Cover image by the magnificent @GCHaggis on twitter.
It’s here! It’s the big one, the pinnacle, the zenith, the culmination, the… climax… of 266 games of football. 32 teams entered, only 2 teams remain. The San Francisco 49ers from the NFC and the Kansas City Chiefs from the AFC.
The 49ers were the top seed in the NFC with a final record of 13-3 and impressed through the playoffs with by dealing easily with the Vikings through a dominating defensive performance restrcting them to their lowest yards of the season and Dalvin Cook to the worst stat-line of his career, then going on to murderize the Packers on the ground as they man-handled their way to an easy victory which looked a lot closer than the game actually was at the final whistle.
The Chiefs finished as the #2 seed in the AFC behind the Baltimore Ravens with a 12-4 finish, topping the Patriots with the tie-breaker and getting themselves a playoff bye week. It seemed to hurt them as they went 24-0 down to the Texans before scoring 4 second quarter TD to lead at the half and they carried on after half time with a further 3 TD drives. It was pretty remarkable. The second playoff game for them went a little better, only trailing 10-0 to the Titans, but again they led at the half and didn’t look back.
San Francisco 49ers +1.5 @ Kansas City Chiefs: Total: 54
Moneyline – 2.10 @ 1.87
Weather: No rain, 60-70f, 10mph winds. Pretty good as you’d expect.
Kick off time: 2330
San Francisco 49ers
- ATS Record; 9-6-1
- Playoff results; 27-10 vs Vikings, 37-20 vs Green Bay
I’ve done a profile on Jimmy G and Paddy ‘Homes for SBR if you want a little more detail on them, the Jimmy G one especially is more positive than I usually am on him…but in fairness while writing it I didn’t find too much negative on Mr. Garoppolo to support my scepticism on him so it was a good project for me.
Essentially. Jimmy Garoppolo is a winner, a 23-5 win-loss record in his career shows that. But what I’m not sure it’s entirely sure on is whether that record has much to do with him. I mean he’s been dealt the best hand a QB can get having Belichick and then Kyle Shanahan as head coaches, it’s just tough to judge either with the eye test or by the numbers whether any QB in the league would be able to do what he’s done. When he was out last year CJ Beathard and Nick Mullens both put up good numbers with Shanahan’s scheme. They didn’t win many games as they’re a step below Jimmy, but the numbers were there for them.
He threw for 27 TDs, 13 INTs this season, an average passer rating over 100 and actually led the league in yards per attempt, although that’s likely a lot to do with the run after catch ability of his pass catchers, the fact that he was 3rd lowest in the league in “Average intended air yards” (Next gen stats) supports that theory. The issue I’ve got is that the scheme is so good that players are constantly open, they get a few yards before being hit and the likes of Kittle, Samuel and the running backs are great at gaining yards after the catch.
The fact that they’ve thrown the ball 27 times in 2 playoff games for 208 yards 1 TD, 1 INT doesn’t exactly inspire confidence especially when compared to 89 rush attempts in those games.
In fairness he’s been clutch in the 4th quarter of games this year, proven by the fact he led the league in 4th quarter comebacks and he was second in game winning drives. Including that cracker against the Saints which basically sealed the 1 spot for them
The run game has been good for them all season and things have come to a head in the playoffs. It’s been dominant against a tired Vikings team and a Packers team with average linebackers. Tevin Coleman was the man in the first game with 105 yards and 2 TDs from 22 carries. As a team they finished with 186 yards from 47 rush attempts to 19 pass attempts. He dislocated his shoulder early on last week which meant they had to go back to Raheem Mostert.
Not really a bad thing as Mostert ran for 220 yards and 4 TDs from 29 attempts an amazing performance at over 7 yards per carry. Despite them saying Coleman is on track to play on Sunday I’m sure they’ll keep Mostert with the load, but it’s always a bit difficult to judge with the boys from the bay. I thought with Coleman out that Matt Breida might get a few carries but 1 for 2 yards… that kinda didn’t happen. They actually gave WR Deebo Samuel more carries on jet sweeps than they gave to their RB3.
The main reason for their success last week was the beautiful blocking schemes they were running with the offensive line, full back and tight end all in sync, Kyle Juszkcsckscykzk and George Kittle having visibly brilliant games even for film watching amateurs like myself. That will be a vital area in this game. The Chiefs don’t rank highly on defensive DVOA especially against the run although they have been getting better through the season (Ranking 17th from week 13-20 rather than 31st before that) and the return of Chris Jones to full health will be vital for them.
