NFL Analysis


4 min read

Super Bowl LVIII: Expert Picks, Predictions

San Francisco 49ers NFC Champions
(Left to right) San Francisco 49ers running back Christian McCaffrey (23), tight end George Kittle (85), offensive tackle Trent Williams (71), wide receiver Deebo Samuel (19), and linebacker Fred Warner (54), and quarterback Brock Purdy (13) celebrate after winning the NFC Championship football game against the Detroit Lions at Levi's Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The 2023-24 season is just days away from its end: The San Francisco 49ers face the Kansas City Chiefs with a title on the line. 

Let’s dive right into this matchup between the league’s two best teams.

Super Bowl LVIII Expert Picks

49ers vs. Chiefs

Spread: 49ers -2

Total: 47.5

From a broad sense, this matchup parallels Super Bowl LII between the New England Patriots and Nick Foles’ Philadelphia Eagles. Philadelphia had the more talented roster, while New England had the best quarterback and coach in history.

This year, the 49ers have the more talented roster, and the Chiefs have the historic quarterback and coach. 

Kansas City is the NFL’s measuring stick — the team has played in each of the last six AFC Championship games. This is its fourth Super Bowl appearance during that span, with a 2-1 record in those contests. The Chiefs have replaced Tom Brady’s Patriots as football’s dynasty.

The 49ers have played in four of the last five NFC championship games. This is their second Super Bowl trip in the last half-decade. San Francisco lost to Patrick Mahomes' Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV, but the 49ers have been the NFC’s best during the last five years.

Offensively, San Francisco has four premium skill players capable of taking over a game. That makes it difficult to identify which one of them will play the biggest part in Sunday's Super Bowl. 

The Chiefs’ perimeter corners have limited wide receivers all year, giving Brandon Aiyuk the toughest matchup of the four. George Kittle is one of the most talented tight ends in history but is dealing with a lingering toe injury.

Christian McCaffrey is the centerpiece of San Francisco’s offense. He doesn’t have an obviously advantageous matchup Sunday, but that shouldn’t have an impact on his massive role. Meanwhile, Deebo Samuel is the most versatile wide receiver in football. Given Aiyuk’s matchup and Kittle’s injury, Samuel is in the best position to exceed expectations among the 49ers’ pass-catchers.

Brock Purdy has plenty of detractors, but he’s only lost four games in two years. He’s coming off an MVP-caliber season where he’s made more high-difficulty throws than most realize. He does, however, have the occasional uneven performance. 

Overall, when Purdy plays well, San Francisco usually wins. In three of the 49ers’ four losses with Purdy at quarterback, he had more interceptions than touchdowns. This weekend, he’ll face a Chiefs defense that allowed the second-fewest points per game this season.

The 49ers allowed the third-fewest rushing yards and the third-fewest points per game in the regular season. But they haven't been a high-caliber unit in either of the team's two playoff games. Perhaps most alarmingly, the Green Bay Packers' and Detroit Lions' offensive lines dominated in the trenches. Kansas City has a top-10 caliber offensive line, and Isiah Pacheco is one of the Chiefs' few difference-makers on offense.

Travis Kelce continues to be Mahomes' favorite target, but rookie WR Rashee Rice has emerged down the stretch. The 49ers' defense has generally struggled in the playoffs, but the unit's most consistent issue has been with perimeter receivers. Outside of Kelce and Rice, every other Chiefs pass-catcher is a role player.

Ultimately, if Purdy plays a clean game and the 49ers' front returns to form, San Francisco will be hard to beat. But even in that scenario, Mahomes is the most dangerous man in the league — especially when the game is on the line. 

He stands directly in San Francisco's way of winning its first title since 1995.

Score Prediction: 49ers 24, Chiefs 23