Super Bowl LIV, Sunday, February 2, 11.30pm
This is it. With 268 games played, we are down to two teams. On Sunday the 2nd of February the Kansas City Chiefs will face the San Francisco 49ers to decide Super Bowl LIV.
On paper, we couldn’t have asked for two better sides to meet in the NFL’s showpiece event. The Baltimore Ravens may have finished with the best record, but few would argue that Andy Reid has the strongest AFC squad at his disposal.
Whereas Kyle Shanahan has taken his Niners from a 4-12 record to the most devastating force in the NFC. It’s a mouthwatering prospect just thinking about it.
Here are three key battles which will decide who lifts the Vince Lombardi trophy.
Patrick Mahomes v Nick Bosa & Dee Ford
There was always going to be a regression from the 53 touchdown passes Mahomes managed in 2018, but with 34 in 16 games, including eight without an interception during the postseason, the 2017 first-round pick has been in sensational form since recovering from his knee injury.
Against the Houston Texans, down by 24 points, the 24-year-old took the game on his back and led the Chiefs on an astonishing comeback. Finishing 23/35, with 325 yards, five touchdowns and zero sacks. It was almost perfect.
- Patrick Mahomes is Evens for Super Bowl MVP
- Get the odds on Jennifer Lopez and Shakira’s first half-time songs at Paddypower.com
However, this could be the biggest test he’s faced all season. During the regular season, only the Patriots conceded fewer yards than the Niners. No one has managed to match them in the playoffs, and with eight sacks, helped by the efforts of Defensive Rookie of the Year, Nick Bosa, and former Chief Dee Ford, they are the one team who could stop the superstar QB.
Slow down this dynamic duo and Mahomes will have a chance to control the game, but it won’t be easy.
Nick Bosa generates pressure more than twice as often with Dee Ford on the field this season:
— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) January 17, 2020
When offensive lines need to scheme for both, the numbers show they struggle, but even without Ford, the number two pick of the 2019 draft finds a way to pressure the QB. He has quickly established himself as one of the most destructive forces in football.
Robert Saleh has created the best passing defence in the NFL, averaging a league-low 5.3 yards per attempt. Well, Patrick, no one said it was going to be easy.
George Kittle v the KC secondary
How do you go about stopping arguably the best tight end in the NFL? As teams have discovered this year, you don’t – well, unless Coach Shanahan decides not to use him. In the postseason, Kittle only has four receptions for 35 yards, he’s yet to have a touchdown, but in San Fran’s destruction of the Green Bay Packers, the 6 foot 3 inch receiver was one of their lead blockers, assisting Raheem Mostert as he racked up four rushing touchdowns.
Chris Jones, although he made his presence known against Derrick Henry and Ryan Tannehill last week, is still not 100% fit and with the tight end blocking to benefit the ground game, Kittle has proven he is much more than just a pass-catcher.
- George Kittle over 72.5 receiving yards in the Super Bowl is 10/11
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No one in the NFL – including Christian McCaffrey – had more yards after the catch than Kittle this season. If Jimmy Grappolo looks for his most reliable receiver during the Super Bowl, you have to do much more than just tackle him. You must bring him down.
Luckily, in Tyrann Mathieu and Dan Sorensen, the Chiefs have two of the toughest hitters in their secondary. Both were superb against the Tennessee Titans, combining for 17 tackles.
Tyrann Mathieu : 9 tackles, 1 for loss & a pass defended (Going to his Super Bowl for the 1st time in his 7-year career) pic.twitter.com/xzJf0uYPSq
— Lee Harvey (@MusikFan4Life) January 19, 2020
Known as the ‘Honey Badger’ Mathieu joined as a free agent in the off-season and has made a huge impact in improving Steve Spagnuolo’s defence. Even if Kittle isn’t a huge part of the Niners offensive plan, the Chiefs will have to respect him, and that itself will cause them problems.
Tyreek Hill & Sammy Watkins v Richard Sherman
In 2018, Richard Sherman, one of the key members of the Seattle Seahawks’ Legion of Boom, signed for the 49ers. In 14 games, he failed to register an interception and only beat his tackles total from 2017 by two – playing five fewer games.
More was expected if the Californian side were to improve on their disappointing season. Sherman hasn’t disappointed. Three picks, one touchdown and 61 tackles later, the cornerback is back to his best.
Next Sunday he’ll need to continue on that path as he tries to stop both Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins. It was the latter who stepped up against the Titans, and with 114 yards, he finished with more than Hill and Travis Kelce combined.
It was proof, regardless of your gameplan to battle the Chiefs, if you think you have their big name targets under control, there is always someone else to step up.
— GridIronism ? (@GridIronism) January 19, 2020
Given time in the pocket, Mahomes will look to burn Sherman against Hill’s lightning speed, but the former Buffalo Bill is no slouch either. It will be key for the pass rush to make the QB throw the ball early, otherwise their veteran corner could be in for a long day.
*All odds correct at time of publication