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Against all odds imposed by the coronavirus pandemic, only two teams remain in the postseason. As all football fans (and a whole lot of non-fans) know, this means that the Super Bowl is imminent.
As the most-watched American TV broadcast of the year, the occurrence of the big game isn’t a surprise to anyone. Not all 100 million viewers, however, might be aware of the complex storylines that have been going for decades, the implications for the careers of players and coaches and what makes the football world championship such a prestigious event.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Kansas City Chiefs will face off on Feb. 7 as two very different teams. The Chiefs are led by their star quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who has consistently proved that he is the future of the league. On the other hand, the Buccaneers are led by their 43-year old quarterback, Tom Brady, who is the undisputed greatest quarterback in NFL history.
Aside from the quarterback position, the two teams have notable similarities. Both teams boast imposing receiver cores, with the Chiefs sporting the dynamic duo Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce, while Tampa Bay features a talented core in receivers Chris Godwin and Mike Evans. These are two of the top passing offenses in the league, and a shootout is within the realm of possibility for the Super Bowl.
Both teams also feature capable, albeit inconsistent rushing attacks. The Buccaneers have benefitted from the addition of former Jaguar Leonard Fournette and the emergence of Ronald Jones this season, while the Chiefs will have Pro Bowl rookie Clyde Edwards-Helaire coming back after an injury. Despite both teams’ talent in the backfield, neither team has had a player cross 100 rushing yards since Week 6 of 2020.
On another note, each team features a former Steelers superstar, both of whom were considered the premier player at their position just three seasons prior. The Buccaneers turned heads this season with the addition of five-time All-Pro receiver Antonio Brown, adding to an offense that already featured two Pro Bowl receivers. The Chiefs added three-time All-Pro running back Le’Veon Bell, although he is no longer the player he once was.
While both teams feature big names on the offensive side of the ball, the Buccaneers’ talent on the defensive side is the key to this game. The pass rush features the likes of Jason-Pierre Paul, Shaquill Barrett, Ndamukong Suh, and Vita Vea, who have combined for 58.5 sacks over the past two regular seasons. The linebacker core features two top-five linebackers in the league, in Devin Bush and the criminally underrated Lavonte David.
The Bucs secondary will be the X-factor for this game. While Jamal Dean, Carlton Davis and Sean Murphy-Bunting have made their fair share of plays this season and in the playoffs, the Chiefs’ receiver core is full of big time speed receivers. Keep in mind that Hill burned the Bucs’ secondary for over 260 receiving yards the first time around.
These two teams played earlier this season in Tampa. The Chiefs got off to a strong start and Tyreek Hill’s mind-boggling 203 yards in the first quarter gave Kansas City a quick 17-0 lead. Brady and the Bucs came storming back, and only ended up losing 27-24. The lesson? Never count out Brady.
His ability to win big games is timeless, and even though the Chiefs are betting favorites, Brady has come back too many times for Chiefs fans to relax early in the game. The Super Bowl’s first home team advantage will be in play as well in favor of Tampa Bay, who have adjusted well against tough opponents the second time around.
Despite the obvious recent success of these two teams, they both have significant weaknesses that the winning team will have to exploit. The Chiefs have to limit their penalties. They committed the fourth most penalties in the regular season and slip-ups can be more common in big games with the pressure of the big game and the volume of the fans.
Not only do the Chiefs commit a lot of penalties, but the Buccaneers are one of the best in the league in drawing them. Tampa Bay gained the second most first downs from penalties in the regular season, and Brady’s experience in big games will amplify the impact of this strength of his team.
Brady’s biggest weaknesses this season were his interceptions. His 12 in the regular season were sixth highest in the league, and he threw three more in the playoffs that almost cost the Buccaneers a trip to the Super Bowl. The Chiefs defense has forced 16 interceptions this season, which was good for fifth in the league. The turnover battle will also determine the tide of the game.
These two teams both go into the biggest game in football as proven contenders, featuring players that have proved their worth in the spotlight. Expect a fast-moving game with unique play-calling from two of the craftiest coaches in the league, and enjoy a once in a lifetime matchup of talent between the past and the future of the league.