After a season filled with schedule rearrangements, player opt-outs and COVID-19 protocols, the NFL has emerged with a dream Super Bowl matchup filled with storylines and intrigue.
The Kansas City Chiefs opened as a consensus -3.5 favorite over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, with the total opening at 57 points. Tuesday, the Chiefs were down to -3 with increased juice at most spots, with the total ticking down to 56 or 56.5.
Tom Brady will be making his 10th appearance in the Super Bowl, and his first with Tampa Bay. The Chiefs are looking to become the first team to win back-to-back championships since Brady’s Patriots did it in 2004-2005.
Oddsmakers and bettors are forced to ask a question that they have never faced in a prior Super Bowl: Do you give the Buccaneers any kind of home field advantage? Tampa Bay is the first team to host the Super Bowl in their home stadium.
Tyreek Hill Stats in Conference Championship Games (3 games)
— Chiefs Focus: Behind the Numbers ðŸ“Š (@CFStatistics) January 26, 2021
From a fan and noise perspective, Tampa Bay’s advantage should be minimal. The NFL announced that 22,000 people will be allowed into Raymond James Stadium, and that includes 7,500 vaccinated healthcare workers.
But there is still something to be said about getting dressed in your own locker room, knowing the sightlines of your stadium and having your kicker be comfortable at home.
There is another factor that oddsmakers and bettors are looking at, which they do not often see in a Super Bowl matchup: These two teams just played each other in the same stadium.
The Chiefs beat the Bucs 27-24 in Week 12. Kansas City jumped out to a 17-0 lead in the first quarter and was forced to hold on late as Tampa Bay rallied. Kansas City entered that contest as a -3.5 road favorite, with the total at 56 points.
Both offenses dominated that game, but it miraculously stayed under the total because of turnovers. There was 960 yards of offense and 46 first downs in that contest. Patrick Mahomes threw for 462 yards. Brady threw for 345 yards. The Chiefs averaged 7.5 yards per play while the Bucs averaged 7.6 yards per play.
Over the next week, you will hear glowing praise for both of these teams, from the quarterbacks to the coaching staffs to the front office. I will attempt to splash a tiny bit of cold water on each team’s fanbase as they get ready to place their wagers.
I would be a little nervous to back the Chiefs because of offensive line injuries. Pro Bowl left tackle Eric Fisher suffered a torn Achilles in the AFC Championship game. Kansas City was already playing without starting right tackle Mitchell Schwartz, who is out with a back injury.
With a weakened Chiefs’ offensive line, will the Bucs need to blitz Mahomes, or can Tampa Bay’s defense with Jason Pierre-Paul and Shaquil Barrett generate pressure?
Mahomes led the league in QBR against the blitz. Eventually, opposing teams just stopped blitzing him. Teams blitzed Kansas City at the third-lowest rate during the regular season.
Tackle Mike Remmers has not played on the left side of the offensive line since 2016. Right guard Stefen Wisniewski won a ring with the Chiefs last year but missed the first three months of this season. There are some big question marks on the offensive line as the Chiefs prepare for this game without Fisher.
I would be a little nervous to back the Buccaneers because of conservative play calling.
This is how Tampa Bay started the game against Green Bay in the NFC Championship game: Run for three yards, run for three yards, pass for 27 yards, run for one yard.
Tampa Bay’s opening touchdown drive was nine plays. Leonard Fournette was involved in six of those plays, and they generated a total of 10 yards. The other three plays went for 27, 14, and 15 yards.
The Buccaneers’ first five first-down plays were all runs. Those first down runs produced a total of 11 yards. Brady was a wizard in the first half, constantly digging the Bucs’ offense out of disadvantageous situations.
Tampa Bay got away with their conservative play-calling against the Packers, but that can’t happen again vs. Kansas City. Opening the game with five first-down runs is a recipe for disaster against K.C.
Last week: 1-1