(Ha-tien Nguyen/Podcast Editor)

In a rematch of the 2020 Super Bowl, the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers will face off at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas on Feb. 11. Whether the Chiefs will emerge victorious again, or the 49ers can stop history from repeating itself, the Wheel staff have placed their bets.

Kansas City Chiefs

Madeline Shapiro, Sports Editor

I made the mistake of rooting against the Chiefs last year, but I will not make the same mistake. There’s almost an air of inevitability with the Chiefs — even though the team did not have the strongest regular season, they beat the Baltimore Ravens, a team that was predicted to make it to the Super Bowl, in the AFC Championship Game.

I don’t necessarily want the Chiefs to win though — I’d prefer different teams getting a shot at making the Super Bowl each year. However, I am a Manchester City F.C. fan, so I should not be so hypocritical. The Chiefs have the winning experience, Patrick Mahomes and all of Taylor Swift’s adoring fans behind them. I’ll be surprised if the team does not take home its third Super Bowl in five years.

Spencer Friedland, News Editor

The NFL is a quarterback-driven league. Instead of hoping that the 49ers will contain the most talented quarterback of all-time, Mahomes, the obvious choice is to take the Chiefs. While the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had stopped Mahomes before, that was the Chiefs with an extremely weak offensive line and swiss-cheese-like defense. While missing offensive guard Joe Thuney will definitely hurt the Chiefs’ chances of winning, the way their defense has been playing during the playoff stretch is nothing short of magical, such as Steve Spagnuolo’s defensive unit holding their three playoff opponents to just 41 points.

I think the match will be close heading into the fourth quarter, but Mahomes and the Chiefs’ offense will put the game out of reach toward the middle of the quarter, aided by some costly mistakes from former “Mr. Irrelevant,” Brock Purdy.

KC 28 – SF 17

Evan Malinow, Contributing Writer

Writing this statement brings me great pain, as my dreams were shattered on Jan. 28: Mahomes and the Chiefs stunned my Baltimore Ravens and 2023 MVP quarterback Lamar Jackson. I could write a 10-page essay on the game that would consist of my personal bias and saltiness, but I’ll summarize it into three statements: The Ravens are still the best team in the NFL, the referees were paid off and the NFL is scripted.

I don’t truly believe those statements, but I find it harder to believe that the Chiefs have somehow flipped a switch after being rated the ninth best offense in the NFL throughout the regular season. Likewise, Mahomes had his worst season, throwing 27 touchdowns to 14 interceptions. To put that into perspective, Houston Texans rookie quarterback CJ Stroud had 23 touchdowns to five interceptions. Nonetheless, the Chiefs had truly turned it around in the playoffs, with their defense as their most vital asset. As a result, I believe they will win the Super Bowl.

On the other side, second-year quarterback Purdy leads the 49ers. Taken last in the 2022 NFL Draft, he has been the ultimate underdog. However, Purdy has shown that he can be the game manager that allows this 49ers offense to be threatening. Moreover, the 49ers are loaded on paper, with offensive tackle Trent Williams, running back Christian McCaffrey and linebacker Fred Warner, who are all commonly regarded as the best players at their respective positions. The 49ers should be the best team in the league, yet the Ravens blew them out convincingly on Christmas night. This game exposed the blueprint to beat the 49ers, and if anyone can learn from and implement that blueprint, the Chiefs’ head coach Andy Reid, who is commonly known as the NFL’s best coach, is the one.

I predict that the Chiefs beat the 49ers 28-24, and the Chiefs’ defensive line sacks Purdy multiple times. Look out for many Swift sightings, and it’s only fitting that ordinary NFL fans will credit Mahomes for the win rather than an outstanding performance by the Chiefs’ defense and their key running back Isiah Pacheco. If you don’t believe me, watch it play out on Sunday at 6:30 p.m.

Will Peck, Assistant Sports Editor

When the 49ers won their last Super Bowl in the 1994 season, eventual Hall-of-Famer Steve Young, who was in his second MVP season, led the team. While Young had certainly established himself as one of the premier players in the NFL by that point, he still faced doubters who pointed out his inability to win in big games and claimed he was living in the shadow of his predecessor, four-time champion Joe Montana. This bears striking resemblance to this year’s 49ers team. All season long, Purdy has been trying to shake the “system quarterback” label and escape the long shadow cast by his own legendary predecessor, Jimmy Garoppolo. Those who believe that history is cyclical should certainly pick the 49ers.

