Good defense beats good offense in Super Bowls.
John Schmeelk: Fiction -- People like to cite games like the Giants and Bills in Super Bowl XXV, but the Bills would have won if Scott Norwood made his kick. Does that mean if he makes the kick that the Bills offense trumped the Giants defense? It goes both ways depending on the year and I think this is way too much of a universal statement.
Dan Salomone: Fact -- I guess I'm one of those people, Schmeelk. Look no further than the 2016 Patriots, 2013 Seahawks or even the 1990 Giants. When the No. 1 defense goes against the No. 1 offense, the former tends to win. Sunday isn't exactly No. 1 vs. No. 1, but it's billed as the 49ers defense vs. Chiefs offense. This is because one side has Nick Bosa and the other has Patrick Mahomes. But let's not forget, San Francisco gained more yards and scored more points than Kansas City this season. How? The 49ers can run the ball, which as we know can be the best defense of all.
Lance Medow: Fact -- If you go back to Super Bowl XXXV between the Giants and Ravens played following the 2000 season, the team with the higher ranked defense has won 11 of the last 19 big games. That's nearly 60 percent so based on that evidence and math, it's fair to say having a stronger defense or more consistent defense, during the course of the regular season, is extremely beneficial. To take it a step further, in 12 of the last 19 Super Bowls, the losing team has scored 21 points or less, meaning most games haven't been offensive clinics. That's more of a reason why you need to rely on your defense to get the job done on the biggest stage.
Super Bowl LIV will be decided by three points or fewer.
Schmeelk: Fiction -- I think when all is said and done this is a two-score game. Patrick Mahomes is special and will make enough plays to score close to 30 points against the 49ers defense. I think the Chiefs will be able to slow down the 49ers rushing attack, much like they did Tennessee, and I don't think Jimmy Garoppolo can hang with Mahomes in a shootout. He did it with Drew Brees earlier in the year, but not against Steve Spagnuolo's Chiefs defense.
Salomone: Fact -- As a fan, I'm rooting for it. This postseason started with two overtime games on Wild Card Weekend (the other two were decided by one possession). The Divisional Round saw craziness with the Chiefs coming back from a 24-0 deficit. The Conference Championship Games left a little to be desired for neutral bystanders, so I think the Super Bowl will make up for them. In the 2019 regular season, 68 percent of games were within one score (eight points) in the fourth quarter, tied for the fifth-most such games in a single season in NFL history, while 52.3 percent of games (134 of 256) were decided by eight-or-fewer points, also tied for the fifth-most such games in single season in league annals.
Medow: Fiction -- The Chiefs nor the Niners have played a game this postseason that's been decided by three points or less. Kansas City has won by an average margin of 15.5 points and San Francisco by 17. I think this game will be competitive, for the most part, but I don't think it will come down to a field goal. San Francisco's defense has been one of the best units in the NFL all year long and that's a big reason why the Niners only played five games in the 2019 regular season that were decided by a field goal or less. Thanks to the Chiefs' offense, Kansas City has only been involved in two games of that kind during the regular season and none since Week 10. Keep in mind, just one (Super Bowl XLVII) of the last 11 Super Bowls has been decided by three points or less.
If the 49ers limit Patrick Mahomes to under three touchdown passes, they will win the game.
Schmeelk: Fact -- Now, there's an outside chance that Mahomes drives the Chiefs down the field only to see Damien Williams or Mahomes run it in for scores, but I think it is unlikely. I think Mahomes needs three touchdown passes in this game if Kansas City is going to win. The Chiefs will find a way to move the ball and score against the 49ers cover-three heavy defense if the offensive line can protect Mahomes. I think they do and Mahomes has a MVP game.
Salomone: Fact -- Going back to my first point, the 49ers can score. Only the Ravens had more points than them this season. The Chiefs need to find the end zone and do it early because I don't think they're coming back against this San Francisco defense. I'm going to give myself an out, however. If Mahomes finds the end zone again with his legs, that could be the backbreaker.
Medow: Fact -- You still need to account for the Chiefs' ability to run, especially Patrick Mahomes after that lengthy scramble for a touchdown in the AFC Championship Game against the Titans. But I think much of this game will be dependent on the Kansas City offense being able to consistently put points on the board against one of the best defenses in the league. San Francisco boasted the best passing defense in the NFL during the regular season and surrendered 23 touchdowns through the air, tied for 13th lowest in the league. The Niners' defense allowed less than one passing touchdown per game this season. Drew Brees is the only opposing quarterback to throw for three or more touchdowns against San Francisco this season and he finished with five yet the Saints still lost that game. Every other opposing quarterback threw for two touchdowns or less against the Niners this season and San Francisco's three losses in 2019 all came on last second plays (2 field goals and a touchdown). It's been no picnic playing the Niners this season so if the Chiefs want to win, Mahomes is going to have to rely on his usual magic.
The tight ends are the X-factors in Super Bowl LIV.
Schmeelk: Fiction -- If the 49ers are going to win this game, they will need one of their running backs or wide receivers to step-up. My bold prediction is that if the 49ers will win it will be Deebo Samuel that will make a couple of big plays and take home the MVP. The Chiefs will blitz and put their cornerbacks on islands. I would not be surprised to see Samuel catch a short pass run for a long a touchdown.
Salomone: Fiction -- In honor of Joe Judge, I'm saying that special teams will be the X-factors. Again, I expect a close game. These were two of – if not the – best teams in the league during the regular season. Whoever can pin the other at a crucial point or avoid a big error at another juncture will win the game.
Medow: Fiction -- Both the Niners and Chiefs have versatile tight ends in George Kittle and Travis Kelce, respectively, but this game will come down to different units. On Kansas City's side, Patrick Mahomes is the X-factor. If he can create explosive plays against that Niners' defense and take pressure off of the Chiefs' defense, we'll have a game. For San Francisco, the x-factor is the run game. Neither the Vikings nor the Packers were able to slow down the Niners on the ground and both of those teams knew what was coming. San Francisco has a multi-headed monster in the backfield and was second in the NFL, during the regular season, in rushing yards per game. The Niners are averaging 236 rushing yards per game in the playoffs and over five yards per carry. If that juggernaut appears again, it's going to be a very long evening for the Chiefs' defense.