The NFL season is coming to a close and we’re approaching the decider, so we’ve put together a few early thoughts on Super Bowl LVIII.
There is a long time between drinks at the end of the NFL season. The Kansas City Chiefs caused another upset to beat the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Championship. Meanwhile, the San Francisco 49ers were forced to make a massive comeback to beat the Detroit Lions in the NFC. Now, we have two weeks to dive into the game, explore the minor details, and find some value in the markets.
A lot can change before kickoff. Players have practice to navigate without injury. Those of us watching from afar have too long to wrestle with the idea of fading Patrick Mahomes as an underdog. Before we get into the nitty gritty closer to the big day, we’re taking an early look at Super Bowl LVIII.
It’s no surprise to see the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LVIII, really. While their path here has featured a lot more bumps than expected, Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes got the job done in the end. They’re now preparing to play the San Francisco 49ers in a rematch of Super Bowl LIV.
Kyle Shanahan won’t need a reminder of how that one went. It still tarnishes what could still be one of the great NFL coaching careers if he can land one or two Vince Lombardi Trophies in the next few years. Ahead of the Chiefs 20-10 heading into the 4th quarter, the 49ers folded. Mahomes needed only 4:13 to produce two touchdowns – one to Travis Kelce and the other to Damien Williams – to take a lead at the two-minute warning. Another Williams touchdown sealed the 31-20 win and the first Super Bowl victory of Mahomes’ career.
Patrick Mahomes vs the 49ers in SB LIV:
315 TOT YDS
3 TOT TD (2 INT)
His first Super Bowl win. https://t.co/x4BsKv1So6
— StatMuse NFL (@statmusenfl) January 29, 2024
Shanahan is undoubtedly one of the best coaches in the league right now. He’s an offensive genius, and his impact is felt across the league, whether through coaches he has helped mentor or coaches desperately trying to stop the beast he has created. But in the ‘ringz’ culture of sports today, his impact means nothing without a Super Bowl win to his name.
The early markets suggest a change in fortune for Shanahan and the 49ers. They’ve opened as $1.77 and -2.5 favourites to get the result this time around. However, as we know all too well right now, favourites tags mean little when Mahomes is involved.
The Mahomes Factor
We’re going to get through a full month of Patrick Mahomes as an underdog chatter by the time it is all said and done.
He covered and won straight up against the Buffalo Bills in the Divisional Round. Last week, Mahomes put on a clinic for the Chiefs to cover and beat the highly-fancied Ravens in the AFC Championship.
It’s not the first time you’ll read about it this week, and it’s not the last.
Patrick Mahomes is now 10-1-1 ATS as an underdog in his career (9-3 SU)
— Ben Fawkes (@BFawkes22) January 28, 2024
It’s something we’re all going to have to wrestle with in the build-up. With the Chiefs currently +2.5 underdogs for Super Bowl LVIII, do you dare fade Mahomes given his record? Few would argue against the 49ers being the better team. They’re stacked with talent and have been among the benchmarks in the NFL all season. But they don’t have Mahomes…
Predictive models can’t quantify the Mahomes factor. All we have is what we’ve seen, and we almost always see him at least cover the spread as a dog, if not win straight up. If the Chiefs win as underdogs for a third-consecutive game, Mahomes will more than likely be handed the Super Bowl LVIII trophy in the process ($2.35).
Do It With Deebo
Unsurprisingly, the 49ers are at their best with Deebo Samuel on the field.
They’re 13-2 in the games he has featured fully. In the four he didn’t play or left due to injury in the first half, San Francisco is 1-3. A lot of Kyle Shanahan’s offence revolves around Samuel’s versatility, so when he’s not available or taken from the field early, the whole offence requires a restart.
We saw it against the Green Bay Packers in the Divisional Round. Samuel left the field with an injury and the 49ers struggled to put the Packers away without him. While he was on the field in the first half as the Lions built a massive lead in the NFC Championship, it wasn’t until he became a big target for Brock Purdy that the 49ers started to turn things around. It’s not a coincidence that Purdy found Samuel with a 26-yard pass straight out of the halftime sheds.
If Purdy and the 49ers can utilise Samuel early and use his versatility to scramble the defence, the Chiefs will be in trouble.
Brock Purdy is unfazed by DT Alim McNeill barreling down on him and throws a dart to Deebo for the first down pic.twitter.com/g4P4PW6j95
— Coach Yac 🗣 (@Coach_Yac) January 30, 2024
Deebo has scored in eight separate games to register 12 touchdowns this season. While he’s without one in his last three, his $2.65 to end the drought deserves serious consideration given the likelihood of Purdy looking to his best weapons in the biggest moments.
He’s finished three games with both a receiving touchdown and a rushing touchdown and is at $26 to do it a fourth time in Super Bowl LVIII. Having set a new record for rushing yards by a wide receiver in a Super Bowl years ago, he will more than likely break it again if he picks up a 30+ yard rush in this one ($9.50). There is a lot to like about Samuel, including his $34 to finish as the MVP.
Rushing For The Record
In a season where NFL running backs have openly expressed feelings of being undervalued and underappreciated, Christian McCaffrey is on another level. He’s one of the few in a tier far beyond those who feel like the position isn’t being recognised in a way it perhaps should be these days.
He’s another player, like Samuel, who provides Shanahan and the 49ers with versatility. McCaffrey is a weapon on the ground and primarliy deployed as a runner. Still, he has been targeted 3+ times in all but one game this season to be a reliable option for Purdy and the passing game.
While the 49ers will no doubt look to use him in the air, McCaffrey is set to make his biggest impact on the ground. Shanahan used him a lot early on but shared the load towards the backend of the regular season. However, McCaffrey again ticked up 20 carries against the Lions last week and will go close to doing the same in the Super Bowl.
49ers Christian McCaffrey told Lions CJ Gardner-Johnson to hit the weight room pic.twitter.com/MeQONk1oVg
— Brad (@Graham_SFN) January 30, 2024
If there is a running back capable of breaking the NFL’s Super Bowl rushing record, it’s him.
Timmy Smith set the record with 204 yards on 22 carries way back in 1988. Damien Williams is one of the few to have chalked up over 100 yards since then when the Chiefs and 49ers last met in the Super Bowl four years ago.
The 49ers are going to lean heavily on their most dangerous weapons in this one. They’ve nursed McCaffrey through the second half of the NFL season with this game in mind. He will leave no stone unturned or block unused in this one. With any player to record 205+ yards priced at $31 in Super Bowl LVIII, McCaffrey looks as good a chance as any in recent years.