Who has a better chance of making it back: Chiefs or 49ers?

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Ricky Dimon

NFL

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Since graduating from Davidson (The College That Stephen Curry Built), I have been writing about sports -- just about any and all you can think of! -- and coaching tennis in Atlanta, GA. Beyond the four major sports, I am an avid tennis fan and cover the ATP Tour on a daily basis. If I'm not busy writing, you can generally find me on a tennis court or traveling the world wherever a sporting event takes me.

Barring some kind of Florida Marlins-esque fire sale (which never happens in the NFL), expectations are always high for any league’s defending champion heading into the next season. Same goes for the runner-up. There is no exception with the Super Bowl LIV champion Kansas City Chiefs and the NFC-winning San Francisco 49ers. Both teams are favored to emerge victorious in their respective conferences once again in 2020.

But that does not mean it’s going to be easy; making it back to the promised land never is—not in any sport. Let’s take a look at how the Chiefs and 49ers could or could not return to the Super Bowl.

Chiefs +225 to win AFC

Kansas City’s run to the Lombardi Trophy was a memorable one, starting in Week 17. Head coach Andy Reid’s squad secured a first-round bye thanks to the New England Patriots’ upset loss at the hands of the Miami Dolphins. The Chiefs proceeded to mount double-digit comebacks three straight times, culminating in a 31-20 Super Bowl victory over San Francisco.

The Chiefs should not have too much trouble taking care of business again in the AFC West. Both the Denver Broncos and Oakland Raiders went 7-9 this past season, while the Los Angeles Chargers (5-11) are beginning a new era without quarterback Philip Rivers. Kansas City, on the other hand, has produced back-to-back 12-4 campaigns—first when quarterback Patrick Mahomes earned NFL MVP honors and again even though Mahomes came back to Earth. With the former Texas Tech signal-caller still running the show, this squad has the potential makings of a dynasty. Mahomes has plenty of weapons to work with and the Tyrann Mathieu-led defense made big strides this past season.

The AFC is, however, quite loaded relative to the NFC. The Baltimore Ravens, who are led by reigning MVP Lamar Jackson, earned the No. 1 seed in the recent playoffs. If Tom Brady returns, New England may have one more run left in it. The Tennessee Titans and Houston Texans of the AFC South have their flaws but at the same time seem to be on the rise.

49ers +400 to win NFC

The fact that San Francisco has much longer odds to win a worse conference speaks volumes about how much Vegas—and probably the public—favors Kansas City. The Super Bowl was close, but clearly it’s not very close heading into the 2020 campaign. A lot of that has to do with the quarterback position. We found out in Miami what we already knew: Jimmy Garoppolo sure ain’t Patrick Mahomes.

Still, the 49ers went 13-3 for a reason. Garoppolo is solid if unspectacular, and he did not exactly throw away the Super Bowl—he simply could not produce heroics once his team fell behind on the scoreboard. Raheem Mostert and George Kittle were breakout stars of the league in 2019, but it is the defense that has this franchise poised for more and more success down the road. Nick Bosa and the rest of the defensive line make for a scary unit.

Although the NFC may not be top heavy, it does boast plenty of depth with teams that could contend. The Seattle Seahawks came within a yard of winning the NFC West and the Dallas Cowboys could improve under new head coach Mike McCarthy. Two other teams (the New Orleans Saints and Green Bay Packers) went 13-3 this past season and should remain contenders. Drew Brees could be back in the Big Easy, while Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers obviously isn’t going anywhere.

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