The Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers are set to clash in Las Vegas, Nev. on Sunday, February 11 for Super Bowl LVIII — marking the first time the largest spectacle in sports has taken place in gambling’s biggest marketplace.
The top-seeded 49ers are point favourites as they look to knock the reigning champion Chiefs off their pedestal. The two sides met five years ago in Super Bowl LIV, a 31-20 victory for Kansas City which kicked off their current budding dynasty.
For football fans north of the border, this matchup offers few tangible connections to get excited about. Every Canadian player in the NFL playoffs has already been eliminated, marking the second straight year without one in the Super Bowl. The lone former CFL player remaining, former Hamilton Tiger-Cats’ safety Erik Harris, should swing some support behind San Francisco, but the 33-year-old has been on the practice squad since mid-season and is not expected to be activated for the game.
Kelce had a bit of a down year in 2023, falling short of an eighth consecutive 1,000-yard season, but has never been far from the spotlight thanks to his superstar girlfriend Taylor Swift. Bettors in Ontario can place their money on the future Hall of Famer’s performance both on and off the field, with long odds on a post-game marriage proposal if Kansas City wins.
The 34-year-old will need a big evening if he wants to tie his CFL comrade’s total of three championship rings, with his receiving yards benchmark set at and anytime scoring odds. While few tight ends have been able to rival Kelce’s production throughout his career, the Niners’ George Kittle will be nipping at the heels of the NFL’s all-time playoff receptions leader, with an over/under of catches.
Success for either of the big-bodied pass catchers will not be possible without strong outings from their respective quarterbacks, a pair of players whose paths to the big game could not have been more different.
Unsurprisingly, the two quarterbacks are viewed as the likeliest players to be named Super Bowl MVP. Mahomes is unquestionably the more elite talent and is already beginning to challenge Tom Brady in the GOAT debate, but it might be hard to hit the over on passing yards with a receiving corps that’s let him down throughout the year. Purdy will have a hard time shaking the game manager label even if he shatters his mark of yards, in part because he has weapons like Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel to work with.
Mahomes’ life isn’t being made any easier by the absence of All-Pro guard Joe Thuney. While most of the attention on the 49ers’ pass rush is being paid to the Ohio State edge tandem of Nick Bosa and Chase Young, the odds of an anytime sack for defensive tackle Arik Armstead should be attractive — and not just because his brother Armond was a CFL all-star and Grey Cup champion with Toronto in 2012.
Expect to see a heavy dose of running back Isiah Pacheco as a result, which will put a lot of pressure on the coaching of former CFL assistant Johnny Holland. The San Francisco linebackers coach has the dynamic duo of Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw playing at an elite level, drawing some cross-border comparisons to Solomon Elimimian and Adam Bighill’s ‘Team 100’ from his time with the B.C. Lions. The two are expected to be some of the most active defenders on the field, with tackle over/unders set at and respectively.
It is the Kansas City defence that might merit more attention, however. General manager Brett Veach and director of pro personnel Tim Terry, who won the 1999 Grey Cup championship with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, have added pieces to transform a weakness in their earlier Super Bowl appearances into the team’s biggest strength. Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnulo helped the unit allow just 289.8 yards per game and generate 57 sacks, good for second in the NFL in both categories. Game-wrecking defensive tackle Chris Jones and nickel Trent McDuffie both made All-Pro this year, while corner L’Jarius Sneed is the betting favourite to snag an interception in the game at .
Of course, San Francisco head coach Kyle Shanahan also had his offensive unit sitting second in the league with 398.4 yards per game and they excel schematically at the Chiefs’ biggest weakness: running the ball. NFL Offensive Player of the Year Christian McCaffrey is a dual-threat menace at running back who could well hit the over on yards from scrimmage and has the shortest anytime touchdown odds at , but his blockers deserve plenty of credit. Future Hall of Fame left tackle Trent Williams and fullback Kyle Juszczyk are a joy to watch, especially if you’ve managed to hit the over on a 49ers’ time-of-possession prop bet.
With so many stars in action, fans are sure to be in store for a classic game despite the lack of Canadian content. For San Francisco, a victory would be redemption after so many near misses in the Shanahan era. For Kansas City, it would cement their status as a historic dynasty, rivalling the Patriots that came before them.