LAS VEGAS — When it comes to football, entertainment and potential drama, the first Super Bowl in Las Vegas seems to have everything the NFL could want for a jackpot finish to the season.
This winning hand starts with the last two teams standing and their quarterbacks, each an ace in his own way.
Crafty playmaker Patrick Mahomes — already a two-time Super Bowl MVP — and the Kansas City Chiefs (14-6) are bidding to become the league's first repeat champions in 19 years while trying to solidify their claim to a dynasty with a third title in five years.
And though oddsmakers have listed the San Francisco 49ers (14-5) as slight favorites for Sunday's game at Allegiant Stadium, they have the ultimate underdog story in Brock Purdy. After rising from "Mr. Irrelevant" status as the final pick of the 2022 draft, his rookie season ended in disappointing fashion a year ago with a serious injury and an NFC championship loss.
He returned this season, showing a knack for the comeback during the playoffs to lead the franchise to the brink of a record-tying sixth Super Bowl title — an accomplishment that would etch his name alongside former San Francisco quarterbacks Joe Montana (four titles) and Steve Young (one), both of them Pro Football Hall of Famers.
Of course, there's the glitz and glamour of America's showcase city and the irony of playing a Super Bowl in this gambling capital, an idea that used to be taboo for the NFL.
Kickoff is set for 6:30 p.m. Eastern on CBS, with a kid-themed telecast on Nickelodeon and Paramount Plus among multiple streaming options for the 58th edition of the Super Bowl.
Did we mention Taylor Swift yet? Make room for the Grammy-winning superstar to jet into town just in time to see her boyfriend, Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, try to win another ring. Swift was expected to fly in from Japan after her concert on Saturday.
Kelce, a four-time All-Pro first-teamer and Mahomes' favorite target, was focused on limiting the distractions ahead of the game despite fielding numerous questions about Swift and their relationship, which has captivated millions and attracted a new audience of football fans.
"Show up every day thinking about the now and not too much the future," Kelce said. "Obviously, you've got to prepare for what's ahead but not harp on the past is the biggest thing ... I think we would never try and tie in what we did last year to this year. Every single year is really its own journey."
For the Chiefs, nothing less than hoisting another Vince Lombardi Trophy is acceptable, so they have the most pressure.
"That expectation has become a demand at this point," Kelce said. "I know the years that we haven't won since we won our first one have felt like the biggest losses of my life. So it's just having that mentality year in, year out, and putting the expectations on yourself, making sure that no one puts higher expectations on us more than us. We're here to win this thing, baby. That's for sure."
Mahomes, a two-time NFL MVP, is already drawing comparisons to Tom Brady, who won seven Super Bowl rings — six with the New England Patriots and his last with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as they foiled Kansas City's attempt to repeat three years ago.
Brady won three titles in his first four seasons as a starter; Mahomes is going for No. 3 in his sixth season. Even if he wins, it's too early to have the conversation.
"I'm not even close to halfway, so I haven't put a lot of thought into it," Mahomes said. "I mean, your goal is to be the best player that you can be. I know I'm blessed to be around a lot of great players. And so right now, it's doing whatever I can to beat a great 49ers team and try to get that third ring.
"And then if you ask me that question in 15 years, and I'll see if I can get close to seven. But seven seems like a long ways away still."
This is a rematch of the game the Chiefs won four years ago to give coach Andy Reid his first championship. San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan has been close to winning twice before, only to see his teams blow big leads.
He was the offensive coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons when Brady's Patriots rallied from a 28-3 second-half deficit to a 34-28 overtime victory at Super Bowl LI in 2017. Three years later, Shanahan's 49ers were up 20-10 entering the fourth quarter only to watch Mahomes rally Kansas City to a 31-20 win.
"Both of them are heartbreaking," Shanahan said. "Those things last a while. But it's all about getting back there again, and that's what I'm excited for."
Shanahan's dad, Mike, lost two Super Bowls as an offensive coordinator with the Denver Broncos before going to San Francisco in the same role and winning one in 1995. He then won two more as the head coach of the Broncos.
"I remember seeing my dad after those Super Bowls when he was a coordinator in Denver when I was younger and how hard it was on him," the 49ers coach said. "So I think any time you get that close and you lose the last one, that's definitely the hardest."
Jimmy Garoppolo was San Francisco's quarterback last time around. Now it's Purdy, an NFL MVP finalist who overcame all the odds and continues to make critics look foolish.
Purdy isn't concerned with proving doubters wrong. He has rare maturity for a 24-year-old, which helps him play with confidence and maintain his composure.
"It comes down to how do I do my job really well for three hours against the Kansas City Chiefs' defense," Purdy said. "That's where my mindset's at. I want to do everything I can to help my team win.
"I'm focusing on the plays. I'm focusing on what we're trying to do for this week, not getting caught up in all the paparazzi and all that kind of stuff outside."