524 games in the books, one to go. The Kansas City Chiefs are back in the big dance one year after claiming a win over the 49ers in Super Bowl LIV, looking to complete rare back-to-back wins on the biggest stage the NFL can offer. Their challengers? The Tampa Bay Buccaneers – with the greatest NFL player to ever lace them up under center vying for ring No. 7. Tom Brady has helped the Bucs hit their straps at the right time of year, setting up a mouth-watering clash between the G.O.A.T and the kid.
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Recipe for Success: Kansas City Chiefs
Only seven franchises have pulled off the rare double Super Bowl win in a two-year span with the Kansas City Chiefs just four quarters away from writing their names into the history books. To complete their quest for two straight Lombardi trophies, the favourites for Super Bowl LV will have to get through a familiar foe in Tom Brady. An overtime loss to Brady and the Pats in the AFC title game in 2018 is the only real blemish on their resume in recent years, with Patrick Mahomes winning all six of his playoff games to date when the G.O.A.T wasn’t the opposing quarterback. Mahomes is obviously on his own quest for superstardom and in 53 career games, he seems well and truly on track to be considered one of the games greatest when he retires.
Image from si.com
At points throughout the 2020 season, Mahomes was in the box seat to win another MVP award, finishing 2nd in the league for passing yards, first downs and touchdowns – throwing 626 passes and being intercepted just six times. What makes Mahomes’ numbers all the more impressive is the fact he rested the regular-season finale in Week 17 against the Chargers, along with a slew of Chiefs starters such as Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill. Those two, in particular, have been at their electric best for Kansas City in the regular season, combining for nearly 2,700 receiving yards and 26 touchdowns. Mahomes will undoubtedly look to spread the load on offence, but success in the Super Bowl will hinge on his ability to find his two best players.
In the postseason, Hill and Kelce rank 2nd and 3rd respectively for receiving yards with Hill’s performance, in particular, turning a lot of heads. Chiefs fans will be hoping he can stay hot, with Tyreek TORCHING the Bucs (and cornerback Carlton Davis in particular) last time these sides played for 269 receiving yards and three touchdowns – with 203 of those yards coming in the first quarter alone! It’ll be a near-impossible task for Tampa Bay to quell both Hill and Kelce and if one of them can get off the chain and put up 100-120+ yards, it’ll certainly boost Kansas City’s chances of defeating the Buccaneers.
Of course, KC’s offence is only one part of the equation with their defence facing the daunting task of shutting down the quarterbacking Jesus in Brady. The Chiefs’ D isn’t at the top of the food chain in a lot of categories, but they are tied with the Washington Football Team for the 4th most interceptions in season 2020. Last time they played Brady in Week 12, they forced him to throw two picks by putting Brady under pressure and a similar recipe will boost their chances of a win. Expect Tyrann ‘Honey Badger’ Mathieu to actively pursue an INT after hauling in six during the regular season – the 3rd most in the entire NFL. He’ll find it easy to pounce on a Brady mistake if Chris Jones, perhaps the best defensive player in this game, and the rest of the Cheifs’ defensive line can pressure TB 12 into throwing loose passes.
If Jones isn’t the one getting after Brady, hopefully, Frank Clark will be able to wreak havoc having led the team in tackles for loss this year. Kansas City recorded just 32 sacks in 2020, so there’s no certainty they’ll be able to put Brady on his back, but if they get the chance to do so, KC can’t afford to let their opportunities slide. The Chiefs have forced just six turnovers in their last six contests, turning those miscues into 24 points on the ensuing drives and if they can make the Bucs pay for their mistakes on Sunday, KC will be one step closer to another ring.
Recipe for Success: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
One of the biggest factors in the Bucs’ favour for this matchup is where Super Bowl LV is actually being played. No NFL team has ever had the luxury of hosting a Super Bowl, but Tampa Bay will be able to vie for a championship by playing at home. You would think playing in their own arena is a bonus for the Buccaneers, however, they only boast a 5-3 record at Raymond James Stadium this year, with all three of their postseason wins coming on the road.
Sleeping in their own bed the night before the big game should give Tampa at least a slight advantage, but regardless of where the Super Bowl is being played, the Bucs definitely enter the game in stellar form. Winners of seven straight games ever since their bye week, TB has thrived with TB under center, with the 43-year old hardly putting a foot wrong at his new club. Touchdown Tom led the NFL in average depth of target and intended air yards during the regular season, putting to bed any doubt over his arm strength 20 years into his NFL career.
Image from startribune.com
A plethora of weapons on offence is a large contributor to Brady’s success with Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown all bonafide WR1’s at any other franchise. Throw vertical threat Scotty Miller in the mix and tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Cameron Brate and all of a sudden Kansas City has their hands full trying to keep up with the Bucs’ threats. Leaning on those gifted offensive talents helped Tampa Bay score an impressive 30.8 PPG, good for the 3rd most in the entire NFL. They have hit the 30-point threshold in each of their postseason games too – a number they’ll likely have to reach to defeat their opponents this weekend.
