The Conclusion to One Crazy Season
Super Bowl Sunday is finally here and we can’t wait to watch the conclusion to the 2020-2021 NFL season. The matchup pits defending champion Kansas City Chiefs against a Tom Brady-led Tampa Bay Buccaneers squad. This game is certain to go down in the history books with massive implications for both franchises and their players. Without further ado, let’s look at the game.
Jack’s Thoughts on Tampa Bay at Kansas City (-3.0)
This game features a collision of two of the best offenses in the NFL.
Undoubtedly, both teams are hungry for a rematch after the regular season. Their last game began with the Chiefs having a massive first quarter lead, only for the game to tighten as Tampa Bay made a late push to be competitive. The Chiefs nonetheless pulled through to a 27-24 victory.
However, I anticipate that this year’s Super Bowl will be close all the way through. And it’s doubtful that the game will involve a Tampa Bay late push to be competitive after the Chiefs embarrass them early.
When quarterback Patrick Mahomes starts, Kansas City is 16-1 this year, with the team’s only loss being to the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 5. The Chiefs have one of the top win-to-loss ratios of any season, rivaling the likes of Tom Brady’s 18-1 Patriots and the undefeated ‘72 Dolphins. In the playoffs, the team has been almost unstoppable when Mahomes plays—taking a 19-3 lead in a game against Cleveland, before Mahomes left with an injury, and rolling the Buffalo Bills 38-24 in the AFC Championship. These scores are products of the Chiefs averaging well over 400 yards of total offense and leading all playoff teams in passing yards per game in the postseason.
Tampa Bay likewise has played extremely good football in the postseason, taking down the Washington Football Team, New Orleans Saints, and the Green Bay Packers. This is largely due to the play of quarterback Tom Brady, who finished third in yards and second in touchdowns in the regular season. During the postseason, Tampa has won each of its games by an average of 7 points, holding each of its opponents to 26 or fewer points. That may seem to pale in comparison to Kansas City holding their opponents to 17 and 24, but considering the fact that Tampa Bay was on the road in each of these games (the Bucs will be in Tampa for the Super Bowl) as well as that the Bucs held presumptive MVP Aaron Rodgers to 26 points, the Tampa Bay defense should be sharp in today’s game.
To be clear, defense is going to make the difference in this game, particularly with the front 7. In order for Tampa Bay to hold the Chiefs to a reasonable number of points, the pass rushers for Tampa Bay will have to show up in a big way. And they can. Recently, they were able to pressure Aaron Rodgers and get 5 sacks on him. Kansas City, on the other hand, needs to find a way to restrict the Buccaneers’ run game and thus force Brady to throw the ball 40 to 50 times if they want a great chance at winning. Any quarterback who has to throw the ball that many times is inevitably prone to mistakes, potentially ones that will end the game. This is exactly how Kansas City was able to win in Tampa in their prior matchup, by holding the Bucs to just 75 yards rushing and forcing Brady into 2 interceptions.
In short, this game will come down to who can hold the other team below 31 points. That is the magic number. And one of these defenses will have to step up in order to secure a Super Bowl Title.
Mitch’s Two Impact Players for Each Team:
Patrick Mahomes: While he might seem like the obvious pick, it cannot be stated enough that generational talent Patrick Mahomes has to step his game up to another level of excellence today. Astoundingly, Mahomes has a record of 4-1 in the 5 out of 7 career playoff games in which he faced a multi-possession deficit. His one loss came to Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in the 2018 season’s AFC Championship; while the Chiefs exploded for 31 points in the second half to force an overtime period, the Patriots held Mahomes and his weapons to 0 points in the first half. Unlike much of Mahomes’ other playoff opponents, Tom Brady will not likely lose a playoff game in which he has an early multi-possession lead, which means that Mahomes is going to need to play like the MVP he is for both halves of the Super Bowl, not just one.
Bashaud Breeland: For all the hype that the Buccaneers’ defense is getting, it certainly feels like some of the pieces on the Chiefs’ defense are getting overlooked—and Breeland is certainly one of them. Last year when Breeland played in the Super Bowl, he intercepted San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to help extend the Chiefs’ initial lead to 10-3. Breeland also picked off Tom Brady once in each of the last two matchups he’s had against him. Most notably, he allowed the second-lowest completion percentage of any defensive player targeted at least 60 times, second only to former Pro Bowler Casey Hayward. If the Chiefs win, expect Breeland’s name to show up somewhere on the box score.
Mike Evans: Standout Bucs receiver Mike Evans is everything a quarterback wants in a receiver: a deep threat, a dependable short target, and a monster in the red zone. He finished fourth this season in receiving touchdowns behind only Davante Adams, Tyreek Hill, and Adam Thielen. In the NFC Championship Game, he was the source of much of their success, grabbing the opening touchdown of the game. However, he was also arguably the source of some of the Bucs’ failings in that game, as a dropped pass and a bad route from Mike Evans likely caused two of Brady’s three interceptions. If Tampa Bay wants to emerge victorious, they’re going to need Mike Evans to not only score a touchdown or two, but play well throughout the game.
Shaquil Barrett: Following his breakout season with the Bucs last season, after an underwhelming start to his career with the Denver Broncos, Barrett has expectedly cooled down from recording a league-high 19.5 sacks, recording 8 in the regular season. That said, he sacked Aaron Rodgers 3 times in the NFC Championship, which were plays that served to be pivotal moments in the path to a Buccaneers’ Super Bowl appearance. With the Chiefs’ offensive line looking depleted, following the Week 6 injury of Mitchell Schwartz and Eric Fisher tearing his Achilles tendon in the AFC championship, at least one Tampa Bay pass rusher is bound to have a big game, and Barrett just might be the guy.
It usually serves one well to never pick against Tom Brady in the playoffs, and his advanced age doesn’t change that. Not only is Brady playing some of the best football of his career, but his team boasts one of the two best receiving corps Brady has ever had—the only other comparable set of weapons being the squad that helped him put up video-game numbers en route to a 16-0 regular season. In a game in which Brady knows that he can likely seal his legacy in perpetuity as the greatest quarterback of all time if he wins, he will bring his A-game. Mahomes will do the same, and the game will be close throughout. However, a late turnover will deliver Tom Brady his seventh ring.
Pick: Tampa Bay Buccaneers 38, Kansas City Chiefs 34
Tampa Bay has a better defense, a more experienced quarterback in Tom Brady, and better weapons on offense than Kansas City. Despite all of that, I’m taking Kansas City to win in a similar way to their Week 11 win against the Raiders. Late-game heroics by Patrick Mahomes and a great game called by Head Coach Andy Reid will be the primary forces that push the Kansas City Chiefs to their second consecutive Super Bowl victory.
Pick: Kansas City Chiefs 35, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31
*The views expressed in this article solely represent the views of the author, not the views of the Chicago Thinker.