Super Bowl LIV: San Francisco 49ers team preview

San Francisco 49ers
Jimmy Garoppolo is looking to join a legendary group of QBs to win a Super Bowl for San Francisco

The San Francisco 49ers are looking to secure their sixth Super Bowl title when they face the Kansas City Chiefs. Ben Steele looks at their chances of victory.

"Super Bowl Sunday will no doubt see 'Jimmy G' throwing more often, but if he ends up in to a shootout with Patrick Mahomes then San Fran will be in trouble, look for him to manage the game and give his running game the best chance to succeed."

San Francisco 49ers v Kansas City Chiefs
Sunday February 2, 23:30 GMT
Live on Sky Sports Action and BBC

The San Francisco 49ers completed one of the greatest turnarounds in NFL history to make it to the Super Bowl in Miami. Last season, they suffered a series of injuries and ended the season 4-12, the second worst record in the league, they come in to Sunday's game as the NFC's top seed who have hardly been troubled during the playoffs.

After comfortable wins of a pair of NFC North opponents, the Minnesota Vikings and the Green Bay Packers, the Niners face the Kansas City Chiefs with both teams hoping to end long Super Bowl droughts. San Francisco haven't won the title since 1994, also in Miami, while the Chiefs have been waiting for 50 years to lift the Vince Lombardi Trophy for a second time.

The game looks set to be a classic clash of styles as the pass-happy Chiefs face off against the 49ers combination of a strong running game and excellent defence.

Quarterback

When it comes to winning Super Bowls, there is nobody better to learn from then Patriots Quarterback Tom Brady and the 49ers have Jimmy Garoppolo under Center, searching for his third Super Bowl ring, after a career as Brady's backup. The 28-year-old is looking to join an elite group of men to have quarterbacked San Francisco to a title. The Niners were dominant in the 1980s and early 90s as a pair of Hall of Famers Joe Montana and Steve Young combined to win five titles.

Colin Kaepernick is the only Niners QB to lose a Super Bowl, in 2012, and Garoppolo will need to be at his best to cope with the Chiefs defence. However, Kyle Shanahan's game plan could play right in to his hands. Garoppolo is one of the best in the game at coordinating the run game and selling the play-action, as was demonstrated by last week's NFC Championship win. With their quarterback consistently shifting his offensive line and diagnosing the Packers' defence San Francisco were able to run for 285 yards and four touchdowns with Garoppolo asked to throw just eight passes in a comfortable win.

Super Bowl Sunday will no doubt see 'Jimmy G' throwing more often, but if he ends up in to a shootout with Patrick Mahomes then San Fran will be in trouble, look for him to manage the game and give his running game the best chance to succeed.

Offence

The offence that Garoppolo leads is coming in to the game off the back of one of the most lopsided performances in playoff history. Running back Raheem Mostert enjoyed the best game of his career as he absolutely destroyed the Green Bay Packers defence. The 27-year-old journeyman racked up 220 yards on the ground and scored four touchdowns as the 49ers' offensive line created huge holes for him to run through on a regular basis.

Jimmy-Garoppolo-1280.jpg

The NFC Championship game was just the second game of the year that Mostert topped 100 rushing yards, but that is mainly down to San Francisco's tactic of rotating their running back stable and then sticking with the hot hand. Look for both Mostert and Matt Breida to be featured heavily throughout the game, as the 49ers continue to rely on the running attack that averaged 144 yards per game in the regular season.

When it comes to the passing game there is really only one man that San Francisco rely on and he will be hoping to put on a show in Miami. George Kittle is an outstanding talent, drafted in the 5th round of the 2017 draft he has developed in to one of the best tight ends in the league. In fact, Sunday night is probably a straight shootout between the two best TEs around. The debate between Kittle and Chiefs' TE Travis Kelce sparked in to life last season when Kelce set the Tight End receiving yards record, only for Kittle to break it about an hour later.

Throughout the season Kittle has linked up with Garoppolo at key moments, and his ability to create big plays out of nothing is what sets him apart. I expect him to step up and lead the team on Sunday. The Wisconsin native is also a key player in the blocking game, and he was exceptional in that aspect of the game against the Packers, he'll certainly be a key figure.

