NFL coaches pick Super Bowl winner: Why they think Kansas City has the edge

For the second straight season, the Kansas City Chiefs enter the Super Bowl as an underdog. They defeated the favored Philadelphia Eagles last season and will try to topple the favored San Francisco 49ers on Sunday.

Would it be an upset if Kansas City did it? The Chiefs have a tight end in quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who has been healthier this season than he has been in the past and has played brilliantly for most of the playoffs.

Every year around this time, I ask a bunch of NFL coaches which team they're picking to win the Super Bowl and why. Our team did very well last season, winning the first coach's premiership by exactly three.

Four coaches weighed in with predictions this year. We begin the conversation with the defensive coach's insights on what bothers 49ers quarterback Brock Birdie and whether the Chiefs are well-prepared to exploit this particular vulnerability.

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Defense coach

The Fighting Taylor Swifts are playing better defense than the Niners right now, and that could be the difference. San Francisco needs to play better on defense to win. The 49ers are still dangerous and violent, but they are giving up more yards and plays. I think they'll play well, but if you ask my gut, I think Kansas City will pull it out.

Hitting the break birdie is one of the biggest keys to this game. Teams that give Birdy problems are vulnerable to him in the pocket. Cleveland was able to do just that. Detroit can't affect him that way, but the Chiefs can. They do a good job of putting their hands up. That's a big deal against Brock. They can do a good job of affecting not only long throws, but quick throws at different launch angles.

Purdy's strength is as strong as his lower body. George Kittle's quote is so funny, Birdy looks like one of those little water dragons that run across the water. And that's what Purdy looks like. His legs are strong as hell. But when you shove the bag onto his front foot, he struggles. Sometimes it's hard to get there because they throw it so fast, but I think the Chiefs have the ability to do that.

As people get to the front foot of the birdie, the ball tail bends and pulls or drifts. As he threw Packer boy's belly. He couldn't get full torque from his hips and it floated. It's easy to tell that affects the birdie this way. The 49ers know what they're doing, Purdy's really good, Kyle's good at calling it, but I think the Chiefs with four (rushers) can do that sometimes.

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(Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo) is going to press and play his two-high combination coverages. When the 49ers run everyone out, it's hard to run mixed coverages. They have unstable players. (Christian) McCaffrey is going to be a wideout, Deebo (Samuel) is going to be in the backfield and 44 (Kyle Juszczyk) is going to be everywhere. When you play a split-defense and they look at it and get it out, the matchups are really good.

Leaders don't always cope well when you get into space. Steve has done a good job this year of not letting it go. In other years, you can isolate their companions. All of Kyle's guys are 6-foot or 6-1, 215 and can run after contact with great hands and anger. It will be to their advantage if they can find ways to get around the D-line and get those guys.

I think San Francisco will attack the edges in the run game like Kyle did with Atlanta against New England in the Super Bowl. If you can come around the interior of Kansas City and force (Justin) Reed to deal with non-reeds, you can do a few things. But you have to get around their big guys. I think Kyle will find a way to that, but I believe in the Chiefs a little more.

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Defensive coordinator no. 1

It's going to be a very interesting game because Spax has that safety roll, and I think it's going to create problems. They can get after Broke Birdie. Spas comes up with some good plans to throw off his rhythm, at least to make Birdie think.

On 49 runs, the entire team is built from a front-running mindset. When they play with a lead, they jump, and they're better, they're more athletic, their talent shines. When they play behind, it's usually different. Against Detroit, they came back. I'll give them credit there, but Detroit screwed it up. What happened did not happen again.

What you have to do with the 49ers is match them up early. I will take the ball and try to score. Green Bay did just that. I know it's a 7-0 start and it doesn't matter, but if you score early, you have no answer for them.

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Mahomes will make the right plays when they need to. He's been protecting the ball, something he hasn't done much in the first half of the season. People should now honor Rashi rice. He has created. MVS (Marquez Valdez-Scandling) is more consistent.

The 49ers' defense will move the ball throughout the playoffs. They don't have many answers. You hit their soft spots, don't let their rushers go, they don't get takeaways, and you're good. The coverage structure is not comprehensive. They've got a good corner, a defense that plays well.

When you have a guy like Andy Reid with Patrick Mahomes, they're going to find those soft spots. Andy's 5 (yard) catch-and-run from Travis Kelce was okay. Going against Reed and Mahomes is tough.

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Defensive coordinator no. 2

The best team is probably San Francisco, but the Eagles were probably the best team last year and it came down to Patrick Mahomes.

For San Francisco, most of that is game running. That's not to say Brock Birdie can't come from behind. I'm not trying to say that. But I think they're a team that has a better chance of winning when they play their game, whereas the Chiefs can find a way to win any type of game.

That's what happened when those teams played in 2019. Kansas City was down two scores and then all of a sudden, they scored two in the fourth quarter. It was unbelievable.

San Francisco came back to beat Green Bay and Detroit, but they were much better than those teams, especially Detroit. Detroit is not a team that, in my opinion, can keep up with San Francisco. That Detroit couldn't put that game away shows just how good of a team San Francisco is.

I could see San Fran's defense not being dominant against the Chiefs. I don't know if they're a dominant defense like they were with DeMeco Ryans and Robert Saleh. They don't seem like that. Deep down, I mean principals.

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The 49ers' offense is tough to defend because they have talented guys who can generate yards after the catch, and they have a quarterback who can read defenses very quickly and put the ball in one spot with precision. Their dropback game is very time-based, whereas Kansas City's is not.

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Mahomes' ability to play on or off the schedule could be different. What makes Mahomes great is that he's a great off-schedule quarterback who doesn't have to play off-schedule to be great. I always felt that was Russell Wilson's thing. When everybody said he was big, I felt that to be a high-level quarterback, you have to be able to throw it at the right time. Mahomes can do that.

Birdie isn't a bad off-schedule because he has some slippage. He doesn't play much in his spare time. Mahomes was elite of the time, and I think that was the edge in Kansas City.

Offensive coach

Kansas City runs the ball surprisingly well with (Isiah) Pacheco, and they were more willing to run it, and I think that takes some pressure off Mahomes. It has served their defense well. It might have made them a more complete team.

San Francisco gave up 280 yards against Detroit in the first half. They may have been surprised by Detroit, but they still haven't figured out how to slow down perimeter runs. Pacheco is a slasher and if you keep him on the edge I think he can still run inside and be good.

Detroit kept pinning the ends and throwing the ball, and the 49ers' secondary was slow to support. I'm sure San Francisco is going to make an adjustment in the fastball game. They need to support someone fast. It's not a huge adjustment, but they'll be reluctant to make it because of Mahomes.

I love Kansas City. I like San Francisco, but in these games, I think the quarterback matchup is huge, and it's a big separation between these guys.

Christian McCaffrey and DeBeau Samuel, those two guys are good enough to make it through, but I don't think so in this game.

Final thoughts

If the 49ers win, surely someone associated with their team will say that no one gave them a chance. Despite the odds favoring the 49ers, it won't be a huge stretch, as many in and around the game are picking the leaders. I took Kansas City 24-20 in our staff picks. It's not as much of a pick against the 49ers as the fear of being taken against Mahomes. I was rooting for him every week of the playoffs. Why stop now?

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(Best photos of Patrick Mahomes and Brock Purdy: Patrick Smith, Kevin Sapitus/Getty Images)

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