Super Bowl LIV: making predictions

When the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers face off in Super Bowl LIV at 6:30 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 2, tens of millions of people across the globe will tune in to watch. 

Leading up to the game, hundreds, if not thousands, of articles will be written in the attempt to predict which team will win the game and why; this is not one of those articles. This article will compare the two teams on the levels of quarterback, defense and head coach. It will then be up to the reader to make a judgement on the outcome of the game.

At the quarterback position, the Chiefs will trot out third-year quarterback Patrick Mahomes. He was the NFL’s Most Valuable Player and Offensive Player of the Year in 2018 and had over 5,000 yards passing and 50 passing touchdowns. 

For the 49ers, 28-year-old Jimmy Garoppolo will take the field for his third Super Bowl, having won his first two as a backup for the New England Patriots. He led the team to a 13-3 regular season record by tossing 27 touchdowns on nearly 4,000 yards passing.

The matchup between Mahomes and Garoppolo may be the most striking difference between the two teams; through their first two playoff games, Mahomes has over 600 yards passing and eight touchdowns while Garoppolo has just over 200 yards passing and a single touchdown. 

One of the determining factors of the game will be how well the two quarterbacks can represent their teams. If one plays particularly poorly, it will be difficult to raise the Lombardi Trophy as Super Bowl LIV champions.

The decided advantage that the 49ers will have over the Chiefs lies on the defensive side of the ball. The defensive line of the 49ers boasts five former first-round picks, including potential 2019 Defensive Rookie of the Year Nick Bosa, who had nine sacks in the regular season and has added three more in the post-season.

The 49ers have had one of the most impressive defenses in the league throughout the season. Their secondary is led by Super Bowl champion Richard Sherman, formerly of the Seattle Seahawks, who provides the young team with veteran leadership.

The Chiefs defense has been particularly impressive this season especially when compared to past seasons, but it does not match up to the firepower that the 49ers boast. 

Kansas City struggled throughout the regular season to contain opposing running backs, but they were able to hold the NFL’s 2019 rushing leader Derrick Henry to under 100 yards rushing in their victory over the Tennessee Titans in the divisional round of the playoffs.

For Kansas City to beat San Francisco, their defense will have to contain the 49ers’ potent rushing attack, and their offensive line will have to keep Mahomes upright in the face of the 49ers’ premier pass rush. For the 49ers to topple the Chiefs, their young defense will have to contain Mahomes, and Garoppolo will have to take advantage of an improved yet imperfect Chiefs defense.

While the players on both teams will have a tremendous impact on the game, their head coaches will be instrumental in deciding the outcome of Super Bowl LIV. 

The Chiefs are led by Andy Reid, who took the Philadelphia Eagles to the Super Bowl in 2004, but ultimately lost to the New England Patriots. Kyle Shanahan is at the helm for the 49ers, and his only Super Bowl experience came as the offensive coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons in their 2017 loss to the Patriots.

Reid has been criticized throughout his career for poor game management and for falling short in the playoffs. Reid has the most career wins of any coach who has not won a Super Bowl, and although he is considered to be a great offensive strategist, another loss could hurt his legacy as a coach.

On the other hand, Shanahan is considered to be an up-and-coming offensive guru who finds creative ways to attack defenses with the running game. His inexperience will likely be a hindrance against Reid, but he could cement himself as an NFL head coach for years to come with a victory on Feb. 2.

For Kansas City to emerge victorious, Reid will have to commit to running the ball and will have to manage the clock late in the game to hold off the 49ers. San Francisco’s path to victory includes a stellar defensive performance aided by Shanahan’s creativity running the ball.

It is nearly impossible to predict the outcome of the Super Bowl, but that will not stop numerous articles and news clips from claiming to have the answer. This article does not do that. This game between a high-powered Kansas City offense and a stubborn, tenacious San Francisco defense is gearing up to be a classic game.

If Mahomes can continue his dominant playoff performance, he will most likely exit the game as a Super Bowl champion and MVP. If the 49ers’ defensive line can hold him to a mediocre performance, Garoppolo will have a chance to win the game for San Francisco.

If Kansas City’s defense cannot limit the rushing attack of the 49ers and Reid mismanages the game, Shanahan will win his first Super Bowl. If the moment is too large for the young Shanahan and Reid can silence his critics with a win, the Chiefs can hoist the Lombardi trophy for the first time since Super Bowl IV in 1970.

At approximately 10 p.m. on Feb. 2, either the Kansas City Chiefs or the San Francisco 49ers will be crowned champion of the NFL. While there is a chance that neither of these teams are familiar to some students, this article can help even the most casual fans make a more informed decision when predicting the outcome of the game.