MAUI, HAWAII: The 2019-2020 NFL regular season, Wildcards, Divisionals, Conference Title Games and Pro Bowl are in the history books. One more game stands between the end of football season and the Daytona 500 to kickstart NASCAR. Super Bowl LIV.
The 100th NFL season concludes in the wake of a pair of untimely sports tragedies.
A helicopter crash claimed the lives of nine people including NBA great Kobe Bryant and college baseball coach John Altobelli. They each lost one of their children in that crash as well.
Former Minnesota Vikings Hall of Famer Chris Coleman lost his battle to cancer at age 58.
Tragedy is a part of life. So is uncertainty. Football is meant to bring us all together and provide a necessary respite. In 1990, the impending Gulf War with Iraq did not stop that respite. Whitney Houston gave us the greatest rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner in sports history.
The New York Giants then shocked the Buffalo Bills in one of the biggest Super Bowl upsets ever. In 2008, the big game was played in the wake of the most devastating financial crash in many years. The Giants stunned the football world by defeating the previously unbeaten New England Patriots.
Eli Manning completed the helmet-catch to David Tyree that remains among the most exciting plays in Super Bowl history.
As Elton John sang, “The show must go on.”
With politics and pop culture dividing us, the final football game of every season brings approximately one out of every three Americans together.
Super Bowl (54) LIV is being played at 6:30 p.m. Eastern time on Sunday, February 2 in Miami, Florida. FOX is broadcasting the game. The game features the AFC Champion and Lamar Hunt Trophy winning Kansas City Chiefs against the NFC Champion and George Halas Trophy winning San Francisco 49ers.
FootballLocks.com has the Chiefs favored by one point. The Chiefs lost the first Super Bowl in 1966 and won the fourth Super Bowl in 1969. Exactly 50 years after winning their only Super Bowl, the Chiefs are back in the big game for the third time.
The 49ers won four Super Bowls in the 1980s and a fifth Super Bowl in 1994. They lost the Super Bowl in 2012 and are back in it for the seventh time.
With that, here is the Super Bowl LIV Preview and Bettor’s Guide.
These teams are built completely differently. The Chiefs have a high-flying offense led by phenom quarterback Patrick Mahomes, speedsters Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins, and big tight end Travis Kelce. The 49ers are built with defense. One year after going 4-12, a healthy Jimmy Garoppolo has benefitted from a trio of running backs and an imposing tight end in George Kittle.
Both coaches are trying to exorcise playoff demons. Walrus Lite Andy Reid has been to the Conference Title Game seven times. He lost five of those games as well as the 2004 Super Bowl. Mike Shanahan won two Super Bowls, but his son Kyle presided over the biggest collapse in Super Bowl history.
As the offensive coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons in 2016, Kyle’s play-calling allowed the Falcons to blow a 28-3 third-quarter lead. Atlanta lost that game to the Patriots 34-28 in overtime.
Super Bowls that featured pinball offense against brutal defense saw the defense carry the day.
The 2002 Oakland Raiders were belted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The 2007 Patriots set offensive records but fell to the Giants defense. The 2013 Broncos set new offensive records, yet still got blasted in the Super Bowl by the Seahawks and the Legion of Boom. The Steel Curtain defense led the Pittsburgh Steelers to four Super Bowls in the 1980s.
The 1985 Chicago Bears gave up zero points in their playoff run to the Super Bowl and then led in that game 46-3 before finally giving up a garbage touchdown.
The 1968 New York Jets are known for Broadway Joe Namath’s guarantee of victory, but it was their running game and defense that shut down the mighty Baltimore Colts.
The 2000 Ravens defense won it all despite going five straight games in the regular season without an offensive touchdown.
Defense normally wins championships, but rules have exceptions.
The 1999 Rams and their Greatest Show on Turf out-scored a very aggressive Tennessee Titans defense. Peyton Manning led the 2006 Indianapolis Colts to a victory over a Bears team with a solid defense and unspectacular offense.
This year’s matchup suggests going with the exception rather than the rule.
Mahomes is a freak of nature. The Chiefs can score points at will. Mahomes is not a West Coast Offense dink and dunk game manager. He throws the ball deep as much as any quarterback in the old AFL days. The Chiefs fell behind the Houston Texans 24-0 in the first half of the Divisional round and did not blink an eye.
By the time they took a 28-24 lead, it was not even halftime yet. They outscored the Texans 51-7 after their initial deficit. As great as the 49ers defense is, they have never seen someone like Mahomes. He might be an alien life force, although he insists he is made of blood and plasma.
Mahomes has only started two full seasons and led the Chiefs to the trophy named after their late owner both times.
His lack of experience is balanced by the veteran leadership of Andy Reid. Although there is no real villain on the 49ers, Andy Reid winning a ring would be a feel-good story. Reid has won everything but a Super Bowl.
Both Reid and Shahanan are disciples of the West Coast Offense developed by the late 49ers coach Bill Walsh. Shanahan is one of Walsh’s “sons,” and Reid is a Walsh “grandson” who learned from Walsh’s son Mike Holmgren.
Mahomes has been virtually unstoppable.
The only way to defeat him is to keep him off the field. The playbook for this comes from the Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick 1990 Giants. They held the ball for over 40 minutes to less than 20 minutes for the Buffalo Bills. Yet Buffalo still almost won.
The Chiefs defense is deceptive. They give up a ton of yards but far fewer points. Then they give up big chunks until the red zone and then force turnovers. They give up field goals rather than touchdowns. The 49ers have an excellent field goal kicker in Robbie Gould, but field goals will not keep pace with the Mahomes offensive juggernaut.
Mahomes can gain first down with his legs, but he kills defenses with his cannon of an arm. He can throw sideways, no-look passes that are usually only found on a basketball court.
Again, the 49ers have a great defense. They will have their hands full with Mahomes, who was last year’s NFL MVP. Go with Mahomes. Walrus Lite will finally get his Super Bowl ring and join Holmgren in being upgraded to full walrus status.
The Chiefs will win Super Bowl LIV, cover the spread, and hoist the Vince Lombardi Trophy.