I have to mention Kyle Juszczyk he’s the best full back in the game and a key cog in their running game as a whole as well as being adept catching passes a few yards down the field catching 20 of 24 targets for 239 and a TD.
Coleman is expected to play, BUT if he doesn’t then expect a goal line role for Jeff Wilson Jnr. who filled in well when needed earlier in the season with two 2 TD games in a row against the Bengals and Steelers. He’s nabbed one through the air as well. 12/1 on him anytime at Bet365 is a pretty good price considering it’ll be void if he is inactive.
Obviously with their QB only throwing the ball 27 times they’ve been somewhat of an after-thought in the playoffs, used mainly as blockers or distractions to help open up the play action game. Deebo Samuel has proved himself to be one of the more explosive receivers in the game this year with around 8.3 yards after the catch, per catch. From what I can tell that’s second only to AJ Brown for WRs this season. He had 2 of the 6 receptions last week for 46 yards, both on the first scoring drive of the game and he led the team in the Vikings game as well, although only 3 for 42 in that one as well. On the seaosn he had 802 yards and 3 TDs through the air, 3 TDs on the ground as well where they get him going with jet sweeps, end-arounds and the such.
Kendrick Bourne is the WR red-zone threat for the team when they don’t run the ball a million times, if you’ve read my previews the last fortnight you’ll know I like him to score most weeks, he’s usually well priced and has scored 5 in the last 8 games of the regular season and their lone passing TD in the post-season. Emmanuel Sanders was a great trade for them halfway through the season but only has 2 receptions in the post-season so far. It’s nothing against him, he’s been running routes well and getting open they just aren’t really throwing the ball. He has actually played against the Chiefs this season when he was at Denver finishing with 5 for 60 in that game.
Outside of the main three you’re looking at not much else, frankly. Dante Pettis was the man expected to have a season but has plummeted out of favour, Richie James is quick and used for kick returns and Jordan Matthews joins Pettis as having ZERO snaps last week.
The battle of the two best tight ends in the game. George Kittle is a fucking machine. He’s impossible not to like, he loves life, he loves the game especially run blocking and from all reports he’s more than happy to keep blocking as he shouted for more and more run plays last week while destroying the Packers linebackers and creating massive gaps for Mostert to sprint through, unsurprisingly PFF have him ranked as the top run-blocking tight end this year. He was second in yards after catch for all pass catchers and showed his strength in that crazy run against the Saints which helped set up their winning field goal.
So far in the playoffs, against the mighty tight ends of the Texans and Titans the Chiefs have given up 9 receptions from 15 targets for 98 yards and 2 touchdowns, both of them coming in the middle of the field where Mr. Kittle is likely to be. If they choose to pass to him he should have a big game.
You may have heard about this 49ers defense. It’s been pretty good. Jimmy Garoppolo blowing out his ACL was actually a blessing in disguise as it allowed them to take Nick Bosa with the second pick in the draft who, along with a couple of free agency signings, has made them one of the best defensive lines in the league. The game against the Vikings was the first time in half a season they’d been fully fit, each of the D-line had at least one sack with Bosa getting two, and he got one against the Packers as well.
They welcomed back Kwon Alexander as well in that first playoff game, he added more depth and pace to the linebacker corps with Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw who’ve both been great this year. The Jacuzzi Tartt is a top safety, and Richard Sherman was PFFs top ranked cornerback this year. It’s safe to say he’s full of confidence after his interceptions against the Vikings and the Packers taking him to 5 on the season.
This defense finished first in the regular season in pass yards allowed per game around ~170 and yards allowed per pass attempt ~6.
It is probably worth noting though that the games they’ve played closer this year have been against more mobile QBs. Kyler Murray, Russell Wilson and Lamar Jackson all put up rushing yards on the ground and pushed the 49ers pretty close, they allowed 25 and 26pts in wins vs the Cardinals, 27 and 21 pts to the Seahawks and lost 20-17 to the Ravens. The RJ Bell dream preview, (specifically @BradPowers7) did some work showing that mobile QBs put up 33% more rush yards vs the 49ers than they did compared to the season overall.
Kansas City Chiefs
- ATS Record; 9-6-1
- Playoff results; 27-10 vs Vikings, 37-20 vs Green Bay
You might have heard about Patrick Mahomes, or as he’s (probably) known to his friends ‘Paddy ‘Homes‘ He was the MVP last season with 5,000 yards and 50 TDs, he took the league by storm and while this year wasn’t the best for him as he struggled with a couple of injuries, he still had a great season and come the end of the year was playing at a similar level to the year before, the playoff run especially highlighted just how good he is, a fact shown by his grade since returning from injury in Week 10: 91.7, ranking 1st among QBs.
