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The Quest for Six: Super Bowl LIV

7 min read
In preparation for Super Bowl LIV, I examine a few popular takes and make some wild predictions of my own.

On February 2nd, the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers will be meeting in Miami for Super Bowl LIV (54 for those of you that may be rusty on your Roman Numerals). If you’re a member of either the #Chiefskingdom or #Faithful twitter world, the trash talk is real. Last week’s bye really helped stir the pot of hot takes, bad takes, and some takes that don’t make any sense to me. The Super Bowl is a special time when the casual fans that haven’t really paid attention to either team start bringing in their takes as well. Every entity that covers the NFL, either professionally or as a hobby, is bringing their takes into this game. Let’s dissect three of the more common takes I’ve been hearing. 

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Take 1: The Chiefs Defense will take away the run, just like they did with Derrick Henry

Taking a look at the AFC title game, the Chiefs were ready for Henry. Most of the plays I saw were obvious run plays against a stacked box. Some plays had Chiefs in the backfield before Henry had the ball and I didn’t see much in the way of misdirection (a staple of Shanahan’s offense). The Titans seemed to be taking that hard-nosed “stop us if you can” attitude but the Chiefs were up to the task. KC was plugging lanes left and right and almost seemed to be in the huddle with Tannehill. One key to overcoming this will be to spread the Chiefs D out and keep them guessing. I’m excited to see what Shannahan will have in his bag of tricks to keep the D off balance. Power running didn’t work in the AFC title game but the 49ers rely more on speed and scheme in their run game.

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Take 2: Mahomes is too much for the 49ers Defense 

During the regular season, Mahomes registered 50 completions of 20+ yards (13th on the season) and is leading that category for postseason with 11. If anyone can slow down the Chief’s passing game, it’s the 49ers. They’re tied for the league lead, giving up the fewest 20+ yard plays during the regular season. And their first-ranked passing defense speaks for itself. The return of DE Dee Ford, LB Kwon Alexander, and S Jaquiski Tartt at the start of the playoffs was crucial in their victories over the Vikings and the Packers. Both Kwon and Tartt were limited participants in Thursday’s practice. No setbacks have been reported so this is seen to be a maintenance-related limitation.

Mahomes is also a very mobile QB, running for 218 yards in 2019. In a press conference on 1/23, DE Nick Bosa indicated the 49ers would be preparing for Mahomes much in the same way they would for Seattle QB, Russell Wilson. Bosa said they are “very similar with extending plays and play breakdowns that turn into long touchdowns;” he also will be getting tips from his brother, Joey, who plays for the Chargers and has squared off against Mahomes 3 times in the last 2 seasons. Facing Kyler Murray (AZ) twice, Russell Wilson twice, and Lamar Jackson (BAL) once this season, you can bet 49ers DC Robert Saleh will take that experience and have something schemed up to keep Mahomes in the pocket until the pass rush can get to him.

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Take 3: Jimmy’s performance in the playoffs thus far 

I initially thought that this was just trolling on twitter but I’ve seen this brought up on the national stage as well. 17/27 for 208 yards, 1TD and 1 Interception over the course of 2 games. As some have pointed out, yes, that is the same number of TD passes as Derrick Henry. There are takes about Shanahan not trusting Garoppolo and taking the game out of his hands. This is a pretty insincere view of the playoff picture. In contrast, the running game put up 471 yards and 6 TDs during the same timeframe. You really don’t NEED to pass when the other team can’t stop your run game. By their nature, there are more thing that can go wrong when anyone passes the ball (including low snap, hit during the throw, sacked, strip-sacked, throw tipped at the line, tipped by defender, tipped by the receiver, caught and fumbled, caught OB, dropped, dropped due to the receiver being hit, uncalled DPI, called OPI, late hit on the QB) when compared to rushing (including fumbled snap, fumbled handoff, fumble on the tackle, tackled for loss, offensive holding). I like seeing explosive and exciting passes as much as the next fan, but I’m happier when my team wins a blowout than when it loses a close game. What I’ve seen from Kyle Shanahan this year is smart risk-taking and a willingness to play it safe when opponents can’t stop the run. I know I don’t speak for most NFL fans but if San Francisco is able to run it 47 times again and wins the Super Bowl, sign me up.

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The DFS Angle

With only two teams playing this week, DFS looks a bit different. You select an MVP worth 1.5X points and then pick 4 flex to round out your roster. One would guess that more than half of the entries will end up selecting Patrick Mahomes ($16,000) as their MVP without a second thought. This isn’t a bad play if you can separate yourself from the rest of the pack at the other positions. Despite what I WANT to happen in the game, I do believe it will come down to a shootout and with the rules in place for this week, you can actually start Jimmy Garoppolo ($14,000) as well. It’s insane to me that you can pick up and play a QB for the same cost as RB Damian Williams, who will be going up against a defense that has given up 83 total rushing yards thus far in the playoffs. I’m planning to roll out both and look for value at other positions. George Kittle’s cost has dropped ($11,500) and FanDuel has the Chiefs ranked 25th against the TE position (fantasy points). See below for my reasoning but I think Matt Breida ($7500) could be a value this week (28th against RBs). Picking the right RB in this game could pay dividends. Raheem Mostert ($13,500) is the most recent hot-hand with his record-breaking performance against the Packers and Tevin Coleman ($10,000) is spending “all my time” trying to recover from a dislocated shoulder that happened during the Packers game (he was limited at practice on 1/30). TeCo had been the hot hand the week prior in the game against the Vikings. Ultimately, your guess is as good as anyone’s on which RB will be getting the lead responsibilities on Sunday. The 49er receiving group has its work cut out for them, going against a Chiefs D that is #2 against the position. Of the group, I like Deebo Samuel ($8500) the most this week because of his versatility and occasional use in the run game.

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Listen to Pride and Q’s Super Bowl predictions in the latest episode of the Time Skew Podcast

Reckless Speculation

With all the crazy prop bets floating around, I like to get in on the reckless speculation with a few long-shot calls that have absolutely no grounding in statistics. I wouldn’t recommend putting any money down on these things happening, but if I happen to be right about any of them, I’ll gladly accept all the credit.

-Jimmy Garoppolo will have a 20+ yard run. Jimmy isn’t known as much of a rushing QB and only had 62 yards during the regular season. That being said, Kyle Shanahan’s bag of tricks will be fully on display Sunday. You can be sure he’s going to pull some shenanigans. 

-There will be less than 3 total field goals (not counting extra points). Both teams have great kickers but both sides will be going for explosive plays to try to run up the score on their opponent.

-Surprise Super Bowl MVP – the current fastest ball carrier in the NFL, Matt Breida. This is my big tinfoil hat moment. With the performance Raheem Mostert gave in the NFC Championship game, he’s viewed as the RB1 of this team. Shanahan has said that he likes to use different RBs for different things and I thought it was odd that Breida was only in on 2 offensive snaps, despite Tevin Coleman leaving the game due to injury, which left Mostert with 82% of the offensive snaps on the day. Compare that to the 34% Mostert had while Coleman was the hot hand against the Vikings (Mostert also was in on 10 special teams plays that game). Now here’s the conspiracy theory part: I think Shanahan limited Breida’s snaps over the last few games so that it looks like he’s fallen out of favor and becomes an afterthought. As I mentioned above, the Titans didn’t beat KC with the power run so Shanahan will hit them with all the speed that San Francisco can muster.

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I’m ready for this game. 50 years is a long time for the Chiefs to wait but the #questforsix has been going on for 25 and I’m biased. Hopefully that quest ends Sunday and we can begin the #questforseven.

The Quest for Six: Super Bowl LIV

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