Why not? It was in the same stadium. There were no major injuries or missing pieces in that contest. There was plenty at stake, as Kansas City was still chasing Pittsburgh for the No. 1 seed in the AFC, and Tampa Bay was far from secure in the NFC playoff hunt at 7-4 (7-5 after they lost to the Chiefs).
So, we are at the same stadium, with the same teams looking at a clear weather forecast and a whole lot at stake. Why would this game look drastically different than the first?
That Week 12 game featured 960 yards of offense and 46 first downs. Patrick Mahomes threw for 462 yards. Tom Brady threw for 345 yards. There were three turnovers in the red zone, with Patrick Mahomes fumbling at the Tampa Bay 8-yard line and Brady throwing two interceptions inside the Kansas City 15-yard-line. Without those abnormalities, that Week 12 game probably flirts with 70 points.
During the 2020 regular season, there were only 20 instances of a team averaging more than 7.5 yards per play in a game. Two of those 20 instances came in that Week 12 game as both the Chiefs and Bucs averaged more than 7.5 yards per play.
In my opinion, the ingredients for a repeat performance are there, including pace of play, special teams, and explosive playmakers.
Full-game pace numbers can be skewed because these teams won a lot of games this year and they were running out the clock in the fourth quarter of a lot of games. So, if you just look at the first three quarters, Tampa Bay’s offense operated at the third-fastest pace in the NFL with Kansas City at the fifth-fastest pace according to Sharp Football Stats.
When it comes to special teams, we have the right combination of good and bad. The good is the kickers. Harrison Butker has actually missed more extra points in his career than field goals. He was 16-of-19 on kicks greater than 40 yards this season. Butker is 40-of-44 on field goals and extra points in his eight-game playoff career.
On the other side, Ryan Succop has missed one field goal since Week 5. He only missed two kicks at Raymond James Stadium this season. Obviously, the nerves are a little different in the Super Bowl, but if you are looking to back the over, we have two of the best kickers in the game right now.
Time for the not-so-special part of special teams: Tampa Bay is No. 26 in Football Outsiders’ DVOA rankings for both punt and kickoff return coverage. The Buccaneers allow the most kickoff return yardage in the NFL by almost four yards per return.
Byron Pringle averaged 32.4 yards per kickoff return during the regular season and has a 102-yard touchdown return on his resume. Mecole Hardman had a 67-yard punt return for a touchdown this year. Jaydon Mickens had a 43-yard return for the Bucs against Green Bay. There could be some fireworks on special teams.
By looking at the over, I am going against history when it comes to Super Bowls that feature a rematch from the regular season. The under is 10-3 (76.9%) when the Super Bowl is a regular-season rematch, including each of the last four instances.
For those that plan on doing some live betting, Brady’s history of slow starts in the Super Bowl may present an appealing opportunity. In his nine prior Super Bowl appearances, Brady has never scored a first quarter touchdown. Five of those nine games were 0-0 after the first quarter, while two more were 3-0.
While I do have confidence in Brady and his playmakers to put points on the board, the Buccaneers’ coaching staff does cause me to briefly pause. Leonard Fournette touched the ball in six of Tampa Bay’s first nine plays in the NFC Championship Game. Those six plays generated a total of ten yards, while Brady’s first three downfield 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. If Bruce Arians and Byron Leftwich toss out that conservative game script and let Brady be aggressive from the jump, I think we see a shootout on Sunday. OVER