Super Bowl 2024 predictions: Picks for 49ers v Chiefs, MVP, score and winners

by 24britishtvFeb. 11, 2024, 1 p.m. 23

What the Chiefs need to do to win

Run the ball. The Niners’ run defense has been poor all season. Over the past two months, they’ve sunk to near unplayable levels of suckitude. For all the flaws of this version of the Chiefs’ offense, one thing they’ve been able to do is plow forward with the run. Thanks to the unique style of Isiah Pacheco, a running back who runs like a llama that’s escaped from its pen, they’re able to grind out tough yards. If KC can run the ball early, they’ll be able to establish the flow of the game and limit the exposure of their undermanned receiving corps. OC

Catch the ball? The Chiefs let home-field advantage slip away because of a case of the butterfingers. But to Patrick Mahomes’s immense credit, he never gave up on his receivers – who have come through for him so far in the playoffs. Rookie Rashee Rice has emerged as a downfield threat, while Travis Kelce – beset by injuries most of this year – played about as close to a perfect game as a receiver could play in the AFC Championship. Both are due for big nights again against the Niners suspect secondary, especially if Pacheco gets untracked. AL

The defense handled two of the league’s best quarterbacks – Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson – in the Chiefs’ previous two games, mostly thanks to an excellent secondary. If that stays the same on Sunday, Mahomes and Pacheco, who is averaging 84.7 yards a game this postseason, should be able to close matters out. TL

Andy Reid has to scheme up the offense to allow Rice to make explosive plays. The rookie had an ample amount of catches in KC’s win over the Ravens but Baltimore stopped him ripping deep into their backfield. The Chiefs will struggle in a shootout if Rice isn’t in the game as hitting Kelce over and over in the middle of the field is too predictable. GS

What the 49ers need to do to win

Win the turnover battle. I know. It’s basic. But expecting to contain Mahomes for four full quarters is an impossibility. He’s going to find a way to get points on the board. The Niners offense needs to remain patient, rather than pressing early. If Brock Purdy plays a clean game, then it will be over to San Francisco’s defensive dynamos – Nick Bosa, Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw – to force a turnover that will flip the game. OC

Feed Christian McCaffrey. The Niners are at their best when their offense flows through McCaffrey, as dangerous running the ball between the tackles as he is catching it in space. With Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo expected to bring the blitz from every direction, McCaffrey will play an important role in relieving the pressure on Purdy, who’ll be playing in his biggest game to date. The quicker CMC can get going, the more opportunities it will open up for Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, George Kittle and San Fran’s other playmakers. AL

Get the version of Purdy who wins game with the kind of crazy plays that beat the Lions, rather than the kind of crazy plays that go straight to opposing defenders. Purdy will YOLO-ball at some point, Niners fans will just hope it works. TL

The defense need to tighten up. A good if not great unit has crumbled in the playoffs amid talk of poor effort from the team itself. If the big game cannot motivate them to start at least trying to stop the run then Pacheco will give the Chiefs an excellent platform to build from. GS

Nick Bolton, linebacker. If you tot up their performances in the playoffs, the Chiefs’ defense ranks first in EPA per play, a measure of down-to-down effectiveness. Much of that hinges on the quality of the team’s cornerback room and the schematic wizardry of Spagnuolo. But no offense puts stress on opposing linebackers like the Niners. Leo Chenal has been the standout ‘backer for KC this year. But Bolton is more of the all-around, coverage-first type. He will have to be at his best to tip the balance in the Chiefs’ favor. OC

Marquez Valdes-Scantling, wide receiver. His drops and neutral zone infractions sabotaged the Chiefs in critical moments during the regular season. For Kansas City to have a fair chance at beating San Francisco in a Super Bowl, MVS can’t afford to make any mistakes. AL

Patrick Mahomes, quarterback. I’d love to come up with some nerd metrics about why a special teams player will ultimately decide this game. And, yes, we know he doesn’t really have any receivers. But when you’ve got Michael Jordan, why worry about anyone else? TL

Harrison Butker, kicker. In lieu of the blindingly obvious, Butker. He is as clutch as they come with a perfect record of seven field goals from seven tries in the playoffs. If the game goes down to the wire, Butker will not hesitate to tie a ribbon on another KC crown. He did it last year. GS

Brock Purdy, quarterback. There are two scenarios for this game: A tight, cagey contest where one turnover will decide the thing; a track meet with two offenses trading haymakers. In either scenario, the pressure will be on Purdy to deliver. The Niners cannot afford to turn the ball over and hand an extra possession to the Chiefs. OC

Nick Bosa, defensive end. There’s no doubt Bosa can pile up sacks with the best of them. His problem is that in his zeal to crash the backfield, he can overshoot the play and open up opportunities for the quarterback to escape or the running back to make people miss at the next level of defense. With an improved job of setting the edge, Bosa could keep Mahomes contained in the pocket and give the Niners’ linebacking corps the better crack at keeping the Chiefs QB and his running backs from breaking off big plays. AL

Fred Warner, linebacker. The Chiefs have used their run game well this postseason and the Lions shredded the Niners early on the ground in the NFC Championship Game. So Warner will need to be the near his usual All-Pro self to keep the Niners competitive. TL

