• Pressure on Purdy? Brock Purdy finished the 2023 season with an 87.0 PFF grade, the sixth-best in the NFL. He led the league in several passing categories, including touchdown percentage (7.0%), yards per attempt (9.6) and passer rating (113.0). But his play in the postseason hasn't been quite as impressive. He's recorded several turnover-worthy plays, and his accuracy has been sporadic. The good news is that it hasn't cost the 49ers yet, and he's been able to make enough plays with his legs to keep them afloat.
• The inevitable Travis Kelce: After a somewhat down 2023 season, Kelce has ramped up his production in the playoffs. In his three playoff games, he’s caught 23 passes of his 27 targets for 262 yards and three touchdowns, converting 51.9% of his targets into a first down or score — which is incredible, especially for a 34-year-old tight end.
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Estimated Reading Time: 8 minutes
One of the biggest reasons Super Bowl 58 is expected to be so entertaining is the abundance of fun matchups on both sides of the ball.
These two teams met in the Super Bowl a few years ago, but the rosters are dramatically different, and you can make a strong case that each team is far more talented than they were four years ago.
Here are the best matchups at every position going into Super Bowl 58.
TE Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs vs. LB Fred Warner, San Francisco 49ers
Kelce is arguably the greatest receiving tight end in NFL history, and he is just three touchdowns away from tying Hall of Famer Jerry Rice (22) for the most receiving touchdowns ever in the postseason. He (probably) won’t get there on Sunday, but he’s already rewritten the record books when it comes to production at the tight end position in the postseason.
Travis Kelce: Postseason receiving metrics and rank among tight ends (since 2006)
|PFF receiving grade
|Yards after the catch
|First downs + touchdowns
|Explosive plays of 15-plus yards
|Yards per route run
|Passer rating when targeted
After a somewhat down 2023 season, Kelce has ramped up his production in the playoffs. In his three playoff games, he’s caught 23 passes of his 27 targets for 262 yards and three touchdowns, converting 51.9% of his targets into a first down or score — which is incredible, especially for a 34-year-old tight end.
But Kelce is going to have his hands full in Super Bowl 58. Fred Warner might be the best coverage linebacker in the NFL, and there is no debate about his rank at the top of his position. Between him and Dre Greenlaw, they can cover a lot of ground and don't make it easy for opponents to throw in the middle of the field. They have each graded above 78.0 in coverage and combined for seven pass breakups and six interceptions on the year.
It’s unlikely that we will see Kelce and Warner matched up against one another one-on-one because the 49ers play a lot of zone in the middle of the field. But look for Kelce and Warner to try to occupy the same space. The winner of this matchup will likely determine the outcome of the game.
The 49ers are a different team with Christian McCaffrey in the backfield. Not only is he a dynamic running back, but his receiving ability makes the 49ers nearly impossible to stop.
We can fully expect McCaffrey to see a significant workload on Sunday, but seeing him more involved as a receiver wouldn't be a surprise. The Chiefs are stout up front and have done a relatively good job limiting opponents' rushing attacks over the last few months. One way the 49ers can counter that is to use McCaffrey more as a receiver.
One player who will be tasked with keeping McCaffrey under control is safety Justin Reid. Reid played a ton of box snaps this season (422) and functions as a third linebacker for the Chiefs in their nickel defense. He plays bigger than his size and has no problem coming up and stopping the run.
But if Reid is forced to play closer to the line of scrimmage to stop McCaffrey, that opens up more passing lanes for Brock Purdy and the 49ers receivers. It’s a tradeoff the Chiefs might have to live with if they want to contain McCaffrey.
Jon Feliciano‘s development and play this season have been massive for the 49ers. All four starters outside of Trent Williams struggled for San Francisco earlier in the season. Feliciano became the full-time starter at right guard in Week 10, which made a huge difference for the offensive line. He finished the season as the NFL's fifth-highest-graded guard, excelling as a run-blocker (85.4 run-block grade). While he's just an average pass-blocker, the 49ers desperately needed quality offensive line play from someone other than Williams, and they got it in Feliciano.
That said, dealing with Chris Jones on the interior defensive line is a different story. No one is quite like Jones, as he has a rare combination of size, power and athleticism. The Chiefs move him across the defensive line to create mismatches, and he is the biggest reason why the defense has been so dominant in the postseason. The star defensive lineman has recorded 85 total pressures this season, second to only Aaron Donald (87).
