In Australia, we would say this year’s match up of two teams who haven’t made a Superbowl for a while is “good for football”, and indeed the entire post-season thus far has been one of the better ones in recent years.
Yes, I enjoyed seeing the Pats bundled out early. Maybe I’m indulging in schadenfreude, and maybe I just think it’s time for some other teams to shine (probably both). I really enjoyed the Titans run, which aside from showing the evenness of the competition, reminded us of the importance of defence in the post-season, and Tannehill has been a great part of their story.
But the theme of this post-season has really been coaching. Teams have prepared for their match ups and brought innovative game plans specifically targeting their opponents weaknesses (perceived or otherwise). The ones that have been able to execute on those game plans have gone deep. The ones that have been able to respond to the opposition game plans have gone deeper still.
And that brings us to this year’s opponents. Traditionally, they say winning in the post-season is about the basics: run the ball and control the clock. On that basis, the 49ers have three outstanding running backs, and a fantastic offensive line for them to run behind. That they ground down the Packers with just 8 passing attempts from a top QB like Garoppolo is amazing. It’s a gutsy game plan, but it worked. And if they needed to win it in the air, they probably could have.
But will controlling the clock be enough to beat the Chiefs? They have the temperament to come from behind, and the ability to score so quickly that the game can flip in just a few minutes. Andy Reid, with a poor 10-9 postseason record (do the maths – you need at least 3 wins to make a Superbowl) is hungry. He now has the pieces: Mahomes is sublime and his mobility can compensate for the 49ers’ very aggressive pass rush, Hill has speed and more, and Kelce is a beast who creates mismatches everywhere. The defence isn’t good enough to win games on its own, but does its fair share. But to ensure I’m not being driven by confirmation bias, here’s another way to look at the game:
Key things that the result will hang on:
- The 49ers pass rush can get to Mahomes
- Sherman and the 49er secondary
- The dominance of either Kecle or Kittle
- A crazy coaching game plan
- Turnovers (always extra important in the post-season)
On balance, I still think the Chiefs should win it on the back of playoff experience. Betting wise, they are 1.5 point favourites, which is as good as evens. I don’t think this game will finish close. Best bet: Total Points Scored over 54.5. And if the Chiefs are behind early (quite likely), back them, then lay off later in the game to cover.