NFL expert Tom Selwyn (@Tom_Selwyn) shares his expert opinion on the best bets available for Sunday night's showpiece in Miami.
San Francisco 49ers @ Kansas City Chiefs | Sunday 2nd February 2020, 23:30 | BBC
And so the Super Bowl is finally here!
Twenty weeks of games have whittled down 32 teams to just two as we get set for the Kansas City Chiefs to face off against the San Francisco 49ers in Miami.
Out of the potential match-ups we could have had from Championship Sunday, this is by far my favourite as they were clearly the two best teams remaining and as a result it should be a fantastic game with two different styles going at each other.
The line is generally around 1.5 in favour of Kansas City and that seems about right given that I could make multiple arguments for both sides to come out on top. Indeed, every time I think there’s a distinct advantage for a unit on one team, I can convince myself that there’s a counter for it on the other team.
So let’s dive a little deeper, starting with Kansas City’s offense against San Francisco’s defence. The Chiefs are a pass-first team and with Patrick Mahomes at QB they absolutely should be.
Even though they’ll be facing the #1 pass defence of the 49ers (just 169.2 yards per-game given up), and the multitude of challenges that they present, I fully expect the Chiefs to keep the ball in the hands of the league’s best QB and air it out once more – especially given the lack of running game Kansas City has (Mahomes is their leading rusher this post-season..).
One of these challenges is the mismatch of the 49ers DL going up against the Chiefs OL. I mentioned last week how good that all of San Francisco’s starters (Bosa, Buckner, Ford and Armstead) are at getting pressure on the QB and they came up with three sacks against a Green Bay OL that I consider to be better at pass protecting than Kansas City’s…
…but, as I said, there always seems to be a counter! Mahomes is great against pressure and has the ability to make any team pay when the play breaks down. I saw recently that he’s thrown 22 TD passes since 2018 when he’s “on the run”, which is seven more than any other player.
The 49ers can’t just leave Mahomes in pocket to pick them apart, but they’ll need to rush intelligently and try to stop him getting free on the outside too often.
I just think that no matter how good your defence is – and this 49ers one is very, very good – you can only hope to slow this Chiefs offense for brief periods.
We’ve seen it too many times before to think otherwise; the Patriots in the Championship game last season held them scoreless in the first-half, before giving up 31 in the second. And then as recently as the Divisional round this year, the Texans kept them out of the end zone in the 1st Quarter, before getting 51 points put on them after that.
With this in mind, I’ll be taking the Chiefs to score Over 27.5 Points (10/11 Bet365). Mahomes, along with players like Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill, will always find a way to score and San Francisco’s defence has shown they can give up points this season despite the good statistics.
Now for the 49ers offense against the Chiefs defence. It seems pretty obvious that San Francisco will want to try and run on Kansas City – it’s their M.O. – and despite their relative success in stopping Derrick Henry, the Chiefs still look vulnerable to the run as they like to stay in the nickel defence (three CBs) when possible. They will surely want to force Jimmy Garoppolo to attempt more than the 8 throws he had against the Packers though!
Whilst their pass defence is absolutely their strength, and the Chiefs will be more than happy if they can get the 49ers away from their formidable running game, Garoppolo has shown himself to be more than capable of carrying the offense when it’s been asked of him, down in large part to the creative schemes that Kyle Shanahan draws up.
Regardless as to whether they’re doing it on the ground or through the air, San Francisco’s offense tends to go under the radar when compared to their defence. But they’ve been excellent throughout the season, outgaining the Chiefs in yards during the regular season, and have scored in each quarter in their last three games.
I think they’ve a very strong chance of doing so again, despite the Chiefs much-talked about uptick in defensive performance since their bye, and will be having a little on them to Score In Every Quarter (7/4 Bet365) for the fourth game running.
I really do think this could go either way and I’m hoping (especially after last year) for a very entertaining game regardless. I’d pick the Chiefs if forced, but I really couldn’t turn anyone off backing the 49ers.
MVP? Not something I’ll be getting involved in personally. The value is in the defensive players (Mathieu and Sherman can both be had for 100/1), but if a defender couldn’t win it last year when the Patriots held one of the league’s best offenses to just three points, then when can they?
If you think the Chiefs win, then odds-against for Mahomes winning it is nice as I can’t see him not doing so if they do.
No matter what you’re on, good luck and enjoy the game!