Despite this compelling history lesson, I am not moved by Purdy and still believe he is a product of his system. In fact, I believe 62-year-old Young could have gone out there this season with the 49ers current blockers on the offensive line, McCaffrey, wide receivers Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk and tight end George Kittle and had similar success. Not only that, betting against Mahomes, Reid and Travis Kelce in a game where the lights shine brightest would be silly. The Chiefs’ defense is excellent, too. This game will end with a Chiefs Super Bowl victory, a result we are beginning to know “All Too Well (10 Minute Version) (Taylor’s Version) (From The Vault)” (2021).

KC 28 – SF 20

Samir Ajy, Staff Writer

Outside of their three-game losing streak midseason, in which the 49ers lost Williams for the season and star safety Talanoa Hufanga to an ACL tear, this has been arguably the best team in the NFL this season. The 49ers are loaded with talent on both sides of the ball and have a league-high nine Pro-Bowlers. They finished 14-3 as the top seed in the National Football Conference and survived scares from both the Green Bay Packers and the Detroit Lions to make it to their fourth Super Bowl in five years.

The 49ers will face a familiar foe in the Chiefs, setting the stage for a Super Bowl LIV rematch. The 49ers held a 20-10 lead over the Chiefs until a 44-yard pass from Mahomes to wide receiver Tyreek Hill shifted the momentum of the 2020 Super Bowl. The Chiefs went on to win that game 31-20, their first Super Bowl since 1969. They won their second Super Bowl of the Mahomes/Reid era last year in another thriller against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Without a doubt, the best supporting cast in the NFL — featuring the MVP runner-up McCaffrey, Pro-Bowlers Samuel and Kittle, Aiyuk and a strong offensive line led by future Hall-of-Famer Williams — surrounds Purdy. Defensively, Warner, who is the best linebacker in the league, and the reigning Defensive Player of the Year in lineman Nick Bosa lead the 49ers.

The Chiefs had a much different path to the Super Bowl. Without a doubt, this is the worst team of the Mahomes/Reid era, despite the strong defense this season. The Chiefs’ offensive struggles have been due in large part to the underperformance of the team’s receiving core. Despite the strong play of rookie Rashee Rice down the stretch, the Chiefs led the league with 44 drops this season, some of which cost them winnable games against the Eagles and the Lions.

A Chiefs win will depend on whether or not their defensive line, led by defensive tackle Chris Jones and defensive end George Karlaftis, are able to pressure Purdy and make him uncomfortable. For the 49ers, it will be up to head coach Kyle Shanahan and their offensive coaching staff to take the pressure off Purdy and put the game in the hands of their playmakers, as they did in their comeback victory against the Packers. Defensively, as tall of a task it is, the 49ers must find a way to limit Kelce. Aside from Rashee Rice, though, the outside of the Chiefs do not have an intriguing threat.

Like the 2020 matchup, I am expecting a close game with low scores and great defense, ending with the Chiefs winning and cementing themselves as the league’s next dynasty.

KC 20 – SF 17

Jenna Daly, Managing Sports Editor

Quite honestly, I felt conflicted writing this prediction: Who I want to win and who I think will win are different answers, unfortunately. In the grand scheme of things, I am highly indifferent about who wins, but I do love a good underdog story. If “Mr. Irrelevant” could win the 49ers’ first Super Bowl in 28 years, that would be an amazing player arc for Purdy.

The 49ers shouldn’t be counted out, and to expect a blowout for the team would be unfair. Offensively, the team can rely on their skill players like McCaffrey and Kittle to make an impact. Their biggest strength, however, is their linebacker pairing of Warner and Dre Greenlaw, who can hopefully shut down Kelce. Off the field, the 49ers have won me over with their social media videos highlighting Bosa Book Club and cornerback Charvarius Ward’s top five books. Bosa gained my respect when he recommended “The Silent Patient” (2019), and even though I’m a Colleen Hoover-hater, Ward proudly pulled a stack of new books out of his locker pleasantly surprised me.

