super bowl
  • Super Bowl LIV in Miami: Monday 3rd February 2020
  • Kick-off 10:30am Vic / NSW / ACT / Tas, 9:30am Qld, 10am SA, 9am NT, 7:30am Perth
  • Full Super Bowl preview with NFL pro punter Scott Kellen

Super Bowl Preview: Conference Championship Games

The Niners made easy work of Green Bay for the second time this year with their 37-20 victory. They rushed for 285 yards on 6.8 yards-per-rush, but threw for just 77 yards on nine pass attempts including sacks. San Francisco was successful on 61% of their plays and Green Bay was successful on 52% of their plays.

The Chiefs fell behind again against the Titans. This time it was 10-0 instead of 24-0, but they then outscored Tennessee 35-14 for the remainder on their way to a 35-24 victory. Kansas City was successful on 60% of their plays to 52% for Tennessee.

Super Bowl Preview: Offensive and Defensive Success

This season San Francisco was successful on 47% of their plays on offense and allowed a 43% success rate on defense. Those numbers get much better when they were healthy on both sides of the ball. The Niners were +7 in turnover margin for the year.

With Mahomes starting, Kansas City was successful on 50% of their plays this season and allowed a 48% success rate. Again, those numbers are much better when they are healthy on both sides of the line as well. The Chiefs were +10 in turnover margin with Mahomes starting.

Super Bowl Preview: Qualifying Situations

As part of his analysis of the form, Scott constructs different ‘situations’ using his statistical data, which helps him to explain trends in the game. Upcoming games then may qualify for these ‘situations’, which when combined can assist to forecast performance.

This game qualifies in an Over situation, which are running 32-14 to date. Kansas City also qualifies in a Negative Let Down situation, which is 48-25-1 and plays against Kansas City coming off their high scoring performances the last few weeks.

When I adjust for all the injuries on both sides for both teams I get San Francisco by 0.6 points and project 53.6 points.

Super Bowl Preview: Stats & Game Styles

San Francisco ran the ball on 52% of their plays this year but a lot of that heavy running came because they were dominating the game. I think it’s fair to assume they won’t dominate this game against a good Kansas City team and so it should be a very competitive game.

In games that were decided by four points or less (also counting the Atlanta and Arizona games where last second scores made the final score more than three points), San Francisco passed the ball 58% of the time. They were behind in some of those games and although I think they will win this game, they also stand a very good chance of being behind at some point to a very good Kansas City team.

I don’t think San Francisco will come into this game thinking they will win this game scoring just 20 points. They know they will need to score at least 27 points to likely win this game.

The 49ers scored about 38% of their potential points this year (assuming each drive is worth seven points – ignoring the two-point conversion). When Kansas City played teams that scored at least 33% of their points they allowed 35 and 24 to Tennessee, 31 twice to Houston, 28 to Baltimore, 31 to Green Bay and 23 to Minnesota. In other words, they allowed about 29 points per game to those teams.

Kansas City allowed teams to score about 28% of their potential points (league average is about 30%). When San Francisco played teams in that neighborhood between 26-30%, they scored 20 and 34 against the Rams, 24 and 26 against Seattle, 37 twice against GB, 17 against Baltimore (weather impacted), 48 against NO and 27 against Minnesota. That averages out to about 30 points.

So Kansas City allowed about 29 points to teams with profiles of San Francisco and San Francisco scored about 30 points against teams with profiles like Kansas City.

Kansas City scored about 45% of their potential points. When San Francisco played those types of offense (over 40%), they allowed Baltimore 20 points (weather impacted game) and 46 to NO. Small sample size of just two games, which averages out to 33 points – but the sample size is too small.

The 49ers only allowed teams to score about 23-24% of their potential points. Against teams close to that profile Kansas City scored 26 against Chicago, 30 and 23 against Denver (weather and Mahomes injury impacted those games), 26 versus Minnesota and 23 versus NE. That averages out to about 26 points.

This is a pretty simplistic way to look at the game, but it gives me a final score around 29.5 to 29.5.

A more sophisticated model which considers the injuries on both sides of the ball, their opponents, and ignores defensive scores, gives me San Francisco 27.1-26.5. The oddsmakers have done a good job of making this line about right. If I address for the situation going against Kansas City and the situation pointing to the over, I would get this closer to about 28-25 in favor of San Francisco.

Super Bowl Preview: Summary

Another way to state all of this is against the best defenses they faced this year, Kansas City didn’t score more than 26 points. They did score 30 against Denver, but there was a defensive score in that game – although Mahomes did miss the second half. Going back to last year, for the most part they didn’t score more than 30 against the best defenses they faced.

On top of that I always prefer the better defense to the better offense. When I take into account injuries, the numbers show San Francisco averaged 30 points a game this year against teams allowing 24 points a game. The significant difference is on defense where, when healthy, they allowed just 13 points per game against teams averaging 22 points per game.

Kansas City, after adjusting for injuries, score 33 points per game against teams allowing 21 points per game and allow 19 points per game against teams averaging 21 points per game.

My numbers basically show both teams have above average offenses and defenses with the Kansas City offense about twice as good as the San Francisco offense, but the San Francisco defense at least twice as good as the Kansas City defense.

The better defense – and it is a very good defense – beats the better offense.

Head-to-head verdict: San Francisco

Super Bowl Free Tips

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These tips come from the pro analysts behind our NFL packages: Scott Kellen from NFL Tips and Brett from NFL Prime Time.

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