His playoff’s so far are pretty much the exact opposite of Mr. Geeee with 615 yards, and 8 TDs thrown in the two post-season games including 4 in the second quarter of the Texans game a few weeks back. Even at 24-0 he barely batted an eyelid as he continued to drive his team down the field. He’s also finding his feet on the ground as well with 53 yards in each of the games and a remarkable TD run last week (helped out by some truly terrible tackling) But it’s an added notch for the 49ers to worry about.
I could go into the stats, but there’s not really any need to do that with Patrick Mahomes, I’m not sure he’s got a whole lot to prove and while I’ve got reservations about Garoppolo I really don’t have any for Mahomes ability to take control of this game.
The RB position has been a bit of a mess for the Chiefs this year but they’ve finally got the man they want back to full health and Damien Williams is showing how good a fit he is for this specific offense. While he doesn’t put up huge numbers on the ground (under 500 yards on the year) he does a lot of work in the passing game with schemed plays as well as being available if things break down. He’s had 4 TDs in the playoffs.
Outside of him you’ll probably get a little bit of Darwin Thompson; the rookie looked OK in the little work that he got this year and while he probably won’t get much more than maybe 5 carries this week he’s the man likely to spell Williams if needed, last 4 games of the regular season he had at least 4 carries a game, although only one so far in the post-season. Lesean McCoy seems to be completely out of favour at the moment after having a few fumbles so I’m not sure he’ll even be active. He did announce this week that he’ll be retiring as an Eagle which seems a weird thing to say in Superbowl week unless he’s been told he’s not playing in this one.
But the run game isn’t where the Chiefs win, running the ball on less than 40% of their plays, so while it’s nice to have it, and Williams fits it well, it’s all about the pass for the Chiefs. When you’ve got Mahomes, that’s how you do it.
The main WR for them as it was last season is “The Cheetah” Tyreek Hill the only thing he beats better than opposing cornerbacks is his own s…. yeah he’s pretty quick. He missed 4 games early in the season as Karma took some quick retribution but in his 12 games he put up 860 yards and scored 7 times. The post season has actually been fairly quiet for him so far 108 yards and 2 TDs against the Titans last week, but it’s not just his numbers which makes him such a good player, he’s got such pace that defenses have to plan for him and often leave room for others in the passing game.
Others like Sammy Watkins who was the most targeted player for the Chiefs last week bringing in 7 of 10 for 114 yards and a TD. He’s been a ballache for anyone who had him in fantasy last year as he scored 3 in the first half of the first game of the season then did nothing after that. Maybe the post-season is just his time. He only had 2 targets in week 18, but caught both for 76 yards, he’s a tough one to call but his line is tempting. Demarcus Robinson had a few good games with Tyreek Hill out but is firmly WR3/4 in this team. He caught both targets last week against the Titans 2-4 is probably where he’s at. The one I’ve been on for the last couple of weeks who i’m tempted with again this week is Mecole Hardman he’s just got so much pace that he can be an issue for most defenses in the league, and he’s been good as a kick returner as well.
And so we’re on to the SECOND BEST Tight end in the league – Travis Kelce. Honestly it’s just the lack of blocking that keeps him below Kittle in my eyes. He is probably the best pass catching back in the league (finishing with 1,299 yards which put him 4th in pass catchers) as he showed in the first playoff game against the Texans where he became the first player to score 3 receiving TDs in a single quarter. They were all from a few yards out, but he took over that game for the Chiefs.
He had a quiet one against the Titans with only 30 yards from 3 receptions and will find the game this weekend a lot tougher as the 49ers have a ton of pace in the middle of the field so getting yards after catch could be an issue, but he’s so good there. The 49ers are actually pretty good against the tight end only allowing a score in 5 of their 18 games this season including last week against the Packers where the backup found some space in the endzone as Rodgers scrambled.
Blake Bell is a real person too. He scored with Kelce rested/injured at the end of the Texans game.
The Chiefs had one of the worst defenses in the league last season and it partly cost them a place in the Superbowl as the Patriots marched down the field in overtime. However it’s improved a lot this year and got better as the season has gone on. Ranking 6th vs the pass and 29th vs the run. The run ranking doesn’t represent the way they finished the season though as they restricted Derrick Henry to just 69 yards at around 3 yards per carry.
