The most unusual season in NFL history ends with something (different) that has never happened before: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be the first team to fight for a Super Bowl title in their home stadium. Super Bowl LV will be played at the Buccaneers’ Raymond James Stadium on February 7, a date the NFL gave years before quarterback Tom Brady decided to leave the New England Patriots and do a few more runs at a championship in Tampa complete.
After winning the first NFC championship game he ever played in, a 31:26 win over the Green Bay Packers, Brady faces defending champions Kansas City Chiefs. After a 38:24 win over the Buffalo Bills in the AFC Championship Game, the Chiefs are aiming for their second title in the Patrick Mahomes era. Let’s take a closer look at this exciting Super Bowl matchup.
Here’s what we need to prepare for you: Kevin Seifert examines each team and how each team can win the Super Bowl. Seth Walder crunches the numbers to give you some key stats you should know. Matt Bowen dives into the game plan with a key matchup and an X-factor. Dan Graziano answers big questions about the final game of the season; and finally, we have early bowel response predictions from our experts. Let’s dive in.
Note: Odds and lines of play are awarded through Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill. The predictions come from ESPN’s Football Power Index (FPI).
Bosses | Buccaneers
Key statistics | X factors
Big questions | Early picks
When: Sunday, February 7th at 6:30 p.m. ET on CBS
Where: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa Bay, Florida
Vegas Line: Chiefs -3 (O / U 57)
Almost none of the usual pregame hype will precede the Super Bowl. To ensure compliance with COVID-19 protocols, the NFL urges Chiefs to stay at their home facility no later than two days before the game. (The Buccaneers will of course already be at home.) That means there will be no media day, no daily raptures about team hotels and no conventional parties.
Regardless, this will be a super-sized game, with the quarterback who has won more Super Bowls than any other player in history (Brady, six), and his possible successor (Mahomes, who is looking for his second at 25) . – Seifert
Seifert’s first look at the matchup
Regular season: 14-2 | No. 1 seed in AFC
Reason for hope: To be clear, the Chiefs are rolling. They defeated the Cleveland Browns in the divisional round even after Mahomes was put on a concussion protocol. And on Sunday they snapped up the Bills’ eight-game winning streak. When you see them pacing up and down the field in Buffalo’s defense and then largely choking an MVP candidate into Bill’s quarterback Josh Allen, you know they knocked it down at the right moment.
Reason to worry: Do you trust the Chiefs high school to stay with Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Rob Gronkowski, Scotty Miller, and maybe Antonio Brown? Brady will bring these guns to Raymond James Stadium along with an offensive line that kept him mostly clean against the Packers. The Chiefs’ two regular season losses were 40-32 and 38-21, the two highest-scoring games against them that season. The Buccaneers are a team that brings the kind of insult they could beat on a shootout.
How the Chiefs Win: One of the defining characteristics of the Chiefs under Mahomes is that they were never out of a game, no matter how badly they might start. Even if the Buccaneers take the lead early, the Chiefs are steps away from getting back into the game. But the key will be whether they can stop the privateers’ defensive front. If they can give Mahomes enough time, he’ll cut up their secondary school and just pour too many points on the fire.
Regular season: 11-5 | Seed # 5 in NFC
Reason for hope: The Buccaneers have scored at least 30 points in each of their last six games, averaging 35.7 over that period. If nothing else, they’ll be able to compete with the Chiefs if the game turns into a shootout. (The Chiefs averaged 25 points per game during this period.) Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, who once worked for Chiefs trainer Andy Reid when they were both with the Philadelphia Eagles, can expect a good plan for the Chiefs’ offensive. And while the home field wasn’t a huge advantage in 2020, it’s always preferable to avoid travel whenever possible.
Reason to worry: Brady threw three interceptions against the Packers and a total of 12 in the regular season, most for him in a season since 2011. Obviously, the Buccaneers overcome those mistakes on Sunday, but giving the Chiefs extra possessions doesn’t seem like a good idea. As crazy as it sounds, the Buccaneers are going to need Brady to tone it up for the Super Bowl.
How the Bucs win: The buccaneers have two paths to victory. On one hand, they’ll execute a heroic game plan from Bowles, slowing Mahomes down in a way that hardly any other opponent has done in the past three seasons. On the other hand, you will win a shootout of enormous proportions. We’re talking about a 45-40 type of game. You can do it, and the Chiefs Defense can let you do it.
Knowing Walder’s great statistics
Mahomes led the league in QBR against the Blitz (96.8). That’s probably one of the reasons it was flashed only 21% of the time in the regular season, the third lowest rate. The problem for the Bucs? Bringing pass rushers is part of the identity of their defense (38% of dropbacks, fifth most), which means they either have to change what they do best or play into one of Mahomes’ strengths.
Patrick Mahomes completes a pass to Mecole Hardman, who heads for the end zone to score a touchdown from 3-yard chiefs and cut the Bills lead to 9-7.
Brady finished 30th in the QBR this season under pressure. This is in stark contrast to his # 5 when he’s not under pressure. One obvious reason: He has no ability to scramble. So just get rid of the ball quickly, right? Brady didn’t do that well even with quick throws. Instead, Bruce Arians’ vertical overtaking maneuver puts pressure on the Tampa Bay offensive line at the Super Bowl to give Brady the time and space he needs to work. The Bucs only lost one game when their pass block win rate was above the league average of 57%.