While all their pass catchers are garnering a lot of attention, it could be the Buccaneers running game that helps them win the franchises second Super Bowl. Leonard Fournette has found his mojo at the right time of the year, carrying the rock 48 times for 211 rushing yards in three playoff matches. During the regular season, it was Ronald Jones II who led the way on the ground, finishing just 22 yards shy of hitting the 1,000-yard mark. Having to stop not one, but two lethal runners could spell doom for the Chiefs who gave up the 9th most yards per carry to opposing running backs and over 121 rushing yards a game.
In a game dictated by two offences, a lot will be made about how the defence combats the other side and Tampa’s defensive coordinator Todd Bowles will look to get after Mahomes to nullify his impact. The Chiefs’ O-line has done a great job of keeping their QB upright, but going up against the Bucs presents a brand new challenge with Tampa ranking 2nd in the NFL for blitz attempts, pressures and 3rd in quarterback hits. Mahomes has proved throughout his career that he can dominate opponents who send extra men after him, so Bowles will need to get creative if the Bucs are to get after the KC quarterback. With only one pick-6 in his career, it’s unlikely that any of Tampa’s defensive stars like Lavonte David, Devin White or Antione Winfield Jr will be able to take a Mahomes pass attempt to the house, but if they can force the Chiefs QB to rush his decisions, the rest of the Bucs defence needs to be ready to make the most of any mistakes.
Numbers That Matter
7 – If Tom Brady is successful in defeating the Chiefs on Sunday, he’ll have seven Super Bowl rings – more than any other NFL franchise (New England and Pittsburgh each have 6). There are a lot of wild stats/numbers associated with Brady and the Super Bowl, but this one is flat out ridiculous!
12 – Rob Gronkowski coming out of retirement helped him strengthen his case as the greatest tight end in NFL history. Gronk is currently tied with John Stallworth with 12 TD’s in his playoff career and hauling in one more would move him to outright second behind only Jerry Rice (22).
Image from theathletic.co.uk
34.1 – In his seven career playoff games, Patrick Mahomes has averaged 34.1 points, a number the Cheifs would love to get close to against Tampa Bay. For what it’s worth, Brady isn’t too far behind averaging 27.2 PPG from 44 postseason matches.
68 – Andy Ried currently holds the record as the oldest head coach (61 years old) to win a Super Bowl, but his opponent this weekend Bruce Arians can steal that title from his longtime rival. Arians, 68, has two rings from his time as an assistant with the Pittsburgh Steelers, but he could write his name into the record books if he leads the Buccaneers to a win over Kansas City.
80.6 – No team held their opponents to fewer rushing yards this season, with Tampa Bay giving up just 80.6 yards per game on the ground in the regular season. They’ve kept that number low in the playoffs too, with their foes averaging just 86.6 rushing yards through three games.
140 – Bucs linebacker Devin White registered 140 tackles in the regular season through 15 games, good for the 5th most in the league. It’s worth pointing out, that every player who recorded more than White played an extra game and Tampa’s defensive star leads all players in these playoffs with 24 tackles. Translation – he’ll need to keep hitting KC’s weapons to extinguish their influence.
203 – I’ve talked about it already in this article, but the last time these two squads played, KC’s Tyreek Hill had 203 receiving yards in the FIRST QUARTER alone! We’ve seen how Hill can change the game with one single reception and Tampa Bay can’t afford to let Hill get open in space or they’ll be doomed.
Prediction – Kansas City Chiefs 35, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31
It still doesn’t feel right picking against Tom Brady in the biggest game of the year, but the Kansas City Chiefs are a different kind of buzzsaw. They’ve had patches of the season where they’ve dominated and looked like the best team in football, but Tampa Bay enters this game with momentum on their side and the belief they can take it right up to KC.
For the Bucs, their tight ends seem set to play a massive role in this game, not only based on the Brady-Gronk connection, but Tampa hasn’t been afraid to trot out two TE’s at the same time in the past few matches. Cameron Brate, in particular, looms as a crucial x-factor in this matchup, especially given Kansas City’s difficulty defending tight-ends (having given up the 6th most yards to opposing TE’s on a per-game basis in 2020).
I expect both sides to top the 30-point plateau, but the Chiefs’ ability to score in such quick succession has me leaning their way. Brady has built a rapport with his offensive teammates that should see the Bucs stay competitive in this game, however, I expect his Super Bowl record to read 6-4 at the end of this one, with Kansas City entering dynastic territory with their second straight title.
Banner from espn.com
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