So here’s an annoying fact. I used up my locks on both Super Bowl teams. You might read that and think I didn’t believe in both teams, but that’s not completely true. It’s more that I took advantage of an opportunity to pick against good teams when I thought they’d lose, so I wouldn’t burn through my bad teams later… and also, I didn’t believe in the San Francisco 49ers for most of the year. Hey! It’s the Joe Montana Bowl!
Last Week’s Record: 2-0
Overall Record: 171-91 (Postseason: 7-3)
LOCK Record: 15-5
Ryan’s NFL Picks (2019): Super Bowl LIV
I keep going back and forth about this game. I had Kansas City winning it immediately after the AFC Championship game, and then San Francisco just dismantled the Packers. Sure, Aaron Rodgers put in that garbage time work, made his numbers look respectable, and the final score says he only lost by 17, but it was over at half-time. Jimmy Garoppolo only threw eight passes, and they curb-stomped any Super Bowl one rematch.
And that’s ultimately why I think San Francisco is going to take this one. Because strangely enough, they match up perfectly against Kansas City.
Winner: San Francisco 49ers
In recent memory, it feels like every time an elite offense faces off against a juggernaut defense, the defense wins convincingly. The pass rush of the New York Giants beat Tom Brady twice, Peyton Manning‘s record-breaking Denver Broncos were crushed by Seattle’s Legion of Boom, and Sean McVay’s offensive machine was silenced by the Patriots last year.
This is part of Kansas City’s problem. Patrick Mahomes and company are fantastic, but the 49ers are uniquely suited to beat them. The Niner defense is so good in coverage, and so good at rushing the passer, that they don’t need to blitz. Fred Warner can cover wide receivers, so he’ll be on Travis Kelce duty all day. I do worry about Richard Sherman vs. the speedier Chiefs receivers, but if Nick Bosa and company are consistently getting to Mahomes it won’t be a problem. That leads to the real problem for Kansas City.
Stopping the Run
Kansas City’s defense has slowly but surely improved over the weeks, but they were still 25th in the NFL against the run during the regular season. Meanwhile, only Baltimore, a historically brilliant rushing offense, had more yards on the ground than the 49ers this season. The 49ers were able to rip the Packers apart, essentially without using their quarterback at all, through the wizardry of the Shanahan run scheme.
If the Chiefs can’t stop the run, here’s what happens. Firstly, the 49ers can keep Patrick Mahomes off the field. Secondly, the 49ers control the clock, limiting Kansas City’s possessions. And thirdly, if they’re scoring touchdowns, you’re putting the Chiefs in must-pass situations, which benefits the pass-happy Chiefs on the surface, but also allows the 49er rushers to pin their ears back and chase Mahomes.
Kansas City has to get out to a big lead early, and they have to force Jimmy Garoppolo to beat them. If San Fran can run the ball the way they did against Green Bay, then I think Andy Reid will have to wait at least another year to add a Lombardi to his trophy case.