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Hurley's Picks: Stop Making Patrick Mahomes an underdog!

Man who has never missed a Super Bowl heads to Las Vegas
Man who has never missed a Super Bowl heads to Las Vegas 00:57

BOSTON -- Look, I know we're all experts here, but if I could just bend the ear of any and all football oddsmakers, I'd like to politely shout this one message:



For one, it's kind of stupid, you know? But more than that, with the Chiefs entering Super Bowl LVIII as an underdog for the third consecutive game this postseason, it's altering history.

Are the Bills losing a playoff game at home if the Chiefs don't fly into Orchard Park as underdogs? OK, well, yeah, probably. They are the Bills. Bad example.

But are the Chiefs dominating the best team in the NFL, on the road, like they did to the Ravens in the AFC title game, if they don't waltz into Baltimore as 4.5-point dogs? Er ... you know, that's possible, too. The Ravens aren't exactly playoff-proven during the Lamar Jackson era. Really arguing against myself here.

Fine. So maybe it's not changing history. But it just feels unnecessary for these numbers people to look at PATRICK MAHOMES and the SUPER BOWL and determine, "Yup, there's a better chance of him losing than winning this one. No doubt in my mind."

It's preposterous!

Now, do I know every single thing that goes into the creation of a betting line for the Super Bowl? Of course I do not. Do I know anything that goes into it? Not really. Who's got the time?

I just know this: Patrick Mahomes really shouldn't be an underdog. As long as he has two legs, two arms, and one football, he really shouldn't be an underdog. I understand that he doesn't quite have the wide receiver talent at his disposal that he used to. I understand they lost six games this season, including four losses at Arrowhead. And I understand young Patrick has had his tum-tum exposed by NFL Films. I get it all.

But Patrick Mahomes? The Chiefs? Travis Kelce? That defense? Underdogs? UNDERDOGS?! What are you doing? And why?!

In his career, Mahomes is 10-3 in games when his Chiefs are underdogs, which ... kind of shows they shouldn't be underdogs all that often. Yet here we are, looking at a Super Bowl that the oddsmakers say the Chiefs aren't supposed to win. It doesn't quite feel right.

So, well, let's make a pick.

The Big Game

San Francisco 49ers (-2) "at" Kansas City Chiefs

Yes, this whole song and dance has been Mahomes, Mahomes, Mahomes thus far. To some degree, I apologize for that ... but also, not really. After watching the AFC title game, it was difficult to not get distinct Brady-era Patriots vibes from the Chiefs. Even when their roster is slightly ugly on paper, and even when they don't play their best, they're able to win huge playoff games. That's not entirely due to the man playing quarterback, obviously, but anyone who's anyone understands that when the quarterback is special, a sense of true belief permeates the entire roster. And at the same time, it becomes a lot easier for doubt to creep in on the other sideline.

So yes, much of this game depends on the man wearing No. 15 for Kansas City. But where else will this game be won and lost?

Defending tight ends is a good place to start. Travis Kelce and George Kittle represent the best tight ends going head-to-head in a Super Bowl since Travis Kelce and George Kittle went head-to-head in a Super Bowl four years ago. Perhaps the 49ers will have the good sense to throw at least two bodies at Kelce on every single play. At the very least, they should know to never -- not once -- play zone against Kelce. Because there's no surer way of losing a football game than dropping into a zone on third-and-13 against Mahomes and Kelce, only to give up the easiest 27-yard pitch-and-catch in the history of the sport.

Both teams have been pretty good at defending tight ends this year, with the 49ers giving up three touchdowns to tight ends and the Chiefs allowing four. Both defenses will need to mind their P's and Q's when it comes to those two game-changers.

Some out there will argue that the running games could decide the Super Bowl. To that, I'd say this: Poppycock. The running games largely exist to complement the passing games. However, it's significant that the 49ers have scored touchdowns on 83.3 percent of their red zone trips this postseason, while the Chiefs have scored touchdowns on just 46.2 percent of their red zone trips. The Niners had the best red-zone percentage in the NFL during the regular season at 67.2 percent, while the Chiefs ranked 17th (54.1 percent). For San Francisco, that's the Christian McCaffrey Effect, and it's something the Niners will need to continue if they hope to win this game. 

Then there are your wild cards. Which defensive line will ruin the day for the opposing quarterback? Conversely, which offensive lineman gets dinged up? Who drops a key pass? Who drops an interception? Does the fumble bounce this way or that way? Will the Niners be hampered by their sponge-like practice field? In a matchup like this one, those are the areas that could make the biggest difference, and -- oh, would you look at that -- they're also the areas that really can't be predicted.

Ultimately, while it's going to be a tall task for Brock Purdy to really excel in this game, the 49ers should win. That's why they're favored, right? With McCaffrey, Kittle, Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk, the Niners have the better batch of skill players. That said, the group of Kelce, Isaiah Pacheco and Rashee Rice isn't shabby at all, and as we saw in the AFC championship, the whole dynamic shifts if Marquez Valdes-Scantling actually catches the passes that are thrown in his direction.

So maybe it's all a head vs. gut scenario. The head here leans San Francisco. But after seeing the Chiefs win two road playoff games as underdogs, the feeling is that they'll find a way to come away from this one with their third Lombardi in five years.

FINAL SCORE: Chiefs 24, 49ers 20
MVP: Do you have to ask? It's Dad Bod Mahomes. 

Last week: 0-2
Postseason: 5-7
Regular season: 116-130-8

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