The Kansas City Chiefs are back in the Super Bowl for the fourth time in the last five seasons, and they could be ushered in as the next NFL dynasty if they win their third.
Yet, despite the experience of Andy Reid, Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce, sportsbooks around the country believe the San Francisco 49ers, the winners of the NFC, are the slight favorites in this matchup.
That has one NFL analyst very confused heading into the week before the big game at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas.
“How in the world are the 49ers favored in this game?” Ross Tucker, the former NFL offensive lineman turned analyst, said on “Fescoe in the Morning.” “The Chiefs, I felt like, were clearly the better team in all three of the playoff games – including at Buffalo and at Baltimore.
“The Niners, guys, I can name six plays right now off the top of my head in the Packers game where if they went the other way, the Packers win that game.… And then the Lions were killing the Niners until they peed down their leg like I’ve never seen before, one of the most epic meltdowns of all time. Honestly, I’m not a Lions fan, but that was hard to watch.
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“So, you’re telling me you’re going to say the Niners are the favorite? They’re like going off yards per play from the regular season, give me a break, bro. You’ve got to be kidding me. In a close game, you’re going to take Brock Purdy and Kyle Shanahan over Mahomes and Andy Reid? Yeah, not me. I’ve seen this movie too many times – I’m going to take the Chiefs.”
Like Tucker mentioned, perhaps oddsmakers are looking at the entire season as a whole when setting betting lines for this game. The 49ers were the second-best offense during the regular season in terms of yards per game. They averaged 398.4 per game with the third-most points per contest with 28.9.
They also had a top-10 defense, finishing eighth in yards allowed (303.9) and the third-best average points allowed per game (17.5).
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Meanwhile, the Chiefs were still a great offense despite their issues throughout the year, finishing ninth in total yards (351.3 per game). However, they finished 15th in points scored (21.8).
But nothing in the regular season matters when the playoffs roll around. Teams like the Dallas Cowboys understand that after a great regular season, leading to a division win, all just to lose at home in the wild-card round. Any team can get hot at the right time.
The Chiefs did win the AFC West again this season, but some believed the Miami Dolphins – the top offense in the regular season – would be able to take them down on the road. And even if they didn’t, the Chiefs would have to go through Buffalo and Baltimore, both of which were Mahomes’ first career road playoff games.
In the end, Mahomes and his unit look like they have in recent playoff trips, moving the ball well through Kelce, Isiah Pacheco and whoever else Reid is scheming open.
The 49ers have had a more troubling two playoff games. Brock Purdy & Co. had to fight to take the lead late in the fourth quarter against the Packers, where Jordan Love eventually threw a bad interception on a potential game-winning drive for San Fran to escape with the win.
Then, last week against the Detroit Lions, Tucker mentioned the epic breakdown that occurred where the Lions owned a 24-7 lead at halftime only to give it up in the second half.
There’s no doubt both of these teams are matched up well, but Mahomes has the experience factor in the final game of the season, while this will be Purdy’s first trip to the Super Bowl.
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That fact, regardless of the talent San Francisco possesses on the offensive side of the ball, is why many believe the Chiefs have the upper hand. But sportsbooks are thinking otherwise by a slight margin.