NFL Super Bowl Preview: Niners-Chiefs Could Be Instant Classic

This is the best Super Bowl 54 matchup we could have hoped for. On one side of the field, we have the Kansas City Chiefs, with one of the greatest offenses ever put on a football field. On the other side, we have the San Francisco 49ers, who use old-school defense and running to get the job done. It’s exactly the kind of matchup that people crave when they bet on the NFL.

It’s also one of the closest matchups in the history of the Big Game. The Chiefs (14-4 SU, 12-5-1 ATS) opened as 1.5-point favorites on the Super Bowl odds board at Bovada Sportsbook; in theory, they’re a bit better overall on paper than the Niners (15-3 SU, 11-6-1 ATS), but Kansas City’s odds on NFL Sunday might be overlooking the impact that two key defenders have had on San Francisco’s playoff performance.

San Francisco 49ers Football Betting Tips: Defense Wins Championships

The 49ers dominated the NFL lines over the first half of the 2019 regular season, winning their first eight games at 5-3 ATS on the strength of their defense. Then a series of injuries hit them where it hurt. Linebacker Kwon Alexander went on injured reserve in Week 9 with a torn pec, taking away one of San Fran’s best run stuffers. Things got worse in Week 11 when defensive end Dee Ford wrecked his hamstring; he tried returning in Week 14, but wasn’t healthy enough to go the rest of the way.

Then came the playoffs. Both Alexander and Ford suited up for their Divisional Round matchup with the Minnesota Vikings, and they helped limit the Vikings to just 21 yards rushing, eventually winning 27-10 as 7-point home favorites on the NFL odds board. It was much the same in the Conference Championships; the Green Bay Packers only gained 62 yards on the ground, and the Niners blanked Green Bay (+7.5 away) in the first half before securing the 37-20 victory and the NFC title.p>

Alexander and Ford aren’t the biggest names on the 49ers’ defense – that would be Pro Bowlers Richard Sherman at cornerback and Nick Bosa at defensive end. But their relative anonymity only adds to San Francisco’s betting value. The same goes for RB Raheem Mostert, who set the franchise playoff record with 220 rushing yards against the Packers – after starting RB Tevin Coleman left the game with a shoulder injury. Coleman’s status for Super Bowl 54 is unknown at press time.

Kansas City Chiefs NFL Betting Tips: Special Teams are Special

Almost everyone is familiar with Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes. He won’t retain the league MVP honors he won last year – Baltimore Ravens QB Lamar Jackson will almost certainly claim this year’s award – but Mahomes still performed like one of the NFL’s best in the 14 games he started during the regular season, and even more so during his two playoff wins. Mahomes will be firmly in the spotlight at Super Bowl 54, much more than his San Francisco counterpart, Jimmy Garoppolo.

This won’t help Kansas City’s value from an NFL betting perspective. Casual fans are naturally drawn to Mahomes and the talented skill players he has to throw at, which include three Pro Bowlers in tight end Travis Kelce and wideouts Tyreek Hill and Mecole Hardman. But the Chiefs aren’t nearly as good running the ball, and their air attack will be tested by San Francisco’s relentless pass rush.

Special teams, on the other hand, will definitely give Kansas City a leg up on the NFL betting odds. This part of the game gets less and less attention from the general public these days, but it’s even more important now that points after touchdown are kicked from the 15-yard line instead of the 2. Harrison Butker made 45 of his 48 PAT attempts this year, along with 34 of his 38 field goals. That’s significantly better overall than what Robbie Gould (41-of-42 PAT, 23-of-31 FG) was able to accomplish for the Niners this year.

The Chiefs also have the superior return game in this matchup, with Hardman carrying most of the load. Giving Mahomes a short field to work with will help mitigate some of the issues they’ll have with San Francisco’s defense, and if Super Bowl 54 is indeed as close as it looks on paper, Butker could end up delivering the decisive blow.