Super Bowl 58 In-Depth Breakdown, Picks, Predictions, and Odds

Super Bowl 58 In-Depth Breakdown, Picks, Predictions, and Odds

This is the 10th year of my annual in-depth Super Bowl breakdown! After correctly predicting a Chiefs win last year, I moved to 7-2 on outright predictions for the Super Bowl. For those of you who haven’t read any of my past previews, I include in-depth statistics and analysis, with the goal being to make the game more predictable by adding context. If you don't understand the metrics I'm using, most of them are efficiency-based and explanations can be found here. Because it gets a bit dense, I split it into two sections, focusing on when each team has the ball.

My Super Bowl Best Bets article will be SEPARATE than this, and you can get access to that for just $9.99 with promo code: “WIN”! Subscribe here, join our discord to see the live releases, or check out the article for the summary! I went 5-2 last year on Super Bowl best bets and 7-3 the year prior! Find that and more here!

Before we dive in, in addition to our own data team, I want to give a massive shoutout to Fantasy Points, DVOA, Pro Football Focus, Sports Info Solutions, and RBSDM. They all have extremely valuable data and tools to make research much easier.

Super Bowl 58 Matchup

  • Matchup: Kansas City Chiefs vs San Francisco 49ers
  • Date: Sunday, February 11th, 2024
  • Time: 6:30 PM EST

When the 49ers have the ball in Super Bowl 58

The 49ers offense is undeniably special. On the season, they are 1st in EPA per play, success rate, DVOA, passing EPA, rushing EPA, explosive run rate, and basically top-5 in every other offensive metric. They averaged the second-most points per game (28.9) and led the league in yards per play at 6.5. The 49ers are 14-0 when they score 24+ points and 0-5 when they have scored 20 or fewer. They went 12-5 on the season, but their final loss came against the Rams, with all of their starters sitting in Week 18.

They also had a brutal stretch from Week 6-to-8 where they suffered multiple key injuries and lost to the Browns, Vikings, and Bengals. This is one of the most talked about splits, and for good reason. Deebo Samuel and Christian McCaffrey both suffered injuries against the Browns, while Samuel and All-Pro LT Trent Williams missed the games against the Vikings and Bengals.

The 49ers scored exactly 17 points in all three of the aforementioned games against the Vikings, Bengals, and Browns. Their underlying metrics in those three weeks revealed the Niners’ mortality as they ranked outside the top 10 in both pass and rushing EPA. They maintained a reasonable dropback success rate but nowhere near as high as their season-long rate. Luckily, the 49ers have both Trent Williams and Deebo Samuel healthy for this one. It was unclear if Deebo would play in the Championship Round, but he wound up leading the team in receptions (8) and receiving yards (89). Samuel figures to be near 100% with two weeks to rest, and both players will be integral in the 49ers' success.

I’m not sure how I’ve gone multiple paragraphs without talking about Brock Purdy, but here we are. The former late-round selection has been nothing short of sensational since starting towards the end of 2022. He has played more than 50% of the snaps for the 49ers in 26 games so far. He is 22-4 in those games, with three of the four losses falling in the 3-game stretch without Deebo Samuel and Trent Williams this season. They have scored 27 or more points in 20-of-26 games with Purdy playing 50% or more of the snaps. It has been an insane run that nearly resulted in an MVP season (right or wrong, he was -200) had it not been for the game against the Baltimore Ravens. This is where some concerns lie.

Brock Purdy and the 49ers have played against just two top-5 pass defenses (Blend of EPA, Success Rate, DVOA) this season:

  • Week 6 vs Cleveland: 12-of-27 (44%) for 125 yards (4.69 YPA), 1 TD and 1 INT. The 49ers scored just 17 points.
  • Week 16 vs Baltimore: 18-of-32 (56%) for 255 yards (7.96 YPA), 0 TDs and 4 INTS. The 49ers scored just 19 points but the last touchdown came with Sam Darnold in the game, down 21 points in the fourth quarter.

