It has been a while since a Super Bowl has appeared to be such a toss-up.
This one between the NFC champion San Francisco 49ers and the AFC champ Kansas City Chiefs is a difficult game to judge.
The 49ers (15-3) have gone from the No. 2 pick in the draft last April to the verge of another championship. The Chiefs (14-4) were in the AFC title contest last year and fell in overtime.
In 2019, both teams were dynamic and won a bunch of big games. Now they meet in the biggest one.
Here’s how the Chiefs and 49ers match up in the Super Bowl:
It’s not difficult to figure out how the Chiefs will approach any game. QB Patrick Mahomes (15) will test defences with his arm and skill for reading schemes. He has game-breakers in WRs Tyreek Hill (10) and Sammy Watkins (14), which means single coverage on either is a gamble. TE Travis Kelce (87) is a first-down machine and a clutch performer all around.
Damien Williams (26) keys the backfield and comes off two exceptional postseason showings, even though Mahomes has often been the leading rusher by creating the way he did in the AFC championship game with a brilliant tap dance down the sideline for a go-ahead score.
That puts a huge onus on the Niners to get an effective pass rush, something they have done virtually every week. They will harass Mahomes with a front seven led by rookie Nick Bosa (97), a force on the outside. DT DeForest Buckner (99) has had a strong impact, and LBs Fred Warner (54) and Kwon Alexander (56), who is finally healthy, are formidable. Having edge rusher Dee Ford (55), who was a Chief last season, bolsters the unit.
They will challenge a good Kansas City offensive line anchored by RT Mitchell Schwartz (71) and LT Eric Fisher (72). But if the O-line holds true, San Francisco could struggle in coverage against the speedy Chiefs wideouts. CB Richard Sherman (25) remains outstanding, even if the rest of the secondary isn’t at his level.
After seeing the star turn by RB Raheem Mostert (31) against Green Bay, the Chiefs must be wary of what usually is a three-pronged rushing attack. Tevin Coleman (26), if healthy, and Matt Breida (22) give QB Jimmy Garoppolo options in the backfield, although Mostert is certain to be the main man. They operate behind a veteran line led by LT Joe Staley (74) and second-year RT Mike McGlinchey, and Kyle Juszczyk (44) is the NFL’s top fullback — as a blocker and receiver.
If the Niners run the ball effectively, it could open some wide spaces for All-Pro TE George Kittle (85), the most dynamic offensive player they have. Kittle is a difference-maker who will force the Chiefs to use double coverage at times. S Tyrann Mathieu (32) will see a lot of Kittle, and S Daniel Sorensen (49), who has had a monstrous playoffs, will be in the mix.
Covering WRs Emmanuel Sanders (17), Kendrick Bourne (84) and emerging rookie Deebo Samuel (19), who is fearless going over the middle, is another chore the Chiefs must handle well. That will require big-time contributions up front from Chris Jones (92) and Frank Clark (55) and LBs Anthony Hitchens (53) and Damien Wilson (54).