Christian McCaffrey, running back. Kansas City’s defense is sublime but they are yet to face a running back as devastating as the newly minted offensive player of the year. There is seemingly no end to his talent. San Francisco have an excellent shot, regardless of Purdy’s level, with McCaffrey hogging the handoff. GS

A pick-six decides the game. Let’s root for the most fun scenario: The ball is put into a quarterback’s hands with two minutes to go in a one-score game. It’s a legacy drive. Both defenses are ultra-aggressive, filled with star playmakers. A mistake, or a great defensive play slams the door shut on a come-from-behind win. There have been 15 pick-sixes in Super Bowl history. If a team snags one on Sunday, it will lift them to the championship. OC

Kadarius Toney enters the chat. The Chiefs’ rotation receiver has been sulking all postseason about being a healthy scratch, even though his bloopers more than justified the move. But don’t be surprised if Reid has a change of heart and figures out a way to get Toney involved on a few gadget plays or in the return game. AL

Vegas becomes the permanent home of the Super Bowl by 2034. As the NFL becomes even more entwined with gambling, it decides Vegas is the ideal home for the big game. There’s no shortage of hotel rooms and entertainment either, and the stadium is walkable from most accommodations – something that can’t be said for every Super Bowl host. TL

Usher has promised he will roller-skate in the half-time show. Cue the world collectively mouthing OMG when one of his backing skaters clatters into another and an epic domino rally ends with Usher stacking it in the biggest of spots. Janet Jackson had it bad, but Usher gets it worse. GS

Which of these teams is most likely to be here next year?

It’s the Chiefs. The Niners are about to get dinged by the salary cap, meaning they’ll lose some key contributors this offseason. The Chiefs have a weaker roster, but they have Mahomes – and the most talented, young defense in the league. OC

The Chiefs. Mahomes and Reid are the new Brady and Belichick. You bet against them at your own risk. AL

The Chiefs will be competitive for the next decade with Mahomes under center. But they also play in the AFC, which is stuffed with quarterback talent, so getting to the Super Bowl via that route will be much tougher than through the NFC. And with Purdy still on a cheap contract the 49ers should be able to hold on to some of their stars, even if their salary cap situation isn’t great. TL

The 49ers. Both feel likely but Kyle Shanahan’s team edge it owing to six starting Chiefs defenders potentially hitting the open market via free agency. Spagnuolo will no doubt craft another solid unit but compensating for the potential loss of tackle Chris Jones, cornerback L’Jarius Sneed and linebacker Drue Tranquill among others would be tough. Another year of Purdy’s rookie deal should keep the 49ers cruising above the rest in the slightly weaker NFC. GS

The Most Valuable Player will be …

Travis Kelce. If the Chiefs have a chance, they need Kelce and Mahomes to overcome the structural and skill concerns surrounding the players around them. The duo have reached a Brady-Gronk-type level in the playoffs: everyone knows where the ball is going, and it’s still tough to stop them. The Chiefs need Kelce to deliver a dominant outing, even with the Niners allocating as many resources as possible to slow him down. OC

Mahomes. Three would put him in league with Montana and Brady and crank the greatest of all-time debate up to 11. AL

The MVP has been a quarterback or wide receiver for the last seven Super Bowls. It was Mahomes last year, so let’s go receiver this time around. And as everyone loves a bit of Narrative, why not have MVS for MVP as Marquez Valdes-Scantling, a punchline for much of the season, goes for 128 yards and two touchdowns. TL

Brock Purdy. When San Francisco clinch the Super Bowl the narrative will be complete. A hero’s journey only legends have trodden before him: David, Luke Skywalker and now, Mr Irrelevant. Expect multiple touchdown passes, an interception on an attempted haymaker and a few dangerous scrambles. Not as talented as Mahomes but a vital cog in a hi-tech machine akin to the Chiefs team that beat the 49ers in 2020. The doubters will mercifully have to pipe down, at least until the summer. “But he’s just a game manager,” they say. Isn’t that a quarterback’s job? GS

The final score will be …

49ers 24-27 Chiefs. This is one of those heart-mind picks. The Niners are a better all-around team. The Chiefs have an exceptional defense, but few answers to the specific strain the Niners’ offense puts on opponents. But they also have the most talented player walking the Earth at the game’s most valuable position. This is a Mahomes pick. The Chiefs shouldn’t be here; they’re a flawed team, with the worst offensive group Mahomes has worked during his career. But he’s still Mahomes – and it’s tough to pick against the quarterback continuing his dynastic run. OC

49ers 24-30 Chiefs. Purdy plays well, but the Chiefs D gets the better of him in the end. AL

49ers 14-31 Chiefs. It would be fun to see the Niners win, just because they haven’t claimed a title this century/millennium while the Chiefs are already a modern dynasty. But this won’t be close: the Niners were lucky to get past the Packers and would have lost to the Lions if it wasn’t for a few doses of fortune. In both games, the defense was unimpressive and the result turned on plays that could have gone either way. The Ravens wiped the floor with San Francisco over Christmas, and the Chiefs will do the same on Sunday. TL

49ers 33-28 Chiefs. Heart or head? Well, ego trumps both. The 49ers were my preseason darlings and you just have to stick, don’t you. (I also have to try to claw back credibility for suggesting the Ravens would miss the playoffs.) Shanahan is going to cook up something truly special to get his first ring. Next year’s trilogy fight is going to be spicy. GS


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