If you’re reading about the Super Bowl, chances are you already know what’s going to happen in just a few days’ time. You know that on Sunday, the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers will square off for the right to raise the Lombardi Trophy, and will be doing so for the second time in four years. You know everything there is to know about their respective roads through the playoffs, and maybe even the twists and turns they experienced throughout the regular season.
On the other hand, maybe you don’t. Maybe you’re just a casual fan whose only engagement with football every year is going to a Super Bowl party and contributing a few words here and there during the commercials. Maybe the only thing you know about chiefs and forty-niners is that they are tribal leaders and old-timey prospectors.
In that case, we’ve got you covered. This is the seventh annual casual fan’s guide to the Super Bowl, where we’ll teach you everything you could possibly need to know to turn yourself from a novice into an expert before the game begins.
Who’s playing in Super Bowl LVIII? And why is it called Super Bowl LVIII?
Representing the AFC, we have the Kansas City Chiefs. Representing the NFC, meanwhile, are the San Francisco 49ers. For this particular game, the Chiefsand the 49ers will wear white. Kansas City has red helmets that contain a white arrowhead surrounding an interlocking “KC” logo, while San Francisco has gold helmets that contain a red circle surrounding an interlocking “SF” logo. They each have red-white-gold/yellow color schemes, but it’ll be easy to tell them apart on Sunday.
It’s called Super Bowl LVIII because it’s the 58th Super Bowl, and 58 in Roman numerals is LVIII. The NFL has been using Roman numerals for every Super Bowl (except Super Bowl 50) since Super Bowl V (five). According to the NFL’s media guide, “The Roman numerals were adopted to clarify any confusion that may occur because the NFL Championship Game — the Super Bowl — is played in the year following a chronologically recorded season. Numerals I through IV were added later for the first four Super Bowls.”
What time is the Super Bowl? Where is it?
The Super Bowl starts at 6:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, Feb. 11, 2024. The game will be played in Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, Nevada. The NFL rotates the location of the Super Bowl every year because it generally wants to provide a neutral site so no team has home-field advantage.
How do I watch? And how long is it going to last?
This year’s broadcast is on CBS and Nickelodeon and streaming on Paramount+ with Jim Nantz and Tony Romo as the announcers, Tracy Wolfson as the sideline reporter, and Evan Washburn and Jay Feely as additional on-site reporters (here’s more on how to watch).
As our Cody Benjamin noted a few years back, the average Super Bowl broadcast over the past 20 years or so has been about three-and-a-half hours. It’s pretty long. That includes a halftime show that generally lasts 20 to 30 minutes.
Who’s performing at halftime this year?
They call him U-S-H-E-R-R-A-Y-M-O-N-D. That’s right, folks. It’s USHER.
Who are the quarterbacks of the 49ers and Chiefs?
It’s always a good bet that the quarterbacks will play a big role in the Super Bowl. A quarterbackof the game, after all. A quarterback has won 32 of the previous 57 Super Bowl MVP trophies, and 15 of the last 23 since 2000.
The quarterback of the Chiefs is Patrick Mahomes (No. 15). Mahomes is already thought of as one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history, and is generally considered the single-best current NFL player. He has been the starter in Kansas City for six seasons, and this is his fourth trip to the Super Bowl. He’s won two out of his first three, including last year. Before Mahomes arrived, the Chiefs had never in their history hosted an AFC title game; they then did so in each of his first five seasons under center before going on the road in this year’s conference championship.
He is widely considered the most creative thrower in the league, and he has a preternatural ability to find different ways to get the ball where it needs to go — whether it be by changing his arm angle or even throwing it with his opposite hand. Even when it looks like a play is going nowhere, Mahomes can and often does turn it into something great. His ability to make plays outside the structure of the offense is second to none, and plays a significant role in the Chiefs’ outrageous success.
This season was a strange one for Mahomes as the talent surrounding him on offense was not up to the level where it had been in the past. He set a new career high in interceptions this season, while his passing yards and touchdown totals were the second-lowest of his career. And yet, Kansas City still earned the No. 3 seed in the AFC, then beat each of the top two seeds on the road in the playoffs to get back to the Super Bowl. That’s just what Mahomes does.
