Be sure to click here for our FREE Big Game Breakdown, sent directly to your inbox! This article features key takeaways while the full PDF contains statistical breakdowns of both the 49ers and the Chiefs, the biggest questions each team faces, some prop bets to consider, and much more.
Key Takeaways from the Big Game Breakdown
The SumerSports Big Game Breakdown for 49ers-Chiefs is now live and can be found HERE. As Eric Eager, VP of Research and Development, laid it out, “Whether you’re looking to win a little extra money, impress your friends, or simply want an in-depth breakdown of the Big Game, our expert breakdowns and data from industry leaders are all you need to prepare for Sunday.” Here we will go through some of the key takeaways as a primer for the last game of the NFL season.
A Tale of Two Teams
As pointed out in the “How Did We Get Here?” section of the Big Game Breakdown, success wasn’t linear for the Chiefs and 49ers this season. The Chiefs started the season as the favorites to repeat as champions, got off to a hot 6-1 start, and were very much in play for the #1 seed in the AFC. However, their offense stalled, and they went 3-5 over their next 8 and started to gear up to play the first road playoff game(s) in the Patrick Mahomes era. Their defense showed up big in the playoffs while the offense reminded everyone of how dangerous it could be, which has skyrocketed their team strength in the past month and now has them playing for another ring.
As for the 49ers, they entered the season with the 2nd highest odds of winning the NFC (behind the Eagles) but showed very quickly how dangerous they could be getting out to a 5-0 start. That was followed up with by a 3-game losing streak when field goal and turnover variance didn’t break their way before they ended up cruising to the #1 seed in the NFC. Despite two hard fought playoff games that required comebacks, John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan get another shot at the Chiefs in this game.
It Could Be an After the Catch Game
The San Francisco 49ers have had 6.4 yards after catch per reception this season, which is 1st in the entire NFL. The Kansas City Chiefs have had 6.16 yards after catch per reception this season, which is 2nd in the league.
For the 49ers it makes a lot of sense as their skill position group of Brandon Aiyuk, George Kittle, Deebo Samuel, and Christian McCaffrey can all create after the catch, and they have a quarterback in Brock Purdy who is 5th in completion percentage.
For the Chiefs, they have excelled against zone coverages like Cover 2 and Cover 3 with their yards after catch ability as Travis Kelce is known for finding soft spots in zone and creating after the catch. Rashee Rice also led all wide receivers in yards after catch at 654 in the regular season ahead of Tyreek Hill and CeeDee Lamb.
The Starting Running Backs Should be Heavily Featured
It would be hard to argue that there was a single running back that had a better season than Christian McCaffrey who finished with a 61.3% team rushing share and had a 0.07 EPA/rush (6th out of 60). Elijah Mitchell has had a 15.7% rushing share but a -0.16 EPA/rush (47th). With it being the last game of the season, McCaffrey could and should be used on the majority of rushes.
Isiah Pacheco has been a late round gem for the Chiefs and has been a legit running back in his 2nd season. His most impressive skill has been avoiding tackles for loss and only has a rush for negative yardage on 6.7% of his rushes. He has also been good after contact with 2.61 Yards After Contact (YACo) per rush. Conversely, Clyde Edwards-Helaire has had a 11.2% TFL rate and only 1.44 YACo. Like the 49ers with McCaffrey, Pacheco should get a big share of the carries in this game.
The Chiefs Might Be Able To Attack the Edges in the Run Game
A potential double-edged sword for Chiefs fans to hear is that sweeps to Mecole Hardman and other receivers might be their best way to attack the 49ers edges in the run game. The 49ers defense has allowed a 51.0% success rate to rushes outside the tackles this season, which ranks 29th in the league. This has gotten worse in the playoffs as they’ve seen 16 outside rushes and let up a 75% success rate including a Jameson Williams explosive touchdown run.
The Chiefs haven’t been great running outside the tackles, which might mean that Hardman and others could get carries in this game. In last year’s game against the 49ers, Andy Reid dialed up 2 rushes to Hardman and he ran for 28 yards and 2 touchdowns. As long as he holds onto the ball, the Chiefs could use those in this game.
Brock Purdy Could Tear the Blitz Apart
Steve Spagnuolo has shown why he is considered one of the best defensive coordinators in the NFL this year. A big reason for that has been his pressure package. The Chiefs defense blitzes on 31.7% of drop backs, which is the 5th highest rate in the league. Opposing offenses have had a -0.22 EPA/play when the Chiefs do blitz, which is the 2nd best mark of any defense.
However, the 49ers are the last team that you want to blitz because Brock Purdy has been one of the most productive quarterbacks against the blitz this season. He has had a 0.42 EPA/play when blitzed, which is the best in the NFL, compared to a 0.24 EPA/play when not blitzed. As detailed in the Big Game Breakdown, he does a great job when moved out of the pocket and can do that effectively when blitzed. It will be a very interesting chess match to see how often the Chiefs blitz and the results of those plays.
These are just some takeaways that can be found in the Big Game Breakdown that will be available HERE on Monday morning. Be sure to check out the full guide to be ready for the big game.