With the big game just five days out, I have predictions for Super Bowl LV between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce are held in check
When the Chiefs beat the Buccaneers in Week 12, Hill caught 13 passes for 269 yards and three touchdowns in a 27-24 Kansas City victory. But Tampa Bay defensive coordinator Todd Bowles is too good at his job to let Hill or Kelce dominate his defense again. Besides, the Bucs are simply playing better defensive football.
Hill will have to deal with an improved Sean Murphy-Bunting in the slot, and talented corner Jamel Dean isn’t hurt this time around. Meanwhile, Tampa’s stacked off-ball linebacker/safety quartet of Devin White, Lavonte David, Antoine Winfield Jr. and Jordan Whitehead is very unlikely to get consistently schooled by Kelce.
The Chiefs offensive line becomes a huge problem
They say good offensive coaches (like Andy Reid and Chiefs offensive line coach Andy Heck) can make do without one regular starting offensive lineman, but with left tackle Eric Fisher out, the Kansas City O-line will likely be without both tackles. They survived the absence of stalwart right tackle Mitchell Schwartz, but no Fisher and Schwartz could be hugely problematic against a defensive front that’s loaded with talent and coming off a five-sack performance in Green Bay.
Keep in mind that unit has already spent the season without Super Bowl LIV starter Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, who opted out to fight COVID-19 this season. Mahomes might be a magician, but he’s still human and could have Jason Pierre-Paul, Shaquil Barrett, Ndamukong Suh, and Vita Vea in his face all evening in Tampa.
It’s a (relatively) low-scoring game
The Chiefs will probably attempt a lot of quick and short passes and try to establish balance in order to compensate for their depleted offensive line, which could result in longer drives, more punts, and fewer points in general against the league’s top-rated run defense. Meanwhile, the Bucs will almost certainly try to set the tone in a similar fashion with Leonard Fournette and Ronald Jones II going up against the league’s 31st-ranked run defense in terms of DVOA, especially after 43-year-old quarterback Tom Brady threw three interceptions in the second half of the NFC Championship Game.
There were “just” 51 points in last year’s Chiefs-49ers Super Bowl, and the Kansas City offense looks less healthy and crisp in this spot against another strong D. Last time Brady was in the Super Bowl, just 16 total points were scored as he started slowly and operated deliberately. This one might fall closer to 51 than 16, but I don’t expect it to hit the current total of 56.5.
The Buccaneers win outright
I guess it’s pretty obvious by now where I’m leaning. The Bucs are simply hotter, healthier, and deeper. They’re also well-coached to enough of a degree to learn from their regular-season loss to the Chiefs at Arrowhead, and this time they should benefit to an extent from home-field advantage.
A money-line bet on the Bucs pays +150, which is pretty damn enticing when you consider the matchup advantages possessed by the Bucs in this game. Plus, it’s Tom freakin’ Brady. At the very least, take the points with the Chiefs favored by a field goal.
Leonard Fournette wins MVP
The 2017 No. 4 overall pick has really found his groove late in his debut season with the Buccaneers, and he’s put up 313 yards and three touchdowns in three postseason games. A healthier Jones could cut into Fournette’s workload in the Super Bowl, but it’s still clear he’s the top option in that backfield, and he’ll go up against a vulnerable run defense in this spot.
A running back hasn’t won Super Bowl MVP since Terrell Davis did so in 1998, which means the position is due! Take advantage of the fact Fournette pays +3000 or better as the MVP, because it’s entirely possible he scores multiple touchdowns and sets the tone in order to beat out Brady.