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Super Bowl 2024 predictions: San Francisco 49ers v Kansas City Chiefs - who will win & why?

Super Bowl 58: San Francisco 49ers v Kansas City Chiefs

Venue: Allegiant Stadium, Las Vegas Date: Sunday, 11 February Start: 23:30 GMT (15:30 PST)

BBC coverage: Listen to commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live and follow live text on the BBC Sport website and app

We have a superb Super Bowl 58 match-up with the San Francisco 49ers facing the Kansas City Chiefs, but who will hit the jackpot in Las Vegas?

These games are decided on small margins - big plays here and there, and moments of magic proving the difference between the ultimate glory of lifting the Lombardi Trophy and the desperate despair of trudging off that confetti-laden field, knowing you have come so near yet remain so far.

So will Brock Purdy play better than Patrick Mahomes? Can the Chiefs defence somehow slow down Christian McCaffrey, and what other players, tactics or coaching titbits do you need to watch out for during the big game?

Let's take a look..

The Chiefs will win if...

Their defence and running game continues to dominate, as despite having a generational talent in star quarterback Mahomes, those are the two big things that have got the defending champions back to the Super Bowl.

Isiah Pacheco runs the ball as hard as anyone and, defensively, the most points they have allowed in a game all season is 27 - restricting Lamar Jackson, who was this week named the season's Most Valuable Player, and his Baltimore Ravens team to just 10 at home in the AFC Championship game proved they are an elite group.

Their defence has kept them in games all season while the receivers struggled to catch passes, leaving Mahomes to sprinkle his magic when needed. So the final piece of the plan is keeping him upright and keeping San Francisco's disruptive defender Nick Bosa at arm's length.

Who are the Chiefs' star men?

Mahomes and Pacheco are joined by Travis Kelce, who has caught the most passes in play-off history, eclipsing the great Jerry Rice during this year's run. Also watch out for defensive giant Chris Jones causing havoc in the trenches and chasing down Purdy at every opportunity.

Who will be Super Bowl MVP if Chiefs win?

Mahomes - obvious, but true. The defence will be a team effort but at some point the quarterback will have to do something special - and usually does.

Watch out for... Rashee Rice

The Chiefs need someone other than Kelce to catch the ball, and rookie receiver Rice has been answering that call, with his 223 receiving yards in the play-offs already the third-most by a rookie in NFL history.

He is fast, tough, and although he has caught only one touchdown in the play-offs, he has had 12 first-down catches which proves Mahomes trusts him in the big moments. Mahomes turned to two unheralded receivers to clinch victory in last year's Super Bowl classic - could Rice be the man in Vegas?

The 49ers will win if...

McCaffrey and Deebo Samuel see plenty of the ball and Bosa sees plenty of Mahomes. A big weak spot for the Chiefs defence is allowing yards after the catch to runners - that is where McCaffrey, Samuel and George Kittle all excel.

Purdy will need to handle his nerves but if he gets short passes to his three stars then San Francisco will fancy their chances.

Defensively, Bosa is a nightmare for opposing quarterbacks and Kansas City's offensive line has had problems all season with holding penalties - this looks like a crucial match-up that could decide the entire game.

Who are the 49ers' star men?

Offensively we have mentioned them, but San Francisco had nine Pro Bowl selections, which tells you all about their quality. You have to add in linebackers Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw as they are tasked with stopping the two biggest threats - Pacheco running the ball and Kelce catching short, crucial passes over the middle.

Who will be Super Bowl MVP if the 49ers win?

McCaffrey's play-off form is outstanding - scoring touchdowns in all six career games and totalling more than 100 yards in five of those. It is highly unlikely that San Francisco can win without another big eye-catching day from the new Offensive Player of the Year winner.

Watch out for... Jauan Jennings

Brandon Aiyuk is their leading receiver, but the Chiefs are so good in the secondary2, they may key in on him and force Purdy to look for other options. One of those is Jennings, who is a big-bodied receiver that has taken some crucial catches in the play-offs. Also watch out for his exuberant blocking downfield.

