No matter what Las Vegas says, the Kansas City Chiefs are the true underdog in Super Bowl LIV. This team has gotten shafted countless times, especially over the last 10 years, and are in their first title game since 1969 despite all of the regular-season success they've seen since then.
The San Francisco 49ers? This team is merely the product of circumstance, and feel entirely misplaced as the Chiefs' opponent in the big game, especially as a one-point "underdog." Why? Because they've accumulated a 25-55 record in the five seasons preceding this one. No playoff appearances. Four last-place finishes in the NFC West. Jim Tomsula and Chip Kelly. Sure, their 13-3 mark in 2019 is impressive, but this team largely has no identity.
Seriously, who are the 2019 49ers?
The "Hot Boyzz"?? Nope.
But we'll get back to this later.
Chiefs-49ers Record vs Regular Season Opponents
Compared to the 49ers, the Chiefs are 54-26 in the five years preceding this one, and have lost one Wild Card game, two Divisional Round games, and one AFC Championship. They've been through it. This current construction of the Chiefs knows what dominant victories and heartbreaking losses (Marcus Mariota self-pass TD, Dee Ford lining up offsides, you get it) feel like. At this point, we can only hope they know what mistakes they need to avoid in order to capture glory atop the NFL.
Has this 49ers team learned anything in their quest to get here? In summation, no. They were gifted the No. 1 seed in the NFC because Pete Carroll is allergic to scoring from the one-yard line (and were helped even more the previous week when Seattle dropped a home game to the Cardinals). While they did put the NFL on notice by going 2-1 in a three-game stretch against the Saints, Packers and Ravens (the latter of which they lost on a last-second field goal), outside if that this team hasn't really played anybody. Take out those three games and their division, and their opponents' combined record in those games was 38-74. Take out the Chiefs' three toughest opponents (Patriots, Packers and Ravens) and the combined record of the other teams they faced was 53-58-1. Not the most monumental of differences, but 15 wins is 15 wins.
You could also argue the 49ers' division of the Rams, Seahawks and Cardinals is harder than the Raiders, Broncos and Chargers, but both took care of business in that area, and the Chiefs actually played the Packers AND Vikings without Patrick Mahomes. Let's call it even.
Chiefs-49ers DVOA Stats
But what about THIS head-to-head battle we're waiting two weeks for?
That's a pretty close matchup, but a lot of the focus has been on the Chiefs' DVOA in terms of rushing defense. While the 49ers' domination of the Packers was impressive, it can be viewed as an outlier, especially since the NFC title game was essentially a repeat of their Week 12 matchup.
Also, the Packers are very much not the Chiefs, as we witnessed all season. San Fran matched up very well against Green Bay's offense, which wasn't all that dynamic when you consider they ranked middle of the pack in the NFL in yards per game (18th) and points (15th). The Chiefs were fifth and sixth in those categories, and have been consistently at the top for the last three years. The Niners? An impressive fourth and second this season, but 16th and 21st last year, and 12th and 20th the year before (though they did undergo a significant transition over that time). Regardless, no consistency, and minimal adjusting for opponents year in and year out.
Since 2016, the Chiefs have ranked sixth, 10th, first and second in total DVOA. The 49ers? 28th, 20th, 30th and fifth. Once again, consistency is in favor of the Chiefs.
Andy Reid vs Kyle Shanahan
Once again, another instance of identity. Laugh about Andy Reid choking all you want. Kyle Shanahan was instrumental in choking away the Falcons' 28-3 lead against the Patriots just three Super Bowls ago. Reid has had his fair share of laughable mistakes and miscues, but the fact of the matter is that this is matchup between a man who has two decades of head coaching experience (and has often elevated less-talented rosters to 10-win plateaus) vs one who has three years.
Reid is an astonishing 207-128 as a head coach, only logging three losing seasons since 1999. His 14-14 postseason record isn't anything to drool over, but he's been to one Super Bowl, seven conference championship games, and has only missed the playoffs four times in 20 tries. And let's not forget he was the assistant head coach of the Green Bay Packers when they won Super Bowl XXXI.
Shanahan largely bounced around the NFL as an offensive coordinator from 2008-2014 in stints with the Texans, Redskins and Browns before getting his big break in Atlanta, which got him the job in San Fran.
The 49ers are just the third team in HISTORY to go to the Super Bowl after possessing a 4-12 record the season prior. The two others were the 1999 Rams, who defeated the Titans and arguably had the most prolific offense the NFL has ever seen (which isn't happening with Trent Green), and the 1988 Bengals, who lost to the 49ers. There's a reason this isn't a thing.
The Rams will remain the exception to this nonexistent trend, because the Chiefs have all the tools to capture their second ever Super Bowl title.