The NFL has taken over Las Vegas as we count down to the league’s championship game on Sunday with the Kansas City Chiefs taking on the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl LVIII.
Our live Sky Sports coverage begins at 10pm on Sunday with the big game – which is tabbed to be the most expensive in NFL history – kicking off at 11.30pm.
Ahead of this huge Vegas showdown, I have a few questions that will get answered on Sunday night.
Will Patrick Mahomes secure a legacy-cementing victory?
Kansas City’s superstar quarterback is already making history heading towards Sunday as he is going to become the first NFL passer to start in four Super Bowls before the age of 30. And he’s doing it with time to spare at the age of 28. Mahomes has two Super Bowl wins. If he can end what has been a sometimes-tumultuous season with a third lifting of the Vince Lombardi Trophy, he will begin to enter career-defining rarefied air.
He can become just the fifth quarterback to win at least three Super Bowls, joining Tom Brady (7), Joe Montana (4), Terry Bradshaw (4) and Troy Aikman (3). You should never write off Mahomes and the Chiefs, even though they have been held to 20 points or fewer in 10 of their 20 games this season. Kansas City have found different ways to win, leaning on a stout and aggressive defense – and Mahomes always delivers just enough magic when required.
Can Kyle Shanahan win the big one?
San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan is widely regarded as one of the most innovative and talented play-callers in the NFL. It feels like every NFL team is trying to find the new Kyle Shanahan when they conduct their coaching searches. But Shanahan might be the most under-pressure man inside Allegiant Stadium on Sunday. He has the most talented roster in the NFL and the 49ers have been knocking on the door for the past four years. But they have nothing to show for their efforts. In Super Bowl LIV that was played in Miami four years ago, San Francisco led 20-10 with seven minutes remaining and had a win probability of 92 per cent.
Kansas City scored three rapid-fire touchdowns in the space of five minutes and won 31-20. Go back further and Shanahan felt more heat in a famous Super Bowl meltdown. In Super Bowl LI at the end of the 2016 season, Shanahan was offensive coordinator of an Atlanta Falcons team that led the New England Patriots 28-3 and had a second-half win probability of 99 per cent. The Tom Brady-led Patriots won 34-28 in overtime and Shanahan’s late-game play-calling was questioned. He will be feeling a fierce desire to deliver on Super Bowl Sunday.
How many times will we see shots of Taylor Swift?
Rather than swim against the waves crashing onto the NFL shore, I’m going with the flow and recognising that the league’s newest fan is bringing in a great many new supporters and followers of American football. Taylor Swift is expected to jet from Japan to Vegas, arriving the day before the big game. That should only add to the craziness in this always-crazy city.
She will be cheering on her boyfriend, Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce. He is going to have a major role to play if Kansas City are to win the Super Bowl for the fourth time and on the third occasion with Mahomes and Kelce teaming up through the air. After a so-so regular season, the 34-year-old Kelce has come alive in the playoffs, catching 23 passes for 262 yards and three touchdowns. I would back Kelce to become the fourth player to score a receiving touchdown in three different Super Bowls, joining legends in Jerry Rice, Lynn Swann and Rob Gronkowski.
Will the baby-faced assassin deliver?
In just his second NFL season – and his first as the full-time starter – Brock Purdy has guided the 49ers to the Super Bowl. And the 24-year-old will become the third-youngest quarterback to start in a Super Bowl. We may need to check his passport because Purdy looks about 16! But he plays the game with a cold-blooded efficiency and has not only been the highest quarterback in the NFL this season, the young man chosen with the last pick in the 2022 NFL Draft has been the best over the past two years.
Mr Irrelevant is anything but and time and again last night his team-mates told me that Purdy is “built for this”. If Purdy can have a big game against Kansas City’s second-ranked defense, it’s going to bode very well indeed for San Francisco’s championship chances. And that would be an even bigger story than Mahomes’ legacy and Taylor’s air miles, especially when you consider that Mahomes earns more in a week than Purdy makes in an entire season!
Which defense will come out on top?
The 49ers have traditionally boasted one of the league’s top defenses and they do rank third in the NFL in allowing just 17.5 points per game. They are very strong against the pass but some chinks have emerged in their run defense armour and that could play into the hands of Isiah Pacheco, of the Chiefs. Kansas City rank second in the NFL in yards per game (290), points per game (17.3) and sacks (57).
They have shown a real penchant for taking over games, especially in the playoff wins over Miami and Baltimore. Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo is known for his aggression and bold blitzing, which is going to put Purdy firmly in the spotlight. The Chiefs have not allowed an opponent to score more than 27 points in a game this season and the youngest defense in the league could be the deciding factor in this title showdown.
Who will have homefield advantage?
The fans who find themselves inside the stadium nicknamed ‘The Death Star’ will have earned the right to cheer until they are hoarse. This will be the most expensive Super Bowl ticket in history. The lowest price to get into the stadium as it stands right now is $8,000. And the average ticket price is now north of $10,000. For one of the best seats in the house? You’re looking at spending more than $44,000.
If the Opening Night is anything to go by, the 49ers will find themselves with a homefield advantage of sorts as they go searching for a first Super Bowl win since the 1994 season. It’s a relatively-short 415-mile trip from San Francisco to Las Vegas, whereas Chiefs fans are needing to travel more than 1,100 miles. The crowd noise could be a factor on Sunday and that should give an ever-so-slight edge to the Chiefs.
Who will win?
The 49ers have the best roster in the NFL and it has been the case for a few years now. They led the league with nine Pro Bowl all-star selections and had an incredible 12 different players voted as alternates for that game. That’s incredible when you think that there are only 22 players on offense and defense who can start a game. The Niners also have seven All-Pro selections – which means the best of the best – four players who went over 1,000 scrimmage yards in the season, the NFL’s leading rusher in Christian McCaffrey and the highest-rated quarterback in Purdy.
But the Chiefs have Patrick Mahomes and that is a great leveller. Mahomes will be ably supported by the great Andy Reid as he becomes just the fourth man to serve as a head coach in five Super Bowls, joining Bill Belichick, Don Shula and Tom Landry. Mahomes also has a confident defense and I think that helps the Chiefs record a narrow 20-17 victory.
What do I need to know about Super Bowl LVIII?
Kick-off in the big game is at 11.30pm UK time live on Sky Sports NFL.
Watch all the best build-up coverage from 10pm, with Neil Reynolds and Phoebe Schecter joined in Las Vegas by former NFL quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and Miami Dolphins defensive lineman Christian Wilkins.
For subscribers, watch live on Sky Sports NFL on your TV or mobile device via the Sky Sports app or Sky Go, while non-subscribers can buy a NOW Sports Day Membership to stream the big game without a contract on a multitude of different devices.
On the Sky Sports NFL website and app we will keep you updated on all things Super Bowl, bringing you all of the latest news, player interviews, pundit analysis and podcasts ahead of the big game. And we’ll have a live commentary page following Super Bowl LVIII itself – including video of the biggest touchdowns and moments from throughout the night.
Watch Super Bowl LVIII – the 49ers against the Chiefs – live on Sky Sports NFL on Sunday February 11. The game starts at 11.30pm. You can also stream Sky Sports’ live Super Bowl coverage with NOW
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