Tyrann Mathieu, the Honey Badger has been a great pickup for the secondary, he had a brilliant game last week and the partnership he formed with the now injured Juan Thornhill was one of the main reasons their pass defense improved so much. In Thornhills place though Daniel Sorenson has been making a name for himself especially in the Titans game where he snuffed the fake punt.
They let Dee Ford go to the 49ers and paid up for Frank Clark as a replacement for him, he had a decent enough season but really showed up vs the Texans finishing that game with 3 sacks, and adding another against the Titans in the conference final last time out. Chris Jones returned in that game although was struggling with injury, he’s expected to be fully fit for this one and is a huge addition to the pass rush and the run-stopping games. He had 9 sacks on the season and even severely hobbled showed up when needed last week.
The key for them will be slowing down the 49ers run game and putting the game into the hands of Jimmy Garoppolo. If they can do that then I they’ll have a decent chance of winning fairly comfortably.
I’m not really any closer to picking a winner here and obviously the bookies aren’t convinced either way, although I think they’re a little short on the handicap, I’d arguably have the Chiefs a point or so bigger favourites.
I want it to be the Chiefs (sorry Jay) and I’ve been leaning that way since the game was finalised.
While the 49ers defense is good I just don’t think they’ll be able to slow down Mahomes enough to be able to keep up with the Chiefs on offense. Yes the 49ers want to run the ball as plan A, but Jimmy is capable as shown in the Saints game. So I’m not even sure I’m entirely correct in my thought with this either!
I do however think the Chiefs will be able to get a few stops and at the end of the day that might be enough for them to take the win.
I was tempted to take under on the total, if you want to do that you’re probably best off waiting until later in the week as Joe Public will likely bet the total up even further (it started at 52) so the highest it will get will likely be Sunday. If you like the Overs you’re probably best to get on ASAP although I think you’re probably a bit late really.
Opening kick off to be a touchback isn’t priced well at 1.67 on Skybet, but I’d imagine it will happen. The 49ers won’t risk a return and Buttker has a big leg on him.
One I do like is the Chiefs team total OVER 27.5 points. 4 TDs? I think the Chiefs get to that.
Team to score first win the game – NO at 2.37 on Bet365 looks like a decent option too, the Chiefs have started poorly in both playoff games before winning them both comfortably, so I wouldn’t be shocked to see the 49ers score first. *Something I want to mention here is that there’s a long time between coin toss and getting the game kicked off… There’s a chance some books might be a little tardy inplay so if you’ve got them ready you MIGHT be able to get on Team to score first before they suspend. Unlikely but worth a try*
Shortest TD u1.5 is a standard Superbowl bet for me, DPI in the endzone puts it on the one, and with the stakes so high there’s a half decent chance a DB will panic. 1.66 on 365 isn’t going to make you rich though.
I don’t want to touch the sack line at 5.5, total pass yards, rush yards, nope.
I believe I heard on the Even Money podcast that there’s usually around 11 penalties in Superbowls, the refs tend to let the game flow so don’t throw a lot of flags, line is at 12.5 on Paddypower though juiced to the under, 1.66 for that.
One I did like the sound of was 49ers to have the most first downs. I figured running the ball vs the Chiefs throwing the ball for chunk plays that it would be logical that the 49ers have more, but the stats say the Chiefs averaged 3 more per game this season, so i’m out on that one.
So, my selections?
A sidenote first – If you’re betting the Chiefs to win you’re probably better off betting Patrick Mahomes MVP at better odds (2.15 on Uni/888) as I don’t see them winning and him not getting that award.
- Chiefs -1.5 – 2.00 (Redzone) around 1.91 in most places
- Total – Lean to the over.
- Opening kickoff to be a touchback – 1.67 (Skybet)
- Team Total – Chiefs o27.5 – 1.90 (Bet365)
- Shortest TD yardage u1.5 yards – 1.66 (Bet365)
If you fancy player props instead then I’ve got a post on that too! – Player props
So there you have it, that’s my pick for the game and a few game props. The player props post will be following shortly, but there’s a TON more to get through there and this post is long enough that I didn’t want to make it even longer!
Thanks for reading all year, and well done if you got through all of this, as I’ve said before I go into a bit more depth than is really needed in the hope I can help confirm or go against any bets you might be leaning to.
Good luck all, let’s hope there’s a few more than 16 points like last year!
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