Super Bowl Odds 2020: Bold Predictions for 49ers vs. Chiefs

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistJanuary 21, 2020

Kansas City Chiefs' Patrick Mahomes (15) celebrates with Tyreek Hill (10) and Demarcus Robinson after running for a touchdown during the first half of the NFL AFC Championship football game against the Tennessee Titans Sunday, Jan. 19, 2020, in Kansas City, MO. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga)
Ed Zurga/Associated Press

Unstoppable force, meet immovable object.

The field is set for Super Bowl LIV, and it's spectacular.

The Kansas City Chiefs head to South Beach with the NFL's most electric offensive force in Patrick Mahomes. The San Francisco 49ers go there with the game's most ferocious defensive front.

It's world-class strength vs. world-class strength. The matchup could not look better on paper, and the mind runs wild with the possibilities for this collision.

Speaking of which, we've cobbled together a few bold predictions for the game, after laying out its scheduling particulars and the latest line from Caesars Sportsbook.

                 

Super Bowl LIV

Who: San Francisco 49ers vs. Kansas City Chiefs

When: Sunday, Feb. 2 at 6:30 p.m. ET

Where: Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, FL

TV: Fox

Latest Line: Chiefs -1 | O/U 54

                     

Bold Predictions

The Leading Rusher Won't Be Raheem Mostert

San Francisco's game plan for Sunday's surgical takedown of the Green Bay Packers was simple: Give it to Raheem Mostert and watch him go. The 27-year-old journeyman delivered a game for the ages, running himself into the record books and his team into the championship round.

But if you've tracked the Niners this season, you already know running back production is unpredictable from one week to the next. Just last week, Mostert was the clear backup (12 carries for 58 yards), as Tevin Coleman grabbed the spotlight (22 carries for 105 yards and two touchdowns).

Coleman was knocked out of the conference championship, but the Niners are hopeful they'll have him back for the Super Bowl. Don't forget, their backfield features another burner in Matt Breida, who cleared the century mark twice this season.

The Chiefs, meanwhile, might emphasize their ground game more than normal to keep the 49ers defense honest, which opens the door for Damien Williams to break a few big ones. As electric as Mostert can be, the numbers game works against him here.

                  

Tyreek Hill Will Have 100-Plus Receiving Yards

On first glance, this probably doesn't seem especially bold. Tyreek Hill is maybe the league's most explosive receiver, so surely he's knocking out triple-digit efforts with regularity, right?

In fact, he only had two 100-yard performances all season—playoffs included. He had six last year, but that still only gives him eight over his last 32 games.

Taking this boldness a step further, San Francisco has the best pass defense in the business. It surrendered a league-low 169.2 passing yards per game this season. It allowed all of 10 points over its first six quarters in this year's playoffs against Kirk Cousins and Aaron Rodgers.

So, why are we bullish on Hill? Because he has game-breaking speed, which can make him a thorn in San Francisco's side for any number of reasons. Richard Sherman is a shutdown corner in most matchups, but he can struggle against straight-line speed. The corner opposite of Sherman, Emmanuel Moseley, isn't in the same weight class. If San Francisco's pass rush gets Mahomes out of the pocket, that just gives Hill more time to race free.

Hill may not have a ton of catches, but he doesn't need them to put huge numbers in the yardage column.

                  

Defensive Player Wins Super Bowl MVP

While the Super Bowl MVP isn't reserved for the quarterback position, that's where it lands most often. Of the 20 awarded since the year 2000, 12 have gone to quarterbacks.

If it doesn't go to the quarterback, it often finds his favorite target. Wide receivers have claimed four of the remaining awards in that same time period, including the most recent recipient, Julian Edelman.

Considering the wealth of firepower on Kansas City's side, there is no shortage of MVP candidates on the offensive side. But the fact we're tabbing a defender to capture the hardware—only four have done so since 2000—tips our hand when it comes to our projected winner.

If the Niners win this game as we expect, they almost certainly will secure the victory on the defensive side of the ball. They aren't built to trade punches with Mahomes, so instead they'll count on Nick Bosa, Dee Ford, DeForest Buckner, Arik Armstead and Co. to create enough havoc along the front line to help protect the back end from being exposed.

"There is really only one shot to slow down Mahomes: pressure him," ESPN's Field Yates wrote. "Even that isn't always enough. But it's your best shot, and it happens to be a massive strength of the 49ers."

If the Niners get consistent pressure without bringing extra help, the MVP could go to any number of players. Maybe it's the pass-rusher credited with the most sacks. Maybe it's a member of the secondary who pounces on a bad pass forced by defensive pressure. Maybe it's a linebacker who racks up tackles at a blistering rate after the line forces players his direction.

Long story short: We think San Francisco wins and does it with defensive domination.

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