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Everything you need to know for Super Bowl LVIII

An eventful NFL season is finally approaching its finale. Andy Reid’s Kansas City Chiefs and Kyle Shanahan’s San Francisco 49ers will duke it out in Las Vegas Sunday, Feb. 11 at 6:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time in Super Bowl LVIII. This matchup will be a rematch of Super Bowl LIV and features some of the league’s premiere icons, captivating narratives and, needless to say, two outstanding football teams. 

The Chiefs are led by quite possibly the best one-two punch in the NFL, quarterback Patrick Mahomes and tight end Travis Kelce. Mahomes has widely been regarded as the best at his position for the past few years, and despite an underwhelming regular season—for his standards—he finds himself back in the big game for the fourth time in his six years as a starter. 

Similarly, Kelce has been regarded as the league’s top tight end for several years, despite a slightly weaker season than usual. According to ESPN, he barely missed the 1,000-yard mark this year and had a shockingly low five touchdowns [1].

Despite their regular season struggles, the duo has found their footing in these playoffs, taking out the Miami Dolphins, Buffalo Bills and the top-seeded Baltimore Ravens on their way. But these games would not have maintained their result without the Chiefs’ elite defensive unit. During the Mahomes era, the defense was considered the weak point of these Chiefs teams, but this year that couldn’t be further from the truth.

According to Lineups.com, the Chiefs gave up the second least amount of points on average this season at 17.3 [2]. Fans have seen this defense take over games in the playoffs, such as, according to Chiefs.com, holding the Ravens’ offense—led by potential MVP Lamar Jackson—to 10 points, not to mention, the Dolphins’ offense—that once scored 70 points in a game—to just seven [3]. The squad is led by superstar Defensive Tackle Chris Jones. Jones had some contract disputes early on in the year, but once things were settled, he went right back to being one of the league’s toughest defenders.

Joining him on that front unit is young edge rusher George Karlaftis. Many top teams have at least one guy that they can always count on to come off the edge and do damage in the backfield, and the second-year stud out of Purdue has blossomed into exactly that. He and Jones have been a nightmare for offensive lines across the league, as the Chiefs’ pressure rate ranks 11th around the league, reported by CBS Sports [4].

Alongside the defensive line is a unit of defensive backs that have been nothing but spectacular. L’Jarius Sneed and Trent McDuffie have become a pair of stars—and arguably the best Cornerback duo in the NFL. Sneed in particular did not allow a single touchdown throughout the entire regular season [5]. Joining them are safety Justin Reid and young linebacker Nick Bolton, who thoroughly assisted in holding down the back half of the unit.

This team does have weaknesses, though. Their offense hasn’t been as electric as in previous years, largely due to the lack of competent wide receiver play. This issue single-handedly lost their games this year due to drops. Rookie Rashee Rice out of Southern Methodist University has been a promising piece, but he’s just one guy. 

Their team also takes a hit injury-wise, as they may be without star guard Joe Thuney, according to Bleacher Report [6]. The offensive line has also been iffy this season, especially on the outside. Losing a key piece to that unit will hurt against a team with a pass rush as good as the 49ers. Starting edge rusher Charles Omenihu will also be unable to play, as he suffered a torn ACL in the AFC Championship, according to ESPN.

Looking at things from the 49ers’ perspective, there is a lot to like. The offense has no shortage of elite weapons. Running Back Christian McCaffrey has been arguably the best offensive player in football and is on the ballot for both MVP and Offensive Player of the Year, according to ProFootballHOF.com [7]. Joining him is tight end George Kittle, one of the league’s most well-rounded players, and a pair of deadly wide receivers in Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk. 

This dream team is led by Brock Purdy, who has quite the underdog story. ProFootballReference shows that Purdy was the very last pick in the 2022 NFL draft, and yet he has thrived under coach Kyle Shanahan [8]. Purdy was amongst the top of the league in many metrics this season, and looks to be the franchise quarterback the 49ers have been desperately searching for. 

The defensive side of the ball has just as much talent, with last year’s Defensive Player of the Year Nick Bosa holding things down on the edge. Bosa could be in for a big game as a result of the Chiefs’ Offensive Tackle issues, and this year he’s conveniently joined by an old friend from college. According to ESPN, the 49ers acquired edge rusher Chase Young from the Washington Commanders at the trade deadline, and the two have wreaked havoc on the league since [9]. 

With Bosa and Young,  as well as Javon Hargrave stuffing up the middle, the Chiefs are going to be asking a lot from their line. The Linebackers in San Francisco are just as, if not more, impressive. There isn’t much Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw can’t do. The two have been a serious issue for just about every team the 49ers have played. Whether it’s forcing turnovers, making a tough tackle or dropping back into coverage, those two will almost always deliver.

Charvarius Ward became a primary corner for the 49ers as well. Ward used to play in Kansas City himself, so he may be more familiar with Mahomes’ mannerisms, which could lead to an advantage. This unit was third in points allowed, and it’s easy to see why with all those big names [2].

However, much like Kansas City, they are not without their weaknesses either. Trent Williams has been one of the best offensive linemen in football his entire career, but the same cannot be said about the rest of the 49ers’ line. According to ProFootballNetwork, the group was middle of the pack for most of the year, which could end up biting them this game [10]. They’ve been able to make up for this with Kittle, and their all-pro fullback Kyle Juszczyk, but it’s going to be more difficult to do that while passing, as the two of them could be running routes.

Their other primary weakness comes in their secondary, as they don’t really have a complimentary corner to Ward. The Chiefs’ receivers have not been very consistent, but there is a clear area of exploitation there. The 49ers’ pair of safeties, Tashaun Gipson and Logan Ryan, were good throughout the year, but they are two of the older starters in the league, as seen on 49ers.com [11]. Their experience could be a double-edged sword, as despite their knowledge of the game being sharp, it may be difficult for their bodies to keep up with the younger pass catchers like Rice.

This game has no shortage of star power, and that’s not even counting Taylor Swift, Usher and the rumored Jung Kook. Will Brock Purdy, the man selected last, come out on top, or will fans continue to see another accolade added to the already-historic resume of Patrick Mahomes? The stakes are higher than ever, and it should be one exciting game.

 

Sources:

 

 

  1. https://www.espn.com/nfl/player/_/id/15847/travis-kelce
  2. https://www.lineups.com/nfl-team-rankings/defense
  3. https://www.chiefs.com/schedule/
  4. https://www.cbssports.com/nfl/news/super-bowl-2024-odds-prediction-defense-leads-chiefs-past-49ers-for-third-super-bowl-title-in-five-years/#:~:text=The%20Chiefs%20led%20the%20NFL,quarterback%20duo%20in%20the%20NFL.
  5. https://chiefswire.usatoday.com/2024/01/03/kansas-city-chiefs-ljarius-sneed-on-track-to-end-regular-season-without-allowing-a-touchdown/
  6. https://bleacherreport.com/articles/10106904-chiefs-rumors-joe-thuney-may-need-surgery-on-injury-long-shot-if-kc-in-super-bowl
  7. https://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/39417454/reports-chiefs-pass-rusher-charles-omenihu-torn-acl
  8. https://www.profootballhof.com/news/2024/2023-finalists-announced-for-nfl-honors-show;-hall-of-fame-class-of-2024-to-be-named-at-event/
  9. https://www.pro-football-reference.com/years/2022/draft.htm
  10. https://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/38788085/sources-commanders-agree-trade-chase-young-49ers
  11. https://www.49ers.com/team/players-roster/

 

About the Contributor
Liam Crampton, Sports Writer