6:30 PM EST, CBS – Line: Chiefs -3, Over/Under: 56
Finally, the most unusual of seasons reaches it’s long-awaited conclusion as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and reigning champion, Kansas City Chiefs, face off in a star-studded matchup in Super Bowl LV from Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. For the first time in the long history of this event, one of it’s contestants will be enjoying homefield advantage as the Buccaneers (11-5, 2nd in NFC South) have advanced to their second Super Bowl in franchise history and their first since January of 2003. After missing the Playoffs for twelve consecutive years, Tampa changed their fortunes in the most dramatic of manners, acquiring none other than (three-time MVP Quarterback) Tom Brady (65.7%, 4,633 YDS, 7.12 NY/A, 40 TD, 12 INT, 72.6 QBR) in Free Agency, after the 43-year old parted ways with the New England Patriots, whom he guided to six Super Bowl titles in nine appearances over the course of twenty years in Foxborough, Massachusetts. Even at this stage of his career, the future Hall-of-Famer immediately legitimized the Bucs’ attempt at contending this season, with (General Manager) Jason Licht and (Head Coach) Bruce Arians doing everything within their power to mold the team to his preferences; the club added the likes of (Tailback) Leonard Fournette (97 CAR, 367 YDS, 3.8 Y/A, 6 TD) and (former teammate) Rob Gronkowski (45 REC, 623 YDS, 13.8 Y/R, 7 TD), as well as (All-Pro Receiver) Antonio Brown (45 REC, 483 YDS, 10.7 Y/R, 4 TD) on cheap, team-friendly deals, adding more firepower to an Offense that certainly wasn’t lacking in that department. Coming into the campaign, many wondered just how much better this team would be with a more efficient Quarterback at the helm, particularly after they finished 7-9 in 2019 with a miserable Turnover Margin of Minus-13 (30th Overall), fueled by a league-worst forty-one turnovers. Under Brady’s watch they committed a scant seventeen turnovers this season (7th Overall) for a positive margin of Plus-8, with the Offense really taking off following their Bye Week, which coincidentally came right after a 27-24 loss at home to the same Kansas City Chiefs that they’ll be facing tonight. On that afternoon they were shredded for a ridiculous 543 total yards, including 456 through the air, with the lion’s share coming in the First Half. Since that point though, the Buccaneers have averaged 34.3 points per game on 423.7 total yards, with Brady airing it out for 313.3 yards, eighteen touchdowns and four interceptions over the last seven games (including the Playoffs). The Defense has rounded into shape as well, with (Defensive Coordinator) Todd Bowels cultivating this unit into an aggressive, athletic group that has made a living getting after opposing Quarterbacks. On the season, Tampa ranked eighth in points allowed (22.2 P/G) and sixth in total yards relinquished (327.2 Y/G), largely due to shutting down the run at 80.6 yards per contest (1st Overall) on 3.6 yards per carry (1st Overall), and forty-eight sacks (5th Overall). Since getting torched by the Chiefs, they’ve yielded a much-improved 332.1 total yards, while racking up a staggering twenty-one sacks and twelve turnovers, including 350.0 yards with seven sacks and turnovers apiece in the Playoffs alone. (Sophomore Linebacker) Devin White (140 TKL, 15 TFL, 16 QBH, 9.0 SK, 1 FF, 1 FR, 4 PD) has exploded under Bowles’ tutelage, leading the team with 140 tackles, with his return from the COVID List sparking their run on this side of the football in the postseason; the 22-year old has recorded twenty-six tackles (nineteen solo), with a pair of recovered fumbles and a deflected pass in the wins over the Saints (30-20) and Packers (31-26).
“It’s great to get another road win and now we got a home game, and who would have ever thought a home Super Bowl for us. But we did it.”Tom Brady on the Buccaneers’ 31-25 win at Packers setting up their return home for Super Bowl LV, which will be contested at Raymond James Stadium
When we last saw the Buccaneers, they advanced to their second Super Bowl in franchise history after traveling to Lambeau Field and slaying the Green Bay Packers in a 31-26 affair. The Bucs got off to a hot start, as Brady drove the visitors sixty-six yards downfield in nine plays culminating with a 15-yard touchdown to (Pro-Bowl Receiver) Mike Evans (70 REC, 1,006 YDS, 14.4 Y/R, 13 TD), who shook free of his coverage in the end zone. After exchanging punts, the hosts would tie the score as Aaron Rodgers found Marquez Valdes-Scantling for a 50-yard bomb. However, rather than sulk in the frigid temperature, Tampa would strike right back as the aforementioned Fournette rushed twenty yards to the house to retake the lead. Green Bay would kick a field goal on the following possession, with the visiting side punting the football right back to them after six plays. This is the point where the contest shifted, folks; after being sacked by (Edge-Rusher) Jason Pierre-Paul (55 TKL, 7 TFL, 4 QBH, 9.5 SK, 4 FF, 2 FR, 2 INT, 6 PD), Rodgers was picked off deep down the middle of the field by (young Defensive Back) Sean Murphy-Bunting (70 TKL, 3 TFL, 1 QBH, 1 FF, 1 FR, 1 INT, 3 PD), giving the Bucs the football back at midfield with just twenty-eight seconds to play before Halftime. Rather than move into position for a field goal, Brady surprised everyone (especially the Packers) by launching a 39-yard strike down the left sideline to Scottie Miller (33 REC, 501 YDS, 15.2 Y/R, 3 TD) to extend their lead to 21-10 with just eight seconds on the clock. Following Halftime, Tampa’s Defense struck again, as Green Bay Tailback, Aaron Jones, was blown up by (Defensive Back) Jordan Whitehair (74 TKL, 9 TFL, 3 QBH, 2.0 SK, 1 FF, 1 FR, 2 INT, 4 PD) with the fumble recovered by the aforementioned White and returned twenty-one yards to the 8-yard line. From there, Brady would need just one play to find his Tight End, Cameron Brate (28 REC, 282 YDS, 10.1 Y/R, 2 TD) for another score, now owning a commanding 28-10 lead early in the Second Half. Things would get a bit crazy from there, as the Packers rallied back with Brady intercepted on three consecutive possessions, with the hosts cutting the lead to 28-23 entering the final period of play. With that said, they would get no closer, for Bowles’ Defense stepped up in a major way during the Fourth Quarter, forcing the home side to punt on back-to-back possessions before kicking a field goal on fourth & goal from the 8-yard line with 2:05 left in the affair. At the end of the day, Arians’ charges totaled 351 yards, with Brady accounting for 280 on 20-of-36 passing, three touchdowns and interceptions apiece. The Defense vexed Rodgers throughout the evening, sacking him five times for a loss of thirty-two yards and hitting him a total of eight, while forcing a pair of turnovers to boot. (2019 Sack Champion) Shaquil Barrett (57 TKL, 11 TFL, 16 QBH, 8.0 SK, 1 SFTY, 2 FF, 3 PD) and the aforementioned Pierre-Paul accounted for all the sacks, with the former dropping Rodgers on three occasions. With massive Nose Tackle, Vita Vea (10 TKL, 3 TFL, 3 QBH, 2.0 SK), who made his long-awaited return to the gridiron after missing the previous fourteen weeks with a fractured ankle, the Buccaneers should be at full strength for this rematch with the Chiefs, with applying pressure on Patrick Mahomes being the mandate from the Coaching Staff. Kansas City comes into this matchup missing a number of bodies along the Offensive Line, including both Tackles and a Center. In their previous encounter back in late November, they only knocked the 2019 MVP down twice despite hitting him seven times. Simply put, they’ll be coming after him today.
Meanwhile, after earning their second Lombardi trophy in franchise history just over one year ago, the Chiefs (14-2, 1st in AFC West) are one game away from becoming the first team to repeat since 2004. In comparison to their path to glory in 2019, Kansas City has indeed rolled to Super Sunday with ease, having lost just twice this season, though their season finale against the Chargers (38-21) came with many starters being rested in lieu of the postseason. Once again, the high-flying Offense has propelled them to success, led by Patrick Mahomes (66.3%, 4,740 YDS, 7.53 NY/A, 38 TD, 6 INT, 82.9 QBR), who enjoyed another prolific campaign in which he enjoyed career-highs in completion percentage (66.3%) and QBR (82.9), while pacing the league in interception percentage (1.0%) and passing yards per game (316.0). At just 25-years old and set to conclude his fourth season in the NFL, Mahomes has an opportunity to become only the second Quarterback in league history to win two Super Bowls over that span, and the first to do since the man he’ll be facing tonight, Tom Brady. It’s fitting that in order to earn that distinction that he’ll have to best the man that did it first. Mahomes and Brady have met four times since 2018 with the two titans splitting their encounters; Brady (as a member of the New England Patriots) took the first two clashes, including a 37-31 thriller in the AFC Championship two years ago, while Mahomes has won the last two battles, the most recent being that aforementioned 27-24 victory over the Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium on November 29th. On that afternoon, the reigning champions started like a house on fire, running off seventeen unanswered points in the First Quarter as Mahomes found (All-Pro Receiver) Tyreek Hill (87 REC, 1,276 YDS, 14.7 Y/R, 15 TD) for passing touchdowns of seventy-five and forty-four yards. Tampa would get closer in the latter stages of the affair, but in the end it was a case of too little too late; Mahomes finished the game with 462 yards and three touchdowns on 37-of-49 passing with all three of his scores coming courtesy of Hill, who tormented the Bucs with thirteen receptions for a career-high 269 yards. Needless to say, we’d imagine that Tampa will be paying more attention to the speedster than they did in that previous matchup, but the issue with doing so is that they’ll be opening up opportunities to the other weapons on Offense that is simply loaded with them. It’s an embarrassment of riches for (Head Coach) Andy Reid, who continues to utilize them in a plethora of creative ways, whether it’s (All-Pro Tight End) Travis Kelce (105 REC, 1,416 YDS, 13.5 Y/R, 11 TD) exploiting mismatches with Linebackers and smaller Defensive Backs, or singling out their opponent’s less-heralded Cornerbacks with the deepest receiving corps in the NFL; five different players have logged over 400 receiving yards for Kansas City this season, with the likes of Mecole Hardman (41 REC, 560 YDS, 13.7 Y/R, 4 TD), Sammy Watkins (37 REC, 421 YDS, 11.4 Y/R, 2 TD), and Demarcus Robinson (45 REC, 466 YDS, 10.4 Y/R, 3 TD) fully capable of making a huge play with the football in their hands. On the opposite side of the ball the Defense, which was the key to their run a year ago, has continued to evolve under the steady hand of (Defensive Coordinator) Steve Spagnuolo. While the 61-year old has received plenty of publicity for concocting the defensive gameplan that thwarted Brady and the Pats’ bid for perfection back in 2008, his work in overhauling what was one of the worst units in the NFL just two years ago is one of the more underrated storylines coming into Super Bowl LV. On the season, the Chiefs have allowed 22.6 points per game (10th Overall) on 358.3 total yards (16th Overall), including 236.2 yards against the pass (14th Overall) on net yards per attempt (18th Overall), along with another 122.1 yards versus the run (21st Overall) on 4.5 yards per carry (17th Overall). While those figures would very much suggest a bend-but-don’t-break unit have been great at forcing turnovers with twenty-two on the year (10th Overall). (All-Pro Safety) Tyrann Mathieu (62 TKL, 3 TFL, 2 QBH, 0.0 SK, 1 FR, 6 INT, 9 PD, 1 TD) is a wild card on Defense, capable of lining up in a myriad of positions, while (Defensive Tackle) Chris Jones (36 TKL, 3 TFL, 28 QBH, 7.5 SK, 1 SFTY, 2 FF, 4 PD) and (Edge-Rusher) Frank Clark (29 TKL, 8 TFL, 15 QBH, 6.0 SK, 1 FR, 2 PD) consistently wreck havoc in the Backfield.
“You don’t get these opportunities every year in the NFL to be in the Super Bowl and to be in these games. So you don’t want to look back and have regrets on how you played or how you went about the week before preparing to go out there to play your best football.Patrick Mahomes on the prospect of winning his second consecutive Super Bowl in just his fourth season in the NFL
When we last saw the Chiefs, they successfully advanced to their second consecutive Super Bowl appearance following a 38-24 victory at home over the Buffalo Bills. There was plenty of drama coming into this one, as Mahomes had spent the entire week leading up to this matchup in concussion protocol with his health remaining a major concern for the AFC Championship. However, the three-time All-Pro Quarterback would indeed start from the word go, though it would be a slow start for he and his team. Buffalo kicked things quite literally, putting together a ten-play opening drive culminating in a 51-yard field goal, and after forcing a quick 3 & Out on the host’s first possession, would punt on themselves on their next possession, but Hardman muffed the catch allowing (Tailback) Taiwan Jones to recover the football. Not one to waste an opportunity, the Bills got back to work as (Quarterback) Josh Allen immediately found (Tight End) Dawson Knox for the score to take a surprising 9-0 lead with 6:14 left in the First Quarter. From that point though, the game would completely change as momentum shifted to the home side, with the Chiefs scoring touchdowns on their next three possessions with each drive consisting of seventy-seven yards or more. Mahomes would finish off the first drive with a three-yard strike to Hardman, while (Tailback) Darrel Williams (39 CAR, 169 YDS, 4.3 Y/A, 1 TD) ran six yards into the end zone to cap the second, before fellow Tailback, Clyde Edwards-Helaire (181 CAR, 803 YDS, 4.4 Y/A, 4 TD) did the same to take a commanding 21-9 advantage. Buffalo would add another field goal shortly before Halftime to cut the deficit to nine points at intermission. The two sides would trade field goals to open the third period, though Mahomes would find Hill for a seventy-one yard bomb, followed by a one-yard dart to Kelce in the back of the end zone to push the lead to 31-15. As the Bills took over, Allen drove them all the way down to the Kansas City 20-yard line, but was intercepted by (Defensive Back) Rashad Felton (35 TKL, 1 TFL, 1 INT, 7 PD) and returned thirty yards the other way. Eleven plays later and Mahomes found Kelce once again, this time for a five-yard touchdown to extend the lead to twenty-three points, which would be more than enough to secure a second consecutive AFC Championship. On the night, the Chiefs totaled 439 yards on twenty-nine first downs, rushing for 114 yards and a pair of touchdowns on twenty-five attempts, while Mahomes was stellar with 325 yards and three scores on an efficient 29-of-38 passing. As they had all year, Hill (9 REC, 172 YDS) and Kelce (13 REC, 118 YDS, 2 TD) were nothing short of dominant, while Williams rushed for fifty-two yards on thirteen carries, with Hardman ripping off a 50-yard run to boot. Spagnuolo’s Defense tightened up as the affair progressed, sacking Allen four times for a loss of fifty-three yards while also intercepting him on that crucial drive in the third stanza. Clark had two of those sacks with the unit as a whole hitting the opposing Quarterback a whopping ten times.