The Ringer’s NFL writers have made their Super Bowl picks between the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers. Who will be right come Sunday night?
MVP: Patrick Mahomes
What seemed in December like a down season for the Chiefs has given way to perhaps the greatest example yet of Mahomes and Kansas City’s inevitability. They’ll win their third Super Bowl differently than either of the first two: on the strength of a run game and a defense that can expose the 49ers offense, as long as they win enough early downs to get San Francisco in obvious passing situations. Mahomes will play brilliantly, though he may have relatively modest passing stats, and will be rewarded with the MVP trophy. But the football hipsters will tell you that it should have gone to do-it-all defensive back L’Jarius Sneed for strong coverage and a handful of impact plays—look out for him to blitz.
I already picked against Mahomes and the Chiefs in the AFC title game, and I will not be making that mistake again. But as much as I love this matchup for Mahomes and the Kansas City passing game, this pick is more about Steve Spagnuolo’s defense. Spags has a group of tough and smart defenders, which is a cheat code for a top defensive game-planner. With two weeks of preparation, this unit will be ready for the challenge the 49ers offense poses. And Mahomes will also be up for whatever the 49ers defense has in store for the league’s best player.
MVP: Isiah Pacheco
This is going to be a low-scoring, run-heavy, and largely boring game. Sorry, friends! I know fireworks are the desired entertainment of a Super Bowl party, but both offenses will be heavily incentivized to run the ball in this game to stay out of third-and-long and avoid negative game scripts. While the 49ers have come back in both of their postseason wins, they don’t want to face constant pressure packages from Spagnuolo; the Chiefs, a far cry from the explosive passing offense they once were, don’t want that 49ers pass rush teeing off without a check. I like Pacheco to be the engine of a methodical, suffocating Chiefs win: 22 carries, 120 yards, and two scores.
I’m tired of betting against Mahomes as an underdog and losing. This isn’t the same Chiefs team we’ve seen in previous seasons, but they’ve figured some things out and can lean into a methodical and efficient offense. That strategy should work against a 49ers defense that has gotten shredded (for the most part) in two playoff games. On the other side of the ball, Kansas City should focus on getting red zone stops and turnovers. The 49ers offense is too good to be completely shut down. I see a game in which both teams string together long, time-consuming drives. The Chiefs will get the ball one last time with 90 seconds left, and Mahomes will drive them down the field before Harrison Butker boots the game winner.
I’ll write essentially the exact same thing I wrote at this time last year. I could read everything that gets written in the two-week run up to the Super Bowl. I could listen to every podcast and every interview in an effort to break down stats and individual matchups and determine who will win this game. But in the end, I think all I really need to do is look at the Chiefs roster and take note of the fact that they have a guy named Patrick Mahomes at quarterback. I believe it now more than ever: The man is inevitability incarnate.
MVP: Christian McCaffrey
Picking the Chiefs is the easiest Super Bowl choice in a decade. Oh, I can take Mahomes and the points? Sure, I’ll go out on a limb and pick the second-greatest football player I have ever watched, plus the spread. The Chiefs have been the easy choice since the championship games ended almost two weeks ago, and it is giving this whole Super Bowl the vibes of when the cops find the killer halfway through the movie. So I am trusting my instinct that something is off here, and I’m taking the 49ers. They rank first this season in yards per attempt on zone runs, and the Chiefs rank 31st in stopping zone runs. The 49ers will take an early lead, their defensive line will win against a Chiefs offensive line that is down guard Joe Thuney, and Mahomes will spend the fourth quarter trying to find Justin Watson in the end zone. Mahomes and the points just seems too good to be true.
MVP: Travis Kelce (Taylor’s Version)
Before this season, I picked the Chiefs to win the Super Bowl. At the start of the playoffs, I picked the 49ers. So I am right back where I started, and I feel foolish for ever having doubted Mahomes. The 49ers have the more talented roster and on paper should win many of the individual matchups in this game. They also have a head coach who is desperate to finally win a Super Bowl; losing again on this stage, with this team, would be devastating. But I can’t do it. I might not have believed that this version of the Chiefs, with this woeful receiver group and these shaky offensive tackles, had what it took to win the AFC, but now that they’re here, I’m not brave enough to pick against Mahomes.