If the 49ers can contain Jones on Sunday, they should be able to move the ball up and down the field on the Chiefs. But again, that is much easier said than done. Jones is a game-wrecker, and he has a chance to feast on the weaker interior offensive line of the 49ers.
RT Jawaan Taylor, Kansas City Chiefs vs. EDGE Nick Bosa, San Francisco 49ers
If there is one matchup that should scare the Chiefs on Sunday, it's this one. Nick Bosa is the reigning Defensive Player of the Year from the 2022 season, and he put together another phenomenal performance this season. He’s been even better in the postseason, recording 16 pressures — including seven QB hits — in the two playoff games for the 49ers. There isn't a more complete edge rusher in the NFL, and his consistency has been off the charts this year.
He'll face Jawaan Taylor on the right side, who has had the worst year of his career. Taylor's 52.0 PFF grade ranked 75th among 89 qualifying tackles over the regular season, and he committed a league-high 14 penalties. His pass-block grade in the postseason is 55.5, as he's allowed nine pressures on 127 pass-blocking snaps.
Still, Taylor is capable of having a good performance in Super Bowl 58 and the Chiefs will need him to if they want to have any success slowing down Bosa.
If you like physical and competitive football, this matchup is for you. There isn't a more physical receiver in the league than Deebo Samuel, and he should be close to 100% healthy after getting the last two weeks off to rest his shoulder. And with this being the final game of the season, look for the 49ers to have no limit on his workload. Samuel's 88.1 receiving grade ranks 11th at his position, but he leads his peers in yards after the catch per reception (8.1) entering the Super Bowl.
But Sneed could be a tough matchup for Samuel on Sunday. Sneed loves nothing more than being physical with receivers at the line of scrimmage and thoroughly enjoys contact. Opponents have not had a lot of success throwing at Sneed this season, as he has given up just a 66.8 passer rating when targeted, fifth-best in the NFL among qualifying defenders.
Just how aggressive will the 49ers be attacking Sneed on Sunday? That remains to be seen. But look for Sneed to press Samuel a ton off the line of scrimmage and for things to be very chippy from the opening snap.
These two players won't take on each other one-on-one, but we are including them anyway. It's the NFL's most efficient quarterback against the league's best passer.
Brock Purdy finished the 2023 season with a grade of 87.0, the sixth-best in the NFL. He led the league in several passing categories, including touchdown percentage (7.0%), yards per attempt (9.6) and passer rating (113.0).
But his play in the postseason hasn't been quite as impressive. He's recorded several turnover-worthy plays, and his accuracy has been sporadic. The good news is that it hasn't cost the 49ers yet, and he's been able to make enough plays with his legs to keep them afloat. In the Super Bowl, he will need to play a much cleaner game because of the quarterback on the other sideline.
|Passer Rating Clean
|Passer Rating Under Pressure
|Big-Time Throw %
|Turnover-Worthy Play %
Mahomes finished the 2023 season as PFF's No. 3 ranked QB (90.3), which somehow felt like a disappointment. And yet, Mahomes has turned it on when it matters the most. In the three playoff games this season, Mahomes has an overall grade of 92.5 and has now attempted 115 passes without a single turnover-worthy throw.
The Chiefs are running their entire offense through him, and he has yet to make a single mistake. Mahomes seems to always rise to the occasion in the biggest games of the year, and we shouldn't expect anything else in Super Bowl 58. But the battle between which quarterback plays better on Sunday will certainly go a long way to determining who will be hoisting the Lombardi Trophy at the end of the night.
49ers HC Kyle Shanahan vs. Chiefs DC Steve Spagnuolo
Arguably, the best matchup of the week won't be between two players but instead two playcallers. Kyle Shanahan might be the best playcaller in the NFL, and he knows how to find every soft spot in a defense. He will find the worst defender on the field and relentlessly attack him.
Meanwhile, Steve Spagnuolo is one of the best defensive coordinators in the league, and his teams always seem to play above their heads in the biggest games of the season. Kansas City plays very sound defense and can force teams out of their comfort zones. Against the Ravens, they loaded up the box, daring the Ravens to beat them through the air. They did the same against the Dolphins, taking away all of the underneath passes to the running backs.
This will be a fun chess match to watch all game long as these are arguably the best two coaches at their respective jobs. Watching them punch and then counter will be a sight to see.