LAS VEGAS — The Super Bowl will be played in Las Vegas for the first time ever, and I can already say this is the best idea the NFL has ever had. Las Vegas, as we all know, is the debauchery capital of the world and as the unofficial debauchery correspondent here at CBS Sports, my bosses decided it would be a good idea to send me to Vegas this week. I didn’t argue.
One thing about being in Vegas is it means I’ll be around if something crazy happens, and there’s a 90 percent chance something crazy will happen, because this is Vegas. Vegas is so crazy that I’m 90% sure that the movie “The Hangover” is based on a true story.
What I’m trying to say here is that what happens in Vegas this week definitely won’t be staying in Vegas and that’s mostly because I’ll be sharing everything I see on social media (feel free to start following me on Twitter or Instagram if you want to follow along).
If I see Patrick Mahomes getting a burger at Shake Shack at 3:30 a.m. PT, I’ll be sure to let everyone know. Also, if I see that, I’ll probably pick against the Chiefs because you can’t trust a quarterback who’s eating burgers at 3:30 a.m. just days before the Super Bowl.
On a somewhat related note, If this pick sounds like an incoherent mess, that’s because I’m writing it at 3:30 a.m. in between hands of blackjack at the Bellagio. My dealer says I should pick the 49ers.
So will I actually listen to my dealer?
Let’s get to the pick and find out.
Actually, before we get to the pick, here’s a quick reminder to check out the Super Bowl picks from all of our other CBS Sports NFL writers, which you can do by clicking here. If that’s not enough Super Bowl content for you, then I recommend clicking here and checking out the Pick Six podcast on YouTube. Will Brinson, Ryan Wilson and I are spending the week together in Sin City and we’ll be putting out new podcasts every day, which means you get more of me, which I have to think is a good thing.
My plan is to leave Vegas without any regrets, so let’s hope I don’t regret my pick.
Super Bowl LVIII pick
San Francisco 49ers (14-5) vs. Kansas City Chiefs (14-6)
If Kyle Shanahan has nightmares every day this week, you can’t really blame him and that’s mostly because no one has worse luck in the Super Bowl than him. The 49ers coach has been to the Super Bowl twice and both trips have ended in absolute disaster.
- Trip 1: Shanahan’s first trip came in 2016 with the Falcons and his week got off to a rough start when , which contained Atlanta’s offensive game plan and $30,000 worth of Super Bowl tickets. Oh, and his team also blew a 28-3 lead in the game.
- Trip 2: Shanahan’s second trip to the Super Bowl came four years ago and things were actually going well, but then his team blew a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter against the Chiefs in a 31-20 loss. That blown lead is tied for the second-biggest blown lead in Super Bowl history behind only … OK, you know what, I’m not even going to mention it again. I think you get the point.
The only way Shanahan will be able to put those nightmares behind him is if the 49ers actually win and to do that, all he has to do is figure out a way to stop the best quarterback in the NFL: Patrick Mahomes.
And then even if he slows down Mahomes, he still has to draw up an offensive game plan that will allow his team to move the ball on the Chiefs’ defense, which has been one of the best in the NFL this year. Not only did the Chiefs rack up the second-most sacks in the league in 2023 (57), but it also gave up the fourth-fewest passing yards.
If the 49ers are going to win, they’re likely going to need a huge game from Christian McCaffrey. If the Chiefs defense has one weakness, it’s the ability to stop the run. Including the playoffs, the Chiefs went 7-6 this season in games where they surrendered 110 yards or more on the ground. When they held their opponent to under 110 yards, they went 7-0. The Chiefs are almost always going to shut down the pass and if they also shut down the run, they’re probably going to win.
The Chiefs defense will go into this game knowing it needs to do two things: Stop McCaffrey and force Brock Purdy to make mistakes.
Purdy had five games this year where he was sacked multiple times while also throwing at least one interception and the 49ers went 2-3 in those games, with all three losses coming to AFC teams (Browns, Ravens, Bengals). If the Chiefs can get pressure on Purdy and force him to make mistakes, they should be able to win.
The problem for the Chiefs is that if you’re going to put pressure on Purdy, you can’t do it by blitzing him or he’ll destroy you.
If the Chiefs can get pressure without blitzing or if they can confuse Purdy with exotic blitzes, the defense might be able to slow him down. And if anyone can come up with a defense to slow down Purdy, it’s Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnulo, who is having one hell of a postseason.
Despite going up against Lamar Jackson, Josh Allen and Tua Tagovailoa, the Chiefs have only surrendered 13.7 points per game this postseason, which ranks as the fourth-best showing in NFL playoff history. The 2000 Ravens are at the top of the list for fewest points allowed per game in the playoffs, but they had the luxury of facing quarterbacks like Gus Frerotte and Kerry Collins.
The Chiefs defense has been great this postseason because every game plan Spagnulo has come up with has been a work of art. Imagine if Da Vinci had three Mona Lisas, that’s what Spagnulo has done so far in the playoffs. Spagnulo confused Lamar Jackson in the AFC title game with 20 DIFFERENT blitzes, including 12 that came from defensive backs, and now, he gets to go up against a second-year QB in Purdy. As everyone knows, second-year quarterbacks are notoriously easy to confuse.
