Super Bowl LIV is just a few short Harrison Butker field goals away and come Sunday the hype will reach fever pitch as the Kansas City Chiefs taken on the San Francisco 49ers for NFL supremacy.
But before we get to Sunday, there are a few things to know about the Andy Reid-led Chiefs and the Kyle Shanahan-led 49ers.
The two teams have their similarities, notably at the quarterback position. Kansas City selected Patrick Mahomes in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft after moving up via a trade with the Buffalo Bills. In October 2017, San Francisco traded for their star quarterback, Jimmy Garropolo, sending a second-round draft pick to the New England Patriots.
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Both teams have high-powered top-5 offenses as well: San Francisco averaged 29.9 points a game in the regular season, while Kansas City averaged 28.2 points per game. The post-season has seen the Chiefs take it to another level, with the Mahomes-led offense averaging 43 points per game in their two contests. San Francisco, on the other hand, is averaging 32 points per game.
They’ve even used many of the same formations on offense, with both teams increasingly moving toward motion/shift offenses since acquiring Mahomes and Garropolo, according to NFL Research.
On defense is where the two teams start to differ, though the gap between the two has closed as the season has worn on. San Francisco ranked second in the NFL in yards allowed during the regular season at 281.8 yards per game, while Kansas City allowed 349.6 yards per contest.
There’s even a connection between Reid and Shanahan. Both have suffered crushing Super Bowl defeats at the hand of Bill Belichick, with Reid losing as head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl XXXIX in 2004. Shanahan was the offensive coordinator of the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI, a team that was up 28-3 late in the third quarter. The team would go on to blow the lead following some questionable offensive play calls and lose the only Super Bowl to go to overtime, by a score of 34-28.
With the two teams similar in structure and scope, there are bound to be some unexpected players that alter the outcome of the game. So before you get ready to feast on chicken wings, sliders or whatever Super Bowl fare you fancy, here are five X-factors on the Chiefs.
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Drafted in the second round of the NFL 2019 draft, Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Mecole Hardman is fast. He ran his 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine at 4.33 seconds. That’s blazing fast.
The Georgia product was a Pro Bowl and second-team All-Pro as a kick returner selection. He ran back 27 kickoffs for 704 yards, including one for a 104-yard touchdown. He tacked on 26 catches for 538 yards and 6 TDs, good for 20.7 yards per catch.
Once an afterthought in Miami, the 27-year-old Damien Williams has found sustained success in Kansas City.
Despite being part of a time-share backfield with LeSean McCoy and to some extent, Darwin Thompson, Williams is a vital player under Reid.
He’s averaging just over 45 yards a game on the ground, but it’s his prowess in the passing game, averaging 2.7 catches per game during the season, where’s he’s proven his worth. He combined for 7 rushing and receiving touchdowns during the regular season and has added 4 more in the postseason.
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Known as the “Honey Badger,” Tyrann Mathieu has taken his game to another level in Kansas City.
Mathieu signed a three-year, $42 million deal with Kansas City in March after playing a solid, if not spectacular season for the Houston Texans in 2018. He was named to his second All-Pro team in 2019, registering 75 tackles, 2 sacks, 4 interceptions and 12 passes defended.
Considered a troubled player when he was drafted out of LSU in 2013 by the Arizona Cardinals, the safety has taken on a leadership role in the Chiefs’ locker room.
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Sammy Watkins has gone from being the talented, albeit oft-injured, focal point of the Buffalo Bills to being a complementary piece for an offense that 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh recently compared to an Olympic track team.
Coming out of Clemson in 2014, the Bills selected the wide receiver with the 4.43 40-yard dash in the first round, but he had trouble staying healthy.
In 2018, Watkins signed a three-year $48 million deal with Kansas City (after a one-year stop with the Los Angeles Rams) and though he has not played a full 16 games in either of his two years with Kansas City, the team isn’t relying on him to be there every down.
This year, Watkins caught 52 passes for 673 yards and 3 touchdowns. However, 297 of those yards came after the catch, highlighting his ability to stretch the field once he has the ball in his hands.
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Traded to Kansas City in April 2019, the 26-year-old Frank Clark has added a much-need pass rush and swagger to the Kanas City defense.
Named to his first Pro Bowl this year, Clark registered eight sacks, caused 3 forced fumbles and even recorded an interception, when he picked off Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew in a 40-26 win.
Clark took his game to another level in the playoffs, sacking Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson three times during the Divisional Round. In the AFC Championship game, Clark recorded the game-ending sack on Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill late in the fourth quarter to seal the victory.
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