Both of the Niners' games against tough opponents need some context, though. The Browns game was largely without Deebo Samuel and Christian McCaffrey. The Ravens game was 16-12 at halftime, and the Ravens took advantage of a few key plays. Brock Purdy played one of his worst games as a pro, throwing four interceptions. The first one was in the endzone after a good drive, and all three interceptions afterward were tipped, or he was hit on the throw. That doesn’t excuse the performance, but if the game is played again, it likely isn’t an absolute drubbing.

Regardless of the context, the Kansas City Chiefs pass defense is 3rd in per dropback EPA and success rate, fourth in explosive pass rate allowed, and second in pressure rate this season. The Chiefs' pass defense is very much in the same range as the Browns and Ravens.

The Chiefs defense gets pressure at a high rate but Purdy has largely been very good against it. There is a narrative that to beat the Niners, all you have to do is get pressure on Purdy, and he will crumble. That isn’t reflected in the stats:

Brock Purdy without pressure:

  • 10.37 YPA (1st)
  • 74.2% completion rate (10th)
  • 6.1% completion percentage over expectations

Brock Purdy under pressure:

  • 7.94 yards per attempt (3rd)
  • 57.9% completion rate (2nd)
  • -1.6% CPOE (12th)

He is obviously worse under pressure, but relative to his peers, he is still extremely good. For reference, Brock Purdy’s 7.94 yards per attempt is better than all but four other quarterbacks OVERALL (including Patrick Mahomes). Let me repeat that: his yards per attempt under pressure would rank 5th on a normal list of all QBs’ total YPA.

Another tendency from the Chiefs is that they lead the league in two-high safety looks. Like pressure, that also hasn’t mattered for Purdy; it has essentially just forced him into shorter throws.

Purdy vs single-high looks:

  • 9.68 YPA (1st)
  • 67.6% completion rate (6th)
  • 3.4% CPOE (7th)

Purdy vs two-high looks:

  • 9.05 YPA (1st)
  • 70% comp rate (4th)
  • 3.5% CPOE (7th)

Essentially, none of the surface-level edges that the Chiefs defense has had against some quarterbacks matter too much here. A spot they have been especially exceptional at is defending top wideouts.

Clear No. 1 wideouts against the Chiefs:

- Stefon Diggs (3-21, 4-24)

- Justin Jefferson (3-28)

- D.J. Moore (3-41)

- Ja'Marr Chase (3-41)

- Tyreek Hill (8-62, 5-62)

- Davante Adams (5-73)

- Amon-Ra St. Brown (6-71)

- Garrett Wilson (9-60)

Fringe WR1s or secondary options against the Chiefs:

- Joshua Palmer (5-133)

- Zay Flowers (5-115)

- Christian Kirk (11-110)

- DeVonta Smith (6-99)

- Josh Reynolds (4-80)

- Jakobi Meyers (6-79)

- Jordan Addison (6-64)

- Christian Watson (7-71)

So what does this mean for the 49ers receiving corps? I think it means we could see another big game from Deebo Samuel or potentially George Kittle, especially if Chiefs CB L’Jarius Sneed shadows Brandon Aiyuk. Sneed had one of the highest shadow rates in the league, north of 50% of his snaps. Coinciding with that, the Chiefs have allowed only 37.4% of targets to go to wideouts who line up outside (27th) and have allowed the 9th highest target rate to the slot (33.5%) and 5th highest target rate to players lined up in-line.

In the games Brandon Aiyuk, Deebo Samuel, and George Kittle all played at least 60% of the snaps; the stats were as follows*:


*(excluding Week 4 where Samuel didn’t practice all week and was a decoy)

Their target shares in those games:

  • Deebo Samuel: 22.8%
  • Brandon Aiyuk: 21.5%
  • George Kittle: 18.2%

In those same games on plays against two high coverages (Chiefs lead the league in two-high looks):

  • Deebo Samuel 27.2% target share
  • Brandon Aiyuk 17.8% target share
  • George Kittle 16.3% target share

This could be massive for the 49ers. All three players ran over 100 routes in this situation as well.

Interestingly enough, when Purdy was under pressure, this switches up a bit, and Kittle becomes a bit of a security blanket:

  • George Kittle 22.2%
  • Brandon Aiyuk 16.2%
  • Deebo Samuel 15.2%

The Chiefs are the only team in the NFL that actually has a better per-dropback success rate allowed (40%) than rushing success rate allowed (41.4%). This is especially astounding because passing is generally so much more efficient.

