Are the Kansas City Chiefs the wrong favorite in Super Bowl 54? That’s a legitimate question. After all, they are not laying a lot of points. And with the sensational Patrick Mahomes, they are the team more likely to capture the public imagination, while the Niners are a team that is solid all the way around, decidedly not flashy, but the kind of team that grinds it out.
Here is the line from BetAnySports, where you can get a ton of props, reduced juice for better odds and Sports Betting Ultra to place wagers during the game itself:
Kansas City Chiefs -1.5
San Francisco 49ers +1.5
Over 54 points -110
Under 54 points -110
We like the Niners, and we’re happy to tell you why:
* San Francisco can get pressure by rushing four men – it’s interesting when you look at what Mahomes can do. He can absolutely burn teams that are blitzing him, and one of the reasons obviously is that he can make quick decisions and catch opponents short on coverage. But the 49ers are little bit different in that they actually stress NOT blitzing. Only three teams in the league do it less than they do, but at the same time they have the second-best pressure rate in the league. This means they can drop more peopel back. Dee Ford, the former Chief, has not been healthy for the whole season, but with him on the field, this team has been able to exert pressure on 33.5% of the opposing quarterbacks’ dropbacks when they are rushing four players.
It’s interesting that there were five games during the season in which Mahomes was blitzed 13% of the time or less. In those outings he produced his five lowest quarterback ratings. Of course, it’s a big question as to whether the Niners can get to him, but they have a pretty good chance to keep him off balance, particularly because the Kansas City ground game is a hit-and-miss proposition, ranking in the middle of the pack.
* The 49ers’ stop unit can keep big plays to a minimum – it would be a very bold statement to say that San Francisco can shut down Mahomes and his very talented receiver corps. But if what they have done up to this point is any indication, they might be able to minimize the damage somewhat. The Niners allowed only 34 “explosive” passing plays this year, less than anybody else. And while Mahomes has compiled a sizzling 125.9 quarterback rating on throws 15+ yards down the field, San Francisco has yielded completions on only 34.1% of those kinds of plays, allowing just a 77.6 passer rating. We would expect them to do a pretty good job of keeping things in front of them.
* The Niners are going to have a firm commitment to the run. That’s going to happen whether they are super-successful or not. They have run the ball 52% of the time in their first 18 games, and they are well-versed in outside zone-blocking techniques, with a lot of imagination supplied by head coach Kyle Shanahan. On an overall basis, Kansas City was not effective stopping the run. In fact, they allowed 4.8 yards per carry, and hardly ever “stuffed” the opposition. Much has been made about the improvement in this unit. And we have to concede that since Week 10, only one running back has gone for more than 70 yards against them. In terms of run defense efficiency, this team was 31st in the NFL from Weeks 1-11, and since then they have been 17th. But think about that for a second – during this, their best stretch of the season, they are actually among the bottom half of NFL teams. Kansas City has, at times, found itself losing control of games in which the opponent could run the ball effectively. One prime example of this was the Indianapolis Colts, who were without practically their entire secondary, but came into Arrowhead Stadium and ran for 100 eat yards, chewing up 37 minutes of the clock in a 19-13 victory.
In seven games played against teams who are ranked in the bottom 10 of rushing efficiency (DVOA, as defined by the metrics people at Football Outsiders), the 49ers averaged 5.77 yards per attempt with 17 rushing touchdowns, and they ran it 33 times per game. If San Francisco gains a foothold running the ball, it opens up so much for them, including the play-action game. And Jimmy Garoppolo has completed 69% in those situations, with an average of 11.5 yards per attempt.
* The Chiefs could find themselves in big trouble if they really stack up against the run. We understand that they can do better against the San Francisco backfield if they do that, but they also stand a real chance in getting burned up top. Garoppolo completes 58.5% of his throws that go 15 or more yards beyond the line of scrimmage, and that is the best in the NFL. It’s also a principal reason why the 49ers have the highest percentage of explosive passing plays in the league (12%). Were you aware of that? Or were you under the impression that these guys were just “three yards and a cloud of dust”?
* From the standpoint of an “intangible,” I really have to give points to the San Francisco coaches. When you look at the offensive linemen who missed appreciable amounts of time this season, like offensive tackle Joe Staley and Mike McGlinchey, as well as center Weston Richburg, and this team kept on winning, that is a great testament to the coaching staff. So even though Shanahan may have that monkey on his back from a few Super Bowls ago when his Atlanta Falcons lost a 28-3 lead to New England, make no mistake about the fact that he is as cerebral as anyone in the profession.
Surely there are arguments that can be made for the Kansas City side. And frankly, we could be here all day going over the pros and cons. But we just think that San Francisco is the team that is better all-around, without the glaring weaknesses that can be easily exploited, and they appear more than capable when ir comes to the fundamental matchups. They do the most basic thing a team can do to control a game, which is to pound the ball. Frankly we’re not sure whether this is going to result in an over or an under, but we are pretty sure on the side, and we are happy to be with the underdog who should be a favorite. Go Niners!
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