Super Bowl Sunday is almost upon us! What better way to get ready for the 54th edition of the best day of the year than by answering 54 different questions regarding the big game.
We'll focus on key matchups and team-wide tendencies with plenty of prop bets along the way. So pretty much everything. Keep your head on a swivel, because there are plenty of wildcards in-between. Good luck!
1. What does Vegas say?
The game opened as a pick'em, but has since moved to Chiefs -1. The total has been fluctuating so far, opening at 51.5 points before booming all the way to 54.5 at the time of this writing.
2. What's one sure-thing prop to cash in on?
49ers RB Matt Breida first rush attempt over 3.5 yards (+130).
Breida averaged 5.1 yards per carry this season. Only Nick Chubb (5.08 YPC) and Aaron Jones (5.02) have been more efficient on the ground than Breida (4.99) among 42 backs with at least 300 rush attempts over the past three seasons.
The Chiefs were the league's fifth- and fourth-worst defense in adjusted line yards and rush yards allowed per carry, respectively. There simply isn't much reason for Breida to be receiving plus odds on a prop that is 1.5 yards below his consistent career average, particularly against a defense that struggles to limit opposing rushing attacks.
3. Can Jimmy Garoppolo keep up with Patrick Mahomes?
Potentially. Most Chiefs fans are probably hoping that their electric offense can build a lead and force Jimmy G to win the game through the air. This certainly hasn't been the case through two playoff games, as the 49ers threw the ball just 27 combined times again the Vikings and Packers.
Still, Garoppolo is far from incapable of shredding defenses downfield. The 49ers led the league in explosive pass-play rate, but the league's second-most run-heavy offense simply didn't look to throw the ball deep all that often. Overall, Garoppolo surprisingly averaged a league-high 21 yards per attempt on deep balls this season (PFF), but he also threw passes at least 20 yards downfield on a league-low 6.5% of his attempts.
4. Can the Chiefs contain Nick Bosa?
It's not going to be easy. The No. 2 overall pick from the 2019 NFL draft didn't waste anytime in establishing himself as one of the league's best pass rushers, as only Za'Darius Smith (93), Danielle Hunter (88), Cameron Jordan (83), Shaq Barrett (82) and T.J. Watt (81) finished the season with more pressures than Bosa (80).
He figures to spend most of his afternoon across from LT Eric Fisher and RT Mitchell Schwartz. They graded out as PFF's No. 32 and No. 12 tackles in pass blocking, respectively, among 87 qualified players.
Still, the extremely-talented rookie is far from the only defender the Chiefs need to worry about. Each of DeForest Buckner (No. 10), Dee Ford (No. 3), Arik Armstead (No. 29) and Bosa (No. 6) received favorable rankings at their respective positions from PFF when it came to pass-rushing productivity this season.
5. What if the 49ers can't pressure Patrick Mahomes?
They likely won't win the Super Bowl.
Failure to create pressure with this group could be detrimental. The 49ers blitzed on just 20.9% of their opponent's dropbacks this season, which was the fourth-lowest rate in the league. Their entire defensive identity is built on pressuring the QB with just four men. This allows them to both devote additional attention to the secondary as well as, perhaps most importantly, their CBs to sit on short-to-intermediate routes knowing that QBs won't have very long to survey the field. No defense posted a lower average depth of target when targeted as a defender (Pro Football Reference).
The 49ers could have to resort to blitzes in order to pressure Mahomes if their usual plan fails. This has historically been a recipe for disaster (Pro Football Reference):
- Mahomes vs. blitz: 64.8 completion rate, 18 TDs, 0 INT, 119 QB Rating, 10.36 adjusted yards per attempt
- Mahomes vs. normal rush: 66.3% completion rate, 58 TDs, 17 INT, 107.5 QB Rating, 9 adjusted yards per attempt
Mahomes is awesome all the time. But he's been just a bit less awesome when defenses have been able to use additional defenders in coverage and/or as spies. The 49ers' ability to get pressure with just their four linemen will be a key to watch.
Additionally, ESPN's Dan Orlovsky made a brilliant point while breaking down the game. The 49ers play more zone coverage than anyone, and the Chiefs run RPOs at a league-high rate. The Eagles proved in their Super Bowl victory over the Patriots that playing zone against RPOs is a borderline death sentence, and we saw the Cardinals -- who ran RPOs at the league's second-highest rate -- have more success than most against this beastly San Francisco defense.