Transitioning to the running game, I noticed something interesting about their play-calling in the playoffs. The 49ers' season-long pass rate over expectation is -1.9%. For two weeks now I have expected the 49ers to try and scheme their offense to attack their opponent’s weaknesses. Against Green Bay and Detroit, that would mean they should skew a bit pass-heavier to try and take advantage of their porous secondaries.

The Green Bay Packers were among the worst teams at defending passes on early downs all season. The 49ers' pass rate over expectation on 1st down for the entire season was -0.4%. Against the Packers, their pass rate over expectation was -2.7%. So, instead of becoming more pass-heavy, they actually became even more run-heavy.

I thought maybe it was a one-week blip, and surely the 49ers would have to take advantage of the Lions' true weakness, their secondary, and avoid running the ball into the teeth of their defensive line. Since their bye, the Lions were allowing over 8.5 yards per attempt and routinely getting rinsed by opposing wideouts deep downfield. Despite being down 17 points at halftime, the Niners' true pass rate against Green Bay (56.2%) was less than a percent higher than their season rate (55.6%), and their pass rate over expectation rose marginally.

So what’s my point? Kyle Shanahan has made it clear he is going to execute HIS game plan and call what the Niners are good at, not try to exploit an opponent’s weakness. Nothing describes this better than the Niners' rate of runs into stacked boxes this season. They ran into stacked boxes at the second-highest rate in the league (47%) and ran into light boxes at the lowest rate in the league. Despite this, they are #1 in success rate when they run into stacked boxes and overall.

Shanahan has shown the world what the 49ers are good at, ran a ton of variations off of those plays, and has basically said, “We are better than you at what we do; try to come and stop us.”

While the last two playoff games required a bit of a mentality shift for the 49ers to attack the opponent’s weakness, it doesn’t here. The Chiefs' run defense has not been good this season, ranking 23rd in rushing success rate, 28th in EPA, and 27th in DVOA. The 49ers offense ranks 2nd in DVOA adjusted line yards while the Chiefs defense ranks 25th. The Chiefs have been especially bad against how the 49ers typically run the ball.

When the 49ers run, they use zone blocking on 75% of their carries (numbers can vary depending on data source, but regardless, it is overwhelmingly high). The Chiefs allowed 4.62 yards per carry to zone scheme runs and a 51.9% success rate, both 29th in the league. They had the second lowest stuff rate as well. All of these poor metrics came despite having the second-lowest missed tackles forced per attempt and a pretty average explosive run rate allowed.

The primary issue is they allowed 1.75 yards before contact per attempt. This could be a big issue against the 49ers who have averaged 2.05 yards before contact, 5.25 yards per carry, and sported the fourth-best rushing success rate at 55.5% on zone runs. McCaffrey could have an absolutely monster day if the Chiefs don’t figure out a way to slow down the running game.

The major caveat is that Steve Spagnuolo is one of the best at scheming to stop opposing defenses. We already talked about it with top wideouts, but we have seen him successfully stop what opposing teams do well in the playoffs multiple times. Last year, we saw the Eagles roll into the Super Bowl with an elite offensive line and running game, squaring up against a Chiefs run defense that was even worse than what they have this year. Jalen Hurts wound up having a reasonable day on the ground, but some of that came on scrambles. The running backs combined for just 45 rushing yards on 17 carries (2.64 yards per carry), forcing the Eagles into a pass-centric gameplan.

We also saw this a bit last week against the Ravens. The Ravens are one of the best running offenses in the league and abandoned designed runs early in the game. While that may have been Todd Monken getting nervous once they went down 10, only one of their five designed runs went for meaningful yardage. This forced them into a dropback passing game and resulted in just 10 total points offensively. While it could have resulted in more, given the flukiness of Zay Flowers’ fumble, I would not consider their game a successful offensive outing by any means.

If I had to guess, the Chiefs will try and load the box even more than usual to try and stop the 49ers running game on early downs. Again, the 49ers have literally not cared about that (running into stacked boxes consistently) and have proven to just be better than almost all of their opponents at executing this, so there is a very real chance that Spags is not able to do anything to stop the 49ers from overpowering the Chiefs defensive front.

When the Chiefs have the Ball in Super Bowl 58

The Kansas City Chiefs offense struggled more this year than in any in the past. They scored 80 fewer points in the regular season than any other year in the Mahomes era so far. After their Week 9 bye, they didn’t string together two consecutive games scoring 20+ points. They finally broke that streak in the playoffs against the Dolphins (26 points) and Bills (27 points) before largely struggling against the Ravens last week (17 points). The Chiefs are 11-0 when they score 21 or more points this season and 5-6 when they score 20 or fewer. On the season, they are just 10th in EPA, 13th in success rate, and 8th in DVOA. Yet, despite their up-and-down 2023 season, they have some advantages here.

The 49ers dealt with some injuries this year, but on the whole, they are 14th in EPA per play and 18th in success rate, but clocked in at 4th in DVOA because of some strong games later in the season. They have been solid against the pass, ranking 5th in EPA and 7th in success rate, but have been brutal against the run, ranking 30th in rushing success rate and 27th in EPA, allowing 4.33 yards per carry. The 49ers defense has some talent but they do not show it consistently enough.

The 49ers' weakness to opposing running games nearly cost them twice already in the playoffs. Both the Packers and Lions demolished the 49ers on the ground, rushing for 111 yards (4.62 yards per carry) and 182 yards on 29 carries (6.27 yards per carry). Both teams were not only live to win, they had the lead midway through the third quarter. This is one of multiple concerns for the 49ers defense.

Like the 49ers offense, the Chiefs skew towards zone running concepts. The 49ers' run defense has allowed 4.45 yards per carry and a 53.7% success rate (31st) on zone concept runs.

The Chiefs have also run out of shotgun on nearly 70% of carries this season, averaging 4.92 yards per carry. The 49ers have been about league average at defending that but are still allowing 4.6 yards per carry and are below average in stuff rate. They also have allowed a lot of yards after contact at 2.74 yards after contact per attempt. This doesn’t bode well for them against the violent-running Isiah Pacheco, who is averaging 2.77 yards after contact per carry.

Where the Chiefs may be at a disadvantage is in the passing game. The 49ers generally only rush four (80%+), have been good at getting pressure since acquiring Chase Young, and play zone about 75% of the time. It’s pretty safe to assume we will see a heavy dose of that combination.

Mahomes on plays when opposing teams rush four and play zone:

  • 70.4% completion rate
  • 7.01 Yards Per Attempt
  • 4.5% completion percentage over expectation
  • 7 TDs and 10 INTS

The completion rate and yards per attempt are about on par, but the turnovers are what pique my interest. Ten of his 14 total interceptions have come this year against four-man rush with zone defense That means he threw 71.4% of his interceptions on 55.2% of his dropbacks and 54% of his pass attempts against the defense the Niners will play frequently. He had the second most interceptions in the league against this defense, behind only Sam Howell.

The 49ers' defense has been built on rushing four and still getting pressure, which makes opposing quarterbacks very uncomfortable because it means there are 7 players in coverage, and the quarterback is still under duress.

Mahomes vs. four pass-rushers, zone, and when pressured (among 33 passers with 50+ dropbacks vs. 4-man, pressure, and zone):

  • 59.4% completion rate (6th)
  • 75% adjusted completion rate (6th)
  • 7.32 yards per attempt (11th)
  • 4.9% completion percentage over expectation (5th)
  • 2 TDs/ 4 INTS

He completes passes at a much, much lower rate but still averages over 7 yards per pass attempt. This has been the theme with Patrick Mahomes’ entire career, getting pressure on him matters to an extent, but it also forces him to be a playmaker and extend plays. That’s not always optimal for a defense, especially if a team gets pressure but doesn’t convert it into a sack, tipped pass, etc. Mahomes’ pressure-to-sack rate is just 10.4%, behind only Josh Allen. With that being said, if they can get pressure with four, it will make things much more challenging for Mahomes from a consistency standpoint, which is reflected in his completion rate and his higher aptitude toward turning the ball over,

In a much smaller sample but still relevant, the 49ers are third in rate of Cover 4 defense. Against Cover-4, Mahomes has been extremely comfortable taking what’s underneath, completing over 70% of his passes and averaging 6.74 yards per attempt.

