One team is considered better but the other features the best player in the NFL. Here, we’re picking out four to watch in Super Bowl LVIII.
A Rushing Mahomes
Patrick Mahomes is the player to watch in Super Bowl LVIII. He’s the deciding factor for the Kansas City Chiefs and, in some ways, is the same for the San Francisco 49ers. Mahomes has the ability to win his game on his own as the best player on the field.
While much of the talk will be around his passing game and targets, it’s his potential to run the ball that appeals.
The 49ers rush defence is among the bottom ten in the NFL. If there is one area of weakness in this stacked group, it’s in defending the run. Obviously, they will be looking to apply pressure to Mahomes as a passer first and foremost. That is where the appeal begins.
Mahomes hasn’t thrown an interception in six straight playoff games. While he didn’t perform at his best statistically throughout the regular season, he’s tightened things up to have 718 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions in these playoffs. The quarterback knows that against this 49ers team, he can’t afford to turn the ball over cheaply and provide the Niners offence with an extra possession on a short field.
He is at $1.82 to end this game without an interception. Instead, look for him to tuck the ball under his arm when the pressure comes. It’s the last game of the season. Self-preservation isn’t a factor. He will look to scramble and is a more than capable runner of the ball when he wants to be.
There is always an element of risk in taking a quarterback rushing Over in what is expected to be a tight game…
4-years ago today:
Patrick Mahomes over/under for rush yards in Super Bowl 54 was 29.5.
He had 44 yards before taking three knees to end the game of -5, -3 and -7 yards.
Finished with 29 rushing yards. ❌pic.twitter.com/R2JDwvFVgH
— John Ewing (@johnewing) February 2, 2024
Still, the line is set too low at 26.5 yards. He tends to rush more in the playoffs already but in his three Super Bowl appearances to date, Mahomes averages 35.3 rushing yards per game.
It’s all about Mahomes for the Chiefs whether it’s on the ground or in the air.
Ground & Pound Pacheco
Isiah Pacheco is playing angry at the moment.
He’s an angry runner of the ball and has proven exceptionally difficult to stop in recent weeks. While there was some uncertainty around his snap count and carries earlier in the NFL season, there is little doubt that he is the main man for Andy Reid’s rushing game in this one.
The Detroit Lions found plenty of success through the middle of the 49ers defence and may have provided Reid with somewhat of a blueprint. Even if the defence does close the gaps, Pacheco will try to run straight over the top of them.
The 49ers allowed 86 yards rushing in the first quarter and 148 rushing yards in the first half against the Lions.
If Isiah Pacheco can do what David Montgomery did and stay consistent with it, he could win Super Bowl MVP.
— Farzin Vousoughian (@Farzin21) February 7, 2024
Pacheco’s rushing yards line is set at 67.5 early in Super Bowl week. It’s a line he has cleared in five of his last six games and the Over is again the side to back.
While San Francisco ranks 5th in DVOA against the pass, they’re a middling 15th against the run. The Packers took them for 124 yards and the Lions 138 yards in the playoffs so far. Pacheco has a big run in him. As Mahomes continues to click with Rashee Rice and Travis Kelce in the air, Pacheco becomes more of a threat on the ground. Where there was some risk of Mahomes kneeling out the end of a close game, there is also a chance Pacheco is the one to run it out.
The game script lines up nicely for Pacheco to rush for Over 67.5 yards in Super Bowl LVIII.
There are very few holes in this 49ers roster.
They’re dominant on the offensive end while Nick Bosa, Javon Kinlaw, Fred Warner and Chase Young provide the defence with a level or reputation that ensures they’re well-respected. Perhaps that is why their relative struggles against the run have been such a hot topic of conversation in the build-up to Super Bowl LVIII. We need to find something they’re bad at…
What seems to be flying under the radar is how poorly the Chiefs have defended the run over the second half of the NFL season. In fact, they’re among the worst teams in the league.
Chiefs' defense since Week 10:
Success Rate: #9
EPA/rush: #30 (!!)
Explosive Rush Rate: #20 (!!)
Chiefs' rush defense to the edges has been especially bad, that's the area where they've been taken advantage of.
— Akash Anavarathan (@akashanav) January 31, 2024
Christian McCaffrey can dominate as a catcher but look for him to make his biggest mark on the ground. He’s been one of San Francisco’s best all season to average 91 rushing yards per game. His line is set at 91.5 yards in this one.
His $1.47 to score a touchdown anytime and $4.60 to be first suggests he will see plenty of goal line carries which don’t bode particularly well for piling up yards. However, he also accounts for 43.5% of their touches in 1st & 10 scenarios at an average of 6.9 yards per play.
McCaffrey is a threat all the way up the field and has finished Over his rushing total in eight of his last ten games. He looks good to make it nine of his last 11 against this Chiefs rush defence.
We’ve kept things responsible up to this point by looking into the defining player of the game in Mahomes, their x-factor player in Pacheco, and the Offensive Player of the Year winner in McCaffrey.
We now direct our attention to the lesser-mentioned Kyle Juszczyk.
As far as fullbacks go, Juszczyk is one or the more well-known. He’s an excellent blocker and skilful for his size and position. By virtue of playing in the most versatile and dynamic offence in the NFL, he sees a few opportunities come his way with the ball.
It’s out of left field, but he could see one early in Super Bowl LVIII.
The attention of the defence will be placed on McCaffrey close to the line as the favourite to score first at $4.60. We saw Juszczyk peel out to score against the Cowboys. He was a target from further up the field in the last Super Bowl these two teams featured in, too.
The @49ers answer right back!
Touchdown Kyle Juszczyk, the full back!! That was his first touch of the postseason! pic.twitter.com/ENjQAwCMCL
— FOX Sports (@FOXSports) February 3, 2020
He’s at $51 to score the first touchdown for a reason. It needs to be the 49ers scoring first for a start. He’s then competing against four bonafide red zone targets in positions more accustomed to catching a touchdown pass. However, that is what appeals. We’re hoping Kyle Shanahan pulls the rug from underneath the Chiefs defence and looks to his fullback for an unexpected opener.
If he’s not scoring San Francisco’s first, expect him to be involved in some capacity regardless.