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NFL picks 2020, Super Bowl 54: Our experts are split down the middle between the Chiefs and 49ers

The grand finale to this NFL season will be the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers meeting in Super Bowl 54.

Patrick Mahomes vs. Jimmy Garoppolo. Andy Reid vs. Kyle Shanahan. Red-and-white team vs. red-and-white team.

On paper, it has all the makings of a tremendous game. Both squads ranked in the top 10 in both points scored and points allowed this season. In the postseason, Kansas City’s explosive offense scored 86 points in the team’s two wins. Meanwhile, San Francisco’s relentless defense racked up nine sacks in its two postseason appearances.

The matchup is more nuanced than an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object, though.

For one, the 49ers’ offense is no joke. It finished 2019 second in scoring, behind only the Ravens. It steamrolled the Vikings and Packers in the postseason with 471 rushing yards in the pair of wins.

The Kansas City defense isn’t as strong, but stepped up in the latter half of the season and into the playoffs. It’s also opportunistic and came up with the fifth-most interceptions during the regular season. In the postseason, it held both the Texans and Titans under 100 rushing yards and recorded eight sacks.

Oddsmakers have the Chiefs as a slight favorite in what they expect to be a shootout. It’s a tough game to call, and that’s why it’s no surprise our panel of experts is split right down the middle.

The 49ers are power football defined

Garoppolo threw just 27 passes in the 49ers’ wins over the Vikings and Packers. The offensive gameplan in both games was to bully both teams with a powerful rushing attack.

Running back Tevin Coleman led the way against Minnesota with 105 rushing yards and two touchdowns. When Coleman suffered a shoulder injury against Green Bay, Raheem Mostert took the reins and ran for 220 yards and four touchdowns — the second-best rushing performance in NFL playoff history.

The 49ers are less concerned with balance as they are bludgeoning opponents and dominating both time of possession and field position. And that style of offense perfectly complements a defense that’s as nasty as they come.

While injuries took their toll on the San Francisco defense late in the 2019 season, important contributors like Dee Ford, Richard Sherman, and Kwon Alexander got healthy in time for the playoffs. Now the unit is back to shutting opponents down with a defensive line that features five first-round picks.

Teams with pass rushes as ferocious as the 49ers’ have a good track record in the Super Bowl:

That formula of running the ball and suffocating opposing offenses made the 49ers difficult to beat in the regular season. It’s also why five of our experts — James Brady, Sarah Hardy, Stephen White, Kyle Posey, and David Fucillo — are taking the 49ers.

Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City offense can pour it on

Houston jumped out to a 24-0 lead against the Chiefs in the Divisional Round, but it didn’t matter. Kansas City’s offense starting cooking in the second quarter and didn’t stop. It dumped 51 points on the Texans in a 20-point victory, with Mahomes throwing five touchdowns during the onslaught.

The Titans led 17-7 in the AFC Championship, but that wasn’t enough either. The Chiefs buried them with four consecutive touchdowns to secure a spot in their first Super Bowl in 50 years.

Stopping the Kansas City offense is problem one, two, and three for the 49ers.

While Mahomes didn’t have the same output this year as he had during his MVP season in 2018 — largely due to a knee injury suffered in October — he’s been highly prolific again as of late. Mahomes threw for 615 yards, eight touchdowns, and no interceptions in the Chiefs’ two playoff wins.

It helps too that he has a bevy of weapons around him, including Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, and Sammy Watkins.

The Chiefs’ defense struggled badly at times during the 2019 season. But when Mahomes and the offense are at their best, the defense just doesn’t have to do much. At the very least, its most recent game against Tennessee proved Kansas City is capable of pulling out a strong defensive showing.

The Chiefs’ propensity for big plays on offense is probably the main reason why five on the panel — Christian D’Andrea, Morgan Moriarty, Geoff Schwartz, Maverick and Stanley the Good Dogs (who share a vote), and myself (Adam Stites) — are picking the Chiefs to win.

Meet the Good Dogs of Super Bowl 54: Maverick and Stanley

Maverick and Stanley are friends of Pete Sweeney, the manager at our Chiefs site, Arrowhead Pride. They teamed up to make our guest dog pick, and it should be no surprise which side they’re going with:

Two dogs sitting on a coach with a “Chiefs Kingdom” banner in between them

Good dogs

Stanley, 1 year old, is on the left and Maverick, 5, is on the right. Maverick is more of an offensive threat with his fetching skills but has slowed down recently due to injuries. Stanley’s tenacity and ballhawking skills are akin to the Honey Badger. They say, “living in Denver is ruff being beyond enemy territory, but we don’t give a sniff about it. Go Chiefs!”

Super Bowl 54 picks

Our guest picker is Kyle Posey, a manager at our 49ers blog, Niners Nation. It’s no surprise that he’s picking San Francisco to win it all. He’s making a return to the panel after going 10-5 during an upset-filled Week 5.

Super Bowl 54

Games James Brady Christian D’Andrea Sarah Hardy Morgan Moriarty Geoff Schwartz Adam Stites Stephen White Kyle Posey Maverick and Stanley Fooch
Games James Brady Christian D’Andrea Sarah Hardy Morgan Moriarty Geoff Schwartz Adam Stites Stephen White Kyle Posey Maverick and Stanley Fooch
Season record 166-100 176-90 159-107 168-98 160-106 156-110 153-113 166-99 146-120 157-109

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