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Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes. (Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire)
February 10th, 2024
Super Bowl LVIII will kick off at 6:30 p.m. (ET) Sunday, and YouBet previews three keys for each team.
The youngest defense in the league, Kansas City’s fast and aggressive stop unit has been dominant since the start of January, leading the team to the brink of its third Super Bowl win in the last five years.
The Chiefs took Baltimore out of its game plan early in the AFC championship, forcing a pass-heavy attack that played into Kansas City’s hands. Behind Chris Jones and blitz-heavy packages, Kansas City employs a dynamic pass rush, and it's held three high-scoring offenses to 13.7 points per game in the playoffs. And the Chiefs expect to have linebacker Willie Gay, defensive tackle Derrick Nnadi, and safety Mike Edwards back from injury in the Super Bowl.
After a mostly inconsistent regular season, Kansas City has turned things around behind its defense, which has fueled its 5-0 ATS run.
Patrick Mahomes provides a big edge at quarterback, and the two-time MVP relishes being in the underdog role, 7-3 straight up over his career. He owns the highest QB rating all time in the playoffs and makes everyone around him better. The Chiefs were able to find their best form in the postseason despite leading the league in drops, offensive penalties, and offensive tackle penalties during the regular season.
After an up-and-down campaign, Travis Kelce started to come on in January and has been dominant during the postseason, recording 23 catches for 262 yards and three touchdowns in three playoff games. He’s instrumental to Kansas City’s offense, and San Francisco must be committed to slowing down Kelce, or it will be a long night for the Niners defense. But limiting the future Hall of Fame tight end is easier said than done, and all signs points toward Kelce being poised for another good game.
Andy Reid is the most respected offensive mind in the NFL coaching ranks, and defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo is highly skilled at putting players in the right spot to succeed. The Chiefs are never predictable, and we can expect Kansas City to unveil some new wrinkles to keep San Francisco off balance.
Veteran kicker Harrison Butker delivers another steadying influence for Kansas City, which is peaking at the right time.
49ers vs. Chiefs in Las Vegas! #SBLVIII pic.twitter.com/ARHIwQBaia— NFL (@NFL) January 29, 2024
49ers vs. Chiefs in Las Vegas! #SBLVIII pic.twitter.com/ARHIwQBaia
Led by a menacing front seven, San Francisco’s defense was feared during most of the regular season, ranking top five in takeaways and sacks, but it allowed Green Bay and Detroit to rush for a combined 318 yards in two playoff games and needed dramatic rallies to win. Don’t expect the same luxury against Kansas City.
San Francisco has the size and speed to impose its will from a physical standpoint, but it will need to be all in. That means holding the edge defensively from the kickoff. And after leading the league by averaging 6.8 yards on first down during the regular season, the offense has to win on first downs to avoid the second-and-long situations that plagued Baltimore during the AFC Championship Game.
Miami and Buffalo averaged 4.5 yards per carry, combining for 258 rushing yards against Kansas City, but Baltimore’s No. 1-ranked run offense mysteriously lost its way in the AFC championship, utilizing only six carries from the running backs.
Kansas City likes to play a lot of defensive backs, it employed five defensive backs for more than 50% of Baltimore’s snaps, and the Chiefs have been worn down at times by teams committed to the run. The Chiefs ranked last of 32 teams in ESPN’s run-stop win rate (27%).
San Francisco averaged 140.5 rushing yards per game in the regular season, third-best in the NFL, and it must be dedicated to utilizing run schemes to slow down Kansas City's defense.
Led by dual-threat Deebo Samuel, All-Pro tight end George Kittle, Brandon Aiyuk, and Offensive Player of the Year Christian McCaffrey, the Niners became the sixth team to have four players with at least 1,000 yards from scrimmage.
Brock Purdy topped the league in passer rating and yards per attempt, and his confidence received a boost leading San Francisco back from second-half deficits against Green Bay and Detroit.
The Niners will look to move the ball via the run and the short-passing game early in the Super Bowl, which will enable downfield opportunities if their skill players show up with strong performances.
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