Super Bowl LV Preview

The Kansas Chiefs (safety Daniel Sorenson pictured) will attempt to become the NFL’s first repeat champion since the 2003-04 New Patriots as they take on Tom Brady and the home team Tampa Bay Bucaneers in Super Bowl LV

(Philadelphia, PA) — The 2020-21 NFL season will finish it’s oh-too-fast rendition with Super Bowl LV in Tampa, FL as the Tampa Bay Bucaneers (14-5) and Kansas City Chiefs (16-2) take center stage in the biggest game in sports. It will be interesting to see if Super Bowl LV ends the ’20 season with a bang or a blowout, which seems to have happened way too much in Super Bowl history. All week, the Tampa Bay region has been kind of quiet due to the on-going COVID-19 pandemic and the virtual nature of coverage, but you can expect Raymond James Stadium to be “Rockin” this Sunday – an anticipated larger crowd of around 25,000 fans.

“Super Bowl Sunday” is America’s unofficial holiday filled with fellowship, trash talk, and of course eating. Everywhere you turn, people are talking about the Bucs and Chiefs locking horns this Sunday and their respective watch parties. Even my 80-year old plus family friend, who usually is not in front of the television on Sunday’s watching NFL gridiron action, will be attending a Super Bowl party. She and an expected record television audience of over 100 Million plus viewers will be watching this Sunday as Kansas City and the home team Tampa Bay Bucs (first time ever that a team will be playing in a Super Bowl in their own stadium) take center stage. But no matter how Super Bowl LV ends, the 2020 NFL Season should be titled, “One Crazy Season” as the league and fans had mitriculate a “COVID” field of landmines just to get to this point. Sure some will boast that their crystal ball registered this Super Bowl match-up way back in September — hey what do I know… I picked a match-up of the Cowboys and Chiefs… But the majority of fans and media that I have talked to are more than happy and excited to see the two evenly matched teams (Chiefs are 3.5 point favorite) meeting in the Big Game.

So expected or unexpected match-up aside, this is the game that the parity-laden National Football League has handed us for Super Bowl Sunday 2021 (February 7th). And I for one am very excited to see this match-up of two of the NFL’s most-storied quarterbacks. It will be “Old School” vs. “New School as Bucs QB Tom Brady (43) will attempt to win his NFL-record 7th Super Bowl title against human-highlight reel electric Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes (25) who is going for his 2nd straight crown in just his fourth season. I know a good portion of the country is also excited as Super Bowl hype is growing by the day. Especially with the country in lockdown mode in their homes for almost a year in dealing with the pandemic.

Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said of the benefits of his team having gone through the Super Bowl experience just last year, “This is different because of what we’re doing right now, and we’re here in Kansas City, as oposed to being in Tampa.” The 200-win head added, “Last year we would’ve already been in Miami doing our thing down there. I don’t think you have quite as many distractions as you might in a normal Super Bowl week when you’re at a facility. You still know it’s there, you still know there is a game ahead that is the Super Bowl. You’re able to focus on that part of it probably a little better.”

Once the Conference Championships games were completed with the Bucaneers 31-26 win over the Green Bay Packers and the Chiefs 38-24 win over the Buffalo Bills, everyone tried to come up with a catchy Don King-esque box office selling theme for Super Bowl LV. Some slogans that I have heard bantered about have been “The Legacy Bowl”, “The Golden Game”, and many others. But I am going with the NFL proudly presents the “The Lion King” as it will be Young Lion vs. Old Lion on sports largest stage — BTW: Whatever happened to great titles like the “Thrilla in Manila” and the “Rumble in the Jungle”. All of the current themes that I have pointed out all touch on the fact that Brady and Mahomes are two of the NFL’s most revered and respected quarterbacks. Between them these two passers are draped in tradition and have a combined 7 Super Bowl titles. Currently Mahomes has a record of 2-2 when facing Brady, who is widely called the NFL’s “G.O.A.T”.
Including the postseason, Mahomes (44-9, .830) and Brady (263-80, .767) have the highest and third-highest winning percentages among starting quarterbacks (minimum 50 starts) since 1950. Super Bowl LV is also the first Super Bowl between the starting quarterbacks who won each of the two most recent Super Bowls [Mahomes won SB LIV with Kansas City; Brady won SB LIII with New England] and the first Super Bowl between starting quarterbacks who have each won at least one Most Valuable Player Award and one Super Bowl Most Valuable Player Award prior to the matchup.

So enough already with the continually beaten same-old-tired story that many are selling that Super Bowl Sunday will be all about the quarterbacks. Remember that anything that could happen has happened in this crazy 2020 season where “Any Given Sunday” has rung true week in and week out. Forget the Chiefs dominating 27-24 win in Week 12 over the Bucs in Tampa where WR Tyreek Hill ran all over the Bucs secondary (13 receptions on 15 targets for 269 yards and 3 TDs). As Public Enemy’s iconic leader Chuck D has said over and over “Don’t Believe the Hype”. The key for both remaining teams is focusing on their precious opportunity to win a Super Bowl and forgetting everything else that has transpired in the past 20 weeks leading up to the big game.

Kansas City Chiefs (16-4) Vs. Tampa Bay Bucaneers (14-5), Sunday 6:30PM, CBS
Broadcasting Team: Jim Nance and Tony Romo

Though the usual line that the “Chiefs are the close to unbeatable defending champs”, you definitely have to go deeper into this match-up than to immediately dismiss the Bucs and hand the Lombardi Trophy to Kansas City. The Buccaneers are trying to win their second Super Bowl (XXXVII) and can become the 7th club to win the Super Bowl as a Wild Card team, so they will be ready.

