Taylor Swift is likely to fly back from her concert in Japan to cheer on Travis Kelce and the Kansas City Chiefs as they meet the San Francisco 49ers at Super Bowl LVIII in Las Vegas.
As Super Bowl LVIII between the San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs approaches in Las Vegas, so does the latest installment of a Taylor Swift narrative that has taken the NFL by storm this season…
Swift’s friendship with Chiefs tight end and future Hall of Famer Travis Kelce has emerged as one of the most unusual but unstoppable narratives of the 2023 season, with her postgame celebrations in the stands becoming one of the most sought-after sights on Kansas City’s return to the Super Bowl.
Swift’s presence, despite over-exhausted camera shots and unending questioning, has been transformative in bringing an altogether new fandom to the league.
Super Bowl LVIII: Meet the San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs
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NFL commissioner Roger Goodell welcomed the ‘Taylor Swift effect’ such has been its impact in appealing to younger female audiences.
And with that, here is a look ahead to Super Bowl LVIII through the albums of the 13-time Grammy winner.
Who will be Fearless?
Fearless was Swift’s second album release and catapulted her to stardom with the smash hit Love Story. Who can bury the nerves to rise in the big moment and lead their side to footballing immortality?
Patrick Mahomes and Brock Purdy loom as your obvious candidates to play defining roles as the respective quarterbacks of their teams, but it is from within the Chiefs’ young receiving core that a hero could emerge after a season marred by dropped catches and heavy scrutiny.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling was on hand to provide a clutch third-and-nine catch that would ice his side’s win over the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Championship Game. Mahomes has had to adopt a more patient approach to building and sustaining drives in the face of modern defenses, but when the opportunity to take a shot downfield emerges Valdes-Scantling tends to be a popular splash target. Will he be there to answer the call when it comes? As much might be said for Rashee Rice, whose rise as Mahomes’ most trusted wide receiver outside of Travis Kelce has heightened expectations and attention surrounding the rookie second-rounder.
For San Francisco, there may be no man under more pressure or burdened by expectation heading into Sunday’s Super Bowl than 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan. He might be the NFL’s most innovative modern offensive mind, but has been accused of conservativeness in crucial moments during previous attempts to win a Championship. Here is his chance to lay down a masterplan without reservation.
Who will be the voice of the team and Speak Now?
The Super Bowl calls on the calmest voices, the inspiring words and football’s leaders, so whose words could play a starring role on the most daunting stage?
We are looking at the off-ball linebackers of the group. The 49ers are built on trench subterfuge, pulling guards and tight ends back-and-forth across the line of scrimmage in aid of propping up outside zone runs, simulating outside zone runs and disguising screens and end arounds designed to put the ball in the hands of their Deebo Samuels’ and Christian McCaffreys. Chiefs linebacker Nick Bolton lies as a key to deciphering the 49ers offense as one of Steve Spagnuolo’s chief communicators when it comes to play diagnosis and ensuring team-mates know their assignments. Across from him, Fred Warner is similarly tasked with organising his troops against one of the NFL’s most gifted and shrewd screen designers in Andy Reid.
Under pressure: Make sure not to see Red
Who will handle and harness the pressure of the Super Bowl? Who will let the occasion get the better of them? It is where Championship games are won or lost.
Over to you, Brock Purdy. On paper, there should be little pressure on a man selected last at the 2022 NFL Draft who has since defied heavily-weighted odds to move within one win of Super Bowl glory. And yet as he pilots a talent-rich 49ers offense there remain hefty expectations resting on his shoulders to take an organisation in its Championship window over the line. He has been unflappable for much of his young, remarkable career, but is faced with the task of maintaining his poise in the face of a Steve Spagnuolo defense that will bombard him with coverage disguises as complex as any he will have encountered this season.
L’Jarius Sneed has been a starring face of the Chiefs’ standout defense all season, setting the tone with his aggression in coverage and at the line of scrimmage to the sight of defining success against the likes of Tyreek Hill. He plays tough, he plays with violent hands, he plays on the edge in aid of blunting the league’s most dangerous weapons – can he continue to channel that hard-hitting approach with the discipline that has served him so well in recent months?
Got a big Reputation: Who will make the difference?
