Staff Predictions: The Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers face off at Super Bowl LIV in Miami

This is the first Super Bowl appearance for the Chiefs in 50 years and seven years for the Niners.

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This year's game will be the 11th Super Bowl played in Miami. Photo courtesy of the NFL.

University Press Sports Staff

The 54th annual Super Bowl will take place at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, Florida where the San Francisco 49ers will face off against the Kansas City Chiefs. 

Kansas City makes its first Super Bowl appearance since Super Bowl IV in 1970 where they beat the Minnesota Vikings, 23-7. For the 49ers, this will be their seventh time playing in the big game, all led by notable quarterbacks like Joe Montana, Steve Young, Colin Kaepernick and now Jimmy Garoppolo.

While the Chiefs are known for their high-caliber offense and the 49ers for their stagnant defense, there’s a connections in this game that relates to FAU. 49ers Linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair and Chiefs DB Keith Reaser will possibly be the second and third FAU players to participate in the Super Bowl, the first since 2016 when safety Sharrod Neasman played with Atlanta. (UPDATE: Azeez Al-Shaair has been ruled inactive for the game.)

Here are the predictions of Super Bowl LIV from the University Press Sports staff:

Zachary Weinberger I Sports Editor

It honestly couldn’t have been a better matchup to ask for in a Super Bowl. The best offense versus the best defense. Everybody knows the cliche saying “defense wins championships,” but for the 49ers to hoist the Lombardi in Miami, their offense needs to outscore Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs explosive offense. 

San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan has found major success in the run game this year as they average 144.1 yards per game. Niners Running Back Raheem Mostert had a phenomenal game in the NFC Championship against the Packers rushing for 220 yards and four touchdowns, but in the passing attack, Garoppolo only completed six passes for 77 yards. 

The Chiefs defense has been surging since the end of the season, averaging 89.5 rushing yards per game, so they need to dare Garoppolo to throw the ball at least 20 times. However, Kansas City is not off the hook, as they also allow 312 passing yards per game. 

While the attention and limelight go to Mahomes and his elite weapons like tight end Travis Kelce and receiver Tyreek Hill, the X-factor here is the offensive line. They go up against the best defensive front in football with such impact players as defensive rookie of the year Nick Bosa, Deforest Buckner and Dee Ford. If the line can keep Mahomes in the pocket and give him time to make his progressions, it could be a long day for the Niners. 

This one could go either way, but I’m not confident in San Francisco to outscore the Chiefs despite how dominant of a defense they have. In a tight game, I’ll take Kansas City and finally, head coach Andy Reid will win a Super Bowl after coaching for 21 seasons. If not, at least former Owls great Al-Shaair gets a ring. 

PREDICTION: Chiefs 31, 49ers 28

Joseph Acosta I Staff Writer 

Both of these teams come into this game leaning heavily on their respective strengths: for the Chiefs, it’s been about that explosive offense. Ranked second in Offensive DVOA (Defense-adjusted value over average) in the regular season, Patrick Mahomes and company can score with ease. For the Niners, it’s allowing their suffocating defense limit possessions and allowing the pass rush to wreak havoc. 

In the divisional round against the Minnesota Vikings, the Niners had seven sacks, all coming from along their defensive line. However, I think this 49ers offense is heavily underrated. Garoppolo has only thrown 27 passes in this postseason, but a majority of that was due to an outstanding defensive effort put in by the defense. Shanahan does a masterful job of mixing the run and pass to keep the defense on their toes. I think someone to watch out for on this Niners offense is going to be wide receiver, Deebo Samuel. Garoppolo loves going to him, and with all of the attention going to George Kittle and Emmanuel Sanders, Samuel should get a lot of opportunities. 

I expect Shanahan to dial up another masterpiece, attacking the inside linebackers of the Chiefs, let the Niners pass rush do their thing and San Francisco will raise their sixth Lombardi.

PREDICTION: 49ers 34, Chiefs 31

Jensen Jennings I Staff Writer 

This will be a battle of contrasting styles. The 49ers rely on a strong run game, 144.1 yards per game, and have one of the best defensive fronts in football. The Chiefs rely on a dynamic passing game led by quarterback Patrick Mahomes and his host of dynamic receiving options. The Chiefs did a great job against Titans running back Derrick Henry last week, holding him to 69 yards on 19 carries. They will need to have a similar performance against the 49ers stout rushing attack.

