Super Bowl Preview
Super Bowl LV is almost here. Kicking off on Sunday February 7th 2021, the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers meet at Raymond James Stadium. The Bucs become the first team in NFL history to play in the Super Bowl at their home stadium.
Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs are aiming to become the first team since Tom Brady’s 2003 and 2004 New England Patriots to win consecutive Super Bowls. Brady, of course, is one game away from lifting the Vince Lombardi trophy for a seventh time.
The Chiefs open as three-point NFL betting favorites. A doubt for the Championship game with Buffalo, Mahomes cleared concussion protocol and was apparently unbothered by his toe injury.
Brady advanced to his 10th Super Bowl on the back of a near-perfect first half performance. The defense bailed out multiple interceptions in the second half and Matt LaFleur helped Tampa Bay out with a peculiar decision to kick a field goal on fourth-and-goal.
It’s easy to frame this game as GOAT versus future GOAT. The Brady versus Mahomes narrative is perfect for the NFL marketing department, but talk of legacy and long-term significance is for another time.
Super Bowl Prediction and Preview
Here’s our quick preview of the Big Game.
Chiefs offense vs Bucs defense
Kansas City’s offense might be the best we’ve ever seen. Even without Le’Veon Bell and Sammy Watkins, they ripped the Buffalo Bills apart in the Championship game. Watkins’ availability for the Super Bowl is unclear – his presence would help Patrick Mahomes, but this is still a fearsome offense even without one of its star receivers.
Mahomes faces a Buccaneers defense which ranked highly in the regular season. Tampa Bay were able to pressure Aaron Rodgers, sacking the soon-to-be MVP five times.
Going after Mahomes is a risky business. The Bills went for the opposite approach last weekend, preventing the big play. The Chiefs still repeatedly marched up the field.
Tampa Bay was fifth in blitz and knockdown rate. Mahomes has destroyed teams when they’ve blitzed him throughout his career. The Bucs are the best rush defense in the NFL – they might tone down their usual pass rush tendencies in the hope it makes the Chiefs run the ball.
Chiefs defense vs Bucs offense
The Chiefs’ defense is mediocre compared to their offense. That said, Steve Spagnuolo’s defense came up big on Sunday, sacking Josh Allen four times, forcing the Bills to punt thrice and registering an interception.
Tampa Bay’s offense is a different challenge. They can keep a defense honest with the running game of Leonard Fournette and Ronald Jones. Their tight ends give Brady solid checkdown options, and their running backs provide a deep threat. Brady continues to prove his arm strength is still there – the Bucs are unafraid to throw the deep ball.
The Chiefs were fifth in the NFL in opponent pass completion and 14th in opponent yards per pass. These are good signs against Brady, and they have happy memories of this matchup – the Chiefs sacked Brady once and picked him off twice in their regular season contest.
For a team that likes to blitz, it will be fascinating to see how aggressive Spagnuolo is with Brady. Will they be able to force the Bucs to run the ball more than Green Bay did?
This is just the start of almost a fortnight of Super Bowl speculation. For all the matchup analysis and data at our disposal, Super Bowls can swing one way on the finest of margins. A dodgy call or special teams slip up (which the Chiefs are more than familiar with) can decide a game when teams are so closely matched.
Betting against either of these quarterbacks is usually a bad idea. The total points over at 56 looks a great bet, but it’s impossible not to lean towards to the Chiefs, such has been their dominance over the last two seasons. Even this great Bucs defense might be unable to stop them.
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Super Bowl Prediction: Kansas City Chiefs 42-35 Tampa Bay Buccaneers