LAS VEGAS — Let's not fool ourselves. There will be way more than nine things to watch when Kansas City and San Francisco clash on Sunday in Las Vegas in Super Bowl LVIII. But here are a just a few items worth highlighting, and maybe some things you didn't know.
The Super Bowl MVP odds this year begin with quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes and Brock Purdy, but naturally include San Fran running back Christian McCaffrey and Kansas City tight end Travis Kelce. No, we haven't found any odds listing Taylor Swift.
Half of the last eight Super Bowl MVP's have NOT been the quarterback of either team. In fact, the Super Bowl 50 award went to a defensive player, linebacker Von Miller of Denver for his 6 tackles, 2.5 sacks, and one pass defended. Tom Brady for New England and Nick Foles for Philadelphia nabbed the next two MYP trophies, but wide receiver Julian Edleman took the LIII hardware for his 10 cathces for 141 yards. Then it was back to the QB's with Patrick Mahomes landing his first of two MVP awards in LIV for going 26-of-42 for 286 yards and 2 TD's, followed by Brady's last MPV performance in LV for Tampa Bay (21-of-29, 201 yards, 3 TDs). The 2022 game (LVI) went to wide receiver Cooper Kupp of the LA Rams (8 catches, 92 yards, 2 TD's), and of course, Mahomes got his 2nd piece of treasured individual hardware with his LVII performance (21-of-27, 182 yards, 3 TD's).
Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes at age 28 will become the youngest quarterback in history to start a fourth Super Bowl, two years faster than the previous youngest, 30-year-old Tom Brady in 2007. With a victory, Mahomes would join Brady and Pro Football Hall of Famer Troy Aikman as the only quarterbacks ever to win three Super Bowls prior to their 30th birthdays.
The key to victory in Super Bowl LVIII could be in the middle of the field. When the nearest defender was a linebacker, Kansas City’s Travis Kelce led all NFL tight ends during the regular season with 393 receiving yards, according to Next Gen Stats. Meanwhile, San Francisco’s Fred Warner allowed only a 61.9 passer rating as the nearest defender in coverage this season, lowest among NFL linebackers per NGS.
Sunday features one of the best defensive matchups in Super Bowl history. During the regular season, Kansas City allowed just 17.3 points per game, second in the league behind Baltimore. San Francisco’s defense (17.5) ranked third.
We'll give player props to Niners running back Christian McCaffrey and Pro Football Hall of Famer Terrell Davis are the only players in league annals to average at least 110 scrimmage yards per game in both the regular season and postseason (minimum 75 and five games, respectively).
Middle Tennessee State in Murfreesboro, Tenn., has produced three players expected to see action in Super Bowl LVIII: Chiefs linebacker Darius Harris and wide receiver Richie James, and 49ers cornerback Charvarius Ward. In fact, this week marks the fifth consecutive season in which an MTSU product will don a Super Bowl uniform. James and Ward actually played for the opposite teams in Super Bowl LIV, James for the 49ers and Ward for the Chiefs. Ward made his way to Murfreesboro in serendipitous fashion. The MTSU defensive backs coach, Steve Ellis, was on a recruiting trip at Hinds (Miss.) Community College when he discovered Ward, who caught the attention of Ellis when the 155-pound athlete delivered a monster dunk in a pickup basketball game. Ward used MTSU as a springboard to the NFL, where he led the league with 23 passes defensed and earned his first Pro Bowl selection this season.
San Francisco quarterback Brock Purdy entered the league as the final choice in the 2022 NFL Draft, held in Las Vegas. Since that day, Purdy has an .808 winning percentage as a starter, has passed for 9.2 yards per attempt, has compiled a 47-14 touchdown-to-interception ratio and owns a 111.2 passer rating – all the best marks in the NFL among quarterbacks with a minimum of 20 starts (including the postseason).
San Francisco wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk entered the NFL and joined the 49ers in the first round of a virtual 2020 NFL Draft less than three months after they lost to Kansas City in Super Bowl LIV. Fast forward three years to the 2023 NFC Championship Game. With 6:29 remaining in the third quarter and the 49ers trailing, 24-10, Aiyuk kept his focus in tracking a deflected deep ball and hauled in a 51-yard reception at the Lions’ 6-yard line. According to Next Gen Stats, Aiyuk traveled 10.3 yards while securing that completion. Three plays later, he caught a 6-yard touchdown pass from Brock Purdy to cut the Detroit lead to one score. Inspired by Aiyuk’s miraculous catch, San Francisco went on to win, 34-31.
Kansas City’s Isiah Pacheco is expected to become the first running back since Pro Football Hall of Famer Tony Dorsett in 1977-78 to start Super Bowls in each of his first two NFL seasons. The Chiefs selected Pacheco 251st overall, 11 picks before Brock Purdy (262nd), in the seventh round of the 2022 NFL Draft. Like Purdy, Pacheco’s name was announced at a podium in Las Vegas.
Joseph Santoliquito can be followed on twitter @JSantoliquito.
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NOTE: CollegeFootballPoll.com's Dave Congrove is member of the Maxwell Football Club.