Pretty much the last common thing that all of America does together is watch the Super Bowl. That alone makes it an immensely important event.
Objectively speaking, the Super Bowl is the championship professional football game, accompanied by unique advertising, celebrity participation, and A-list production. For better and worse, the Super Bowl also reflects our culture like a funhouse mirror. If you believe something about America, you’ll probably see it on display within the four-hour-plus pageant that unfolds this Sunday.
Below I’ll provide a preview of the big game, the teams playing, and some of the aforementioned pageantry! All times below are in God’s Time Zone (CST).
WHEN: This Sunday at 5:30pm
WHERE: Miami, FL
NATIONAL ANTHEM: Demi Lovato
HALFTIME SHOW: Shakira and Jennifer Lopez (for some reason)
- Planters was going to run one involving the death of mascot Mr. Peanut in a fiery car crash, but scrapped the ad after Kobe Bryant died in another fiery vehicle crash. Or maybe they didn’t. Not sure.
- Sabra is running an ad with drag queens. Yay for intentionally provoked controversy to sell hummus, I guess.
- The NFL’s spot is about police shootings. Yes, these shootings are very sad. No, I don’t know what this has to do with football.
- Walmart’s ad has a shout-out to the upcoming long-awaited sequel Bill & Ted 3. Excellent! *air guitars furiously*
- Likely movie previews are mostly being kept quiet. Expect Fast and Furious 9, Minions: The Rise of Gru, and Black Widow to show up at the very least. Other possibilities are here.
- Every other commercial released so far is here.
- Both Mike Bloomberg and President Donald Trump will air campaign ads. Speaking of the President . . .
THE PREGAME INTERVIEW
- Sean Hannity will interview President Trump prior to the Super Bowl on FOX at 2:30pm.
THE OTHER FUN THING GOING ON
- The Puppy Bowl begins airing on Animal Planet at 2:00pm. It involves a bunch of adoptable puppies playing around for a few hours with a kitten halftime show in the middle. If that sentence just made you let out an involuntary “DAWWWWW,” you should probably watch it.
On to the actual teams playing actual football!
SAN FRANCISCO 49ers
The Niners got here by obliterating the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship. Soon afterward, Packers QB Aaron Rodgers let everyone know that he’d lost his faith in God. Are these two things related? I’ll let you decide. (But the answer’s yes.)
San Fran’s D boasts a terrifying pass rush led by rookie sensation Nick Bosa, who delights in making experienced starting tackles look like clowns. The Niners have the best front four in football and it is not remotely close. They pair this overwhelming pressure with a lot of zone coverage. Savvy veteran Richard Sherman operates as their shutdown corner, but that unit doesn’t usually need to be stellar due to their defensive line’s near-unmatched ability to give opposing QBs waking nightmares.
The offense is a similar story, with a dominant offensive line that opens sizable holes for an underrated stable of RBs. This means QB Jimmy Garoppolo rarely has to do anything special, and all year, he really hasn’t. He’s just been acceptably effective. When he does throw longer balls, he often targets WRs Emmanuel Sanders and Deebo Samuel.
Their key to victory: Control the line of scrimmage. Not just in terms of run yardage. They must pressure the QB on defense and keep Garoppolo clean on offense.
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
Last week the Chiefs squeezed out an AFC Championship win over this year’s Cinderella story, the Tennessee Titans. They did so in a solid, whole-team effort that really looked promising.
All year, their defense has tended to spot opposing teams a small lead. When they’ve had success, they’ve pressured the QB and just hung in there in run defense, allowing their linebackers to read the opposing QB’s eyes. Safety Tyrann Mathieu, the Honey Badger, is a diverse talent. He can run the safety blitz just as easily as he can cover the pass. If the Chiefs have any sense, they will move him all over the field to unbalance San Francisco’s scheming.
The Chiefs’ offense is the real story, though. Andy Reid has developed a highly creative and innovative system revolving around Patrick Mahomes, a budding superstar. The game plan frequently focuses on strengthening the QB’s ability to make plays. But the Chiefs also quietly call a lot of straight-up run plays, making LeSean McCoy a key cog.
To win, the Chiefs need to unleash Mahomes. Every single decision they make should revolve around him. Expect lots of poking at the soft spots in the Niners’ zone D.
This is an exceptionally hard call to make. I’m reminded of my unwritten rule that the team with the best line play usually wins. That would favor San Fran. But the Chiefs are slightly better at winning the turnover battle.
The Chiefs don’t have a glaring weakness, but the Niners do. Jimmy Garoppolo is not on Patrick Mahomes’s playmaking level, and if KC can force Garoppolo to make passing decisions, I expect they can take advantage. The Niners’ hope rests on making this game ugly by beating up Mahomes before he can throw and out-bodying the Chiefs on offense.
Ultimately, I think it’s likely the Chiefs figure out the defensive missteps that led to their struggles early against the Titans. And frankly, given how they bottled up Derrick Henry last week, they may be better against the run than expected.
It all boils down to Patrick Mahomes. If the Chiefs center their gameplan around him, he should reward them with the Lombardi.
Chiefs 31, Niners 27