The NFL is getting a Super Bowl rematch between the San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs, the second time the teams will meet in the league’s championship game in five seasons. The 49ers and Chiefs are the two teams that have made deep playoff runs consistently over the past five years, with San Francisco going to four conference championship games during that stretch and the Chiefs going to five.
Of course, the difference between the 49ers and Chiefs are the Super Bowl titles. The Chiefs are the league’s current dynasty, winning two Super Bowl titles in the last four seasons (looking to become the first team since the 2003-2004 New England Patriots to repeat). The 49ers have been to the Super Bowl in that stretch, blowing a 10-point fourth-quarter lead to the Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV that cost them their first championship since the 1994 season.
Chiefs head coach Andy Reid is searching for his third Super Bowl victory while 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan is still seeking his first. The major difference in this game is Brock Purdy, who will be under center for the 49ers instead of Jimmy Garoppolo, even though both rosters have underwent significant changes over the years.
Regardless, the 49ers and Chiefs are back in the Super Bowl, four years after “Wasp” became one of the most memorable plays in NFL history. The 49ers are still seeking to avenge that loss while Patrick Mahomes looks to add to his Hall of Fame legacy.
Who wins Super Bowl LVIII? Here’s a quick rundown of what to know ahead of the game, plus a prediction.
How to watch Super Bowl LVIII
Date: Sunday, Feb. 11 | Time: 6:30 p.m. ET
TV: CBS, Nickelodeon | Stream: CBS broadcast on Paramount+
Opening odds: 49ers -1.5, O/U 47.5
Chiefs defense steps up against elite offenses
The Chiefs defense has been elite all season, a complete turnaround from the other Super Bowl teams in Kansas City. While those teams have been carried with Mahomes and the offense, the Chiefs actually produced top-10 defenses in points allowed per game in three of the previous four seasons.
This unit has taken it up a notch, ranking second in points allowed per game and yards allowed per game. The Chiefs haven’t had a defense finish second or better in yards allowed per since since 1995 and its 17.3 points per game allowed is the lowest for Kansas City since the 1997 season (14.5). The defense is the lowest by any Andy Reid-coached team since the 2004 Philadelphia Eagles (16.3) and by any team with Steve Spagnuolo as their head coach or defensive coordinator.
The Chiefs allowed under 28 points in every game this season, the first team in NFL history to do so in 20 games in a season. The four teams in the Super Bowl era to allow 28 or fewer points 19 times in a season each won the Super Bowl (2000 Baltimore Ravens, 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers, 2010 Green Bay Packers).
Even more impressive with the unit is their ability to shut down top offenses. The Chiefs have held two of the top-four regular-season scoring offenses to 10 points or fewer this postseason — the Miami Dolphins (29.2) and Baltimore Ravens (28.4). This unit has been battle tested all year while the offense was figuring things out and answered the challenge.
X-factors: Isaiah Pacheco and Rashee Rice
Mahomes and Reid are the main reasons the Chiefs offense got back on track, but the resurgence of the unit can’t be told without Pacheco and Rice. Pacheco has 451 rushing yards in the last two postseasons for the Chiefs (six games), the sixth most for any player in NFL history after two seasons in the NFL. Pacheco averaged just 2.8 yards per carry in the AFC championship game victory, but also didn’t fumble the ball and scored a rushing touchdown.
Pacheco isn’t the primary third-down back for the Chiefs (nor gets many opportunities to run because of Mahomes and his passing ability), but has averaged 7.1 yards per carry on third down in his 15 carries this year (two touchdowns). He recorded a first down on 66.7% of those carries.
Rice has 223 receiving yards this postseason as Kansas City’s primary wide receiver, the fourth most for a rookie in league history. He hasn’t dropped a pass since Week 12, having 55 catches for 634 yards and three touchdowns in that span (11.3 yards per catch). Rice has emerged as the No. 1 wide receiver for the Chiefs, freeing up Travis Kelce between the numbers.
The Chiefs go to Pacheco and Rice for a reason. They trust them to make plays.
I usually make a Super Bowl prediction based on which team has the advantage in the battle in the trenches. The Chiefs offensive line has allowed just 30 sacks in the 20 games they played this season, a sack percentage of 3.9% (both rank second in the NFL). That sack percentage has dipped to 1.9% in the postseason, and Kansas City didn’t have Joe Thuney in Sunday’s win over the Ravens.
The 49ers have a pressure rate of just 30.8% in the playoffs (13th amongst the 14 teams) with a sack rate of just 2.6%. The matchup favors Chiefs offensive line there.
The 49ers offensive line has allowed a sack rate of 4.1% (fifth amongst the playoff teams) and allowed a pressure rate of 44.2% (13th amongst the 14 playoff teams). In the regular season and playoffs combined, the 49ers allowed a 40.8% pressure rate (27th in NFL), but just 6.2% sack rate (ninth in NFL). The Chiefs led the NFL with an 8.6% sack rate and were 11th in pressure rate at 37.6%. In the playoffs, that pressure rate is just 30.4%.
The Chiefs have the battle in the trenches at their advantage. They also have Reid and Mahomes, the best head coach-quarterback duo in the NFL. Hard to bet against either.
The 49ers have the better roster, but the Chiefs have the championship pedigree and the edge in the trenches. Kansas City is poised for its third title in five years. Not a gambler, but the spread is -1.5 so they’ll cover, too. Pick: Chiefs 30, 49ers 24