The quarterback of the 49ers is Brock Purdy (No. 13). He has a pretty incredible story. He was the very last player selected in the 2022 NFL Draft, going 262nd overall. He began his career as the 49ers’ third-string quarterback, but when Trey Lance broke his ankle and Jimmy Garoppolo injured his foot, Purdy entered the lineup and never looked back. He immediately performed at a level comparable to the best quarterbacks in the league, and took the 49ers to the NFC Championship Game, but he tore a ligament in his elbow during that game and the Niners eventually lost to the Eagles.
Purdy returned from elbow surgery and continued to play at a high level throughout this season, emerging as an MVP candidate. Despite his consistently excellent play, Purdy is a somewhat polarizing figure for football fans because many attribute his level of performance to the talent surrounding him and the 49ers’ coach, Kyle Shanahan, who has routinely raised the level of quarterback play on his teams throughout his career.
Purdy is at his best when delivering throws over the middle of the field, where his diverse cadre of weapons can catch the ball on the move and create additional yardage. He’s not a classic dual-threat quarterback, but he has shown an ability to occasionally escape pressure and make plays on the move, and he is unafraid to throw into tight windows to give his teammates a chance to make a play.
Are there other notable players I should know about?
Of course! You don’t get to the Super Bowl without a ton of quality talent on your team.
Let’s start with the Chiefs:
- Tight end Travis Kelce (No. 87). Yes, Taylor’s boyfriend. Kelce is the either best or second-best tight end in the NFL, and one of the best of all time. His chemistry with Mahomes is the stuff of legend, both in the regular season and the playoffs. The 16 postseason touchdowns on which they’ve connected is an NFL record. Kelce is 34 years old and didn’t have his best regular season this year, playing through injuries and occasionally struggling with drops. It marked the first time he did not surpass 1,000 receiving yards since 2015. And then the playoffs rolled around, and Kelce rounded right back into form. In three AFC playoff games, he caught 23 passes for 262 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Chiefs right back to the Super Bowl.
- Wide receiver Rashee Rice (No. 4). Rice is only a rookie, but he’s a really good one. He specializes in creating yards after the catch, and you will often see Mahomes throw him short passes that allow Rice to quickly get the ball and then try to get upfield and break tackles. Alongside Kelce, he has been one of Mahomes’ only two trusted pass-catchers this season, as the other wideouts struggled throughout the year with drops, penalties, and general unreliability.
- Running back Isiah Pacheco (No. 10). Pacheco was a seventh-round pick in 2022, but he quickly overtook former first-rounder Clyde Edwards-Helaire as the starting running back due to his physical, bruising style. He was particularly fantastic for the Chiefs in last year’s Super Bowl victory, and this year, he scored a touchdown in each of KC’s three AFC playoff victories.
- Defensive tackle Chris Jones (No. 95) and edge rusher George Karlaftis (No. 56). Jones is one of the NFL’s top interior pass rushers, getting pressure on the opposing quarterback way more often than usual for a player at his position. He started this season in a contract dispute with the Chiefs but returned with a new deal after the team’s Week 1 loss, and put together another terrific season. He’s a free agent this winter, so this could possibly be his last game as a Chief. Karlaftis emerged this season as Kansas City’s best up-front complement to Jones. He tends to win more with power than speed, but he is very effective at pushing the pocket and preventing quarterbacks from escaping to the outside to make plays.
- Offensive tackles Donovan Smith (No. 79) and Jawaan Taylor (No. 74). figure to be the most important players on Kansas City’s offensive line, even if only because they are much less reliable than the interior trio of left guard Joe Thuney (No. 62), center Creed Humphrey (No. 52), and right guard Trey Smith (No. 65). The tackles tend to take a lot of penalties and give up a lot of pressure, and could be an issue against 49ers edge rusher Nick Bosa, in particular. (More on Bosa later.)
