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On Nov. 30, I told you because of the way sports fans are so reactionary, the NFL might as well have handed the Lombardi Trophy to the San Francisco 49ers. Everybody was enamored by their dominating ways and figured they were a shoo-in.

Well, here they are, representing the NFC in the Super Bowl.

But just as I was skeptical then, because of a schedule strength that had them ranked 31st at the time, I’m skeptical again.

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Sure, the 49ers closed the season with a tougher slate than they played from Weeks 1 through 12, going 3-2 down the stretch. But once again I question the validity of their domination when you take in consideration the opponents they faced in the playoffs.

Not to take anything away from the Minnesota Vikings or Green Bay Packers, but I was more impressed by how the Kansas City Chiefs got by the Houston Texans and Tennessee Titans. I am more intrigued at how Patrick Mahomes overcame deficits in both games and will use his experience, his energy and his leadership to withstand a San Francisco defense that wasn’t necessarily tested in its two playoff games. At least not by the type of offense the Chiefs will put on the field Sunday in Miami.

Mahomes was 23 of 35 in each of his playoff games, going 46-for-70 overall for 615 yards and eight touchdowns, while running for 106 yards (53 in each game) and another score. Truly, nothing flashy or fancy, just enough to generate and manage an offense that tallied 838 yards on offense.

Mahomes ranked among the league’s elite quarterbacks during the regular season, throwing for 4,031 yards with a 26-to-5 touchdown-to-interception ratio while posting the second-best QB-rating (78.0) in the league.

And with him, the 49ers must deal with a slew of offensive weapons — unlike what the Vikings and Packers offered — in guys like Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins, Travis Kelce, Mecole Hardman and Damien Williams.

True, the 49ers’ secondary is elite, and will be led by Super Bowl champion Richard Sherman. But with so many targets, I don’t see how San Francisco can account for everything in coach Andy Reid’s playbook.

From a speedy Hill, to a rugged Kelce, to a stalwart Watkins, to a bruising Williams… Kansas City’s offensive depth will pose a problem for the 49ers.

Now, all that said, the Chiefs have to stop the 49ers. That’s the key. And if there is one area of this team I’ve been most impressed by, it’s the improvement we’ve seen with Kansas City’s stop unit.

As critical as I was about the 49ers’ strength of schedule, as critical as I was about Kansas City’s defense earlier in the season, when it allowed an average of 375.7 yards and 23.2 points per game over the first 11 weeks, the Chiefs have yielded an average of 314 yards and 15.2 points per contest since Week 13.

The Vikings’ defense ranked 14th overall during the regular season, while Green Bay ranked 18th. Not a pair of threatening defensive units the 49ers needed to do much against during the playoffs.

The Chiefs faced Tennessee and Houston defenses that ranked 21st and 28th, respectively, but considering the offensive numbers Kansas City put up, I’d say it did what it was supposed to do, and the come-from-behind victories aren’t that surprising. They should have shellacked both teams and did.

With that, I take you back to the strength of schedule argument, and it’s Kansas City that finished the season ranked sixth overall. Its highest ranking was No. 1, and lowest was No. 16. The 49ers finished 10th overall, and the highest they ever got was sixth, while the lowest was 31st, the week I made you aware of that.

I’m taking the battle-tested team in this one, and believe the second-best defense in this game, will be much better than the second-best offense. That’ll lead to the best offense wearing down the best defense down the stretch.

Kansas City has covered eight in a row and five straight against teams with a winning record, and with the line sitting at -1 as of Tuesday, the Chiefs basically need to just win this game for the cover.

One final game to improve on my winning record in my first season as a columnist with Las Vegas’ leading gaming publication. Time to finish up with a winner. CHIEFS

Season: 54-50-3

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About the Author

W.G. Ramirez

W.G. Ramirez is a 32-year veteran covering sports in Southern Nevada, and resident of 46 years. He is a freelance reporter in Las Vegas and the Southern Nevada correspondent for The Associated Press.

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