Bowen goes into the matchup
Key Game: Chiefs Safety Tyrant Mathieu vs. Brady
I want to see the post-snap matchup here with Mathieu and Brady. Make sure the late chiefs bring Mathieu to the center of the field as the robber defender. You need this compared to Brady to close the second level windows for Crosser and In-Breaker. And when Steve Spagnuolo, the Chief’s defensive coordinator, puts pressure on Brady needs to identify Mathieu if he embarks on Edge Blitz plans.
X-Factor: Buccaneer’s defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul
I see Pierre-Paul here for his ability to win one-on-one pass-rush matchups against the Chiefs’ offensive tackles, who on the left could be starter Eric Fisher. You will see how quickly the power, counters, and juice come off the ball. If Tampa Bay defensive coordinator Todd Bowles can get pressure from Pierre-Paul and colleague Shaquil Barrett – as we saw when we beat the Packers in the NFC Championship Game – the Bucs can play more coverage in the Super Bowl. That means quarter and two man (two-deep, man-under), with the edge breakers squeezing the bag to limit Mahomes’ ability to throw verticals across the field.
Graziano answers big questions
Does Spagnuolo have any other plan for a championship game?
The Chiefs are not known for their defense. This is partly because of how well known they are for their offense, but also because their defenses aren’t always special. Kansas City’s D ranked 20th in the NFL that year in terms of defensive efficiency. It was the 13th in the past year and the 21st in the past three years (since Mahomes became the starter). But Spagnuolo, the Chiefs’ defensive coordinator, has shown that he can get his side of the ball ready for the biggest game. They prevented Tennessee Titans from running back Derrick Henry in last year’s AFC Championship Game, shutout the San Francisco 49ers in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl, kept the running Browns at 112 rushing yards in this year’s divisional round, and confused Allen and the bills on Sunday to advance to their second straight Super Bowl.
It’s been 13 years since Spagnuolo’s New York Giants defense defeated Brady and the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII. This will certainly be brought up in the next few weeks, but the truth is that experience won’t be a factor much later. What will matter is whether the Chiefs defense can find a way to put pressure on Brady, whose offensive line has been one of the big stories of this postseason, and whether they can cover all of his great recipients.
The chiefs will score. We know this. The Bucs’ defense is very respectable, but no one slows Mahomes and the Kansas City offensive for long. Just ask the 49ers or any other team they’ve played in the playoffs in the past three years. The question is can the Chiefs do enough to keep Brady and the Bucs off goal – to keep the game within reach long enough that Mahomes can still win if they start slowly, or to legendary Tampa comeback attempts Preventing Bay’s legendary QB might have in mind. The Super Bowl will be exciting to watch when the ball is in Kansas City’s hands. But what happens when it’s in Tampa Bay’s hands will decide who wins it.
Can the Bucs defense continue to force sales at this rate?
Tampa Bay actually lost Sunday’s sales battle at Green Bay 3-2. But the Buccaneers offensive scored touchdowns on both Packers sales after scoring three of the Saints’ four sales and one touchdown in the division round the week before on Washington’s only sales in the wild card round the week before. The 41 point drop in sales in Tampa Bay is the third highest by a team in a single postseason in the last 20 years, and there is still a game to go to catch the 2010 Packers, who had 48.
That means 45% of the buccaneers’ points this postseason come from sales and they won their games averaging 7.8 points. So if you think her to have To make sales to win, this postseason supports that conclusion.
However, this is not new to Tampa Bay. The 101 point drop in regular season sales were the third highest in the league, just behind Baltimore (106) and Pittsburgh (105). But that’s still only 21% of the total points the Bucs have scored this year. So 45% is a monster number. If it stays that way, you have to like their chances. If they don’t, they’ll have to stop the Chiefs with a defense that takes a solid but unspectacular ninth place in defensive efficiency in the regular season.
Tom Brady throws for 280 yards and three touchdowns while the Buccaneers defeat the Packers 31-26.
Kansas City’s 16 regular season sales were the fourth smallest in the league, and this postseason it has flipped the ball once in two games so far. Whether the Bucs can take the ball away in the Kansas City Super Bowl could determine which team wins it.
Bowel response predictions
Our experts lean on 9-2 with the Chiefs in the early picks.
Matt Bowen, NFL Analyst: Bosses. Her explosive offense playability will create matchup problems for the Tampa Bay defense.
Mike Clay, Fantasy Writer: Buccaneers. It feels rough to play against Mahomes, but the Buccaneers have been scorching hot for the past two months and – aside from the records – arguably have done the better job overall this season.
Jeremy Fowler, National NFL Writer: Bosses. They have an answer for everything you do in defense – lightning, trying to stop the run, switching cover – and they’re wide awake after being bored for most of the regular season.
Dan Graziano, National NFL Writer: Bosses. Reid has two weeks to plan and the Bucs’ defense lives off the sales for the month.
Jenna Laine, Buccaneer’s reporter: Buccaneers. They have won seven straight wins to get here and provided they have both Antoine Winfield Jr. and Jordan Whitehead ready, they are at full strength defensively.
Jason Reid, the undefeated writer: Bosses. Reason: Mahomes. Any questions?
Kevin Seifert, National NFL Writer: Bosses. It’s time for Mahomes to take the championship torch from Brady.
Mike Tannenbaum, NFL Analyst: Bosses. They are 44-11 for the past three years, the best in the league. There is too much talent on K.C.
Seth Walder, analyst: Bosses. As the Bucs race around with Leonard Fournette who is 3 yards long, Mahomes and the Chiefs will find their way to an early lead that they won’t give up.
Seth Wickersham, Senior Writer: Bosses. I hate to underestimate Brady again, but the Chiefs are just too good.
Field Yates, NFL Analyst: Bosses. The explosive attack simply cannot be stopped.