Super Bowl 58 bold predictions: Six strong claims for Chiefs vs. 49ers

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What predictions are there left to make for Super Bowl 58?

After two weeks of anticipation and preparation, the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers have been closely inspected and analyzed from an array of angles. Picks have been made for Sunday's big event in Las Vegas. Prop bets have been outlined.

But with kickoff drawing near, we couldn't help but take one last crack at forecasting what might be ahead at Allegiant Stadium to close out the 2023 NFL season. With that in mind, we asked USA TODAY Sports' NFL reporters and columnists for one bold prediction for Super Bowl 58. Here are the results:

Nate Davis: The 49ers will shut down Travis Kelce

Travis Kelce of the Kansas City Chiefs speaks to the media during Kansas City Chiefs media availability ahead of Super Bowl LVIII at Westin Lake Las Vegas Resort and Spa on February 06, 2024 in Henderson, Nevada.
Travis Kelce of the Kansas City Chiefs speaks to the media during Kansas City Chiefs media availability ahead of Super Bowl LVIII at Westin Lake Las Vegas Resort and Spa on February 06, 2024 in Henderson, Nevada.

For all the attention Chiefs Pro Bowler Travis Kelce is soaking up off the field, he’s served a timely reminder on it during the postseason that he is still perhaps the league’s best tight end. Had Kelce not caught 23 passes for 262 yards in the past three games – including a pair of touchdown grabs at Buffalo and another in Baltimore – very strong possibility Kansas City is not playing in its fourth Super Bowl over the past five seasons. The 49ers should not only have the will to limit Taylor Swift’s beau but the means. San Francisco is accustomed to generating pressure with its front four – which should be even more achievable given All-Pro K.C. G Joe Thuney will miss the game with a chest injury – leaving a combination of safeties Tashaun Gipson Sr. and Ji'Ayir Brown plus elite LBs Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw to deal with Kelce downfield. Seems like a textbook example for when a team should force someone other than its opponent’s best weapon to beat them.

Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz: The Chiefs will collect three turnovers from the 49ers

Maybe it seems arbitrary to predict the outcome of something as volatile and luck-dependent as turnovers. But the 49ers seem to have been enjoying some good fortune that could run out. Brock Purdy's game manager label obscures how frequently he puts San Francisco in troublesome spots, his style too often more devil-may-care than caretaker. But Purdy has unquestionably benefited from opponents' drops of would-be interceptions, with Sports Info Solutions having him at 14 turnover-worthy throws falling harmlessly as interceptions. Though the 49ers' signal-caller has been outstanding against the blitz this season, we've seen savvy defensive coordinators – Lou Anarumo, Brian Flores, Mike Macdonald – find ways to throw him off his game and into those multiple-turnover efforts that all resulted in losses. Your turn, Steve Spagnuolo.

Jarrett Bell: Deebo Samuel will throw a pass

Deebo runs. Deebo catches. Deebo returns kicks. For all of the Swiss Army knife-like qualities contained with the San Francisco 49ers star, Super Bowl 58 will be the perfect time for Deebo Samuel to demonstrate another talent as a thrower. There's not much videotape for this possibility. Samuel has one career completion in 66 games and threw incomplete on his only pass attempt this season. Yet he's such a gamer and Kyle Shanahan needs to pull out all the stops and generate a big play with a creative surprise. Of course, Samuel will have stat-sheet entries for receptions and rushing, and it won't be a surprise if he returns a kick or two. Yet I can see Samuel also taking a handoff on a jet sweep, then pull up and launch a spiral to George Kittle. Then again, Samuel's not the only versatile weapon capable of pulling off such a surprise for the 49ers. It should be noted that NFL rushing king Christian McCaffrey has two career completions -- and two career touchdown passes.

Lorenzo Reyes: As much as you can slow Christian McCaffrey, the Chiefs will do it

Kansas City defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo has become something of a big-game savant, expertly neutralizing an opposing offense’s strength time and time again in big postseason games. Spagnuolo is particularly adept at disguising coverages and pressures that often confuse players, or at least slog the timing and rhythm of an offense. Christian McCaffrey has been wildly dependable and consistent, posting at least 90 yards from scrimmage in his last 12 games and scoring at least one touchdown in all but three of his 18 games this year. While Kansas City has been rather average at stopping the run this season, the Chiefs have key disruptors who do an excellent job of blowing up the rushing lanes on plays, even if they don’t record stops, none more essential than defensive tackle Chris Jones. Now, this will take Kansas City avoiding missed tackles at all costs, but with plenty of time to prepare, I presume that solving the CMC problem has been Kansas City’s main defensive focus.

Chris Bumbaca: Travis Kelce throws a touchdown pass to Patrick Mahomes

Like most NFL head coaches, Chiefs HC Andy Reid appreciates the history of the game. He also sees the past as a source of inspiration for his play sheet. The last time these teams faced each other in the Super Bowl, the Chiefs executed a “spin move” trick play that was a direct snap to the running back, Damien Williams, who nearly scored but converted the first down. Eric Bieniemy, then the Chiefs’ offensive coordinator, revealed the play came from the 1948 Rose Bowl between Michigan and USC. This time, Reid and current offensive coordinator Matt Nagy won’t have to go as far back. All they have to do is turn on the film from Super Bowl 52, when Philadelphia Eagles tight end Trey Burton took a reverse following a direct snap to running back Corey Clement and floated a touchdown pass to quarterback Nick Foles. Kelce and Mahomes connecting in a similar fashion would not only mean six points for Kansas City – it would break the internet.

Tyler Dragon: Rashee Rice will have over 120 receiving yards and a touchdown

The 49ers have the personnel to limit tight end Travis Kelce, especially with standout linebackers Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw. Expect rookie wide receiver Rashee Rice to be the biggest beneficiary while Kelce is contained. Patrick Mahomes and Rice have established a good rapport in the wideout’s first season. Rice has quietly turned into Kansas City’s No. 1 wide receiver, but he’ll showcase that he’s arrived in Super Bowl 58. The 49ers have arguably the best defensive front seven in all of football, but their secondary is vulnerable. Rice has 20 receptions, 223 receiving yards and one touchdown this postseason. The Chiefs have found ways to give Rice the football with him running short and intermediate routes, and he has the ability to accumulate yards after the catch. Rice’s big game will help the Chiefs win their second straight Super Bowl and award Mahomes his third Super Bowl MVP.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Super Bowl predictions 2024: Six bold claims for Chiefs vs. 49ers