Sure the Chiefs have Mahomes, TE Travis Kelce, Hill, RB Clyde Edwards-Hellaire, and a cast of other speedy weapons that can quickly put up points and run away with games. In fact, Hill had a postseason franchise record 172 receiving yards in the AFC Championship Game and he along with all-world tight end Kelce (13 receptions vs. Bills) are the first pair of teammates to register 100-or-more receiving yards in consecutive games within the same postseason in league history.

But the Bucs defense, led by attacking defensive coordinator Todd Bowles and LB’s Devin White and Lavonte David should be extremely menacing to Andy Reid’s stable of thoroughbreds. Especially, watch for the match-up of the Chiefs battered offensive line (missing two starters including former first overall pick LT Eric Fisher – out with an Achilles tear) versus the Bucs pass rush led by Jason Pierre-Paul and Shaquille Barrett (combined for 5 sacks in NFC Championship game win over Packers).

The factor that everyone hopes will lead to more competitive games is “adjustments”. The NFL is a copycat league where teams can catch-up quickly and adjustments are the only way to stay ahead of the pack and combat falling behind. With each team coming off bye weeks, it is time for these two “great” head coaches (Bucs Bruce Arians and Reid) to make the adjustments necessary to keep their teams on top. Remember early season match-ups are important (don’t want to get too far behind), but great head coaches realize that they want their team peaking in the big games and no game is bigger than the Super Bowl.

Key match-ups to watch for:

Chiefs RB’s vs. the Bucs LBs – In order for KC to win. They will need a running game of some sort to keep Mahomes from having to throw the ball 40 times. Remember the young passer was knocked out of a divisional playoff win over the Browns (concussion) so keeping the former MVP clean will be key. A good running game by Hellaire-Edwards, LeVeon Bell, and Darrell Williams will also give the Chiefs defense some rest and keep Brady and his treasure chest of playmakers off the field.

Chiefs WR’s vs. the Tampa Bay Secondary -Though the Bucs have some big names in their secondary (potential NFL defensive rookie of the year safety Antoine Winfield Jr and others) this group has had trouble covering in man-to-man situations, especially against play-action (see Week 12 vs. KC). The Bucs constantly try to help their safeties on passing downs, so the Chiefs should be able to attack them vertically. Expect Mahomes, Hill, Mecole Hardman, and Sammie Watkins to try and get deep early. Also watch for tight end Kelce on seam routes against their safeties and LB’s David and White.

The Chiefs O-line vs. the Bucs Pass Rush – The Bucs have a formidable group rushing the passer led by double-digit sack guys Barrett and Pierre-Paul plus former All-Pro DT Ndamkuong Suh. The key will be for the Chiefs O-line to get their hands on the speedy pass rushers of the Bucs. Also I will be real interested in the KC smallish interior against man-eating NT Vita Vea.

Bucs LB’s vs. Chiefs TE Travis Kelce – The Pro Bowl tight end always seems to save his best for the postseason. The Bucs linebackers along with their safeties will need to make sure coverage holes are not left open for Kelce underneath. Kelce ranks second among tight ends in postseason history in receptions (73), receiving yards (859) and touchdown receptions (nine), trailing only Tampa Bay’s Rob Gronkowski (83 receptions for 1,206 yards and 12 touchdowns) in each category. The linebackers will also have to keep an eye on Hill, Hardman, and Watkins (ankle), if he plays, running crossing patterns across the middle.

Chiefs Pass Rush led by DE Frank Clark vs. Bucs OT’s rookie Tristen Wirfs and Donovan Smith – This match-up will serve as the barometer of how much pressure Brady will see. Everyone knows Brady gets happy-feet when pressured and can throw interceptions (3 INTs in NFC Championship game win), so the Chiefs high-motor sack men will need to try to get around the two giant offensive tackles to hurry, harass, and sack the “pretty boy” passer. Clark had 2 sacks of Bills QB Josh Allen in the AFC Championship game. Remember the NY Giants, led by veteran hall of famer Michael Strahan (3 tackles with 1 sack) and DE Justin Tuck (two sacks, six tackles, one forced fumble), with the DC Steve Spagnuolo (now Chiefs defensive playcaller) making all the right calls, producing 5 sacks in a Super Bowl XLII win over Brady and the Patriots — 16 QB hits in all. Brady’s stable of all-star receivers could not get open fast enough as he was frustrated after being hit over and over.

Talking Match-ups, Keys to Victory, and Prediciton is fun, but like any other playoff game, the Super Bowl will be won or lost based on some of football’s tried and true tenants — Strong Quarterback Play (i.e. Taking Care of the Football), Good Attacking Defense, a Balanced Offensive Attack based first in the Run, Sound Special Teams Play, and Limiting Penalties. So far in the playoffs the Chiefs and Bucs have lived by these keys mentioned especially strong quarterback play. But it is going to come down to pure “Want To” on both sidelines. Most of all I am hoping for no blowouts as I still remember the Niners beating the Broncos 55-10 in the 1989 season-ender.

LV’s Pick: No matter how up to the task the Bucs’ defense and Tom “Terrific” will be, I just believe that the Chiefs have all of the momentum including the knowledge they gained in their Week 12 road win in Tampa. Expect Mahomes and an improving Kansas City defense, who’s DC knows how to beat Brady in big games, to end their season as back-to-back champions – Chiefs 31, Bucaneers 27

Lloyd Vance is the Editor for Taking It to the House , who is also an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA). Lloyd can be reached @lloydvance

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