The week has arrived for America’s biggest sporting spectacle.
Super Bowl LIV, to determine the champion of the NFL, takes place Sunday in Miami, pitting the Kansas City Chiefs against the San Francisco 49ers. Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. and is being televised on FOX.
Let’s break it all down:
Kansas City finished the season 12-4 and as the No. 1 seed in the AFC. San Francisco finished the season 13-3 and as the No. 1 seed in the NFC. The teams did not face one another this season, but the Chiefs won 38-27 when they played one another last season.
Kansas City beat Houston 51-31 in the divisional round and Tennessee 35-24 in the AFC championship game. San Francisco beat Minnesota 27-10 in the divisional round and Green Bay 37-20 in the NFC championship game. The 49ers have not trailed in the playoffs. The Chiefs trailed in both their playoff games before coming back to win, most notably falling behind 24-0 to the Texans before outscoring them 51-7 over the final 40 minutes.
SUPER BOWL HISTORY
The 49ers are one of the best Super Bowl teams in league history, having been to six Super Bowls and winning five of them. But San Francisco hasn’t won it since the 1994 season when the 49ers beat San Diego 49-26. San Francisco’s last appearance was in the 2012 season when the 49ers lost to Baltimore 34-31 in the lights-out game.
The Chiefs have been waiting a long time to return to the big game, as Kansas City’s last appearance was 50 years ago when the Chiefs beat Minnesota 23-7 to claim Super Bowl IV. Kansas City’s other appearance was in the first-ever Super Bowl as the Chiefs lost to Green Bay 35-10 in the 1966 season.
San Francisco finished the regular season ranked second in the NFL in points and fourth in yards. Most notably the 49ers were the No. 2 rushing team during the regular season, and that manifested itself in the NFC championship game when San Francisco had a throwback performance in which it passed the ball just eight (!) times. The 49ers used a three-headed monster at running back most of the year, but Raheem Mostert emerged as the top option, rushing for 220 yards and four touchdowns against Green Bay. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo finally had a healthy season, compiling a 102.0 passer rating, but having the occasional interception issue (13). Pro Bowl tight end George Kittle and rookie receiver Deebo Samuel are both physical handfuls.
Kansas City finished the season fifth in points and sixth in yards. In a contrast of styles, the Chiefs are one of the league’s most-feared passing attacks, finishing as the league’s No. 5 passing team. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes is the future of the position, with small injuries being the only reason why he’s not a candidate for a second straight MVP. Like the 49ers, his top receiving target is a tight end in perennial Pro Bowler Travis Kelce, while receiver Tyreek Hill is a lethal deep threat. Kansas City did not have a running back surpass 500 yards during the regular season, as Damien Williams was the top performer with 498.
The 49ers finished eighth in the league in points allowed and second in yards allowed. The Chiefs were seventh in points allowed and 17th in yards allowed. Both teams have the same strength, as they both have vaunted defensive lines.
Both defenses feature a former Seattle Seahawk who made the Pro Bowl. San Francisco cornerback Richard Sherman was a Seahawks icon before being released two seasons ago. Kansas City defensive end Frank Clark was traded to the Chiefs prior to this season in a cost-savings move, and now Seattle is trying to re-sign Jadeveon Clowney for a greater amount than what it would have cost to keep Clark.
Both defenses have one other Pro Bowler: San Francisco defensive end Nick Bosa and Kansas City defensive tackle Chris Jones.
The interesting thing is how they measure up against the other team’s strength. San Francisco had the league’s No. 1 pass defense, while the Chiefs ranked No. 26 in rush defense.
The Chiefs are favored by one point.
So what do you think? Who wins this year’s Super Bowl? Make your prediction here: