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Super Bowl LVIII by the numbers

Super Bowl LVIII by the numbers

On February 11th, the Kansas City Chiefs of the AFC and the San Francisco 49ers of the NFC will face off in Las Vegas at Allegiant Stadium. On ESPN BET, the 49ers are favored by 1.5 points. ESPN analytics gives the 49ers a 59.4% chance to win (and the Chiefs 40.6%). First, let’s take a look at the opposing quarterbacks. (Unless stated otherwise, all statistics are from the 2023 regular season).


For Kansas City, Patrick Mahomes is making his fourth Super Bowl appearance, posting a 2-1 record so far. He led the Chiefs to a 11-6 record with 4,183 passing yards (6th in the NFl), 27 touchdowns (8th), 14 interceptions (tied-110th), a 63.0 QBR, good for eighth in the league, and averaged 7.0 yards per attempt. His most recent game was the AFC championship against the Baltimore Ravens (who had the 6th-best defense during the regular season in terms of yards allowed, with opposing teams averaging only 301.4 yards per game). Mahomes completed 30 of 39 passes for 241 yards, for an average of 6.2 yards in a 17-10 victory. However, Mahomes has not been performing his best this season. He has passed for 1,067 fewer yards than in 2022, 14 fewer touchdowns, 2 more interceptions, and a QBR 16 points lower. 


For San Francisco, Brock Purdy is making his first Super Bowl appearance. Taken last in the 2022 draft (giving him the title of “Mr. Irrelevant”), Purdy has exceeded all expectations, starting in his first season due to the 49ers first two quarterbacks getting injured. Purdy has performed well in 2023, leading the 49ers to a 12-5 record with 4,280 yards (5th in the NFL), 31 touchdowns (3rd), 11 interceptions (Tied-104th), a 72.7 QBR (league-best), and 9.6 yards per attempt. In the NFC championship against the Detroit Lions, he completed 20 of 31 passes for 267 yards for a 8.6 average. He also threw for one touchdown, had one interception, and was sacked twice; posting a 88.1 QBR.


The argument can be made that Purdy is the better quarterback in this matchup. Mahomes has thrown for 97 fewer yards on 153 more attempts, 4 fewer touchdowns, 3 more interceptions, 2.6 fewer yards per attempt, and a QBR 25.1 points lower. However, Mahomes has more experience on this stage, and has often performed his best when the pressure is on. During Super Bowl LVII (last year), he posted a 96.3 QBR and 182 yards on only 27 attempts (of which he completed 21 for a 77.8% completion rate). Purdy has the statistical advantage, but Mahomes can never be counted out, especially in the Super Bowl. This figures to be a fun matchup.


Now, we’ll take a look at the remainder of the offensive positions. To start on the ground, Kansas City’s rushing attack is led by Isiah Pacheco, who has over half of the rushing yards for the Chiefs. Overall, Kansas City has amassed 1,784 yards on 417 attempts, 9 touchdowns, 104.9 yards per game, 10 fumbles, and an average of 4.3 yards per rush. Kansas City ranked 19th in the NFL in terms of rushing yards per game over the same span. In the air, the Chiefs rely on tight end Travis Kalce and receiver Rashee Rice, both of whom have over 900 yards during the regular season. Kelce leads the team with 93 receptions, 121 targets, and 984 yards. Kelce is a common, and dangerous, target for Patrick Mahomes. Rice is close behind in many statistics, with 79 receptions, 102 targets, and 938 yards. Both Kelce and Rice average over 10 yards per reception.


For the 49ers, the rushing attack is led by Christian McCaffrey, who leads the league with 1,459 yards. Overall, the 49ers have rushed for 2,389 yards on 499 carries. The 49ers have also put up 27 touchdowns, 4.8 yards per rush, and 140.5 yards per game on the ground. However, they have also given up 11 fumbles. In the air, the lead receiver for the 49ers is Brandon Aiyuk, with 1,342 yards and 75 receptions on 105 targets. Not far behind is George Kittle, a tight end with 1,020 yards and 65 receptions on 90 targets. Both average over 15 yards per catch. Aiyuk has 7 touchdowns in the air, and Kittle has 6. San Francisco’s other pass-catchers include Deebo Samuel, with 892 yards, and McCaffrey (a running back), with 564 yards.


On the ground, San Francisco has a clear advantage, with the best running back in the league and 605 more yards over the course of the season. In the air, the battle is more contested. Kansas City has Kelce, of course, and Rice is also a very skilled receiver. However, San Francisco has Ayuk and Kittle, and they also have something Kansas City lacks: the best pass-catching back in the league. McCaffrey is likely to make a big impact both on the ground and in the air, which gives the 49ers an advantage, if a slight one, in this part of the contest.


Last, we’ll take a look at the defenses. Kansas City’s defense has been elite this season, allowing only 289.8 yards per game (2nd in the league) and 17.3 points per game (2nd). They especially excel at stopping the pass, allowing only 176.5 yards per game (4th). However, they allow 113.2 rushing yards per game, which ranks only 18th. WIth McCaffrey carrying the ball for the 49ers, the Chiefs will need to step up in the ground game, although they do seem well equipped to deal with Purdy and the 49er’s top receivers. However, the chiefs do not excel in the turnover game, with only 8 interceptions and 9 fumble recoveries, their 17 total turnovers ranking 28th in the league. If the Chiefs can’t force the 49ers to make mistakes, they could be in for a long night.


The 49ers also have a greatly skilled defense. They allow slightly more yards per game, at 303.9 (8th in the league) and points per game at 17.5 (3rd). However they excel at stopping the run, allowing only 89.7 rushing yards per game (3rd in the league). Pacheo is unlikely to find much room Sunday. They do struggle against the pass, though, allowing 214.2 yards per game (14th in the league). This of course is a problem for San Francisco, as teams with mediocre pass defenses rarely perform well against Mahomes. Fortunately for the 49ers, they are one of the best at forcing interceptions, with 22 (tied-1st in the league), and if they can force one or two on Sunday their otherwise lackluster passing defense might be enough here. They also have 6 fumble recoveries, giving them 28 total takeaways, 7th in the league.


Overall, both Kansas City and San Francisco are great football teams, and this game looks like a close one. San Francisco will likely be able to run the ball on the Chiefs, especially with McCaffrey at back. However, Purdy may struggle against the Chief’s pass defense, especially given his comparatively low level of experience on this stage. The Chiefs, on the other hand, will likely need to get the passing game going, and with Travis Kelce and Patrick Mahomes they certainly have the ability to do so. However, the 49ers will likely be able to get a turnover or two, and that may make the difference. Prediction: 49ers 31, Chiefs 21.

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    Phillip H.Feb 10, 2024 at 8:52 PM

    Great article.
    Gives me great insight and makes the game more interesting.
    Amazing detail.