Sunday’s Super Bowl promises to unfold offering fans the anticipation of witnessing one of two storylines come to life on the grand stage of sports entertainment.
The first scenario includes Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes winning his third ring and cementing his “GOAT” trajectory with as many Super Bowl wins as Tom Brady had through the same amount of seasons.
The second, America’s most loved and hated power couple Travis Kelce and Taylor Swift embracing each other as the figures at the top of two influential fields.
On the other hand, football fans could see the last pick in the 2022 NFL draft, or “Mr. Irrelevant” Brock Purdy, quarterback the San Francisco 49ers to their first Super Bowl win since 1994.
Purdy will become the first “Mr. Irrelevant” to start at quarterback in the Super Bowl and the lowest-paid starting Super Bowl quarterback of the century just by playing Sunday. Winning for him would be the ultimate Cinderella story.
Which of these storylines will play out on Sunday? The Hilltop staff from Howard University has their thoughts and predictions:
Kyle Fisher, junior strategic communications major, criminology minor from Atlanta, Georgia:
The NFL Honors took place last night and the MVP voting made a clear statement — quarterback is the most valuable position in football. In a season with relatively underwhelming quarterback play across the league and historic seasons from some of the league’s top skill position players, quarterbacks still received all 50 MVP votes.
In the Super Bowl matchup between the league’s best quarterback in Mahomes, and a former last pick in the NFL draft who has not shed the mold of a game manager, the Mahomes-led Chiefs will come out on top.
Kansas City’s defense has been lights out in this playoff run, while the 49ers barely survived a lackadaisical first half against the Lions. The Niners haven’t shown capable of putting together two complete halves of execution, and they will not be able to survive the Chiefs without 60 minutes of A+ football.
The Chiefs will jump out to an early lead and Purdy will fail to carry the team to a second-half comeback.
Fisher’s Prediction: Chiefs 27 vs. 49ers 20
Jayden Armant, senior journalism major, business administration minor from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania:
Normally, I would go with the San Francisco 49ers due to their vaunted defense and solid offensive weapons. However, one thing I’ve learned throughout this postseason is not to underestimate Mahomes and the Chiefs. Admittedly, I pondered if they would even make it past Miami. And now, they’re in the Super Bowl. So I’m done doubting the new-age New England Patriots.
I still believe the 49ers’ pass rush will get to Kansas City, but the Chiefs’ defense will reciprocate and adjust. At that point, it becomes a matter of which quarterback will rise to the occasion. Not to doubt Purdy, but if it comes to that situation, I’ll lean toward the man who’s been here four times before. If McCaffrey is a non-factor, it’s going to be a long day for San Francisco.
Armant’s Prediction: Chiefs 23 vs. 49ers 20
Badi Cross, senior journalism major, Spanish minor from Portland, Oregon:
The Chiefs are always a tough out in the playoffs. They’ve only lost three times since Mahomes took over: Once in 2018 to Brady’s Patriots in the AFC Championship, once in 2020 to Brady’s Buccaneers in the Super Bowl, and once in 2021 to Joe Burrow’s Bengals.
They have a combined record of 14-3 since 2018 and two Super Bowl victories to their names. They’ve been here before and they’ll probably be here again. This year, however, has felt a bit different. The offense hasn’t flowed the same, the defense has never been amazing, and they lost three games in December. The poor form is the reason why I’m picking their opponent, the San Francisco 49ers to finally get their “lick back” from their loss at the hands of the Chiefs from three years ago. If the 49ers offense continues its dominance, it’s possible that they could win in a shootout with the Chiefs.
Cross’ Prediction: 49ers 38 vs. Chiefs 31
Kyle Alexander, junior journalism major, sports administration minor from Baltimore, MD:
The Chiefs have shown time in and time out that as long as they have Mahomes, they will continue to be great. In his playoff career, Mahomes has mirrored an MVP-caliber season as he’s thrown for 4,802 yards, 39 touchdowns, and 7 interceptions with a 14-3 record. With their fourth Super Bowl appearance in five years, the Chiefs are in the best position to easily become the next empire of the NFL. Although everything seems right for them, this will be a difficult task.
