.
Stories abound with just over two days until Super Bowl LVIII and after all the noise, the game will finally stay on the field. A clash without tomorrow to crown the NFL season champions.
The Chiefs are familiar with the smell of victory. The 49ers of the 21st century, for their part, accumulate disappointments despite excellent seasons since the arrival of Kyle Shanahan at the helm of the team. He himself carries, in his little box of bitterness from the past, the painful memory of the Patriots’ comeback in 2017, when the Falcons had a 28-3 lead.
The Super Bowl has the particularity of having a long memory while the growing media attention brings to the surface the smallest details and the most trivial memories of all the craftsmen of the finalist teams.
Everything is examined. Sprinkle this circus with a little dose of Las Vegas and you have a classic before it even starts.
So, the big question: who will win Super Bowl LVIII?
Before I offer you my humble prediction, let’s talk a little about the upcoming match.
Patrick Mahomes and Brock Purdy
Who will have the last word in attack?
Since 2018, when Patrick Mahomes became the starter in Kansas City, the Chiefs’ offense has been the measuring tape for the rest of the NFL.
With two seasons of more than 5,000 yards under his belt, in addition to two Super Bowl rings, the Chiefs quarterback has become the new face of the NFL and his vision of the game still surprises all observers.
When the temperature rises around him, Mahomes (almost) always finds a way to lead his troops to victory.
Knowing all this, it seems strange to talk about the 2023 season as a time of uncertainty for the Chiefs. Statistically speaking, this was Mahomes’ least productive season. In 2019, with one less game, he had fewer touchdowns and yards, but the Chiefs still won their division and 12 games.
This year, the offense has struggled with a receiving rotation unable to form a connection with Mahomes. Evidently, the team got back into position at the right time and Travis Kelce has once again become the target of big opportunities since the start of the playoffs.
So everything is fine, right? Not quite.
Despite impeccable performances against the Ravens and Bills, we can’t completely discount the uncertainties of the regular season when talking about the Chiefs’ offense, especially since it will face the enormous challenge posed by the Niners’ defensive line.
With some injuries on the offensive line, Mahomes’ creativity will be tested as the pressure comes from both ends. Not to say that Kansas City’s offense is one-dimensional, it invariably runs through Mahomes’ hands.
If the quarterback has trouble finding his bearings, the game could quickly become difficult for the Chiefs.
This is where the offensive advantage could come to the 49ers due to the team’s very varied ammunition.
Yes, Christian McCaffrey is Kyle Shanahan’s workhorse and his team’s creative system, but “RUN CMC” can also break out to catch balls in addition to creating good blocks for his receivers and other versatile weapons at Brock Purdy’s disposal.
This gives Purdy the role of driver of a strangely powerful locomotive behind which a train full of talent keeps pace without much flinching. The Niners quarterback, simply put, just has to find ways to get the ball into the hands of the impact players around him, and there are plenty of them. There’s McCaffrey behind him, plus Swiss Army Knife Kyle Juszczyk, who is officially listed as a winger while doing a little bit of everything within the attack. Then, George Kittle is more discreet in terms of statistics, but his impact is undeniable since we must monitor him at all times on the field. This provides man-to-man coverage for Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk and both receivers can explode at the right time to make a big play.
Like I said, Purdy just has to put the ball in the right place and he does it very well. Without being purely the product of a system, let’s say that everything is orchestrated to highlight its qualities. There is strength in numbers and here the numbers are at a fever pitch due to the Niners’ contractual reality and Purdy’s ridiculously low salary based on being selected with the last pick in the draft.
The Niners’ window, as currently constituted, would never open again. We can afford to attract key players at full position because of the savings related to Purdy’s contract. Everything is finely oriented to maximize this window of opportunity.
The second half against the Detroit Lions in the conference finals was a great demonstration of the numerical strength of the Niners’ offensive arsenal. No advantage is insurmountable when big plays can come from all areas of the offense.
This incredible versatility is a perfect storm that the Chiefs will have to combine with in what will be, in my opinion, a great demonstration of surprising strategies to find the profitable zone.
So are we betting on Mahomes or the entire Niners offensive unit? Asking a question like that is a bit like answering it, even if betting against Mahomes, historically, isn’t the best way to preserve his savings.
Chris Jones and Nick Bosa
Two exceptional defenses
A famous paradox raises a thought-provoking question: what happens when an irresistible force meets an unbreakable obstacle?
This image sums up well, in my opinion, the inevitable collision between two very good attacks and two excellent defenses.
That of the Chiefs, for example, under the watchful eye of mad scientist Steve Spagnuolo, limited the Ravens to 10 points in the conference finals and the Dolphins to 7 points to start the playoffs. We’re talking about two of the AFC’s best attacks in one-on-one games.
In 2023, it was the Chiefs defense that kept the helm of the ship heading to the Super Bowl. Mahomes and Kelce are the stars of the team, but it is the defense that has rolled up its sleeves all season to make the victories line up regardless.
And during this Super Bowl LVIII, it will also be the Chiefs’ defense that will have the mandate to set the tone and prevent the Niners from exploding with big plays. To do this, we would have to rely on the weak link in a well-oiled machine: Brock Purdy’s inexperience.
The Lions made the first draft of this plan by completely muzzling the Niners with sustained pressure and camouflaged blitzes during the conference finals. Spagnuolo certainly caught on to the whole thing and knows that the key to derailing the Niners’ offense is to destabilize Purdy.
The unbreakable obstacle here is the Chiefs’ tertiary and Spagnuolo’s endless creativity in making the right plays at the right times.
The irresistible force, on the other hand, is the Niners’ defensive front led by Nick Bosa and Chase Young, two exceptional edge rushers with a single mandate on Sunday: hit Mahomes on the butt as often as possible.
The Niners’ two predators have the luxury of having Fred Warner behind them to patrol the middle of the field and dictate the positions of all the linebackers around him. In fact, Warner’s presence is more than a luxury: he is the beating heart of a highly effective defense with the tools to stop any attack.
Maybe even the Chiefs’ on Sunday.
Mahomes will be in a position to exploit the Niners’ secondary, as he can do so against every team in the NFL. It will be the linebackers’ role to take the middle of the field out of the equation.
We remind you that in the middle of the field is the permanent residence of Travis Kelce.
It’s not easy to take out of the equation the man who will undoubtedly be the best tight end of his generation when he hangs up his cleats to hum sweet songs with his beloved in the four corners of the planet.
In short, we get lost.
All of this to say that defenses will bear the brunt and ultimately it is a defensive play that will curb the ambitions of one of the two teams.
It remains to be seen who will have this honor.
At Super Bowl LVIII
So who will win the match?
I’ll spare you the advanced stats, because we could spend the week here. You can examine every aspect of this match to find a strong trend.
But basically it is relatively simple. Can the Niners stop Patrick Mahomes in a Super Bowl?
The only one to achieve the feat was Tom Brady, also recognized as the most decorated player in history with seven championships.
It is a term that is in the spotlight and under the watchful eye of the United States in general.
Except if any team can do it, it’s this edition of the 49ers. All the elements are in place. The players tasted failure with two consecutive losses in the association final before returning to the final match. Kyle Shanahan will want to associate his name with a great victory to remove the label of the coach who does not win HE match.
This Super Bowl will be highly contested with two ambitious defenses. In my opinion, Christian McCaffrey’s legs will carry the Niners to the promised land and, driven by the wind, give the California fans their first big win since the glory years of Steve Young.
The prediction : 49ers 27, Chiefs 21 and an MVP title for McCaffrey