Weighing the odds: A look at the upcoming Super Bowl

San Francisco 49ers may snatch victory in game against Kansas City Chiefs

James Laverty

In a game that will mark 100 seasons of the National Football League, the San Francisco 49ers and the Kansas City Chiefs will face off in Super Bowl 54 next Sunday.

The Chiefs reached the Super Bowl by defeating the Tennessee Titans in the American Football Conference Championship game 35-24 after going down by ten points early in the first quarter. Tennessee’s defense could not slow down the Chiefs passing attack as last year’s MVP Patrick Mahomes threw for 294 yards and three touchdowns.

It marked the end of a Cinderella run for the sixth seed Titans after they defeated the defending Super Bowl champions, the New England Patriots, in the first round and then the No. 1 Seed Baltimore Ravens in the second. Derrick Henry was limited to just 69 yards in the game after having ran for a total of 377 yards over the past two weeks.

“It was probably the most special Titans team I have ever watched,” Colin Whitmore, ‘20, said. “While it was disappointing that we didn’t reach the Super Bowl, you can’t take away the fact they beat both (Tom) Brady and Lamar Jackson on the road in back-to-back weeks.”

Going into next week’s Miami game, the Chiefs’s explosive passing attack makes them the 1.5 point favorites. The mobile gunslinging quarterback Mahomes is extremely difficult to defend when he and his top passing targets, such as Tyreke Hill and Travis Kelce, are in sync. That was on display after they trailed by 24-0 at home to the Houston Texans in the AFC Divisional round only to score 51 points in a row to end at a 51-31 victory.

The San Francisco 49ers reached the Super Bowl by defeating the Green Bay Packers 37-20 in the National Football Conference Championship game.

The 49ers jumped out to a 27-0 lead in the first half thanks to a breakout performance from Raheem Mostert, who rushed for 220 yards along with four touchdowns. However, the Packers nearly made it a one possession game late in the fourth quarter thanks to Aaron Rodgers’s 326 passing yards and two touchdowns.

“It’s been frustrating to see the Packers come so close to reaching the Super Bowl only to constantly falter in the NFC Championship Game,” Graham Kingwill, ‘22, said. “This has been the third time they have been eliminated by the 49ers this decade so I can say for certain I will not be rooting for the 49ers in the playoffs.”

San Francisco made a huge leap from their 2018 season, when they finished with a 4-12 record. They are the first team in NFL history to reach the Super Bowl after winning four or fewer games the previous season. The difference: Jimmy Garoppolo. In games that Garoppolo has started, the second-year starter has led the team to a 19-5 record. This season, Garoppolo joined Joe Montana and Steve Young to have a passer rating over 100.

Garoppolo, who before being traded to the 49ers was the heir apparent to Tom Brady, will look to win a Super Bowl in a year which saw Brady’s Patriots not reach the AFC Conference Championship for the first time since 2011. The 49ers were Brady’s childhood team.

Despite the Chiefs coming in as decently heavy favorites with ESPN’s FPI model giving the Chiefs a 65 percent chance to win the game, the defense for the 49ers may put them over the top. Their defense has allowed the fewest points (15) and yards per game (252.5) in the postseason. The only way to contain Patrick Mahomes is to keep him in the pocket and make him release the ball quickly.

The 49ers had the second highest sack rate in the NFL this year according to Footballoutsiders.com. If they can pressure Mahomes and block him for creating his broken-play magic, San Francisco will hoist their fifth Lombardi Trophy.