Tensions ran high in the Conference Championship games a fortnight ago, with both delivering nail-biting finishes. But the winners were set: The NFC's long-overdue San Francisco 49ers, who haven't won a title since 1994 will square off against the defending 2023 champions, the AFC's Kansas City Chiefs.
Both Conference Championship games were fiercely contested, underscoring the NFL's reputation as a league where every inch matters and every point counts. The margins were razor-thin, with only seven points separating opponents in the AFC and a mere three in the NFC. Join us as we delve into a preview of the NFL's grand finale, with all roads converging towards their ultimate destination: Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, Nevada on 11 February (12 February NZ time) for Super Bowl LVII.
The Chiefs are, believe it or not, the underdogs. But coach Andy Reid disputes the concept that his group is an outside shot to win the Lombardi Trophy for the second time in a row. The Chiefs offence has unusually fluctuated throughout the season, especially looking very touch and go during the initial weeks of the season. However, they have undeniably found their rhythm towards the end of the season, which has led to a spectacular playoff run to the Super Bowl.
Meanwhile, the 49ers look on quarterback Brock Purdy to guide them to victory. Purdy's journey with the 49ers underscores the team's challenges and adaptations. Initially, the franchise sought a quarterback who could excel in their timing-based offence while demonstrating improvisation skills when needed. Despite hopes resting on Trey Lance, injuries disrupted his progress.
However, Purdy's performances came out of nowhere, particularly against the Dolphins last season, and validated head coach Shanahan's faith in his abilities. He now finds himself a year later as the franchise's future. It's early to call it but If things really go the 49ers' way, they could potentially be the team poised to contend for two crowns in a row the following year, leaving the Chiefs in their dust.
Mahomes the G.O.A.T?
Enter Patrick Mahomes, the dynamic quarterback for the Chiefs. At the age of 28 he's poised to make his fourth Super Bowl appearance this Sunday, marking the culmination of just his seventh season in the league. If Mahomes wins, he will equal the three rings that Tom Brady collected in his first seven NFL seasons. This success is evocative of Brady's days as an integral part of the New England Patriots which shot him to superstardom, a feat that many thought would never be replicated.
Mahomes has an excellent foundation of support surrounding him to help get the big win on Sunday: the unwavering willingness of social media sensation and tight end Travis Kelce, the absolute swiftness and ability to get the job done attitude of star wide receiver Rashee Rice, and the ability to change things up with the ground game through elite running back Isiah Pacheco.
The Phenom Brock Purdy
Brock Purdy has shown himself as one of the NFL's best quarterbacks, leading the San Francisco 49ers to the NFC Championship Game as a rookie last year and following up by guiding them straight into this Sunday's Super Bowl. Purdy's pay still befits his modest draft choice despite his outstanding performance, thereby providing the 49ers a significant edge having spent salary cap elsewhere.
Midway in the previous season, Purdy inherited the starting quarterback role in Kyle Shanahan's offence, and since he has led San Francisco to an outstanding 21 victories up against just five losses, including his red-hot playoffs record. With a 12-5 record, the squad finished the 2023 regular season as the #1 seed in the NFC with Purdy having the highest QB passing rating at 113.0 - making him the real deal.
So, who wins?
As cliche as it sounds, we really haven't seen a Super Bowl like this in years. It will have such a bearing on how we will talk about these two franchises in the future, in what has shaped up to be an all or nothing contest.
It all comes down to Sunday Night with the questions beckoning: Will the Chiefs, led by the likes of legendary head coach Reid and potential G.O.A.T Mahomes, mark their place in the history books as the best team in the modern era becoming just the ninth franchise in league history to secure back-to-back Super Bowl titles? Or can the ever-resilient 49ers, led by head coach Kyle Shanahan and second year quarterback sensation Purdy, overcome the heartbreak of Super Bowl LIV and finally put Kansas City to bed, winning the team's first Lombardi Trophy in what has been a near thirty-year drought?
RNZ will have live blog updates of Super Bowl LVIII, starting at midday Monday.