- Cornerbacks L’Jarius Sneed (No. 38) and Trent McDuffie (No. 22). Sneed and McDuffie are one of the NFL’s youngest and best cornerback duos. They can each play outside or in the slot, and depending on matchups the Chiefs will use one or both of them to shadow the opposing team’s best receiver. How the Chiefs deploy this pair against San Francisco’s explosive wide receivers will be one of the most important tactical battles in this game.
- Linebackers Willie Gay (No. 50), Nick Bolton (No. 32), and Drue Tranquill (No. 23). This group, along with safeties Justin Reid (No. 20) and Mike Edwards (No. 21) is in for a very tough assignment in the Super Bowl, as they will be the players primarily responsible for covering the middle of the field, which is where the 49ers offense likes to attack the most. In particular, they will be tasked with making sure Niners running back Christian McCaffrey (see below) doesn’t break free into the secondary and create big plays either on the ground or through then air.
And what about the 49ers?
- Running back Christian McCaffrey (No. 23). McCaffrey is the NFL’s premier running back, able to beat teams both as a runner and a pass-catcher. He led the NFL in rushing this season for the first time, and has long been considered the best pass-catching back in the league. His versatility, along with that of the 49ers’ other skill-position players (see below), allows the team to move him around the formation and create mismatches so that he and everyone else can find open space. Oh, and for the fashion fans out there: McCaffrey’s fiancee is model Olivia Culpo, who was crowned Miss Universe 2012.
- Wide receivers Deebo Samuel (No. 19) and Brandon Aiyuk (No. 11). Samuel is the most versatile wide receiver in the league, as he is essentially able to operate as a top running back in addition to playing his natural position. He tends to mostly catch short passes and then create yardage with the ball in his hands, but he is also more than capable of beating a defense deep down the field. Aiyuk is widely praised for his fantastic route-running ability, and serves as the primary downfield passing threat for the 49ers. You will see them try to get him the ball over the middle of the field as often as possible.
- Tight end George Kittle (No. 85) and fullback Kyle Juszczyk (No. 44). Kittle is the player who, alongside Kelce, might be the best tight end in football. Juszczyk is the league’s best fullback, and it’s not particularly close. These two play crucial roles for the 49ers in both the run game and the passing game. Whenever McCaffrey breaks off a long run, check the replay; it’s highly likely that one (or both) of these two set a key block to spring him for that big gain. Kittle doesn’t get thrown the ball as often as Kelce, but he is highly efficient as a pass-catcher and is often involved in big plays. Juszczyk — aka “Juice” — gets involved as a pass-catcher as well, and gets the occasional carry in short yardage. His wife, Kristin, is a fashion designed and with the NFL that allows her to use team logos in her designs. She for many players’ significant others (or famous fans), including Taylor Swift. No word just yet on if she’ll be doing the same for the Super Bowl.
- Defensive linemen Nick Bosa (No. 97), Arik Armstead (No. 91), and Javon Hargrave (No. 98). Bosa is one of the NFL’s best pass rushers, and he is a former Defensive Rookie of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year. He finished this season with 10.5 sacks, which is on the low side for him, but he was still fantastic. Armstead and Hargrave have a tough just this week against Kansas City’s interior offensive line, but as one of the best interior defensive line duos in the league, they should also be expected to make life difficult for Thuney, Humphrey, and Smith. Bosa and Armstead were each on the Niners the last time these two teams squared off in the Super Bowl, while Hargrave was actually on the Eagles team that played against KC in last year’s Super Bowl and then signed with San Francisco in the offseason.
- Linebackers Fred Warner (No. 54) and Dre Greenlaw (No. 57). The NFL’s top linebacker duo, Warner and Greenlaw make plays all over the field. Warner, in particular, is a player that really just makes no sense, given all the different things he is able to do. He flies from sideline to sideline in the run game, covers back out of the backfield and tight ends up the seam, and can even hang in coverage against wide receivers. Greenlaw gets overshadowed by his position-mate, but is really good in his own right.