The biggest names in the biggest moments in the biggest game of their lives. Who arises in Las Vegas to say ‘Look what you made me do’?
Christian McCaffrey has been the beating heart of this 49ers offense in 2023, rushing for 1,459 yards (first in the NFL) and 14 touchdowns alongside 67 catches for 564 yards and seven touchdowns through the air. He has propelled San Francisco to new heights since arriving in a trade from the Carolina Panthers last season, becoming a finalist for league MVP in the process. McCaffrey is the quintessential dual-threat running back to whom Shanahan will turn for clock control and wide zone success in aid of relaxing the pressure on his young quarterback. When the Detroit Lions threatened to pull away for good in the NFC Championship Game, McCaffrey was there to drag them back.
Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones has been known to thrive in high-stakes football and will lead the efforts to unnerve Purdy in the pocket, while 49ers pass rusher Nick Bosa will be relishing a match-up with Jawaan Taylor in his own bid to disrupt Mahomes.
Mahomes has been there, and won, twice. He can mould obscurity into artistry as the league’s most imaginative playmaker under center. He out-duelled an inspired Jalen Hurts in a shootout at the Super Bowl this time last year, and threatens to match that feat against his less-experienced counterpart.
Who has the ability to write their name into folklore?
Can the Chiefs secure their status as one of the ‘last great American dynasties’? Can Shanahan finally win the ring to go with his status as one of contemporary football’s greatest minds? Can Purdy cap off one of the most unusual stories in NFL history as the Mr Irrelevant-turned-Super Bowl-winning quarterback?
Meanwhile, 49ers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks will remember Todd Bowles’ stock rising after his Tampa Bay Buccaneers swarmed Mahomes in Super Bowl LV, and he will know he has the opportunity to dial up the game plan that could delay the great Chiefs quarterback in his pursuit of football’s pass-throwing icons.
His opponent Spagnuolo, meanwhile, can cap off one of the most spectacular seasons by a coordinator in recent memory by producing another defensive clinic to contain the league’s third-best scoring offense. Without Spagnuolo and his defense, the Chiefs would not be here. Can he finish the job?
Will this Chiefs team be remembered for Evermore?
The Chiefs are flirting with dynastic territory. Some may claim they are already there. Victory on Sunday might cement their third Super Bowl victory in four appearances since 2019. It would signal Mahomes’ newest step toward the all-time quarterback greats in history, as well as Reid’s latest step toward all-time coaching greatness.
What’s more, it beckons as their finest hour yet should they topple Shanahan’s 49ers in the wake of a turbulent regular season, for the most part of which they were written off in their defence of last season’s title.
Football is unlikely to ever forget about Mahomes’ Chiefs. A win on Sunday who remove all doubt.
Throwing it back to 1989
A return to the glory days! San Francisco found themselves at the pinnacle of football in 1989, finishing the campaign with a 55-10 rout of the Denver Broncos at Super Bowl XXIV to become back-to-back champions following a scintillating playoff showing from Joe Montana. It would mark their fourth Super Bowl title in the space of nine seasons, which had threatened to become five in 1990 until they were beaten by the New York Giants at the NFC Championship Game after yet another MVP season from Montana.
The year 1989 also happens to be the birth year of Kelce, who would bolster his case as one of the greatest tight ends in NFL history should he secure a third ring this weekend.
Time to celebrate: who will be partying well into midnight(s)?
Who is visiting the Las Vegas Strip in the early hours of Monday morning?
For those who are buying into the storyline surrounding Taylor Swift, whose favorite number is 13, you should know that Sunday’s Super Bowl will be Swift’s 13th Chiefs game of the season. And that, of course, means the Chiefs will win.
Of course it does not. The 49ers approach as modest favourites, with one of the NFL’s most polished teams, having ended the regular season 12-5 to claim the NFC’s top seed.
San Francisco has overcome deficits twice in the playoffs to defeat the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions, while the Chiefs have out-thought and out-muscled three leading contenders in the Miami Dolphins, Buffalo Bills, and Baltimore Ravens to advance. This is a coin flip.
Sky Sports NFL will broadcast Super Bowl LVIII, which pits the 49ers against the Chiefs, live on Sunday, February 11. The game starts at 11:30 p.m. You can also watch Sky Sports’ live Super Bowl coverage with NOW.
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