We’ve made it to the end of the NFL Season. It was a season like no other with a pandemic raging. And yet, the NFL got through a full 17-game regular season schedule and a full playoff schedule. And now, for the first time, a team will be competing for a Super Bowl in their own home stadium.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, with Tom Brady at the helm, are preparing for the biggest game of the season in the comfort of their own facilities. Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs, meanwhile, are preparing for their second straight Super Bowl. Mahomes is hoping to win back-to-back games, something that hasn’t been done since his opponent did it for the Patriots in the early 2000s.
The Chiefs are favored, with the line currently at -3, but what can we expect from this game? Let’s dive in!
Kansas City Chiefs (14-2) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (11-5)
The Chiefs finished with the best record in the NFL, and one of the hottest offenses. Mahomes led the team with 4,740 yards and 38 TDs, starting 15 games. And the offense was paced by tight end Travis Kelce, who had 105 receptions for 1,416 yards and 11 TDs, and wide receiver Tyreek Hill, who caught 87 passes for 1,276 yards and 15 TDs. The team also got a strong showing from rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who rushed for 803 yards and four TDs, catching 36 passes for 297 yards and a TD.
That hot offense has continued in the playoffs, too. In the AFC Championship Game, Mahomes threw for 325 yards and three TDs, while Kelce caught 13 for 118 yards and two TDs and Hill caught nine passes for 172 yards. The Chiefs battered the Bills on the way to a second straight Super Bowl. But the offense they face in the Buccaneers has been stout all season, too.
Brady spent his first 20 years in New England, winning six Super Bowls in nine appearances. Now, in his first season in Tampa Bay and first season in the NFC, he’s back in the Super Bowl for the 10th time. That experience will be a boon to the rest of his team, which features other offensive skill position players like Rob Gronkowski and Antonio Brown that have their own Super Bowl experience.
It took some time, but Brady and the offense found its groove down the stretch of the regular season and carried that over to the Post-Season, winning road games against Washington, Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints and, finally, Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.
During the regular season, Brady threw for 4,633 yards and 40 TDs. Ronald Jones led the ground attack with 978 rushing yards and seven TDs, while Mike Evans caught 70 passes for 1,006 yards and 13 TDs. Evans was the lone 1,000 yard receiver, but four receivers caught 45 or more passes for the Buccaneers in Evans (70), Chris Godwin (65), Brown (45), and Gronkowski (45). Scotty Miller added 33 receptions, Leonard Fournette added nearly 400 rushing yards and 36 receptions and Cameron Brate caught 28 passes. The strength of the Buccaneers is tremendous depth among weapons, plus a stout rushing defense.
When the two teams met during the regular season, some view it as a turning point for the Buccaneers, who lost the game. The game, played November 29, dropped Tampa’s record to 7-5 on the season. It was the last time the team lost.
In that game, it was an inability to stop the Chiefs’ passing came that was the Buccaneers’ undoing. Mahomes threw for 462 yards and three TDs. His primary weapon was Hill, who gashed the Buccaneers for 269 yards and three TDs on 13 receptions. Much of that was in the first half, as the Chiefs built a 20-7 lead in the first half on the way to a 27-24 win.
The Buccaneers closed the gap, however, scoring 14 points in the fourth quarter during a furious comeback that fell just short. Brady went for 345 yards and three TDs, but threw two interceptions. Turnovers were something that plagued Brady in the NFC Championship Game against Green Bay, too, where he threw three. The Packers weren’t able to capitalize on the turnovers, but the Chiefs have shown an ability to do that with passing weapons that are tough to reign in.
The key in this game will be turnovers and the pass offense. Whichever team is able to have the most success and protect the ball will come out on top. The first meeting was a three-point game and I expect this to be similarly close. Hill was, at times, unguardable in their first meeting. I expect the Buccaneers to do better, but it’s hard to see this secondary stopping Hill and Kelce. It’s hard to bet against Brady, especially seeing what he’s done this season, but the Chiefs offense seems to be at another level.
Prediction: Mahomes wins again and the Chiefs’ dynasty continues. Kansas City 31, Tampa Bay 28
Matthew Fox is a graduate of the Radio, Television and Film program at Biola University, and a giant nerd. He spends his free time watching movies, TV, and obsessing about football. He is a member of the FSWA. You can find him @knighthawk7734 on Twitter and as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast.