Super Bowl LV Preview
Super Bowl Sunday is right around the corner. The two remaining teams have both taken different paths to get here; both filled with adversity and joy. The AFC’s representative is the Kansas City Chiefs who are looking for their second Super Bowl title in a row and third overall. The NFC’s representative is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who are looking for their second Super Bowl title ever.
This is also the first time in NFL History that the team hosting the Super Bowl has made it to the Super Bowl in the same season, as Tampa Bay is hosting Super Bowl LV this year.
The obvious matchup within this game is the two star QBs. Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes vs Tampa Bay’s Tom Brady. Mahomes and Brady have met four times before, once in the postseason and three times in the regular season. Their record against one another is 2-2, with Brady winning the only matchup in the playoffs thus far (2019 AFC Championship game). These two teams met earlier this year in Tampa Bay, when Kansas City came out on top 27-24.
Here are highlights from each team’s respective conference championship game victories that got them to this point:
There are plenty of storylines coming into this matchup. There is (1) the ongoing debate between who won the divorce in New England (Brady or Belichick), (2) are the Chiefs becoming the new version of the Patriots, (3) is Andy Reid going to challenge Belichick for greatest coach ever, and (4) will Tom Brady become the greatest team sports athlete of all time with a victory, among many more storylines.
Now, let’s take a look to see how the Tampa Bay Buccaneers got to Super Bowl LV.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers path to Super Bowl LV:
First off, Tampa Bay had to go out and win three road games in the playoffs to get here. That is extremely hard to do. Well, they did just that, and their reward is getting to host the Super Bowl by being the first team to ever do so.
Tampa has won on the road at Washington, at New Orleans, and at Green Bay. In those three road games, Tom Brady has thrown for 860 yards to go with 7 TDs and 3 INTs (all three INTs came vs Green Bay in the NFC Championship game). In those three games, Tom Brady’s quarterback rating (QBR) has declined in each game. He had a QBR of 104.3 vs Washington, 92.9 vs New Orleans, and 73.8 vs Green Bay. Brady has also had a completion percentage hovering around 50-55% for all three playoff games. This can mean that Brady isn’t playing his best down the stretch, but the other side of the coin says that Washington, New Orleans, and Green Bay have good defenses, as all three are ranked in the top 13 in total defense during the regular season. I tend to think that winning in the NFL is hard to do, and if you can do so while putting up “mediocre stats” (mediocre for some people, but 860 yards, 7 TDs, and 3 INTs in three games isn’t bad) then you’ll have a great chance to win if you figure it out, and Tom Brady may be due for one of those games.
Tampa Bay has also seemed to figure everything out since the last time they played the Chiefs. Since their Week 12 matchup vs Kansas City, Tampa Bay has not lost. They have gone 7-0 (including the playoffs) and have won by an average of 13.7 points/game. On top of Brady’s performance, the Buccaneers defense has risen to the occasion during the playoffs. They have allowed 85.67 rush yards/game and have gotten seven turnovers during their three playoff games. LB Devin White has played out of his mind and is a clear leader on the team. The Bucs defensive front carried by Shaq Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul have wreaked havoc on opposing offensive lines all season long and appear to have an advantage over a banged up KC offensive line in this game. If Tampa is going to win, those two are going to be a big reason why. Now let’s see how the Chiefs got here.
Kansas City Chiefs path to Super Bowl LV:
The Chiefs were the one seed in the AFC, meaning they got the lone bye-week on the AFC side. The Chiefs got to rest during the Wild Card round, then hosted and beat the Cleveland Browns in the Divisional Round, and then hosted and beat the Buffalo Bills in the AFC Championship two weeks ago. QB Patrick Mahomes was knocked out of the game mid-third quarter vs the Browns, meaning backup QB Chad Henne came in to save the day. The Chiefs the moved on to face the Buffalo Bills in the AFC Title game that was honestly a Mecole Hardman muffed punt away from being an absolute bloodbath. Yes the Bills were up 9-0, but once that occurred Mahomes and the Chiefs kicked it into high gear and never looked back.
The fact that the Chiefs have only punted once in their last sixteen postseason drives is absolutely insane. In the two postseason games this season, Mahomes has 580 yards, 4 TDs, and 0 INTs, including one rushing TD. He also has an average QBR of 117.25 and is averaging around a 73% completion percentage. Mahomes has been unreal and the only person to beat him in the playoffs in his young career has been… Tom Brady. This game should be extremely fun. Let’s dive into some keys for each team if they are to win this matchup.
