It all comes down to this.
A season full of struggles can be washed away with 60 minutes of mistake-free football. The failures of an entire wide receiver room can be forgotten with a great performance by one rookie. The legacy of Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce, Andy Reid, Steve Spagnuolo, Chris Jones and others can be further cemented with one more victory.
We should be bullish on the entire roster at this point, as the Kansas City Chiefs have found the right identity to win when it matters the most. Watch to see if they continue to ride the horses that brought them here or if they try to shock the football-watching (and Taylor Swift-watching) world with some new or old wrinkles.
Here are a few that could be trending heading into Super Bowl LVIII against the San Francisco 49ers:
Running back Isiah Pacheco: The Chiefs have an opportunity to control this football game and physically punish the 49ers' defense — that all starts with Pacheco. He's averaging 100 total yards and a touchdown in the three playoff games this season. Pacheco is a huge energy giver, and you can bet he'll be pounding the turf in Allegiant Stadium on Sunday. Watch to see the boost he can give, helping the Chiefs score early and grind out the game late. He's quietly a threat in the passing game as well — if they choose to dial up something for him. If Kansas City is wise, it will feed Pacheco 20 touches; he's one of the reasons they're here.
Cornerbacks L'Jarius Sneed and Trent McDuffie: This duo has been phenomenal all season. Both are great in coverage and have a chance to shut down another team's best receivers this weekend. They might also be the top two blitzing corners in the league — and the top two tacklers at the position. Both could come into play in the Super Bowl, where the 49ers will try to get the ball out quickly and get yards after the catch with Christian McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel, and George Kittle. Tackling might be the biggest key to success for this defense, but the second biggest key is to make Brock Purdy feel pressure. Steve Spagnuolo will likely empty the bag on the pride of Iowa State University. We'll see how he handles it.
Kicker Harrison Butker: In the postseason, when the games are close, it's incredibly important to have a reliable kicker. Just ask Buffalo Bills fans. The Chiefs have a legitimate weapon in Harrison Butker, and it could be the difference in the game. The offense is playing more conservatively, and Mahomes is more willing to throw the ball away to avoid turnovers in the red zone. These are just a couple of factors that could lead to more field goals. It's hard to believe, but Butker has a real chance to set an all-time record on Sunday.
Harrison Butker needs 3 FG’s to pass Adam Vinatieri & Stephon Gowtkowski for most FG’s made in Super Bowl history.— Ryan (@Rut23KC) February 8, 2024
Others trending in the right direction this week: defensive tackle Chris Jones, wide receiver Rashee Rice, wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling, linebacker Drue Tranquill, EDGE George Karlaftis, Safety Chamarri Conner
Wide receiver Kadarius Toney: No more injury designations. No absence for personal reasons. Kadarius Toney should be available for the Chiefs if they choose to play him. One of last year's Super Bowl heroes could (in theory) be a difference-maker on punt returns once again. He could also be a factor on goal-line plays or as a downfield receiver. But is that a chance this team wants to take? They've found a formula and a group of players that can get the job done without turnovers, drops or other big mental errors. Does it make sense to add Toney (or Skyy Moore, for that matter) back into the mix for the Super Bowl? Facing a crazy talented team on the biggest possible stage, one mistake could be the difference in getting a ring or not. It's tempting to add back in as many "weapons" as possible, but it might not be worth the risk of taking a step backward.
Right tackle Jawaan Taylor: The Chiefs' offensive tackles have been better as of late, but Jawaan Taylor has a tough matchup this week. The NFC champions have a crazy talented group of defenders that can rush the passer. Whether he draws a perennial defensive player of the year candidate Nick Bosa, former No. 1 overall pick Chase Young or one of their talented interior lineman (Arik Armstead, Javon Hargrave), Taylor will have his hands full and lots of eyes on him. Hopefully, we see more of the playoff version of Jawaan Taylor and less of the one that was the most penalized player in the regular season. The last thing we want is to see another epic Patrick Mahomes play in the Super Bowl called back for a penalty on the offensive line.
Tight ends Noah Gray and Blake Bell: This offense is running more multi-tight end sets but getting less production out of the second and third guys in the room. Noah Gray has 44 yards on nine targets this postseason. Blake Bell had nine targets and 26 yards in the regular season and has yet to record a touch in the postseason. Luckily, the Chiefs boast the greatest tight end and soon-to-be greatest pass catcher in NFL playoff history as their top guy, and he's playing in peak form. But if you expect to see the other tight ends do anything but block and play special teams, you are likely to be disappointed.
Others trending in the wrong direction this week: wide receiver Richie James, running back Jerick McKinnon, wide receiver Justyn Ross, punter Tommy Townsend, wide receiver Skyy Moore
Value (Sleeper) EDGE Felix Anudike-Uzomah:
What a day it will be for the Chiefs' first-round pick from this past draft. The story writes itself — hometown kid, drafted in Kansas City after they won the Super Bowl, finally gets his big chance to show what he can do and makes a couple of memorable plays to help the team repeat as Champs. Losing Charles Omenihu stinks, given how well he played and how determined he was to face his old team. But it's an exciting opportunity for FAU to get some significant snaps either as the decoy who fights with Trent Williams or as someone who actually gets home against Brock Purdy. No. 97 will at least have fresh legs and an entire season of learning under his belt, so he'll be one to watch on Sunday.