February 24, 2024

Ranking who has most at stake in Super Bowl LVIII

Super Bowl LVIII, hosted in Las Vegas, kicks off on Sunday, Feb. 11 at 6:30 p.m. ET. For the second time in five years, the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers will meet on the biggest stage.

Several legacies will be on the line in this rematch of Super Bowl LIV, with many of the game’s participating players and coaches hoping to leave their mark on NFL history. Here are the 10 people who have the most at stake in Sunday’s game, ranked in inverse order. 

10. Chiefs OT Jawaan Taylor 

Plenty of eyes will be on Taylor, the player many will remember for getting away with several pre-snap violations during Kansas City’s season-opening loss to the Detroit Lions. While Taylor’s infractions went unnoticed in that game, officials have made sure to enforce them throughout the season, as he was the most penalized lineman in the NFL (19). It’ll be intriguing to see whether Taylor can keep things clean against San Francisco, especially after 49ers edge-rusher Nick Bosa told reporters he and fellow Chiefs tackle Donovan Smith “hold a lot.”

9. 49ers DE Chase Young  

Young, the second overall pick by the Washington Commanders in the 2020 NFL Draft, aims to make a much-needed statement in his last game before hitting free agency. Once touted as a generational prospect, Young’s NFL career has been marred by injuries and he’s made little impact since being acquired by San Francisco at the trade deadline. With his effort recently coming under question, Young will have the opportunity to show that he is worth taking a flier on this offseason if he impresses against the Chiefs. 

8. Chiefs TE Travis Kelce

Although playing in front of your global popstar girlfriend is enough pressure on its own, Kelce is one of several Chiefs vying to establish himself as the best at his craft. Despite failing to reach 1,000 receiving yards for the eighth consecutive season, Kelce has returned to his dominant ways in the playoffs. Over the last three games, Kelce has hauled in 23 passes for 262 yards and three touchdowns, setting the NFL postseason record for career receptions in the process (156).

7. 49ers LT Trent Williams 

The 35-year-old is already a sure-fire Hall of Famer, but adding a Super Bowl title to his illustrious resume would further solidify his status as one of the greatest tackles of all time. Williams is one of four offensive tackles in NFL history to earn 11 Pro Bowl nods and with a win over the Kansas City Chiefs, would be the second player at the position to earn that many selections while securing a Super Bowl victory.

6. Chiefs DT Chris Jones 

Another player whose performance has significant contractual implications, Jones could reset the defensive tackle market this offseason and a dominant outing against San Francisco would virtually guarantee it. The two-time first-team All-Pro selection is the top-ranked impending free agent, according to Pro Football Focus, which projects Jones to sign a four-year, $120 million deal in the coming months. On a bittersweet note, such an outcome may also result in this being the final game in a Chiefs uniform for Jones, who has the fifth-most sacks in team history (75.5).

5. 49ers RB Christian McCaffrey 

Perhaps the most important player in this Super Bowl rematch, McCaffrey continues to prove he’s cut from a different cloth in an age where the running back position is considered as dispensable as ever. If McCaffrey can take advantage of Kansas City’s 18th-ranked run defense (113.2 yards per game allowed), he could ultimately be the first running back since the 1997 season to be named Super Bowl MVP. Additionally, with a 49ers win, McCaffrey and his father Ed would become the second father-son duo in league history to win a Super Bowl with the same franchise, per ESPN

4. Chiefs HC Andy Reid

Already one of the most successful coaches ever, Reid has the opportunity to continue closing the gap between him and Bill Belichick as the greatest coach of all time. Only four coaches have won at least three Super Bowl titles and fortunately for Reid, history is on his side to become the fifth. Sunday’s game marks the fourth-ever Super Bowl rematch among head coaches and in the previous three instances, the coach who won the first matchup prevailed in the second meeting (h/t NFL Research). 

3. 49ers QB Brock Purdy

One of the most improbable – and remarkable – success stories in NFL history, the 2022 Mr. Irrelevant will be the first seventh-round pick to start at quarterback in a Super Bowl. Purdy still hasn’t lost a playoff game he has been healthy enough to finish and his second-half heroics during the 49ers’ run to Super Bowl LVIII are a major reason why the team is playing on Sunday. Should he guide San Francisco to victory, Purdy would become the second-youngest quarterback to win a Super Bowl and dispel the notion that he’s nothing more than a game manager. 

2. Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes

Mahomes is trying to keep pace with Tom Brady in his quest to cement himself as the greatest quarterback of all time by winning his third Super Bowl in his sixth season as a starter. While this may be the biggest storyline of Super Bowl LVIII, Mahomes still has less at stake than the person holding our No. 1 spot, considering he has already lost two head-to-head postseason matchups against Brady and is only 28. Even so, knocking off the 49ers with a receiving corps that led the league in drops this season (44) would be Mahomes’ most impressive title to date and would already establish him as a top-five quarterback in NFL history.

1. 49ers HC Kyle Shanahan 

After being a part of two prominent Super Bowl collapses – none more notable than Super Bowl LI – it feels like it’s now or never for Shanahan to prove he’s an all-time great coach. Shanahan is arguably the best coach in North American sports yet to reach the pinnacle of success. According to OptaSTATS, Shanahan has the highest career postseason winning percentage of any head coach or manager in MLB/NBA/NFL/NHL history without a championship (.727). If Shanahan can finally exorcise his late-game demons, he and his father, Mike, would become the first father-son duo to lead a team to a Super Bowl victory.