- Cornerback Charvarius Ward (No. 7). Ward is San Francisco’s best coverage guy on the outside — and he’s also a former Chief. He was on the 2019 Chiefs team that beat San Francisco in the Super Bowl, then signed a big contract with the Niners when he hit free agency in 2022. He should see a lot of the coverage against Rice, who is Kansas City’s main perimeter receiving threat.
- Offensive lineman Trent Williams (No. 71). Williams is widely considered the best offensive lineman in the NFL. He’s 35 years old, but he just made his 11th Pro Bowl and was named to his third consecutive All-Pro first team. He is almost impossible to beat in pass protection, and he’s nearly as good a run-blocker as he is clearing the way in the pass game.
- Safeties Tashaun Gipson (31) and J’Ayir Brown (No. 29). These will be the guys who have to make sure to limit passes over the top and force Mahomes into checkdown throws, and also have to share a lot of the coverage responsibility against both Kelce and Rice, who do their best work from the slot.
There are obviously more notable players, but this list is a good start.
Who are the coaches of the Chiefs and 49ers?
The head coach of the Chiefs is Andy Reid. Reid is the best offensive coach of his generation, and one of the best coaches in NFL history. He leads all active coaches in both regular-season and postseason wins, and is fourth (regular-season) and second (playoffs) all time in those categories. He’s been in Kansas City since 2013, since when the Chiefs have been one of the NFL’s best teams with a remarkable degree of consistency. Kansas City has made the playoffs in all but one of his seasons, and has never finished with a losing record. The Chiefs have won their division eight years in a row, made each of the last six conference title games, and been to the Super Bowl four times in the six years Reid has had Mahomes as his quarterback, and they are looking for their third (and second consecutive) win.
The head coach of the 49ers is Kyle Shanahan. Shanahan is basically his generation’s version of Reid, one of the best offensive coaches in the game who has just yet to win a Super Bowl and thus takes more flak than he probably should. He is one arguably the league’s best play-designer, capable of creating space for his outrageous playmakers so that they can do their thing at the highest level. The offensive system he runs has swept through the league over the past several years as teams have hired his (and Sean McVay’s) assistant coaches to try to tap into some of what makes the Niners (and Rams) great. The system was originated by Shanahan’s father, Mike, who was a longtime NFL head coach that won a pair of Super Bowls with the Broncos — a team that counted among its players, among others, Christian McCaffrey’s father, Ed.
The Chiefs and 49ers also both have several well-known assistant coaches.
Kansas City’s offensive coordinator is Matt Nagy. Nagy returned to Kansas City this year after a largely unsuccessful head-coaching stint with the Chicago Bears. He replaced the departed Eric Bieniemy, who himself had replaced Nagy in the coordinator role after Nagy left for a head-coaching job.
The Chiefs’ defensive coordinator is Steve Spagnuolo. A former NFL head coach, Spags has settled into his role as defensive coordinator in KC and seems content to be an extremely high-level assistant. He is known as a great game-plan designer, particularly in playoff settings, and his creative blitz packages are known to give opposing quarterbacks trouble.
The 49ers are the only team in the league that does not have an offensive coordinator. Shanahan calls the offensive plays, and with so many of his assistants being hired away in recent seasons, the team did not name an offensive coordinator this year.
Their defensive coordinator is Steve Wilks. Wilks replaced DeMeco Ryans, who left to be the head coach of the Houston Texans. Wilks was a longtime defensive backs coach and defensive coordinator, and his experience working with the back end of the defense changed San Francisco’s defensive style a bit from what Ryans did, as Ryans was a former NFL linebacker. The Niners did struggle a bit (comparatively) early in the year, but once Wilks figured out the proper alignment among his DBs, the group got much better.
What’s a good talking point to bring up with fans of each team?
- 49ers fans: It’s time to get our revenge! (The Chiefs beat the 49ers in Super Bowl LIV four years ago.)
- Chiefs fans: We’re a dynasty! (This is Kansas City’s fourth Super Bowl trip in the last six seasons, and could be its third win.)
When will people start caring about next year’s Super Bowl?
Literally the exact second this game ends. Get ready.