SB LVIII First Look: Money Coming in On Underdog Chiefs to Upset 49ers

As the Super Bowl LVIII line fluctuates slightly, we make a case for both the San Francisco 49ers and defending champion Kansas City Chiefs to hoist the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

The Kansas City Chiefs know their way around a Super Bowl. This is their fourth in the last five years, including last year’s 38-35 “upset” of the Philadelphia Eagles.

We say “upset,” because the Chiefs were underdogs in that game. Just like they’re underdogs in this year’s spectacle at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas on February 11.

This year’s line opened with the San Francisco 49ers 2.5-point favorites to win their first Super Bowl in nearly 30 years. Apparently, early money thinks otherwise, because that line was bet down to San Francisco -1.5.

If these two teams look familiar this time of year, they should. This is a repeat of Super Bowl LIV, when the Chiefs came from behind to beat San Francisco, 31-20. And with the array of talent on both sidelines, this has the potential to be one of those games for the ages.

So much so that we can make a case for either team to lift the Vince Lombardi Trophy come the evening of Sunday, February 11.


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Why San Francisco Will Win

Memo to the Brock Purdy haters—he’s no longer Mr. Irrelevant. Unless your definition of “irrelevant” is an NFL-best 113.3 passer rating, 4,280 yards, 31 TDs to 11 INTs and a nearly 70% completion rate. Oh, and here’s where we should mention Purdy’s record as a starting quarterback—17-4. Irrelevant QBs don’t spearhead 17-point comebacks in conference championships, which is what Purdy did against the Lions in the NFC Championship.

We point this out because Purdy’s basement draft status as the last player chosen in the 2022 draft leaves an unwarranted lingering stench on his status as an on-the-doorstep-of-elite QB. He guided an offense that was fourth in the NFL in passing yards per game (257.9). Also, the 49ers are so loaded with weapons that some of Purdy’s deserved luster ends up sprinkled on RB Christian McCaffrey (2,023 all-purpose yards, 21 TDs), WR Brandon Aiyuk (75 catches, 1,342 yards, 7 TDs), TE George Kittle (65-1,020-6) and the dangerous, do-everything Deebo Samuel (60-892-7 through the air and 225-5 on the ground).

McCaffrey, who is +475 to become the first Super Bowl MVP running back since Terrell Davis in 1998, has scored four TDs in two playoff games. The NFL regular-season rushing leader (1,459 yards) is one of four players with 100-plus yards from scrimmage in the playoffs.

Some of the luster sprinkles on the 49ers’ defense, which—like the old Rice-a-Roni commercials—was truly the San Francisco treat. The 49ers were third in points-allowed (17.5) and third in rushing yards-allowed (89.7). Led by All-Pro edge Nick Bosa (10.5 sacks) and LB Fred Warner (132 tackles, 2.5 sacks, four forced-fumbles), San Francisco’s front-seven is arguably the best in the game.

Need one more reason why the 49ers can win? Their average scoring margin of victory was more than double the Chiefs. This is a team on the cusp.

Why the Chiefs Will Win

Two words—Patrick Mahomes.

It’s never a bad idea to bet on a team with the best QB. Even when that QB threw a career-worst 14 INTs to go with his fewest passing yards (4,183) and TDs (27) since 2019. Some of that you can naturally blame on a Vaseline-handed receiving corps and an uncharacteristically “off” year for the Sundance to Mahomes’ Butch Cassidy—TE and star pitchman and Taylor Swift arm-candy, Travis Kelce, who had his first sub-1,000-yard receiving season (984) since 2015.

But Mahomes being Mahomes and the post-season being the post-season, we’ve seen the old Mahomes return with a vengeance. He’s thrown for 718 yards on 68% passing for four TDs and zero turnovers in three games. The post-season Kelce returned as well. He caught 23 passes (on 27 targets) for 262 yards and three scores.

The X-factor here is rookie WR Rashee Rice, who broke out with 79 catches, 938 yards and seven TDs. Now, mix in the little ball of hate that is RB Isiah Pacheco, whose angry, intense running style took him to 905 yards and six TDs and brought the Chiefs a dimension sorely lacking on previous teams.

KC Defense Strong

What’s not lacking is the Kansas City defense. It is peaking under the wizardry of defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. He has been a savant this season in terms of dialing up the right play at the right time. The Chiefs were second in points-allowed (17.3), yards-allowed (289.8)  and fourth in passing yards-allowed (176.5)

Defensive tackle Chris Jones (10.5 sacks) you know about. But meet cornerback L’Jarius Sneed, who will draw his customary assignment covering the opposition’s best receiver—in this case, Aiyuk. Sneed had 78 tackles and 14 pass breakups to go with two INTs.

All that said, the Chiefs have been here before. This is their fourth Super Bowl in five years. He’s got two Super Bowl MVP trophies on the mantle. A third will put him in the same club as Tom Brady and Joe Montana.

Enough said.


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History Playbook

On This Day In Sports History

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On This Day In Sports History

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