If Shanahan comes up with a game plan that can move the ball on the Chiefs defense, then the 49ers will certainly be in a good spot, but to win the game, they’ll still have to figure out a way to stop Mahomes, which, well, good luck with that. The 49ers defense forgot to show up for the first half of both playoff games this year and if that happens again, Mahomes might have this game out of reach by halftime.
The other thing about the 49ers defense is that they haven’t been able to stop the run in the playoffs. The 49ers only surrendered more than 130 yards rushing four times this year and two of those came in the postseason. If the Chiefs get their rushing attack going, it’s hard to imagine them losing. Including the playoffs, the Chiefs are 15-2 over the past two seasons in any game where they rush for at least 100 yards and Mahomes throws for at least 200 yards and I feel like we’re going to see both of those numbers get hit.
This Super Bowl is giving me a serious case of deja vu:
- We’re getting a rematch from four years ago
- We have the same referee as four years ago (Bill Vinovich)
- We have the same two head coaches, marking just the fourth time in NFL history that we’ve had a coaching rematch in the Super Bowl (The coach that lost the first game has never won the second game)
- And Brock Purdy has a career record of 21-5, which is the same exact career record that Jimmy Garoppolo had in 26 starts with the 49ers going into Super Bowl LIV with the Chiefs
Since history always tends to repeat itself, I’ve decided I can’t pick against history here. If the Chiefs win, though, let’s just hope that history doesn’t keep repeating itself, because the last time they beat the 49ers, we got a global pandemic one month later.
SUPER BOWL LVIII PICK: Chiefs 31-20 over 49ers
Record picking Chiefs games this season: 13-7 straight up, 12-8 against the spread
Record picking 49ers games this season: 12-7 straight up, 12-7 against the spread
Best pick/worst pick: For the first time, I am combining my “best pick” and “worst pick” sections and that’s because I DON’T KNOW WHAT ELSE TO DO. For the conference title games, I went 0-2 straight up, but 2-0 against the spread.
Yes, I went 0-2 with my picks, but I’m putting an asterisk next to that 0-2 because I would have gone 1-1 if anyone on earth besides Todd Monken was calling plays for the Ravens. During the regular season, the Ravens had the NUMBER ONE rushing attack in football, so Monken obviously did the smart thing and rode his rushing attack to a win over the Chiefs. Oh wait, no he didn’t. Instead, Monken came out with a “Let’s throw the ball on every play and never run it” game plan that I’m pretty sure he stole from Madden.
The Ravens running backs had SIX total carries in the game and three of them came in the first quarter. Gus Edwards had a 15-YARD RUN on his first carry of the game and then he only touched the ball two more times after that. Apparently, Monken is not impressed by 15 yard runs.
And now that I’m thinking about it, I’m putting an asterisk next to both my picks because the Lions also should have won. CAN SOMEONE PLEASE TELL DAN CAMPBELL TO KICK A FREAKING FIELD GOAL?!?!
Look, I totally understand Campbell’s logic on the first fourth down attempt: The Lions were up 24-10, it’s only fourth-and-2 and you made it this far by going for it all the time on fourth-and-short. I probably would have kicked the field goal to try and go up three scores, but I get Campbell’s decision.
On the second fourth down attempt, though: KICK THE FIELD GOAL. At that point, the Lions were down 27-24 and they had been outscored 20-0 in the second half. You have to stop the bleeding. Instead, Campbell decided not to stop the bleeding and the Lions ended up bleeding to death. Poor Lions.
The good new for Detroit is that the Lions will be back next year…
… or maybe they won’t. Looks like that was their only shot and they blew it. Sorry Lions fans.
Alright guys, I have some sad news. This was my final picks column of the season, which means I am now going to go into hibernation and do nothing for the next seven months. Just kidding, that’s not how things work. I’ll still be writing over the next seven months, but the picks won’t be returning until September. If you can’t wait that long, then I highly suggest you sign up for our NFL newsletter, which I’m in charge of. It’s basically the offseason version of this picks column except without the picks. It comes to your email box every weekday and you can sign up by clicking here (Just look for the Pick Six newsletter).
If you sign up, I’ll see you soon. If you don’t sign up, I’ll see you in September for the opener, but you should sign up.
Who wins Chiefs vs. 49ers in Super Bowl 2024, and which critical X-factor makes one side of the spread a must-back? Visit SportsLine now to see which side of the Chiefs vs. 49ers spread hits hard, all from the expert who is an amazing 22-5 on picks involving San Francisco, and find out.
Straight up in conference title games: 0-2
SU overall in playoffs: 5-7
Against the spread in conference title games: 2-0
ATS overall in playoffs: 8-4
Final 2023 regular season record
Against the spread: 137-125-10
You can find John Breech on Facebook or Twitter and if he’s not doing one of those things, he’s probably walking from Vegas all the way back to his house in Nashville because he gambled away his plane ticket in a game of Uno against some guy named Nick Papagiorgio.