Sadly, I can’t confidently look past the Chiefs’ recent domination. Between Mahomes’ near-perfect game play and Kelce and Rashee Rice practically dancing around opponents, the Chiefs will be extremely difficult to beat. Mahomes has only been sacked twice in 114 dropbacks and hasn’t had any turnover-worthy plays since week 16. With Kelce breaking Jerry Rice’s all-time record of postseason catches, it’s fairly safe to say we’re watching a Hall-of-Fame worthy career in action is fairly safe. Plus, the Chiefs have made three Super Bowl appearances in the last four years and brought home rings from two of them. They can lean on this experience, including a win over the 49ers, to guide them even if the game starts to slide out of their control.

Maybe we’ll see some disruption to the Chiefs’ success next year, but in the meantime, we should prepare ourselves for another few months of seeing commercial after commercial featuring Mahomes and his Kermit the Frog voice.

San Francisco 49ers

Clement Lee, Sports Editor

I predicted the Eagles would win the Super Bowl against the Chiefs last year, but that did not happen thanks to a questionable call in the final minutes of the fourth quarter. Nevertheless, if the Chiefs win Sunday’s matchup, it will be, in my opinion, the end of the NFL and professional sports as we know it.

You may call me a sore loser, but officiating in professional sports leagues lately has been absolutely shameful — especially in the NFL. I can name numerous times this year when I looked at the computer screen and yelled, “What are you doing?!” Take a look at this headline: “Swift has generated an equivalent brand value of $331.5 million for the Kansas City Chiefs and the NFL.” How convenient would it be if the Chiefs pull off a big win with Kelce racking up 145 catching yards? Would the NFL care more about generating cash flow — looking at you, Peacock — instead of providing quality entertainment to its fans not be a coincidence? These were some of my thoughts as I watched the Ravens face the Chiefs and the Lions face the 49ers. What was predicted to be “America’s matchup” of the Lions against the Ravens turned out to be, “Oh, I don’t think I’ll watch the Super Bowl this year.” This trend in professional sports greatly worries me.

The demagogue 49ers must use their offensive might to defeat these forces of old and evil, but I have the utmost confidence they will. With a stacked offense composed of Samuel, Kittle, McCaffery and Purdy, they will be able to generate the points and yards needed to go toe-to-toe with the Chiefs — and the referees. We have already seen the 49ers step up to the challenge against the Lions when they completed a spectacular comeback to ultimately win the game.

This is going to be a meeting of minds. This is going to be a battle fought in the trenches. Hopefully the referees do not screw this one up as they have done countless times this season.

SF 27- KC 23

SB MVP – Christian McCaffery

Sasha Melamud, Staff Writer

I do not consider myself a football fan, but as a Florida native, you have to know about football — Go Gators! Anyway, my football fanning briefly extended from collegiate to national leagues when the Buccaneers won the Super Bowl in 2021. With my seasoned expertise, turning to math to determine who will emerge champion of Super Bowl LVIII only makes sense. The Chiefs don’t have a number in their title, so I will be using Mahomes’ jersey number for my statistical brilliance. It’s been four years since the teams last met in the Super Bowl, and 58 minus four is 54. Mahomes dons number 15, and 54 minus 15 is 39. Who cares about the number 39? Mathematicians will say it’s a perfect totient number, a sum of five consecutive prime numbers. However, 54 minus 49 is eight — Ate. Need I say any more?

The 49ers are coming to the Super Bowl hungry and will be eating a bowl filled with Kansas City cheerios. If they win, someone owes me five bucks and a reporting job with the NFL — I’m coming for you, Jesse Palmer.

Claire Fenton, Managing Multimedia Editor

Let’s be honest: This is not the Super Bowl any of us wanted. In an ideal world, I’d be watching the Lions and the Ravens face off, but unfortunately, I’ve been dealt a different hand. I feel a strange antipathy toward this entire game, from the location (stop trying to make Las Vegas a thing) to the halftime show (only a Justin Bieber cameo can redeem Usher’s performance) to the actual matchup (too much red for my liking). My lack of emotional attachment to the on-field antics makes watching the game easier but pinning down a reliable prediction much harder.

As far as I’m concerned, the Chiefs have become the new New England Patriots because the entire football fandom has united to prey on their downfall. Hatred, however, did not fuel my pick. At the end of the day, I love a good underdog story, so I’m backing the 49ers to bring their sixth title home to the Bay Area. Plus, sports analysts don’t seem to rest easy unless they devote precious airtime to bashing Purdy — no sweeter revenge for Purdy than hoisting Vince Lombardi this Sunday.

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