Super Bowl 54 Preview: Chiefs vs. 49ers
The Kansas City Chiefs are riding a huge wave of momentum heading into Super Bowl LIV. They've gone a perfect 8-0 SU&ATS in their previous 8 games and won by an average of 16.1 points per contest. Since 1981, there's been only four teams that entered a Super Bowl on an 8-game winning streak. Furthermore, two of those teams faced each other in 2003 when New England was pitted against the then St. Louis Rams. The other two times took place in 2015 with Seattle and in 2018, when New England did it again. During that time span (since 1981), no team has entered the Super Bowl on a 9-game winning streak.
Chiefs Fortunate Super Bowl Run
Despite their impressive journey to the Super Bowl, I'd be remiss not to mention that Kansas City was a beneficiary of a pretty soft schedule. They finished their regular season slate with 6 games against teams who finished with a losing record. Furthermore, the Chiefs AFC playoff wins came against the #4 seed Houston Texans (11-7) and the #6 seed Tennessee Titans (11-7). Additionally, Kansas City had to overcome a 24-point deficit against Houston and a 10-point hole versus Tennessee. Speaking of Tennessee, Kansas City owes them a debt of gratitude after they knocked off #3 seed New England and #1 seed Baltimore on their way to the AFC Championship Game.
Can Chiefs Defense Step Up?
The well documented enigma for Kansas City prior to this season has been a defense which was far from championship caliber. This season's edition wasn't necessarily great, but was surely much improved. Throughout their last 6 regular season games, the Chiefs allowed just 11.5 points per contest. But we must keep what I mentioned above, those 6 opponents all finished with a losing record.
Andy Reid is Money Following a Bye Week
Since 1999, Andy Reid has spent 14 years as head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, and is now in his 6th season with Kansas City. During those past 20 seasons, Reid has mastered the art of having his teams being well prepared following a bye week. Arguably better than any head coach in NFL history for that matter. Reid's teams have gone a superb 25-6 (.806) straight up and an extremely profitable 21-10 (67.7%) ATS following a bye week.
Since the 2018 season, the Chiefs are 4-0 straight up following a bye week while covering each of the previous three, when cast into that precise situation. As a matter of fact, two of the previously mentioned four wins came in postseason games during which Kansas City outscored their opponents by a cumulative score of 91-40.
Remarkable Turnarounds in Super Bowl History
San Francisco went from a 4-12 team last season to this year's Super Bowl berth. By doing so, they've become the first team since 2000 to reach a Super Bowl after winning four games or less the season before. The last team to do so was the 2000 St. Louis Rams, who went on to beat Tennessee 23-16. Prior to that, Cincinnati did it in 1989, after going 3-13 the year before. However, the Bengals were defeated 26-21 in that Super Bowl by a Joe Montana led San Francisco 49ers team. That San Francisco win marked a first of five Super Bowl wins during a 14-year period (1982-1995) for the 49ers franchise.
Battle Tested 49ers
One thing is for sure, nobody can say San Francisco reached the 2020 Super Bowl by way of an undemanding schedule. Counting the NFC Playoffs, San Francisco has played seven of their previous 8 games against teams who finished with a win percentage of better than .500. The 49ers went 7-2 in those contests, and ironically enough, 1 of their 2 losses came against the 7-9 Atlanta Falcons. Nevertheless, it's important to note, the Falcons went 4-0 SU&ATS during their last 4 regular season games. The only other 49ers loss in that inspiring 9-game stretch came at Baltimore (14-3) by a narrow 3-point margin.
49ers Running Game
Statistically speaking, San Francisco has the league's second best rushing attack, and only Baltimore was better. Nonetheless, the Ravens were beneficiaries of their extremely mobile and athletic quarterback Lamar Jackson rushing for 1349 yards. Most of Jackson's rushing yards came via a read option call, or during a designed pass play that broke down and he took off running.
Contrarily, the 49ers do it in a more conventional manner. They've utilized a trio of running backs in Tevin Coleman (680 yards/8TDS), Rasheem Mostert (1050 yards/12 TDS), and Matt Breida (642 yards) to get the job done. Mostert is coming off a huge 220 yards rushing effort during an NFC Championship Game 37-20 win over Green Bay. Mostert also ran for four touchdowns in that contest. Additionally, the 49ers rushing attack accounted 285 yards rushing during that victory while only attempting 8 passes, which is a real peculiarity by modern day NFL standards.
The 49ers success in running the football against Kansas City will go a long way in determining the outcome of Super Bowl LIV. San Francisco went 7-1 this season when rushing for 168 yards or more and were an unscathed 4-0 SU&ATS if they reached the 200-yard barrier.
The maligned Chiefs defense has allowed 180 yards or more rushing on 5 separate occasions this season. That number may have been higher if not for opponents of Kansas City reluctantly abandoning their running game while attempting to overcome sizable deficits. Case in point, 9 of the Chiefs 14 wins were by 10 points or greater.
You can make a strong case for San Francisco's defense being the best in the NFL. They were #2 in total yards allowed (281.8 YPG), #1 against the pass (169.2 YPG), #8 scoring (19.4 PPG), and #5 in sacks (48). During their two playoff wins over Green Bay and Minnesota, they allowed a mere 252.5 yards per game, and sacked opposing quarterbacks 9 times. The 49ers stop unit will indubitably have their hands full when going up against an explosive Kansas City offense that's 6th in total yards (379.2 PG) and 5th in scoring (28.2 PPG).
The total for Super Bowl LIV had an opening number of 51.5, and according to current (1/31) NFL betting odds at Bookmaker it's now 54.5. Early public betting has overwhelming sided with going over the total. Specifically, 76% of bets made and 82% of money wagered has came in on the over.
Since 1981, this will be a 10th time in which a Super Bowl total has been 50.0 or greater, and six of the previous 9 stayed under. Tightening the Super Bowl totals betting parameters up even further uncovers even more compelling results. Since 2002, any Super Bowl with a total of 50.0 to 56.0 has seen all 4 of those contests go under, and it produced only a combined 30.5 points scored per game. The latest such example occurred last year when there was a closing total of 56.0 and New England defeated Los Angeles 13-3.
The opening Super Bowl LIV odds showed Kansas City as a 1.0-point favorite. At the time of this writing, 5Dimes is displaying the Chiefs as a 1.5-point favorite. Thus far, 59% of point-spread wagers are on Kansas City and 56% of total money bet has been placed on the Chiefs. Since 1982, there's been just four Super Bowl games that closed with a point-spread of 2.5-points or less. Once again, the latest of which arose last year when New England closed as a 2.0-point favorite.
NFL betting odds indicate that San Francisco had a closing point-spread of +2.5 to -2.5 on 6 occasions this season. The 49ers went a perfect 6-0 SU&ATS in those instances while winning by an average of 14.9 points per game. Conversely, Kansas City witnessed only 2 of their games having a closing point-spread of +2.5 to -2.5. The Chiefs went 2-0 SU&ATS in that specific role and came out on top by a decisive average of 19.0 points per contest.
Best of Luck with all of your Super Bowl LIV wagers!
Ross Benjamin is a top sports analyst and one of the sports industry's most respected handicappers. Follow him on Twitter: @RossBenjamin1 or visit his website at RBWins.com