Defence

The story of the 2019 49ers team has been their defence. From a middle of the pack outfit who struggled to force turnovers in 2018, to one of the most feared units around in 2019, the improvement on this side of the ball has been absolutely key and it all starts upfront. San Fran's very own Fab Four of Dee Ford, Arik Armstead, DeForest Buckner and rookie Nick Bosa have wreaked havoc on opposing offences throughout the year. The defensive line, all first round picks, have opened up a world of possibilities for Defensive Coordinator Robert Saleh, particularly when defending the pass.

Saleh is able to rely on his front four to create disruption on their own, allowing him to drop six or seven men in to pass coverage which forces quarterbacks to throw in to tight spaces, which is when the likes of cornerback Richard Sherman excel. Sherman, and the rest of secondary have been excellent all season, hurrying to the ball as soon as its available and making life very difficult for their opponents. On paper the Chiefs offence has the ability to explode and blow teams apart but the way their offence is built could play in to San Francisco's hands.

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Kansas City's offence is effectively a track team, the fastest in the NFL, capable of scoring from anywhere on the field but it is physical teams who have caused San Francisco's defence trouble this term. The three losses suffered this season where against the Seattle Seahawks (who leaned on D.k. Metcalf), the Atlanta Falcons (who saw Julio Jones go for 134 yards and two TDs) and the Baltimore Ravens (who dominated the regular season with their run game). All three teams used their most physical players to attack the 49ers, add to that the 46 points scored by the New Orleans Saints in Week 14, thanks mainly to Michael Thomas and a pattern is emerging.

Fortunately for San Francisco, the Chiefs are lacking that weapon and while they are still, obviously, a huge threat it bodes well that Bosa and his D-line mates will have opportunities to get after Patrick Mahomes.

Head Coach

Kyle Shanahan is making his second appearance at the Super Bowl, his first as a head coach, but will be hoping to avoid a repeat of his last visit. Shanahan was the Offensive Coordinator of the Atlanta Falcons team that built a 28-3 lead against the New England Patriots only to stutter and see Tom Brady's side come roaring back to win 34-28.

Going up against Andy Reid, another man who lost his only Super Bowl appearance to Brady and the Patriots, Shanahan will be looking to use his tactical nous to keep Reid's greatest weapon off the field. Shanahan, like his father Mike, is a master of the run game. As was shown two weeks ago, his running scheme can turn just about anybody in to a threat but he also has shown himself to be an astute reader of the passing game. A clip from the NFC Championship of Shanahan telling a referee exactly what is about to happen has gone viral, showing how he's able to read opposing defences exceptionally well. The 40-year-old will be looking to use every trick in the book to keep Mahomes on the sidelines and if he can do that he has a chance at creating history.

The game is going to be close, but Kyle will hope he and his father can become the first father-son combo in NFL history to win a Super Bowl.

Summary

Overall, I think that if the 49ers are to claim their sixth title the key will certainly have kept Mahomes quiet, and that will be down to the ability of Nick Bosa. His disruptive nature means he will be key to gameplan and at 25/1 he is a good price to win Super Bowl MVP, particularly given the Chiefs' pass happy nature.

On offence, San Fran will rely on Kittle, who is a good price to score but it could be the multifaceted threat of Deebo Samuel who is the man to look out for in the touchdown market. Samuel has been used effectively in both the passing and run game, and as Shanahan searches for holes in Andy Reid's defence early on he could be used extensively. 12/1 as first TD scorer and 8/5 anytime are both worth a look.

Last year's Super Bowl was incredibly low scoring, ending 13-3, with two bright offensive minds on the sidelines and a number of explosive players on the field both teams to score 2+ touchdowns and 2+ field goals is the pick of the #OddsOnThat markets.

For more tips, bets and predictions on this year's Super Bowl, check out our podcast NFL...Only Bettor featuring Mike Carlson


Ben Steele NFL P/L:

Staked: 77 pts
Returned: 90.6 pts
P/L: +13.6 pts

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