We have reached the end point of the 2019-2020 NFL campaign, the NFL’s 100th season. We are in for an exciting game. On Sunday, the NFC champion San Francisco 49ers take on the AFC champion Kansas City Chiefs. This is the Chiefs’ first Super Bowl appearance in 50 years, their last being Super Bowl IV in 1970. At the time, it was the last of the NFL/AFL showdowns, so this is the first time the Chiefs have been the AFC Champion. The Niners last reached this stage in the 2012-13 season, where they fell to the Ravens. San Fran has been all over the map this decade–4 NFC Championship appearances, 2 Super Bowl appearances, and 6 third-or-worse division finished. That is true feast-or-famine. The Niners picked second just last draft, and are now one game away from a title.
Representing The Bay
The Niners were the most dominant team in the NFC this year, bar none. There were some slip-ups–like losing 2 games at home to the rival Seahawks and the late-surging Falcons. They also dropped a game to the (at that point) powerhouse Ravens. All three of those losses were at the buzzer. They stole games at New Orleans and against the Cardinals at Levi’s Stadium. But during that stretch of mentioned games and a few others, the Niners were devastated with injuries. Critical pieces such as George Kittle, Dee Ford, Joe Staley, Kyle Juszczyk, and Kwon Alexander all missed time. The Niners survived all of that, and an insane final push by the Seahawks in Week 17 to claim the 1-seed.
Since then, they have obliterated a pair of NFC North pretenders in games that weren’t even close. While the Niners’ defense was down–like against Arizona, the second Rams game or the Saints–the offense popped off to carry the team. When the offense couldn’t get into gear–like against Pittsburgh or the first Rams game–the defense carried. When it all went right, they thrashed the Vikings, and twice so the Packers. The only NFC team with an argument for being at the Niners’ level was New Orleans, yet they bowed out to the 6-seed Vikings in the Superdome.
The Kansas City Shuffle
The Chiefs have had a much different route to this point. Things started great in Kansas City, and then they played the Colts in Week 5. Patrick Mahomes was hurt in that contest, and the Chiefs fell. They then lost to the Texans. The following Thursday, Mahomes suffered a dislocated kneecap, and missed the next two games. They split a pair with the Packers and Vikings. Mahomes returned to face a heating up Titans team. That was one of the craziest games of this season. While Mahomes was excellent, the Titans blocked a last second field goal and won the game.
Over the next month, the Chiefs went undefeated, but the offense did not exactly seem the same. They closed out the year by thrashing Chicago and struggling a bit against the Chargers. Up until that point, it seemed as if the Chiefs were locked as the 3-seed and would have to face Tennessee again–if not for some Fitzmagic. The Dolphins shocked the Patriots in Week 17, giving the 2-seed to the Chiefs. The importance of the bye cannot be understated in the last few years. The last 7 Super Bowls have featured 1-and-2-seeds from each conference. Kansas City got their bye, fell behind to Houston, and roared back in epic fashion. They then survived an early avalanche from the red-hot Titans, and reached the Super Bowl.
These are both excellent teams, and they have been all season. Kansas City has the advantage of having the best player in the game in Patrick Mahomes. Mahomes’ midseason injury and the rise of Jackson-mania distracted from the fact that Mahomes is the best quarterback in the league. He has re-asserted his position over the playoffs. The combination of vision, pocket movement, leadership, and arm talent Mahomes possesses is un-paralleled. Despite that, KC is the weaker team.
The interior of San Fran’s line is better than that of the Chiefs. The Chiefs have the best receiver in Tyreek Hill, and he, too, is a completely incomparable weapon. George Kittle and Travis Kelce are the two best tight ends in the game. They are used very differently, though. Kyle Shanahan will move Kittle all over the formation. The Niners offense is incredibly deceptive, and they ranked number one in the league in pre-snap offensive movement. Shanahan’s offensive scheme manufactures lanes for players to run. They’ll hand it off to Raheem Mostert, Kittle, Juszczyk, or Deebo Samuel. Both of these teams have incredible amounts of offensive speed.
The Niners have the clear edge on defense. The Chiefs’ defense is subject to big plays against. Kansas City line-backers are lacking to say the least, and the Niners will look to attack the middle of the field often to confuse them. The Chiefs do have some certified stars on the front in Chris Jones and Frank Clark. Those two will need to play the games of their lives.
San Fran’s modus all year has been to get pressure with four. The quartet of Nick Bosa, Arik Armstead, DeForest Buckner, and Dee Ford has been a force all year. But, they have not played the likes of Mahomes. The Niners’ backers of Fred Warner, Kwon Alexander, and Dre Greenlaw have all had big years, as well. Although, Alexander may not be 100% healthy, and Greenlaw is still a rookie and subject to lapses. The Chiefs will need chunk plays. Mahomes will rely on Kelce in the middle of the field, and Andy Reid must have a variety of screens planned to mitigate the pass rush. San Fran’s secondary has been great all year, but it feels like a chicken-and-egg scenario. Are they that good, or are they aided by a beastly front? In their game against the Saints, Drew Brees did whatever he wanted the whole game.
The Lombardi Belongs To The NFC
This looks to be a thrilling game. Last year’s Super Bowl was a letdown, after the absolutely thrilling, down to the wire Super Bowls 51 and 52. As said, these are two excellent teams, and have been all season. This is the type of game where one play changes it all. The Pats were looking to go back-to-back, until Brandon Graham stripped the ball from Tom Brady. Hopefully, this is that type of game. San Fran may not have the best player, but they have the edge in both trenches, and that wins football games.
San Francisco 38, Kansas City 35