A little trivia for everyone. This may be the first NFL postseason with three GOAT Bowls.
We’ve had Tom Brady against Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers, games that put to rest either of them challenging the six-time champion, and now we have him facing someone he might be handing off the torch to within a few years, reigning Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes.
Honestly, when was the last great quarterback showdown in the Super Bowl?
Brady vs. Matt Ryan in the game that seemingly crippled the Atlanta Falcons for years to come, as the team with blown leads. But when the word “GOAT” has been involved with both starters, I’m thinking 2009, when Brees met Peyton Manning and the Colts.
Before that, go to 1997, when John Elway and the Broncos faced Brett Favre and Green Bay. At one time, in their day, they were certainly part of the GOAT conversation.
So aside from how special this matchup is on the surface, understand the rarity of what we’ve seen with Tom Brady, in his pursuit for a seventh ring.
The Buccaneers will win if: They fend off an offense that has produced 29 TDs — 19 passing, 10, rushing — while outscoring teams by a margin of nearly 14 points during a seven-game win streak. Offensive-minded Bruce Arians is having a good time drawing up plays for Brady.
The offense dominated through the air with the league’s second-most productive pass attack. And despite a less-than-glamorous running game, the blue-collar unit still managed to contribute with 16 TDs during the regular season — an average of one per game. They had one in each playoff game, too.
It’s just enough balance for Brady to do what he does best. Tampa Bay scored on 47.8% of its possessions, sixth-most in the league, and it’s limited the turnovers to just 8.9% of its drives, a league sixth-fewest.
The Chiefs will win if: for the same reason the Buccaneers will lose this game — and that is if Tampa Bay’s defense cannot stop Kansas City’s quick-hitting offense.
The Chiefs scored on five consecutive drives, and the Bills couldn’t stop anything. Kansas City, keyed by that Mahomes-Travis Kelce combination, forces opposing defensive units to watch a variety of weapons, while always having to keep an eye on Tyreek Hill. This is the league’s most terrifying offense.
The league average was 396.6 points per team during the regular season and 24.8 points per game. The Chiefs scored a league seventh-highest 473 points, an average of 29.5 points per game.
The Buccaneers have to be careful in covering Kelce, as they allowed the seventh-most receptions (86) to tight ends. The Bucs allowed nine TDs to tight ends, fifth-most numerically and tied for seventh with four other teams. Since taking over as starter in Kansas City in 2014, Kelce leads all tight ends with 121 touchdown receptions – including a league-high 36 since last year.
The Chiefs will lose this game: if they can’t solve Tampa Bay defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, who knows what it takes to stop a high-octane offense in the Super Bowl.
Bowles was the starting free safety in Super Bowl XXII, which Washington won 42-10 over Denver, which had the fourth-highest scoring offense (379) and tallied a league second-best 5,624 yards.
He has a finely tuned Buccaneers stop unit that allowed a scoring drive just 33.7% of opposing teams’ drives, sixth-lowest in the NFL. And let’s not be lulled into believing the Chiefs can’t be stalled. The Falcons held them to a season-low 17 points, the Chargers limited them to 21, the Browns and Broncos each held them to 22, again the Chargers got defensive in allowing 23.
The Bucs registered 47 sacks during the regular season, and seven more in three road playoff games — including five in Green Bay. That defense has just gotten better and better, clamping things down in the trenches, and limiting 10 straight opponents to 27 points or less — an average of 22.1 points per game.
Super Bowl Sunday
Chiefs -3 vs. Buccaneers: From there we have the segue into why I think Tampa Bay is the play in this game. I think the Buccaneers will win, but I advise you to not only take the field goal, but also buy the half point.
The Buccaneers’ defense will keep things honest, as it comes into the Super Bowl after allowing a league eighth-fewest 355 points, and sixth-lowest 5,234 yards. Tampa Bay already has the No. 1 rushing defense and has the personnel to make the same adjustments other teams had success with against Mahomes.
Mahomes has one Super Bowl ring in one trip to the final, in his three full seasons in the NFL. Brady is 6-3 in the Super Bowl, since 2001, when he made his first start. And as much as we agree Mahomes has plenty more Lombardi Trophies to win, he’ll hit some speed bumps. He and the Chiefs have time, Brady doesn’t. He may have one more dominant season, and another contending campaign left, but this is the year the Bucs need to do it.
This is Tampa Bay’s destiny year in many ways.
The Lightning are Stanley Cup champions. The Rays was the World Series runner-up. Now the Buccaneers – -who this season are 3-1 SU and 4-0 ATS when catching +2.5 or more with arguably the best quarterback to play the game – are hosting the Super Bowl and can land Tampa, Florida its second trophy. BUCCANEERS