3 Keys for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers:
- Disrupt the timing of the Chiefs. I think the Buccaneers need to try and throw off the timing of Mahomes and his receivers. They need to try to get up in the grill of guys like TE Travis Kelce, WR Tyreek Hill, and WR Mecole Hardman at the line of scrimmage. I don’t think the Buccaneers can afford to sit back in zone coverage because Mahomes will pick them apart with the passing game and then RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire can go to work in the zone running schemes. If guys like CB Antoine Winfield Jr., CB Carlton Davis, and CB Sean Murphy-Bunting can effectively play press coverage and disrupt the Chiefs, it will be a good sign for this young Buccaneers secondary.
- Become the more physical football team at the line of scrimmage. The consensus among the national media members is that the Bucs have an advantage on both sides of the line of scrimmage, as people are claiming the Bucs offensive line is better than KC’s defensive line and that Tampa’s defensive line is better than KC’s offensive line. While both may be true, the Chiefs have been playing well despite several key injuries for a really long time, most notably on the offensive line. The Chiefs will be starting several backups on their offensive line with the absences of OL Mitchell Schwartz, Eric Fisher, and Kelechi Osemele. Now these backups are also very serviceable and have plenty of experience, so it won’t be easy for Tampa. But, if Tampa can establish control at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, it will tire KC out and give the Bucs a good shoot to bring home the Lombardi.
- Rely on the intelligence and instincts of TB12. Tom Brady will be playing in his tenth Super Bowl on Sunday. That is just over 18% of all Super Bowls since the AFL/NFL merger. Thats utterly INSANE. Many members of this Tampa Bay Buccaneers have not been on this stage. If Tampa Bay is to win, they need to have TB12 be great. He needs to elevate his teammates much like he has done throughout his entire career. If Brady is great, it will be hard for the Chiefs to win.
3 Keys for the Kansas City Chiefs:
- Take what the defense gives them. I know this saying sounds a little cliche, but this is what the Chiefs need to do. They are good enough on offense to get TDs on a majority of their drives, which is another insane thing to think about because that seems like something that shouldn’t be possible, yet it is. I doubt the Bucs will cover Tyreek Hill the same way they did in Week 12 when he had 7 catches for 203 yards and 2 TDs in the FIRST QUARTER, which means they will make adjustments to their defensive game plan. Mahomes connected with Hill on several deep routes in their Week 12 matchup, but this time the Chiefs need to take what Tampa Bay gives them, whether its the underneath route or if it’s less men in the box so that RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire can go to work in the running game. If the Chiefs are able to stay balanced and take what the Tampa defense gives them, the Chiefs should feel good about their chances.
- Pressure Tom Brady. It’s no secret that if a QB is under duress, then they are more prone to making mistakes; even the great ones like Tom Brady. It seems as if the Chiefs DL has been a key for them in almost every game I preview, but I really feel like that is the case. If Chris Jones and Frank Clark cannot get pressure on Tom Brady, then I do not feel good about this Chiefs defense consistently stopping the Buccaneers offense. Jones has a well documented beef with Tom Brady and I’m sure he will be extra motivated to face TB12 yet again. If KC is to win, they’ll need their big time money makers on the defensive front to show up and show out.
- Have Patrick Mahomes take them to the promised land. If Mahomes can be great on Sunday, the Chiefs will win. I have zero doubt about that. Mahomes is the better QB than Tom Brady at this current moment in time. Mahomes can even have a so-so game and come out on top (see the Super Bowl from last year). Even though the game is in Tampa Bay, if Mahomes is great, KC will hoist the Lombardi plain and simple.
Final thoughts and prediction:
In Patrick Mahomes’ nine career losses, the opposing team has scored an average of 36.22 points per game. 36.22!!! That stat blew my kind and demonstrated how hard it truly is to beat this guy. That alone makes you feel good if you’re Kansas City. Except for the fact that the guy on the other sideline has already beat Mahomes twice. To set the record straight, Tom Brady is fully capable of winning a duel vs Mahomes. However this game will come down to the line of scrimmage. I believe the Chiefs OL will hold up against Tampa’s front four and will negate some of their pressure. Shaq Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul will get home every once in a while, but Mahomes has demonstrated an uncanny ability to escape the sacks and pressure thrown at him. Guys like Andrew Wylie, Stefan Wisniewski, and Mike Remmers will need to step up for this KC offensive line. I think Travis Kelce needs to have a big impact on this game if KC is to win. Kelce is the best TE in the game right now and he doesn’t seem to be slowing down. This game is incredibly hard to predict because both teams are amazing and deserve to be in this spot. Tom Brady is the GOAT as of right now (see my Twitter timeline from 2016 when he came back from 28-3 vs ATL), but if Mahomes wins on Sunday, he could have a legitimate case for being in the conversation later on down the line in his career. In this game, I like Kansas City to win 34-31. Like I said, it is so hard to predict a winner and is extremely difficult to bet against Tom Brady, but I think both QBs will put on a show. In the end, I think Kelce is the difference maker for Kansas City, as they hoist their second Lombardi in a row.
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