Lower seeds have had Super success

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For the first time in eight seasons, the Super Bowl will feature a team other than a one or two seed.  Baltimore won Super Bowl 47 as a No. 4 seed, defeating San Francisco in the battle of the coaching Harbaugh brothers. Super Bowl 55 features the top AFC seed, Kansas City against the No. 5 NFC seed, Tampa Bay.

Kansas City played perhaps its best game of the season and certainly its best game since mid-season to win the AFC Championship over Buffalo. After spotting the Bills an early 9-0 lead the Chiefs scored 21 second-quarter points and led 21-12 at the half and 38-15 before Buffalo scored twice in the final five minutes to fall 38-24.

The win was costly for the Chiefs who lost LT Eric Fisher to a torn Achilles tendon and will miss the Super Bowl. With two weeks to adjust, QB Patrick Mahomes – who played very well and not appearing bothered by his turf toe injury – should feel comfortable behind the revamped offensive line.

Tampa Bay never trailed in winning at Green Bay 31-26. QB Tom Brady was both brilliant and shaky for the Buccaneers. He had a double-triple, tossing three touchdown passes and three interceptions. But it was Green Bay coach Matt LaFleur’s questionable decision late in the game that effectively preserved Tampa’s win.

Trailing 31-23, LaFleur opted for a field goal rather than go for the TD on fourth down from the Tampa 8-yard line. There were just over two minutes remaining the Pack had all three of their time outs. They never got the football back as Tampa successfully ran out the clock.

Tampa Bay becomes the first team to play the Super Bowl in its home stadium. Even with this perceived advantage Kansas City opened as a 3- or 3.5-point favorite around Las Vegas before settling in at -3 -120 by mid-morning Tuesday. The Total opened 57.5 but has been bet down to 56.5.

After nine Super Bowl appearances with New England, Brady is the second QB to lead a team from both the AFC and NFC to the big game. Craig Morton was the first with Dallas and then Denver in the 1970s.

Although a subjective designation, Brady can be considered the GOAT (Greatest of All Time) of NFL quarterbacks using a wide variety of criteria including holding the record of four Super Bowl MVP awards.

Of the current crop of QBs Kansas City’s Mahomes is the leading candidate to challenge Brady’s moniker. He’s led K.C. to the playoffs in all three of his seasons as starter. The Chiefs are now 6-1 in the postseason, including last season’s Super Bowl win.

This will be the fifth meeting between Brady and Mahomes. Brady’s Patriots won the first two matchups, including the overtime win in the 2018 AFC title game. But Mahomes and the Chiefs won the next two meetings. The first was in New England in 2019 and the second earlier this season in Tampa Bay.

Although the Brady vs. Mahomes matchup will be its focus, the Super Bowl will be about more than quarterback play.

Tampa is just the second No. 2 seed to make the Super Bowl. The other was the 2007 New York Giants, who upset 18-0 New England in Super Bowl 42. It was the first of Brady’s three Super Bowl losses.

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Barring a major surge of Kansas City money this will be the fifth straight Super Bowl with a closing line of 4 points or less, and the ninth in the past 11. In the last eight such games the favorite is 4-4 both SU and ATS. But 3-1 over the last four seasons. Prior to the last four seasons the underdog had won five straight outright, beginning with Brady’s second Super Bowl loss in SB46.

Let’s also keep in mind that the point spread has not mattered in 14 of the last 15 Super Bowls and in each of the last 11. Had you bet on the team that won the game SU you would have cashed 14 tickets laying or taking the points.

A concern for Tampa Bay is their overall lack of postseason experience other than that of Brady. Prior to this season, Tampa last made the playoffs in 2007. Contrast that to the Chiefs, who are in the playoffs for a sixth straight season and the seventh of coach Andy Reid’s eight seasons.

But let’s also consider that in winning at both Green Bay and New Orleans the Bucs defeated teams with recent playoff experience. The Saints made the playoffs for a fourth straight season (3-4 SU) and the Packers for the fifth time in seven seasons (5-5).

Of course, not all Super Bowl betting will be on the Side or Total. Each year the percentage of “proposition” wagers has increased steadily. At some books it’s close to half of the wagering volume. I’ll have more to say on props next week.

Will the Methuselah Magician, Brady, lead hometown hosting Tampa Bay to his seventh and the Bucs’ second Super Bowl victory? Or will the young stud, Mahomes, lead the Chiefs to the franchise’s third Super Bowl win with Kansas City becoming the first back-to-back champs since the Brady-led Patriots of 2003 and 2004 accomplished this feat?

Sixty years ago, in January 1961, newly elected President John F. Kennedy famously said in his inaugural address that “the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans.” A week from Sunday we’ll learn if the same symbolism will apply to NFL quarterbacks, perhaps figuratively and literally.

Last week: 0-2

Season: 48-62-1

About the Author

Andy Iskoe

Owner and author of “The Logical Approach,” Andy Iskoe has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football.

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