(KPIX) — The San Francisco 49ers-Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV presents an interesting matchup. The 49ers grind it out with the run and look to suffocate opposing offenses with tenacious run stoppers and an overwhelming pass rush. The Chiefs use speed and creativity to spread the field and attack through the air, while their steadily improving defense looks to put the ball back in its offense’s hands.
The spread sits at a point and a half in favor of the 49ers, with an over/under of 54.5 points. The 49ers scored 32 points per game in the playoffs against better defenses than they’ll face this week. The Chiefs have averaged 43 points per game in the playoffs, though they’ve done it against worse defenses. These 49ers were among the NFL’s better teams in yards (281.8) and points (19.4) allowed per game during the regular season, and they gave up the fewest passing yards per game (169.2) and per play (5.9). The Chiefs should exceed these averages, but they won’t have a field day.
The narrow spread and relatively high over/under illustrate just how competitive this matchup is likely to be. It also sets the table for a few prop bets that could have actual in-game implications. One of those is rushing yards for Mahomes.
The Chiefs running game often seems like a game-planning afterthought, but Mahomes may be at his most dangerous when improvising to avoid the pass rush. If the 49ers secondary can stay with those speedy Chiefs receivers long enough, those scrambles to buy time and create space could turn into runs. The Chiefs may even install some running plays for Mahomes to thwart that pass rush before it even gets going.
According to SportsLine senior NFL analyst Larry Hartstein, “I look at Patrick Mahomes and how healthy he is and 53 rushing yards in each of the past two playoff games. Now he’s facing a Niners defense that is very fast. You can’t just drop back against that pass rush. I think he’s going to run. I want to go over 30 rushing yards for Mahomes. Kyler Murray averaged 51 rushing yards against the Niners. Russell Wilson averaged 41. I think Mahomes can get over 30.”
Everybody knows the 49ers will run, and the Chiefs will struggle to stop them. San Francisco’s trio of running backs has combined for 471 yards on 89 carries in the postseason. That’s 5.3 yards per carry, with former journeyman running back Raheem Mostert doing most of the damage. Those sorts of numbers may very well continue, even against a Chiefs front seven coming off a strong performance against Derrick Henry and the Tennessee Titans. And that sets up another intriguing prop bet.
“What can you say about Raheem Mostert,” asks Hartstein. “That guy just exploded last week. He’s fresh. Tevin Coleman is still battling the shoulder injury. So 77 and a half rushing yards [for Mostert], I want to go over that. Mostert, 5.6 yards per carry in the regular season, 6.8 in the playoffs facing a Chiefs defense that, according to the rushing efficiency metrics, ranked 29th in stopping the run.”
With evenly matched teams, the Super Bowl may hinge on a defensive or special teams play. “I do like either team to miss an extra point,” notes Hartstein. And in a close game, an extra point could make all the difference.
“The extra point, that will pay 3-to-1,” Hartstein points out. “You can get more than 3-to-1 at certain books. The Chiefs kicker has missed a PAT in two of the last four weeks. There is a lot of wind in that stadium, it’s a windy stadium. Even though the forecast is only calling for 14 mph winds, it has been known to be a little bit tricky. Plus it could rain the night before. We’re expecting rain the night before, though not on gameday. I just think with the pressure, it’s a 33-yard field goal, I think we could get an extra point miss. I think it’s worth it at 3-to-1.”