Super Bowl LIV: Expert picks and predictions

The day is here. The game is upon us.

With the Kansas City Chiefs set to face the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl LIV, Sportsnet’s expert panel is ready to weigh in on who will win the day, and who will leave Miami empty-handed.

The panel includes editors Geoff Lowe and Craig Battle, fantasy analyst Andy McNamara, and staff writers Donnovan Bennett and Emily Sadler.

So who will hoist the Lombardi Trophy?

Andy McNamara
The Pick:
San Francisco 49ers
The Score: 24–21
Super Bowl MVP: Raheem Mostert

The Breakdown: The only way the 49ers pull this off is if they keep it low scoring. If Jimmy G has to come back from behind and play catch-up with Patrick Mahomes then the Chiefs will be hoisting the Lombardi Trophy. What’s interesting is that Kansas City essentially got a tune-up for San Francisco’s run-first offence in defeating the Derrick Henry–led Tennessee Titans. They rose to that occasion by limiting the bulldozer to 69 yards on the ground and forced Ryan Tannehill to go to the air 31 times.

San Francisco needs to find a way to make its late-season stud running back Raheem Mostert not just relevant, but dominant. The last running back to win a Super Bowl MVP was Denver’s Terrell Davis all the way back at SB XXXII, and I feel Mostert is going to have to play at an MVP level for his team to limit the time KC’s dynamic offence is on the field.

In the head-coach chess match, I’m giving the edge to Kyle Shanahan’s family-legacy zone-read offensive strategy that’s a modernized variation of his father Mike’s when he won back-to-back Super Bowls with the Broncos. Shanahan’s in-game creativity and adjustments are some of the best in the NFL, and if Andy Reid’s old nemesis — clock management — comes knocking, then I’ll bet on San Francisco.

The 49ers win it by a field goal.

Geoff Lowe
The Pick:
Kansas City Chiefs
The Score: 35-31
Super Bowl MVP: Patrick Mahomes

The Breakdown: The Chiefs flip their playoff script, charging out to an early 14-0 lead in the first quarter instead of digging themselves a hole. Rather than abandon the rushing game, though, Shanahan doubles down and the 49ers put together one of those run-only drives to get San Francisco back into the game as the Niners defence shuts out K.C. in the second quarter. A Robbie Gould field goal pulls the 49ers within four as the first half closes, 14-10 Chiefs.

Then both teams go off in the third.

Mahomes leads the Chiefs to quick back-to-back third-quarter touchdown drives, and then Shanahan finally unleashes Playoff Garoppolo with his team down 28-10. The 49ers rally behind their quarterback, scoring three straight touchdowns and 21 unanswered points as San Fran’s defence stifles Mahomes and Co. for what amounts to more than a full quarter.

Down 31-28 with only a few minutes to go in the game, Mahomes gets a shot to lead the Chiefs to victory – and he does just that. No. 15 finds Travis Kelce in the back of the end zone with less than a minute left in the game. Jimmy G gets a shot at his own game-winning drive, but ultimately falls short and it rains red and white confetti in Miami as the Chiefs lift the Lombardi for the first time since January 1970.

Emily Sadler
The Pick:
Kansas City Chiefs
The Score: 47-41
Super Bowl MVP: Patrick Mahomes

The Breakdown: Down 12-0 halfway through the first quarter, Kansas City fans start fretting that the slow-starting Chiefs are digging themselves a hole too big to climb out of… but then they remember they’ve got Mahomes. The king of the comeback does just that, and while Garoppolo can’t keep up in what becomes an offensive shootout, he doesn’t have to — Mostert keeps the Chiefs’ defence busy trying to figure out how to shut him down like they did Henry two weeks prior.

The result is a high-scoring — actually, the highest-scoring — Super Bowl that comes down to a single score. (After last year’s low-scoring, defensive dud, the football gods owe us this one, right?)

Donnovan Bennett
The Pick:
Kansas City Chiefs
The Score: 31–30
Super Bowl MVP: Patrick Mahomes

The Breakdown: The Chiefs have a clean bill of health with all 53 players on the roster already proclaimed healthy to play on Sunday. That roster, specifically on offence, is scary.

“It almost looks like they got their roster from the Olympic relay team and threw them all on the football field,” 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh said when describing the Chiefs’ offence.

Never before have we seen an offence with this amount of speed and a quarterback with this kind of arm talent paired with a play caller like Andy Reid. The Niners’ defence is great, but the New Orleans Saints put up 46 points on them. If the Chiefs do anything close to that number, they’ll win going away.

It seems like we are witnessing the beginning of the Mahomes era. Mahomes has eight TDs and zero interceptions in one of the best post-seasons we’ve ever seen. As we start a new decade, it seems only fitting that Mahomes will bookmark it by becoming the youngest player in NFL history to win the Super Bowl and MVP.

Craig Battle
The Pick:
San Francisco 49ers
The Score: 27–24
Super Bowl MVP: Jimmy Garoppolo

The Breakdown: No, I don’t feel confident about this. It’s just that no matter how many times I tried to type out “Kansas City,” I couldn’t quite do it. And yes, I know that Garoppolo has thrown for only 208 yards this post-season, but I have a feeling — “Ooh,” you say, “a feeling” — that’s going to change on Sunday. He threw for almost 4,000 yards on a 102 QB rating in the regular season, so we’re not talking Trent Dilfer or Rex Grossman here. Garoppolo can pass — he just hasn’t needed to during these playoffs.

Furthermore, Shanahan is a creative, inventive coach, and you know he’s going to have some new looks to throw at the Kansas City defence, creating room and opportunity for his QB to shine when the Chiefs adjust to make life hard on Mostert and the running game.

Finally, speaking of defences, the 49ers ranked second on Football Outsiders’ defensive efficiency rankings in 2019. Kansas City was way down the list at 14th.

What’s that old adage about defence and championships, again?