Super Bowl LV
Kansas City vs. Tampa Bay
Tampa Bay, Florida
(O/U 56.5, KC -3.0)
Sunday, January 24, 3:30 PM PST (CBS)
The Big Game is here! The Kansas City Chiefs and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers square off in the NFL Championship Game. Okay, I think that gives us cover from the long arm of the NFL and the Super Bowl trademark deal. Which, apparently, doesn’t exist! The Super Bowl this year is a rematch of a November 29 game in which the Chiefs won 27-24 to move to 10-1. It was the ultimate “the score lies” game though because the Chiefs were up 20-7 at halftime, and 27-10 at the end of the third quarter. Tyreek Hill obliterated the Bucs defense (more on that later) and the Chiefs just held on as Buccaneers offense Made it Respectable™. Things might go different this time around, given the Buccaneers are the first team to play the Super Bowl in their own stadium.
I’ve outlined a key player, position group, and statistic for each team in each game in each round of the 2021 playoffs. With the last game until September looming on the horizon, let’s figure out how each team wins the Super Bowl this weekend!
How the Kansas City Chiefs Win the Super Bowl
Key Position Group: Backup Offensive Linemen
The Chiefs won’t have LT Eric Fisher, who tore his Achilles in the AFC Championship Game. They also likely won’t have Mitchell Schwartz, who hasn’t played with October 19 with a back injury. Throw onto the pile that Daniel Kilgore, who fills in at Center as needed (he played 80%+ of snaps four times this year) ended up on COVID-IR as a close contact this week, and you have a recipe for a depleted offensive line getting terrible in a hurry. Mike Remmers gets the start at LT, as Andrew Wylie gets the RT start. Kilgore is the backup center, but Austin Reiter missed four games this season, and there is no third-string center currently listed for the Chiefs. It’s a whole mess of rejiggering the offense.
The starting offensive line for the Chiefs, in the Super Bowl, left to right, will be Mike Remmers, Nick Allegretti, Austin Reiter, Stefen Wisniewski, and Andrew Wylie. Only Austin Reiter played in his current position when the Chiefs started the year against the Texans. Stefan Wisniewski was a Steeler, even! They say consistency is among the biggest indicators of offensive line success… and the one thing this Chiefs OL won’t have on Sunday.
Key Statistic: Sacks
This is the corollary to the first statistic: the Chiefs need to keep an eye on the quarterback sack column to have a chance to win this one. The Chiefs ranked nineteenth on the season, with just 32 sacks on the year. The Buccaneers were the fifth-best team at preventing sacks to the opposing quarterback, allowing a sack of Tom Brady about every six quarters. The fifth best-team at protecting the QB? The Kansas City Chiefs. Chiefs QBs were sacked just 24 times this season, just behind Brady’s 22. Here’s where the rubber meets the road, however: the Buccaneers sacked the QB 48 times this year, the fourth-highest figure in the league. That was more than double the rate the Chiefs’ allowed a sack of their quarterbacks. The sack battle is likely the one that decides this game, and one the Chiefs need to win to come out on top.
Key Player: Tyrann Mathieu
The Honey Badger needs to make Tom Brady’s day a complete pit of despair and misery if the Chiefs have a chance of pulling off a victory in the Super Bowl. The Honey Badger had a career-high six interceptions this season, picking off the likes of… Tom Brady. Brady had two of his seven non-Saints interceptions the last time these two played, with Mathieu providing one of those picks. All-told, Mathieu has one touchdown credited to him and allows just 2.3 receptions for 28 yards per game. Given the Buccaneers’ likely game plan of throwing, throwing, throwing, and… well, throwing. The star safety will need to play his best against this strong passing game in order for the Chiefs to pull this one off. If he comes away with an interception? Even better.
How the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Win the Super Bowl
Key Position Group: Defensive Line
The Tampa Bay defensive line is one of the best in the league and powers their pass rush. They pressured the quarterback on 28% of dropbacks this season, meaning that they pressured, hurried, hit, or sacked a quarterback about once per set of downs, mathematically. Well, Patrick Mahomes can surely get around this and scramble around for yardage, right? Well, the Buccaneers allowed the second-fewest scramble yards this season, so no, he can’t scramble around this. Their defensive line also crushes the run game. They allow a league-low of 3.6 yards per carry to running backs. This is less important against the pass-happy Chiefs, but stymying Patrick Mahomes and the run game will be the key to their success defensively.
Key Statistic: Tyreek Hill Receiving Yards
The Tampa Bay DBs have had their hands full this offseason. Terry McLaurin, Davante Adams and Michael Thomas combined for fifteen receptions for 186 receiving yards and a touchdown, on 29 targets. If you pro-rate the production allowed by Tampa DBs to WR1s to a sixteen-game season, you have a wide receiver with 154 targets and 992 receiving yards. Four active wide receivers have a season like this under their belts: their quarterbacks were Miami Jay Cutler (Jarvis Landry), John Skelton/Kevin Kolb/Ryan Lindley (2012 Larry Fitzgerald), Blake Bortles (2016 Allen Robinson), and Brock Osweiler/Tom Savage (2016 DeAndre Hopkins). All-time, nine wide receivers have over 150 targets in a season and fewer than 1,000 receiving yards. Their teams carried a combined 52-92 record. That is the type of line the Tampa Bay DBs are giving up these playoffs, and that type of line usually leads to defeat for the wide receiver.
But, we have to look to the last time these two teams met. In that tilt, Tyreek Hill had 269 receiving yards as he absolutely torched the Tampa Bay secondary. This includes a 75-yard touchdown and a 44-yard touchdown… both in the first quarter. Probably nothing to worry about if you’re Tampa Bay!
Key Player: Thomas Edward Patrick Brady Jr.
Never count out Touchdown Tom, they say. Never lose faith in America’s most hated quarterback, ever. Don’t ever do it. Because he will find you, and then make fun of you. Brady evolved from the TB Times where he posted fake newspapers after defeating teams at the end of his Patriots run to full-on mixtapes. In true dad-trying-to-stay-relevant fashion, his last mixtape featured Bad Boy for Life, which came out 20 years ago this July. I don’t need to tell you about Tom Brady, at this point. The dude has been in the league since my Freshman year of high school, and his résumé speaks for itself. The Super Bowl will be Tom Brady’s forty-fifth career playoff game. Brady averages 315 passing yards, two touchdowns, and he has six interceptions in his nine Super Bowl appearances.
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Header Image Source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/1a/Tom_Brady_2020_playoffs.jpg, cropped under CC BY SA 2.0