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Super Bowl LVIII preview: Chiefs' emerging dynasty faces a tough test vs. 49ers

There's no clear qualification for an NFL dynasty. But whatever benchmarks need to be met, the Kansas City Chiefs probably reach them with another Super Bowl victory.

The Chiefs have been to four Super Bowls in five seasons. They've won two of them, with a chance at a third on Sunday. If you count the 1990s Dallas Cowboys as a dynasty, you'd have to include this Chiefs era, too, if they win another one. The Cowboys made three Super Bowl and won all three. The Chiefs could have three Super Bowl championships and four conference championships in five years. They couldn't be denied entry into the dynasties club after that.

"It has been thrown around a lot," tight end Travis Kelce said of the dynasty talk. "I think the number three is a big number in terms of dynasties and things like that. Hopefully we can get this thing and you guys can start talking about dynasties. We're trying to get this third ring, though."

The San Francisco 49ers had a dynasty once, but they haven't won a Super Bowl since then. It seems strange that the 49ers' last Super Bowl championship came at the end of the 1994 season. One of the reasons the 49ers haven't won it all in almost 30 years is the Chiefs. Patrick Mahomes led a fourth-quarter comeback to beat the 49ers 31-20 in Super Bowl LIV four years ago.

On Sunday, the 49ers will try to get some revenge, while the Chiefs will be looking to take another step toward dynasty status.

[How to watch the Super Bowl: TV channels, streaming and mobile options]

49ers (14-5) vs. Chiefs (14-6)

Sunday, 6:30 p.m. ET, CBS

Allegiant Stadium, Las Vegas

Betting line: 49ers -2, total is 47.5

Why we're watching (non-football reasons)

Last year, 114.3 million viewers watched the Chiefs beat the Philadelphia Eagles in the Super Bowl. The game was only part of the show.

The Super Bowl is a cultural event. On Sunday, country star Reba McEntire will sing the national anthem. Post Malone will sing "America the Beautiful," and Andra Day will sing “Lift Every Voice and Sing” to round out the pregame lineup. Usher will headline the halftime show.

The entertainment will have a Las Vegas twist, too, as Tiësto will serve as the first in-game DJ at a Super Bowl, playing a pregame set and during some breaks in the game as well.

And of course, we're all keeping an eye on superstar Taylor Swift and how often CBS will show the Chiefs' most famous fan (assuming Swift can make it from Tokyo in time).

Why we're watching (football reasons)

A 49ers win would legitimize their season and put them in a pretty good place in history. The 49ers were a very good team for much of the season, other than a three-game losing streak in the middle of the season and a lopsided home loss to the Baltimore Ravens. Still, going into Sunday's game, the big story is the Chiefs.

The Chiefs turned around an uneven season in the playoffs and have made one of the greatest runs we've seen, considering the competition. The Chiefs beat a Miami Dolphins team that had one of the best offenses in football, then went on the road and beat the Buffalo Bills and Ravens in consecutive weeks. The Bills were considered a top-five team in the NFL, and the Ravens were the consensus pick as the NFL's No. 1 team going into the playoffs.

Some fans might be tiring of seeing the Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes in the Super Bow, but we're seeing history made with every title Mahomes, Andy Reid and the Chiefs win. Tom Brady, Terry Bradshaw, Joe Montana and Troy Aikman are the only quarterbacks with three or more Super Bowl wins as starters, and Mahomes could join that group at just 28 years old. Bill Belichick, Chuck Noll, Bill Walsh and Joe Gibbs are the only coaches with more than two Super Bowl wins, and Reid would join that class with a win.

What could put us to sleep

This might not be a high-scoring Super Bowl, which could turn off fans who are watching the football as a way to pass the time between commercials.

The total of 47.5 at BetMGM is the lowest since Super Bowl 50 eight years ago. The total for that game between the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers was 43.5 and went under in the Broncos' 24-10 win. The Chiefs are best known for having Mahomes at quarterback, but this season, their biggest story has been a much improved defense. The Chiefs have allowed 41 points in three playoff games against a trio of very good offenses. They've given up 21 or fewer points in 17 of 20 games this season.

The 49ers' defense hasn't been quite as good in the playoffs, allowing 52 points in two games, but in the regular season, they ranked third in points allowed and eighth in yards allowed. Despite star players on both offenses, this could be a low-scoring game.

Wild card of this Super Bowl

While Patrick Mahomes is the superstar, Isiah Pacheco has taken on a big role in the Chiefs offense. He has 63 carries for 254 yards and three rushing touchdowns in the playoffs. In two of his last three regular-season games, he rushed for more than 100 yards.

Pacheco didn't play more than 70% of the offensive snaps in any Chiefs game this season until Week 12, but since then, he has been above 70% in every game except one, when he was returning from an injury. Mahomes has made big plays in the postseason, but the Chiefs have passed for more than 303 yards just once in 20 games this season. Pacheco's production might be a bigger part of who wins this game than we think.

Superstar to watch

There are plenty to choose from. Travis Kelce has come alive in the playoffs and dominated after not reaching 1,000 yards in the regular season. Deebo Samuel has an argument as the 49ers' most valuable player, given how San Francisco's offense has struggled without him in the lineup. Look for 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan to get Samuel the ball in plenty of creative ways on Sunday. And don't lose track of George Kittle or Brandon Aiyuk.

But Christian McCaffrey is the non-quarterback star who could make this his Super Bowl. He led the NFL in yards from scrimmage and total touchdowns this season, which is why he was named NFL Offensive Player of the Year. What sets McCaffrey apart is that he's excellent in every part of the game. He's a great runner who just won his first rushing title. He's one of the best receiving backs in history, reaching 80 catches in a season four times and 100 twice.

A big part of the Super Bowl could be how good McCaffrey usually is near the goal line. This season, including playoffs, he scored 18 touchdowns from inside the 10-yard line. McCaffrey also rarely comes off the field. He played 98% of San Francisco's offensive snaps in the divisional round and 91% in the NFC championship game. He had three games this season in which he played 100% of the offensive snaps. That's a workload that evokes memories of old-school backs such as Walter Payton and Earl Campbell.

You're going to see a lot of McCaffrey on Sunday. And he has the ability to become the story of the Super Bowl, which would add to a growing argument that he's already one of the best running backs in NFL history.

Person we'll likely praise after victory

If the oddsmakers are right and the 49ers get the win, the Brock Purdy story takes a very interesting twist. The NFL's latest endless debate has been whether Purdy is a top quarterback or just a lucky seventh-round pick in a 49ers offense that carries him along. That debate won't matter as much if Purdy enters the group of Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks in just his second season in the NFL.

Whether or not it was due to his supporting cast and a great offensive coach in Kyle Shanahan, Purdy had a great season. He threw for more yards per game than Patrick Mahomes in the regular season, at 267.5 compared to 261.4 for Mahomes. He led all NFL starting quarterbacks with a 113 passer rating. Still, quarterbacks get judged on Super Bowls, and Purdy's accomplishments would be viewed in a much different light if he adds a Super Bowl title to his résumé at age 24.

Person we'll likely second-guess after defeat

If the Chiefs don't win, we'll probably focus on the pass-catchers. Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Kadarius Toney have been criticized this season. Rashee Rice has been great lately, but it's hard to depend on a rookie in a Super Bowl. Even Kelce was having a somewhat quiet season by his standards before turning it on in the playoffs. The 49ers have a very good pass defense and can limit a Chiefs passing offense that was good but not great this season. If that happens, it's unlikely the blame will fall too heavily on Patrick Mahomes.

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