Super Bowl rematch for the teams and coaches

Kansas City are aiming to win their third NFL title in five years and they started that run with Super Bowl victory over San Francisco in 2000. This is the fourth head-coaching rematch in Super Bowl history, with the coach who won the first game winning all three previous rematches - that is a great sign for the Chiefs.

Veteran Andy Reid has a quarter of a century of experience, is the only head coach with 100-plus wins with two different teams and has the best ever record of 30-7 coming off a bye week, which means that given time he usually figures the opposition out.

Like Reid, Kyle Shanahan is an innovative attacking coach, but he has demons to shake off as not only did his Niners cough up a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter of their last Super Bowl against the Chiefs, but he was also the Atlanta Falcons' offensive coordinator when they blew a 28-3 lead against the New England Patriots in 2017.

And with the extended half-time at the Super Bowl, head coaches can really make a difference in this game more than any other - so with his history, Shanahan will not be sitting comfortably listening to Usher, even if the 49ers have a lead.

Another loss in the big game will raise question marks over Shanahan, but even if the worst happens he can look to Reid, who took 21 seasons to win a Super Bowl and is now chasing his third in five.

Super Bowl facts and stats

  • Patrick Mahomes is the first quarterback to start four Super Bowls before turning 30

  • Brock Purdy is the third youngest quarterback to start the big game

  • Teams wearing white have won 16 of the last 19 Super Bowls - although one of those that lost was the 49ers in their 2020 meeting with the Chiefs, and they will wear white again in Vegas

  • Victory would mean the 49ers would tie the Steelers and Patriots for the most Super Bowls wins with six

Who will win the Super Bowl and why? - What the players think

Tyrann Mathieu, New Orleans Saints safety and former Chiefs player: "I won the Super Bowl ring with Kansas City and it's hard for me to bet against Patrick Mahomes. As long as he's playing, as long as he's healthy, he's tough to stop."

Jonathan Jones, two-time Super Bowl champion with the New England Patriots: "I think it comes down to whoever has the ball at the end of the game. And if it's Mahomes, it's hard to see them not winning."

Michael Vick, former Atlanta Falcons and Philadelphia Eagles quarterback: "Obviously Mahomes is a difference-maker - I think he can take the game over at any minute but we have to be wary of what the 49ers defence can do. They have Fred Warner and Nick Bosa, who can make the game harder than what it's supposed to be. [Chiefs coach] Andy Reid will try to combat that. The best team will win - and the best teams meet on Sunday."

Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Cleveland Browns linebacker: "Defences matter. Defences win championships. Whoever has the best defence on the night, that's the team that's going to come out on top."

Dion Dawkins, Buffalo Bills offensive lineman: "The difference-makers are going to be the pass rushers. The pass rushers have got to be able to take over the football game and if they do, either side has a chance of winning. Everyone thinks it's about the quarterbacks but it's not. It's about the big guys in the trenches."

Frank Ragnow, Detroit Lions offensive lineman: "It will come down to the trenches. Maybe I'm biased, but there's two good offensive lines there so whoever performs the best there gives them the best chance of winning."

Kobie Turner, Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle: "San Fran has a really solid team top to bottom but I can't go for them as they are our rivals. I definitely see Kansas City taking it. It's hard to bet against Mahomes in the play-offs."

Jason McCourty, Super Bowl 53 winner with the Patriots: "This is going to be a fun one. As much as we're talking about the quarterbacks, these defences have been stellar all year. If I had to pick one I can't go against Mahomes. I've been beaten by that guy before."

Antoine Winfield Jr, Tampa Bay Buccaneers safety: "It's going to be a close game. It's a toss-up. 50-50. But I've got to go with KC - I just can't bet against Mahomes in the Super Bowl."

Jermaine Eluemunor, Las Vegas Raiders offensive lineman: "I'll always lean towards the line of scrimmage - whichever offensive line takes that over will win because that'll open up the run game and they'll be able to protect the quarterback. I have the 49ers winning - 24-21, with Christian McCaffrey the MVP."