Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 9:54 AM
Advantage - Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs hosted the AFC championship game in 2018, but lost a shootout in overtime to the eventual champion Patriots. However, Kansas City rebounded this season with another trip to the conference title game and knocked off Tennessee for its first Super Bowl appearance since 1969.
In spite of last season’s Most Valuable Player Patrick Mahomes missing nearly three games due to a dislocated kneecap, the Chiefs still posted 451 points. Kansas City made the Super Bowl even though it scored 114 points less than last season and finished with the exact same 14-2 record in the regular season.
Mahomes threw almost half the touchdown passes from 2018 (50) to this season (26), but also cut down on his interceptions from 12 to 5. The former Texas Tech standout still managed 4,031 yards passing in 13 ½ games, which was only an average of eight yards passing fewer per game than 2018. The Chiefs won seven of eight games away from Arrowhead Stadium with the only loss coming to the Titans in Week 10 on a last-minute touchdown, which was coincidentally the best passing game by Mahomes this season (446 yards).
The Chiefs did an excellent job of not giving away the ball this season by committing only 15 turnovers, which was ranked tied for third-fewest in the league. As mentioned earlier, the five interceptions thrown by Mahomes (zero by Matt Moore in the two games he started) were the second-fewest in the NFL behind Green Bay. Kansas City owned a +8 turnover ratio on the season, compared to San Francisco’s +4 turnover margin as the 49ers threw 13 interceptions, which is the second-most among playoff teams.
Mahomes has never thrown an interception in four career playoff games, compared to 11 touchdown passes. His best passing performance came in the divisional round against the Texans in which he threw for 321 yards and five touchdowns, marking the most touchdowns he posted this season.
VegasInsider.com NFL expert Joe Nelson provides his thoughts on why the Chiefs are worth backing, “Kansas City was sixth in the NFL in opposing quarterback passer rating, ahead of San Francisco. The Chiefs were also eighth in the NFL in red zone touchdown success allowed, while San Francisco was 25th. The Chiefs allowed 4.8 yards per rush this season, but San Francisco wasn’t that much better surrendering 4.4 yards per attempt. While the bulk of the compiling numbers favor San Francisco, there are key numbers that paint these defenses much closer together than the general team statistics over the course of the season. The defensive numbers for San Francisco also got worse in the second half of the season while they improved dramatically for the Chiefs down the stretch.”
The two rallies pulled off by Kansas City just proves its relentless scoring prowess according to Nelson, “The Chiefs have come back from 24-0 and 17-7 in two playoff wins the past two games as this team can handle adversity and won’t panic if there is a big turnover or an early setback. It isn’t clear the 49ers can do that going just 5-3 in single-score games this season. The 49ers lucked into the #1 seed in the NFC with Seattle falling an inch short of the goal line in Week 17. In the NFC Championship, they faced a Packers team that could make a case for being one of the weakest #2 seeds in NFL history as well. Both quality road wins for the 49ers came narrowly with great fortune while the Chiefs dominated its final two road games of the season against quality defenses and will be easier to trust in a neutral site far from home.”
The second half defense has been especially strong for Kansas City down the stretch by allowing double-digit points after halftime only once in the past eight contests. The Chiefs yielded seven points in the second half of each of their playoff wins against the Titans and Texans, while the most points allowed after halftime in this stretch was 14 in the Week 17 home win over the Chargers.
The Chiefs did a better job of limiting top statistical quarterbacks than the 49ers this season. Kansas City has played five games against quarterbacks that finished in the top 10 in passing (Philip Rivers twice, Derek Carr twice, and Tom Brady), while San Francisco played six contests against four such quarterbacks (Jared Goff twice, Russell Wilson twice, Jameis Winston, and Matt Ryan). In spite of the 49ers playing one extra game, they racked up only five interceptions, with three coming in the opener at Tampa Bay. The Chiefs compiled 11 interceptions in those five games, compared to six touchdown passes.
Out of starting quarterbacks that played at least 14 games, Mahomes was sacked the least by getting taken down only 17 times, compared to Jimmy Garoppolo getting sacked 36 times in 16 starts.
You can reach Kevin Rogers via e-mail at [email protected]
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