It’s that time of year again – that wonderful, magical time where every single co-worker, in-law, friend, casual acquaintance, mailman, bartender and cashier I see asks the local Yank about the Super Bowl. That extraordinary week when I get to feel truly special!
But enough about me (“the special one” as I’m known on the streets), THE big game is coming up after all. And this year really is shaping up to be BIG.
It’s my favorite kind of NFL matchup: a top ranked offense in the Chiefs (second in the league in pass offense) against a top ranked defense in the 49ers (second in the league in pass defense). There are plenty of interesting statistics and storylines to unpack (we’ll get there), but at the end of the day it’s very simple – The Chiefs are very good and getting the ball down the field (particularly by throwing it) and the 49ers are very good at stopping you from getting down the field (particularly when the opposition throws it).
It gets a bit more complicated when trying to figure out which of these will prevail come Sunday – I tend to always lean on the side of top tier defenses having the advantage (think the 1985 Chicago Bears, 2000s Ravens or the 1970s “Steel-Curtain” Pittsburg teams), but the 2019 49ers aren’t exactly the 1974 Steelers. On the other side, there is something about this Kansas City Chiefs offense (and in particular QB Patrick Mahomes) that seems extra special. Coming off a 2018 season when Mahomes was awarded the league MVP, he’s somehow looked even better this year – like we’re witness to a generational talent finally get his first crack at the big one.
The opposite matchup for both teams (49ers offense v. Chiefs defense) makes it a little bit tougher to pin down – both were decent if not good at times and always did just enough to help win football games. The edge here goes to the 49ers as elements of their offense has had flashes of true brilliance this season. QB Jimmy Garoppolo may not quite play at an elite level (yet), but knows how to get out of his own way and, when it counts, knows how to win. Also having the breakout star and Cinderella story of the NFC Championship game (RB Raheem Mosert) doesn’t hurt your chances.A few other side notes / takeaways in the leadup to Super Bowl LIV:
– Changing of the Guard: This season, and this Super Bowl in particular, has really signified for me a changing of the guard in the NFL. The Patriots aren’t involved. Brady is ancient. Rogers and Roethlisberger are old. Two young QBs are going head to head for the Lombardi trophy in what could be the first of many times for the next decade plus. The king is dead, long live the king.
– Coaching Redemption: No matter which team wins, a head coach will finally have some redemption. Andy Ried has had massive (borderline hall of fame level) success for the last 20 years coaching, but has always choked in the playoffs and never won a Super Bowl. Kyle Shanahan was previously on the Atlanta Falcons coaching staff during their legendary choke job in Super Bowl LI, losing to the Patriots after leading by 25 points during the third quarter.
– E-I-E-I-U: Perhaps the single most important fact heading into this game: 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo went to and played football at my alma mater, Eastern Illinois University. Clearly winning is his birthright. Shout out to EIU and my boy Jimmy G! Win the Super Bowl and I’ll meet you at the Panther Paw for a couple of cold ones!
After weighing out all this information, the game really could go either way. A true “pick ’em” in every sense of the word, you could easily make a strong case that either team will win. And in a way, that’s what makes it so exciting. This isn’t the Patriots favored to win by 10 points (as it’s felt like the last 10+ years have been), it’s two great teams with young leaders battling it out to be the face of the NFL for the next decade to come.Final prediction: San Francisco 27, Kansas City 24, Jimmy G: Legendary