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What the Chiefs need to do to cover the spread in Super Bowl 54

What are the keys for the Chiefs to cover the spread in Super Bowl 54?

The 2020 Super Bowl point spread at DraftKings Sportsbook has the Kansas City Chiefs favored by a paltry -1.5 points. There are plenty of analysts who think the San Francisco 49ers should be favored and there is no doubt that this game is extremely difficult to predict. Add in an over/under at a lofty 54.5 points, and the variables to consider with that much possible scoring are numerous — but one stands out for Super Bowl 54.

Like most football games, line play is key. In this matchup, line play is going to be the deciding factor. Kansas City has a strong offensive line. Football Outsiders has them ranked fourth overall in pass protection with an adjusted sack rate of 4.9 percent, while Pro Football Focus has them ranked fifth in their analytics. Patrick Mahomes creates time in the pocket, allowing his speed burner receivers time to get open deep. Sometimes that gets Mahomes into trouble, but it also helps him hit big plays, and with his arm, he’s not going to miss often. On the season, Mahomes was sacked on just 3.4 percent of his drop backs, for a total of 17 in his 14 regular season games played and two times in the playoffs.

The Chiefs offensive line is undoubtedly stout, but they also haven’t been tested like they will be against the 49ers defensive line, anchored by Nick Bosa and Dee Ford. The 49ers ranked fifth in the league with 48 sacks on the season and have nine through their two playoff games. Football Outsiders ranks their pass rush second in the league at adjusted sack rate while PFF ranks them third. We will very much have strength vs. strength in the trenches.

Both teams will scheme for any kind of advantage but in the end, it will come down to how well Mahomes deals with the pressure he sees and doesn’t see. Next Gen stats has Mahomes upping his game when blitzed, as his passer rating rises and his interceptions fall when a team brings in a fifth pass rusher. Those numbers show an ability Mahomes will need against the 49ers, but for the most part, the 49ers don’t blitz much on first and second downs, ranking near the bottom in percentages but they do up their blitz numbers on third down, ranking 14th in the league with a 34 percent blitz rate. The Chiefs rank second with a 47 percent third down conversion rate while the 49ers rank second at stopping third down conversions.

The x-factor here is Patrick Mahomes. We know that Mahomes is good and put up great numbers in his two seasons, but, in the end, he will need to be great in this game for the Chiefs to win. He has the players around him to execute as long as he’s able to get them the ball and his ability to navigate the pass rush will be the key to the Chiefs covering the spread or not.

The 49ers will be able to run the ball on Kansas City but Jimmy Garoppolo will need to throw more than eight times to beat the spread. The Chiefs would rather force the 49ers to go to the air, because that would mean Kansas City is likely leading, but neither the run game or the pass game can keep up with the Chiefs offense if it is clicking. For the Chiefs offense to click, they will have to give Mahomes time, which they have proven they can do, but it still comes back to Mahomes to get rid of the ball quickly or evade pressure and make the right call with the ball.

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