By HCR Staff | Jan. 30, 2020
It’s an intriguing matchup this year, and one that may be heralding a new era in the NFL.
Both squads are relatively young, and could contend for quite some time…but that’s what was said about recent Super Bowl participants in the Los Angeles Rams, Atlanta Falcons, and Philadelphia Eagles.
Here’s our take on how Sunday will unfold.
The San Francisco 49ers have been the most consistent team in football in 2019. This team is literal inches away from playing for a perfect season on Sunday. Their three defeats came as a result of falling short of a first down at home against the Seattle Seahawks, a Justin Tucker overtime field goal in poor weather, and a last second Falcons touchdown that barely broke the plane of the goalline.
Kyle Shanahan is a better in-game strategist than Andy Reid. Reid is a proven Hall of Fame-caliber program builder, but he does struggle with his in-game decision-making at times. Shanahan is more consistent, but he’ll bungle one here or there (the regular season home loss vs. Seattle). The last time Reid was in the Super Bowl, he badly mismanaged the end-of-game clock scenario.
We like Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s Super Bowl experience. 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh is a rising talent, but he doesn’t have the Super Bowl experience that Spagnuolo has, and this could show up. Spagnuolo led the New York Giants’ victory over the New England Patriots in 2007, and we see a growing confidence with this Chiefs defense. So far, the 49ers’ interior offensive line has held up and played beyond their abilities, but we see Spagnuolo testing them on Sunday.
49ers GM John Lynch’s decision to pay kicker Robbie Gould may be the key. Gould held out this offseason and tried to force a trade to Chicago, but Lynch held firm and got the deal done for the tested, veteran kicker. Lynch probably felt the 49ers were going to be in a lot of contested, close games this year, and he would need a veteran kicker to perform. We see a close game on Sunday, and this business decision could prove wise.
The Chiefs may have the best screen game in the NFL, and if they hit a couple early, it may neutralize the 49ers rush effectively. If we were doing the game planning against the 49ers, we would emphasize the screen game early. If successfully executed early in the game, it may serve to cause a bit of hesitation among the 49ers front four for the rest of the game. We feel the Chiefs have to get the 49ers to respect the screens on first down–we’ll be watching for this.
HCR PREDICTION: SF 26-24.