If the Chiefs get down early as they did against the Texans and Titans, I don’t think they’ll be able to come back from it. With that said, I have more faith in Mahomes and the Chiefs offense than I do in 49ers quarterback Garoppolo. This should be a close one with the Chiefs coming out on top in the end, giving head coach Andy Reid his first Super Bowl title.

PREDICTION: Chiefs 31, 49ers 23

John DeStefano I Contributing Writer 

San Francisco enters this matchup allowing just 15 points per game in the playoffs. While the sample size may be small, the defensive performances have been huge. Second team All-Pros CB Richard Sherman and DT DeForest Buckner headline a terrific group of young talent that plays cohesively and goes hard until every whistle. Rookie DE Nick Bosa has been every bit as good as advertised and is a true disruptor in the backfield.

Mahomes is a great QB, but he has not faced a defense this complete all year. Perhaps the biggest question facing the Chiefs offense is: how will Mahomes respond if they are unable to run the football? The San Francisco defense allowed just 44.5 yards per game on the ground in the playoffs. This does not bode well for a Kansas City offense that relied on a 115 ypg average during the regular season, a number they were held well under in all four of their losses this year.

Reid is far too smart to attack the San Francisco front-four directly, look for swings to WR Sammy Watkins and plenty of stretch plays and short passes to Hill. 

Speaking of offenses, don’t sleep on the 49ers and master game manager, QB Jimmy Garoppalo. Under his direction, San Francisco comes into the big game scoring nearly 29.9 ppg. Mostert has been a revelation and his 220-yard performance in the NFC Championship game has established him as the main object of Kansas City’s attention. Shanahan already knows that if his team is to complete their own rush for gold, they must draw on their namesake and do what a 49er does best: pound the rock. 

In the end, San Francisco gets it done through excellent execution on offense and a solid defensive performance that will make the Chiefs one-dimensional. This one may very well come down to the final possession.

PREDICTION: 49ers 27, Chiefs 19

Trey Avant I Contributing Writer

The Chiefs boast a talented trio of offensive weapons: quarterback Patrick Mahomes, tight end Travis Kelce, and wide receiver Tyreek Hill. Mahomes has shown that he can carry the Chiefs with his otherworldly arm while Kelce and Hill have shown they are reliable receiving options who can break a game wide open at any given time.

And while the 49ers do not have a three-headed monster of a passing attack, they do possess a dynamic one-two punch in quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and tight end George Kittle as well as a very balanced backfield that houses running backs such as Raheem Mostert, Matt Brieda and Tevin Coleman. 

The real strength of the Niners, however, is their 2nd-ranked defense which consists of defensive backs Richard Sherman and Jimmie Ward and defensive linemen Arik Armstead, DeForest Buckner and 2019 Defensive Rookie of the Year Nick Bosa. 

Mahomes and company will get their fair share of points but their middling defense will ultimately hold them back from overcoming a not-as-explosive but still very dangerous 49ers offense. The Niners are top five in offense and defense and I believe they could pull of the upset.

Offense wins games, defense wins championships.

PREDICTION: Chiefs 31, 49ers 35

Colby Guy I Staff Writer

The Kansas City Chiefs have a force that no team could match: Patrick Mahomes. Even when you think he is done, he is never out of it. We saw that in the AFC Divisional Round against the Houston Texans.

Mahomes led the Chiefs to 41 unanswered points against the Texans, including a staggering four passing touchdowns in the second quarter. He finished the game with 321 passing yards and five touchdowns.

At that moment, Mahomes proved himself to be an unstoppable force, not even one that the San Francisco 49ers defense could stop and definitely not one that Jimmy Garappolo could keep up with.

I could see the game staying close with the elite talent on San Francisco’s defense, but the 49ers offense isn’t good enough to stay on pace with the Chiefs’ potent offense.

PREDICTION: 

Chiefs 38, 49ers 21

For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or tweet the staff: Zachary Weinberger (@ZachWeinberger), Joseph Acosta (@acosta32_jp), Jensen Jennings (@Jensen_Jennings), John DeStefano (@Johns_voice), Trey Avant (@TreyAvant3) and Colby Guy (@thatguycolbs).