Chiefs and 49ers heading to Vegas for Super Bowl LVIII


Just like that, the race for the 2024 Lombardi Trophy is down to two teams, with the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers winning Sunday to advance to Super Bowl LVIII, which will kick off Feb. 11 from Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas.

Now that the conference championships are officially in the books, with Patrick Mahomes and Co. gliding past Lamar Jackson and the No. 1-seeded Ravens, and the 49ers overcoming a 17-point deficit to bury the underdog Detroit Lions, it's time to look ahead to Super Bowl Sunday, a highly anticipated rematch of the 2023 season's opening matchup.

How they got here:

The Chiefs are making their fourth Super Bowl appearance in five years after outmuscling the No. 1-seed Ravens in Baltimore. For much of 2023, the perennial contenders struggled to field a dominant offense, with reigning MVP Patrick Mahomes matching a career high in turnovers while targeting a miscue-ridden receiving corps. Then Mahomes' longtime connection with star tight end Travis Kelce heated up down the stretch. Coupled with a physical run game and defense, including veteran playmakers Chris Jones and L'Jarius Sneed, Kansas City hit a new gear in the playoffs, reiterating itself as the modern-day Patriots -- always technically sound and never to be counted out when it matters most.

The 49ers are back in the Super Bowl for the second time in five years after overcoming a 17-point deficit to the underdog Lions in the NFC Championship. Hyped all year as a title contender after reaching three conference championships in coach Kyle Shanahan's last four seasons, San Francisco was a juggernaut in the regular season, going 12-5 while boasting two MVP candidates in young quarterback Brock Purdy and do-it-all running back Christian McCaffrey, as well as a top-ranked "D" featuring stalwarts like Fred Warner, Dre Greenlaw and Charvarius Ward. Despite barely surviving the upstart Packers to start their postseason, they showed lots of resilience by outlasting Detroit to earn a ticket to the big game.

Key storylines:

Can Mahomes keep chasing Brady? Now 14-3 as a playoff starter, the Chiefs signal-caller is already well on pace for a Hall of Fame induction, and a third Super Bowl title at age 28 would keep him on an unprecedented Brady pace on the big stage.

Is this the best Chiefs defense of the Mahomes-Reid era? That's partly a rhetorical question. Spagnuolo's unit has always been pressure-heavy, but it's been particularly stingy this year, including against "elite" playoff offenses.

Can Shanahan finally get over the hump? The 49ers coach faced the Chiefs in the Super Bowl to close the 2019 season but watched Andy Reid hoist the Lombardi. He's since advanced to three straight NFC title games, with no trophies to show for it. This could be his best shot at getting the job done, with an offense even more capable of operating a balanced attack.

Early prediction:

Across the board, the 49ers probably have a talent advantage, boasting Pro Bowl-caliber weapons at basically every position. And Purdy proved against Detroit he's capable of overcoming adversity. But just like last year, when the Eagles' all-star lineup couldn't necessarily match the clutch gravitas of the Chiefs, it's tough to bet against Mahomes when it matters most. This one will be must-see TV, but my early forecast is a slight Kansas City victory. Call it 27-24 Chiefs.

Dan Butcher

Dan Butcher (aka HP Pundit) is not a Democrat or Republican. He is a free thinking independent bringing you news and commentary with a dose of much needed common sense.

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