Kansas City Chiefs Super Bowl Preview

By Lee Wakefield

They are inevitable, or so it seems. No matter the undulations of their season, no matter what form they take on, no matter which teams look like they could dethrone the Chiefs during the summer. As long as Mahomes, Reid, and Steve Spagnuolo are leading the charge, it feels like Kansas City will have a reasonable shot at taking home the Lombardi Trophy.

We all sort of agreed on last week’s podcast, that it’s sort of silly to bet against Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs but here we are with Vegas favouring the 49ers by 1.5 points.

And they say that Vegas always wins.

Whatever happens, it’s sure to be a fantastic game between two of this season’s best outfits. We have already taken a look at how the 49ers measure up in their preview, today we take a look at the AFC champions.

Chiefs Season So Far

This season has felt a lot more up and down than recent Chiefs seasons in the Mahomes/Reid era. Even so, they were still 11-6 in the regular season and still won the AFC West by three clear games.

This was the year when they were bumpy, where others had a sniff, when they transitioned to being a defense-first team, where Patrick Mahomes’ average depth of target (ADOT) dropped to 6.9 yards a pass. Just for clarity, that number placed Mahomes, the best player in the NFL, 38th out of 44 qualifying passers.


They still won. They still made it through road playoff games, and they knocked off the so-called best team in the NFL Ravens to win in the AFC Championship game.

Yes, it could have been different, both championship games could have been different. We could have been looking at an alternative Super Bowl. But we’re not. They are inevitable. 

After an opening game defeat at home to the Lions, the Chiefs quickly clicked into gear, racing to 7-2 by their bye week.

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After that though, the struggles and unevenness of their season kicked in, and a 5-4 record from weeks 11 to 18 followed.

No way, they’ve got it in them to go to Buffalo and win. They did.

No way, they’ll be able to follow that up in Baltimore. Guess what…

Do not bet against the Kansas City Chiefs with Patrick Mahomes, Andy Reid, Steve Spagnuolo, and, now an army of Taylor Swift fans behind them.

It is a fool’s errand. It is not advisable. You should not do it. Just sit back and accept your fate.

Star Performer

Steve Spagnuolo has been in his bag this year.

Spags has been cooking up all sorts of disguised coverage shifts and pressure packages all year. This has led to them giving up 289.8 yards per game, and just 17.3 points per game, which both rank second in the NFL.

There’s no wonder that Kansas City defenders love him, have T-shirts made and some call him a Father figure.

As I mentioned above. The 2023 Chiefs have flipped the script on their previous iterations and are a defense-led team now. They are a far cry from the speed kills days of Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce dominating downfield.

Much like Kyle Shanahan, fans and analysts are going to be salivating at the thought of what Spagnuolo has cooked up in the lab with two weeks’ worth of prep time. It’s going to be a cat-and-mouse game between the two on Sunday, both men will know that the other will have meticulously poured over the other’s film, which should lead to an epic battle of I-know-what-you-know-that-I-know-that-you-know between the two.

Under Rated Star

L’Jarius Sneed is potentially one of the more under rated players in the entire league, never mind just on the Kansas City roster.

Sneed, a former-fourth round selection and former safety is now the number one corner on a Championship-calibre defense, who can shadow number one receivers and lock them down. He can also come it with huge plays in huge moments, as his forced fumble of Zay Flowers proves.

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Sneed can play as a nickel defender, he can play outside, he has safety experience, and he’s an extremely effective blitzer too. His aggressive playstyle, versatility, and playmaking epitomises what it is to be a Chiefs defender in 2024 under Steve Spagnuolo.

Sneed’s contract is up after this season, meaning he is set to hit free agency in March. It will be interesting to see what Kansas City does because it would feel like a poor business decision to allow him to walk. The only saving grace will be the compensatory pick they’ll likely receive, but still, losing one of the league’s best defensive backs will be painful.

Kansas City has around $23m in cap space moving into the new league year, so there’s some wiggle room to work with but they’ll certainly have to make some tough decisions.

Either way, I am sure Sneed will want to stay in town and not have Sunday’s Vegas showdown as his Chiefs swansong.

Keys to Victory

The Cat-and-Mouse – As mentioned above, the duel between Steve Spagnuolo and Kyle Shanahan is going to be absolute box office on Sunday. These two will know each other’s tendencies down to a tee and will be working on a special menu of tendency-breaking plays that they’ll have prepared for each other. The film nerds are going to have a field day with this after the game, I am sure. The content will be epic for all of you like me, who love to dig into the Xs and Os of the game. Spagnuolo will need to get pressure on Brock Purdy and force him into uncomfortable situations that could lead to poor decisions, poor throws, and turnovers. 

Stop the 49ers Run Game – Whilst Kansas City’s defense has been superb all year their weakness has been their run defense, which ranks 27th in defensive DVOA. This could be an issue because we know that San Francisco has an excellent run game with Christian McCaffrey leading the charge. Kyle Juszczyk will be absolutely key to this one as well, with him being the moveable piece in the run game along with George Kittle. How Shanahan deploys both of these versatile pieces is something that Spagnuolo and the Chiefs’ defense will have to manage throughout the game. They will want to get to a point where they’re saying, “If Purdy beats us with his arm, then fair play”.

Bricks for Hands – It has to be said that Chiefs wide receivers not named Rashee Rice have had their issues with drops. Kansas City leads the league in dropped passes with 44. In the biggest games, drops really can be key, just ask Lions and Bills fans about their experiences in this year’s playoffs. Yes, Marques Vales-Scantling appears to be Mr. January and has come up big in the playoffs before. Plus, let’s face it, the whole team has risen in the biggest moments this year and in seasons past, so it’s not like they are big-time bottlers but still. It must worry everyone connected with the team when Mahomes passes to anyone but Kelce or Rice. 

Feature Image Credit: LA Times

Lee Wakefield

NFL, CFB & NFL Draft

Lee Wakefield IS A defensive line enthusiast, Chargers Sufferer, and LONG-TIME writer and podcaster with a number of publications. @Wakefield90 on twitter