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Chiefs vs. 49ers betting guide: Who is the real Super Bowl favorite?

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Super Bowl odds, best bets: The numbers you need to know before betting Kansas City-San Francisco

Right now, the Super Bowl odds are extremely close. The San Francisco 49ers are 1.5-point favorites over the Kansas City Chiefs at ESPN Bet, and other oddsmakers have the numbers somewhere between 1-2 points. That should add to the intrigue of a Super Bowl rematch from Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes’ first championship ring.

Still, even though the money is on the 49ers right now, does that mean yours should be? The Chiefs have had the unusual experience of being underdogs in these playoffs, but it hasn’t seemed to make much of a difference. It’s not always pretty, but as usual, Mahomes has found a way to come out on top.

Mahomes has lost one Super Bowl before, though — and even the first Chiefs-49ers matchup came down to an overthrown open deep ball from Jimmy Garoppolo to Emmanuel Sanders. He can be beaten.

Who has the edge in this game?

Christian McCaffrey

The 49ers’ running back posted 1,459 rushing yards, 5.4 yards per carry, and 14 touchdowns during the regular season. Per NFL Next Gen Stats, McCaffrey ranked second among 49 running backs (min. 100 carries) with 1.3 rush yards over expected (RYOE) per carry, tied for sixth with 0.00 EPA per carry, and third with a 47.1% success rate. He added 3.42 yards after contact per attempt (5th) and 44 rushes of 10+ yards (1st).

To top it off, McCaffrey ranked third among backs in receptions (67), second in receiving yards (564, behind Breece Hall’s 591), and eighth in yards per route run (1.35).

In this game, the running back’s impact could be the difference-maker. The Ravens made a critical mistake in the AFC Championship by attempting only 11 non-scramble rushes the entire game. That played right into the Chiefs’ hands, as the strength of their defense is in the secondary.

Per NFL Next Gen Stats, the Chiefs ranked sixth in completion percentage over expected (-2.4%), third in yards per pass attempt (6.0), fourth in EPA per dropback (-0.18), and fourth in defensive success rate on pass plays (59.9%).

Meanwhile, Kansas City’s run defense had more struggles relative to their pass defense. They ranked 26th in allowing 0.5 RYOE per carry, 18th with -0.06 EPA per carry, and 20th with a 58.8% defensive success rate against the run.

McCaffrey can be an X-factor in this game on the ground. So can Deebo Samuel. The Chiefs will not be able to key on McCaffrey due to Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, and George Kittle. The 49ers have an ideal offensive matchup from that perspective.

Pressure, pressure, pressure

In the 2019 Super Bowl, the 49ers pressured Mahomes on 41.2% of his dropbacks, which would have been the third-highest pressure rate among quarterbacks during the regular season. During that regular season, Mahomes was pressured just 28.3% of the time.

While the Chiefs came out on top, they struggled for much of the game. After posting 9.2 and 8.4 yards per attempt in his previous two playoff games, Mahomes had just 6.8 in the Super Bowl, and he threw two interceptions.

The following year, Mahomes didn’t get as lucky with the outcome. He was pressured by Tampa Bay’s defense on an incredible 55.4% of his dropbacks and managed just 5.5 yards per attempt with two interceptions. The Buccaneers finally took it to a level where even the great Mahomes could not cope with the duress he faced.

The Ravens held Mahomes in check in the championship game, but they could not force Mahomes to turn it over. That was partially because Mahomes was not under much pressure, facing heat on 32.6% of his dropbacks. Even though he had just 6.2 yards per attempt, his conservative game was enough for his team to triumph.

For the 49ers to win, they will need to pressure Mahomes into mistakes. They did a good job of it against Jordan Love, pressuring him on 40% of his dropbacks. They harassed Jared Goff 34.9% of the time and allowed just 3-of-13 passing for 2.0 yards per attempt on those dropbacks.

Mahomes had a 5:8 TD:INT ratio during the regular season when under pressure. That’s the key for San Francisco to win the game: as good as Mahomes is at avoiding pressure, he’s vulnerable to mistakes when under heat.

Isiah Pacheco

With all the hoopla about Mahomes, Isiah Pacheco may just be the key to the game for the Chiefs. Just as Kansas City’s run defense is the weakness of their unit, so is San Francisco’s. They were simply not tested excessively during the regular season.

The 49ers’ defense tied for 25th in EPA per carry allowed at -0.04, and they ranked 28th with a 56.6% defensive success rate against the run. These numbers are the most indicative of the holes in their run defense despite good numbers in standard categories (fifth in the NFL with 97.0 rush yards per game allowed).

If the Chiefs want to win this game and keep the ball out of San Francisco’s hands, they may be best off riding their run game. Pacheco ranked ninth among backs with 0.5 RYOE per carry and tied for 11th with 53 first downs. Even though McCaffrey is the more dynamic back, the Chiefs’ running game could be critical.

Best prop bets

Given these numbers, here are some of your best prop bets for the game from BetMGM.

Super Bowl MVP position: Running back (+350)

Between Pacheco and McCaffrey, you have a better chance than usual of one of the running backs snagging the MVP. Brock Purdy has been efficient but hardly elite in the playoffs thus far. As much as the Super Bowl MVP is usually a quarterback (14 of the last 23) and a running back hasn’t won since Terrell Davis in 1997, these two defenses are so stingy in the passing game that the run game is where the game could be won or lost.

Brock Purdy: Under 246.5 passing yards (-115)

Purdy was held under 246.5 yards just six times in 16 games during the regular season. He averaged an astonishing 9.6 yards per pass attempt, meaning that he’d need just 26 attempts to surpass that mark if he follows his season averages.

Still, Kansas City’s 6.0 yards per attempt allowed during the regular season suggests that’s unlikely to happen. With that mark, Purdy would need 42 attempts to get to 246.5 yards, a number he never reached during the regular season.

The Packers’ defense managed to hold Purdy to 6.5 yards per attempt. While the poor weather conditions from that game will not be repeated in Las Vegas’ domed Allegiant Stadium, the Chiefs’ defense has the talent to make life difficult for Purdy. The 49ers also may decide to limit Purdy’s pass attempts to try to take advantage of Kansas City’s lesser run defense.

Player to record first sack: Chris Jones (+550)

While the Chiefs’ tackles have had their issues this season, especially Donovan Smith, the 49ers’ offensive line outside of Trent Williams has been another level of shaky.

49ers center Jake Brendel allowed a 5.1% pressure rate during the regular season, significantly worse than the 3.9% center average. Right guard Jon Feliciano allowed a 5.8% pressure rate, worse than the 5.2% guard average. Feliciano has allowed an 8.3% pressure rate in the playoffs, too.

Meanwhile, Chris Jones hasn’t been quite as dominant in the postseason as in the regular season, as his 8.8% pressure rate pales in comparison to the 15.6% mark he posted before. Still, Jones is the most likely player to record a sack for Kansas City from the middle.

Mahomes has been sacked just twice in three playoff games this season, meaning that the 49ers might not have such an easy time bringing him down.

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