6. Will Mahomes' scrambling ability be a factor?
Keeping Mahomes in the pocket will be of the upmost importance this Sunday. Only Lamar Jackson (11) and Ryan Tannehill (11) averaged more yards per rush on scrambles than Mahomes (9.3) among all QBs with at least 10 rush attempts on non-designed runs this season (Pro Football Reference).
Of course, Mahomes usually only uses his legs for as long as he needs to evade rushers before launching the ball downfield. There simply isn't another QB in the league that makes something out of nothing more consistently than the Chiefs' franchise QB.
7. Where would Garoppolo rank among the best QBs to ever win a Super Bowl?
Happy you asked. He would be in my fourth tier labeled "Very good but not quite dominant" of every QB to ever win a Super Bowl.
This is better than "Above average and, hey, sometimes guys get hot", "How the heck did that guy win a Super Bowl" as well as "Literally only started a handful of games all season", but it's difficult to crown Jimmy G as a truly elite QB at this point due to his middling ranks among 42 QBs to throw at least 100 passes this season:
- Completion percentage: 69% (No. 5)
- Adjusted yards per attempt: 8.3 (No. 9)
- Adjusted net yards per attempt: 7.2 (No. 10)
- QB Rating: 102 (No. 8)
- TD Rate: 5.7% (No. 7)
- INT Rate: 2.7% (No. 30)
8. What about Mahomes?
Mahomes lands in tier two: "Anyone's idea of an elite QB." The only thing holding back Mahomes is the reality that he was better in 2018 than 2019. Injuries throughout the season to Mahomes himself as well as Tyreek Hill and LT Eric Fisher certainly played a role in this, but the Chiefs' franchise QB was still anyone's idea of a top-tier signal caller during this "down" year:
- Adjusted net yards per attempt: 8.38 (No. 2 among 42 qualified QBs)
- Adjusted yards per attempt: 8.94 (No. 3)
- Yards per attempt: 8.36 (No. 3)
- TD rate: 5.4% (No. 8)
- Completion rate: 69.5% (No. 12)
- QB Rating: 105.3 (No. 7)
- QBR: 78 (No. 2)
9. What is Andy Reid's record after a bye week?
Technically the fabled "Reid after a bye" legend applies this week. The long-time Eagles and Chiefs head coach has been nothing short of remarkable when given an extra week's worth of rest over the years:
- Straight up: 23-5
- Against the spread: 19-9
10. Would Jimmy G be the first big-money QB to win a Super Bowl?
Sam Bradford was the last first-round QB to get #paid in 2010 before the league changed the salary structure for rookies. This has made a high-level rookie QB the cheat code of the league, as teams that receive elite play at the game's most-important position at an immense discount have then been able to focus on adding resources elsewhere in an attempt to win immediately.
Below is a list of winning Super Bowl QBs since that decision along with their corresponding cap hit percentage:
- 2011 Eli Manning - 11.7%
- 2012 Joe Flacco - 6.6%
- 2013 Russell Wilson - 0.6%
- 2014 Tom Brady - 11.2%
- 2015 Peyton Manning's corpse - 12.2%
- 2016 Brady - 8.9%
- 2017 Nick Foles and Carson Wentz - combined 4.6%
- 2018 Brady - 12.4%
Note that Tom Brady has notoriously tended to take a pay cut in order for the Patriots to devote resources elsewhere.
Here's the catch: Jimmy G (10.5%) actually has a fairly affordable contract after the 49ers gave up $34.2 million guaranteed (20.9% of the cap) last season. Obviously rookie QB contracts are preferable, but NFL contracts are funky enough that smart teams can usually move money around in order for them to get who they need.
11. Will the Chiefs have a Super Bowl window for as long as they have Mahomes?
12. Will Travis Kelce get a snap at QB?
Probably not, but Kelce has taken three direct snaps at QB during his NFL career that resulted in a rush attempt. They've produced two first downs and a score!
13. Which offense is faster?
Per Next Gen Stats, the Chiefs (13.36 miles per hour) and 49ers (13.35) were the league's two fastest offenses in terms of average top speed by offensive ball carriers. The league average was 12.97 MPH.
14. Are we positive the Patriots still can't win the Super Bowl?
Continue to the next page for questions 15-28