The Chiefs have shown holes in their armor that teams can exploit. Their once highly vaunted offense has not been the same since trading star wide receiver Tyreek Hill to the Miami Dolphins two years ago and offensive coordinator Eric Bienemy last season. They have a powerful runner in Isaiah Pacheco who was key to them winning last year, but the passing game has downgraded from before and Mahomes has been having to do short passes to go downfield more methodically instead of hitting the big plays. This was sadly evident in the AFC Championship game against the Baltimore Ravens. The Chiefs got out to a 17-7 lead before halftime and were completely shut out in the second half. Their defense was the key as they contained MVP Lamar Jackson and the Ravens offense to 10 points.
The 49ers can exploit this game plan defensively as they have the best defensive line unit and the best linebacker in the game. They have the defense to match up with their offense as well as an upgrade at quarterback from 2019. Purdy has been a breath of fresh air for the 49ers as he’s been able to do what their former signal caller, Jimmy Garoppolo, couldn’t. Purdy can move around in the pocket, nail his deep throws, and improvise on broken plays. The 49ers also have a powerful offense in which they have multiple players who can do damage to defenses after the catch.
This game comes down to the trenches as the Chiefs will most likely be without star offensive guard Joe Thuney. I believe the 49ers have the best defensive line to get pressure on Mahomes and contain the run game, but this will also come down to which defense holds more as both teams have ferocious defenses. I think the 49ers will be fueled by revenge and take back the chip that was within their grasp in 2019.
Alexander’s prediction: 49ers 24 vs. Chiefs 20
Branson Brooks, senior journalism major, sports administration minor from Jacksonville, Florida
When it comes down to this year’s Super Bowl the safe pick would be the San Francisco 49ers due to the overall talent they possess on their roster with the likes of Deebo Samuel and McCaffrey to name a few. With Kyle Shanhan controlling their offensive scheme as well, making it easier for 49ers quarterback Purdy to be successful, it only adds to their chances to leave the Super Bowl as champions.
However, every time you go against Mahomes and the Chiefs, it seems to backfire. In a Super Bowl game with his third ring on the line, it’s hard to imagine Mahomes coughing it up. The world is used to Mahomes making those spectacular plays to Kelce and others to get the Chiefs out on top. That’s why the 49ers need to put forward their best game plan with as minimal mistakes as possible. If the chiefs get a chance they have shown in the past they will capitalize.
Branson’s prediction: Chiefs 23 vs. 49ers 19
Armani Durham, sophomore journalism major, sports administration minor from Sacramento, California:
The last time the Chiefs and the 49ers saw each other in the Super Bowl, the Chiefs completely dominated the 49ers with the final score being 44-23. Mahomes’ decision-making skills on offense combined with the abilities of Juju Smith-Schuster is what led to their victory in that game. Mahomes is already outstanding but add Kelce is in the mix? They’re almost unstoppable.
In that Super Bowl, Mahones was going against Garoppolo, Jeff Wilson Jr., and George Kittle. For this Super Bowl, he will now be up against Purdy, McCaffrey, and Brandon Aiyuk. Statistically the 49ers average more than the Chiefs in pass yards, rush yards, and rec. yards. Even though Purdy doesn’t have as much experience as Mahomes, he is excelling as a quarterback.
I’m conflicted because the 49ers statistically are better but Mahomes has been to the Super Bowl and knows what it takes to win. His experience over Purdy is a huge advantage. On the other hand, Purdy is new to the league but has shown that his natural abilities overpower his lack of experience. They’re both good teams and I think it’ll be a close game. Ultimately, I think natural ability will outweigh experience, leaving the 49ers victorious.
Durham’s prediction: Chiefs 27 vs. 49ers 30
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