Where: Allegiant Stadium, Las Vegas, Nevada
When: Sunday, February 11
The biggest event in American sports is set to occur on Sunday as the AFC Champions (and defending Super Bowl champions), the Kansas City Chiefs, take on the NFC Champions, the San Francisco 49ers. This is the most expensive Super Bowl ticket in history – for reasons including everything from the presence of Taylor Swift to the location in Sin City – with fans paying an eye-watering $9,000 a ticket on the secondary market.
This is actually a repeat of Super Bowl LIV, which was held in Miami in February 2020. That was a game that the 49ers looked to have wrapped up as they led 20-10 entering the fourth quarter. That is when Chiefs’ quarterback Patrick Mahomes took over, leading his team to 21 unanswered fourth-quarter points for a 31-21 win and the Chiefs’ first Lombardi Trophy win since 1970.
This rematch doesn’t feature the same playing cast. The biggest difference is that the 49ers are led by one-time Mr. Irrleavent – the name given to the final pick in the NFL Draft – Brock Purdy. Pursy has his critics, but he has done a wonderful job of distributing the ball to the 49ers elite playmaking weapons, with the likes of Christian McCaffrey and Debo Samuel pricing to be matchup nightmares as the Bay Area franchise rolled through the NFC playoffs as the No. 1 seed in the conference.
Kansas City Chiefs
If the Chiefs do win this Super Bowl, it will be in a very different way to the first two during their current run. Mahomes and Travis Kelce – the Chiefs’ star pass catcher at the tight end – have had relatively down years, and through December, it was hard to imagine the Chiefs making it to Vegas.
This team has gotten better as the year rolls on – Andy Reid-coached teams typically do – and their power run game, led by the dominant force on the ground, Isiah Pacheco, is a wonderful compliment to what Mahomes can do. The pass-catching – outside of Kelce and rookie Rashee Rice – has been inconsistent (at best) in 2023, but the Chiefs are bringing the best defense they have ever had in the Mahomes era with them to this game, and that could be the biggest factor on Sunday.
San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers’ route to winning this is a heavy dose of McCaffrey and their run game. They will need to stay away from the monstrous Chris Jones in the middle of the Chiefs’ defense, but their biggest priority will be to stay out of third and long situations, which Purdy isn’t built for.
The zone run is where this game is won and lost. The 49ers rank No. 1 in the league in running it, while the Chiefs rank No. 31 in the league in stopping it. If San Francisco is going to win, then they need to get their zone running scheme working from the very first series of the contest.
I have no idea why the 49ers are favored here. Reid is exceptional when given two weeks to prepare for an opponent as he has here, and the Chiefs defense has been sensational in the playoffs. If the Chiefs win – as I think they will – then Mahomes is the obvious choice as MVP too. If the Chiefs win by grinding it out – which I think is likely – the don’t overlook Pacheco as an MVP choice. Don’t overthink this, as the Chiefs win by at least a touchdown in the home of their most bitter rivals.