February 9, 2024 9:00am

The Super Bowl

Do the Chiefs repeat as Super Bowl champion?

Photo of Rick Gosselin
NFL Correspondent

The weekly Power Poll likes Jim Harbaugh but not his old NFL team.

Since this is Super Bowl week, we asked our panel of former players, coaches, officials, talent evaluators, writers and broadcasters who wins the NFL championship game Sunday, the AFC champion Kansas City Chiefs or the NFC champion San Francisco 49ers. In our second question, we asked which of the eight NFL franchises made the best head-coaching hire this offseason.

This Super Bowl is a rematch of the 2019 championship game between the Chiefs and 49ers. Kansas City won that one but San Francisco is a two-point favorite in the rematch. Not that it mattered to our panel. The Chiefs received 118 of the 162 votes cast to win this Super Bowl.

The 49ers won the NFC West with a 12-5 record. The Chiefs captured their eighth consecutive AFC West title with an 11-6 record. Patrick Mahomes has been the quarterback for the last six of those division titles. He has taken the Chiefs to six consecutive AFC championship games and this will be his fourth Super Bowl. He’s won two of them, including last season.

But this was the toughest trek the Chiefs have taken to a Super Bowl. It marked the first time Mahomes had to win a road playoff game to get there and he won two of them, beating both the AFC East champion Buffalo Bills and AFC South champ the Baltimore Ravens. Mahomes threw a personal-worst 14 interceptions this season – but he has not thrown an interception in 155 passes over his last 18 quarters.

“No one's getting rich betting against Patrick Mahomes,” said Bruce Castleberry, the sports editor of the Boston Herald.

The Chiefs have their best rushing attack and best defense of the Mahomes era. Isiah Pacheco rushed for 935 yards, averaging 4.6 yards per carry. And Steve Spagnuolo’s defense allowed both the second fewest yards and second fewest points in the NFL this season. Kansas City also led the NFL with 57 sacks.

If the Chiefs have a weakness, it’s their run defense. They finished 18th in the NFL against the run this season, allowing an average of 113 yards per game and 4.5 yards per carry. Running the ball is a strength of the 49ers with Pro Bowler Christian McCaffrey. He led the NFL in both rushing yards (1,459) and rushing touchdowns (14). McCaffrey also led the league with seven 100-yard rushing games.

The 49ers also have a Pro Bowl quarterback in Brock Purdy and a Top 10 defense. The 49ers led the NFL with 22 interceptions this season and finished in the Top 10 in sacks with 48.

The Power Poll also conducts polls in several individual cities across the country regarding civic matters. The Super Bowl question was posed to those cities as well and the Chiefs were again the overwhelming favorite to repeat as Super Bowl champions, receiving 486 of the 731 votes cast.

In our second question, eight NFL teams hired new coaches this offseason: Harbaugh by the Los Angeles Chargers, Brian Callahan by the Tennessee Titans, Dave Canales by the Carolina Panthers, Mike Macdonald by the Seattle Seahawks, Jerod Mayo by the New England Patriots, Raheem Morris by the Atlanta Falcons, Antonio Pierce by the Las Vegas Raiders and Dan Quinn by the Washington Commanders. We asked our panel who made the best hire.

The Chargers received 102 of the 162 votes cast for their hiring of Harbaugh, who won the national college championship at Michigan last season. Morris was a very distant second with 14 votes, followed Pierce and Macdonald (13 apiece), Quinn (9), Callahan (6), Mayo (4) and Canales (1).

Harbaugh also played quarterback at Michigan and became a first-round draft pick of the Chicago Bears in 1987. He went to the Pro Bowl and quarterbacked the Indianapolis Colts to an AFC championship game in 1995. Harbaugh also spent two seasons as a quarterback with the Chargers. As an NFL coach, he posted a 44-19-1 record with the 49ers from 2011-14. Harbaugh took San Francisco to the Super Bowl in 2013, where the 49ers lost to the Baltimore Ravens and their head coach John Harbaugh, Jim’s older brother.

“Although I am relatively certain the poll will show Jim Harbaugh as the best head coaching hire -- and he might very well be so – I think the Patriots got it right,” said long-time Associated Press NFL editor and Hall-of-Fame voter Barry Wilner. “They remained in-house but elevated someone who understands the `modern day’ player; has a strong history as a player and assistant coach in New England; and will bring a freshness and winning attitude that left when Tom Brady headed to Tampa Bay.”

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About Power Poll: Power Poll asks questions of significant key players in American sports today. It's member list draws on people from media, team management, and league management. It is not a scientific survey, but the results afford a fascinating glimpse into the thoughts, opinions, and beliefs of those who know most about the sport.

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