Staying with some of these trends for the Kansas City pass-catchers, we saw a relevant shift in usage mid-season for Rashee Rice. From Week 12 on, Rice ran a route on over 65% of dropbacks. From Week 12 to the Super Bowl he leads the team in targets per route run (.26) and target share (27%). In that same period Travis Kelce has a 0.2 TPRR rate and a 23% target share. The playoffs have been a different story for Kelce, though. He has 31%, 29%, and 31% of the targets in three straight playoff games this season. He has truly been the go-to target for Mahomes in the playoffs, with Rice not far behind.

Both players have had solid production against teams who use four-pass rushers, but Rice has been the primary guy. Since this is the most relevant sample to what we will see in the Super Bowl, from Week 12 on against four pass-rushers and zone defense:

Rashee Rice

  • 24.9% target share
  • 0.30 targets per route run
  • 3.22 yards per route run
  • 1st read on 28.3% of routes

Travis Kelce

  • 21.5% target share
  • 0.24 targets per route run
  • 2.029 yards per route run
  • First read on 30.2% of routes

This seems pretty specific, but both Rice and Kelce have run over 125 routes against zone defenses with four pass-rushers since Week 12.

To put more context behind those numbers, 273 wide receivers ran at least 25 routes against zone defenses with four pass-rushers. Rashee Rice’s 3.22 yards per route run from Week 12 on would have ranked 5th, behind only Tyreek Hill. His targets per route run would have ranked 6th.

The 49ers rank 4th in DVOA against the tight end position but have allowed above-average lines to multiple tight ends this season:

  • Week 15 vs Trey McBride: 102 receiving yards on 10 receptions (11 targets)
  • CC vs Sam LaPorta: 97 receiving yards on 9 receptions (13 targets)
  • Week 7 vs T.J. Hockenson: 86 receiving yards on 11 receptions (12 targets)
  • Week 16 vs Isaiah Likely: 56 receiving yards on 3 receptions (4 targets)
  • Week 4 vs Zach Ertz: 53 receiving yards on 6 receptions (10 targets)
  • Week 11 vs Cade Otton: 49 receiving yards on 4 receptions (5 targets)

I expect the Chiefs to have some success running and passing the ball, but I worry that they haven’t largely been taking advantage of a soft schedule. A turnover in a game this tight can also be absolutely killer. Since their Week 10 bye, they scored more than 20 points against the Dolphins and Bills (who both had cluster injuries), the Raiders, Patriots, and Bengals. Just 5 of 10 games with starters, they scored more than 20 points, and that largely came against much worse defenses than the 49ers.

Super Bowl 58 Prediction

My initial lean after the Conference Championship games was that the Chiefs would win the Super Bowl. I didn’t want to be a prisoner of the moment, though, after Mahomes had gutted out three wins in a row against good teams. After taking a step back, there is a big sample of the Chiefs offense just being about average this season and both the Bills and Dolphins games aren’t worth putting too much stock into.

On the other side, the Niners running game is crucial for them. If the Chiefs can slow that down and force the Niners to throw on second and third and long, the game will be extremely difficult for the Niners' offense. The game will likely go well under the total of 47, and the Chiefs could win outright.

Now if the Niners can run the ball consistently, this allows the floodgates to open and potentially expose the Chiefs secondary a bit. They have played extremely well all season, but dedicating more resources to trying to stop the running game could hurt them, given how much optionality the Niners have in the receiving game and their skill positions. If this happens, the Niners likely win and cover.

I expect the game to be extremely close, but in the end, I think the 49ers wind up winning, 24-20.

My Super Bowl Best Bets article is SEPARATE than this, and you can get access to that for just $9.99 with promo code: “WIN”! Subscribe here, join our discord to see the live releases, or check out the article for the summary! I went 5-2 last year on Super Bowl best bets and 7-3 the year prior! Find that and more here!

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