Has there ever been a defending Super Bowl champion getting less respect than the Kansas City Chiefs? That’s the power of Tom Brady.
As we head to Super Bowl LV on Sunday night (6:30 pm EST, CBS) in Tampa – that’s right, the home field of the Brady’s Buccaneers – the Chiefs remain a 3-point favorite. But the discussion has centered on whether we’re about to witness the coronation of Brady’s seventh Super Bowl win, with the Chiefs playing the role of another vanquished opponent.
There are football reasons why Kansas City perhaps should not be the favorite, starting with its offensive line. The Chiefs have battled key injuries all year, the latest being the loss of Pro Bowl tackle Eric Fisher to a lower leg injury. What it means is when the Chiefs take the field on Sunday, no player higher than a seventh-round draft choice will be out there protecting Patrick Mahomes. In a few spots, Kansas City is starting players who weren’t even drafted.
So one key to the game is easy: Mahomes will have to be his elusive self, if his healing turf toe allows it, because there is no way the Chiefs will keep the Bucs’ stout defensive line at bay the entire game. Tampa will come up with at least a few sacks. If they sack Mahomes more than that, KC is in trouble.
Tampa is probably the team playing better coming into this game, mainly due to the improvement on defense. But the Bucs, in knocking out a beaten-down Drew Brees-led Saints team and a one-dimensional Packers offense to get to the Super Bowl, haven’t faced an offense as versatile as Kansas City’s since they lost to the Chiefs 27-24 on Nov. 29.
That’s the game that causes many to believe Tampa will win the rematch, simply because Kansas City’s offensive line was more stable two months ago. Tampa was not playing nearly as well back then, yet the Chiefs only won by a field goal.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. To me, that game means nothing.
The fact is Kansas City faced a much tougher postseason path to get to this game, and yet here they are. And while it’s line is far from great, that has not slowed down Mahomes. Brady may be the best 43-year-old quarterback we’ve ever seen, but Mahomes has been the best quarterback in the league for at least the past two years.
I see a shoot-out coming. Both teams have solid defenses but neither is as good as the offenses. The status of Bucs receiver Antonio Brown is a factor, as he gives Tampa an excellent triple threat alongside Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. Sure, Scotty Miller was a surprisingly strong fill-in against Green Bay, but that performance means he won’t sneak up on KC. But throw in running back Leonard Fournette, tight end Rob Gronkowski and Brady at the controls, it means Tampa brings just the type of efficient offense that could keep Mahomes on the sideline for large chunks of the game.
But let’s not forget that with Mahomes, it’s not as simple as blowing up whatever play the Chiefs have called. Mahomes turns broken plays into touchdowns and he is one of the best ever against the blitz. If you blitz him and don’t get to him, he can burn you in 40-yard chunks. Mahomes loves to go to tight end Travis Kelce and receiver Tyreek Hill, who combined for more than 20 catches in the AFC title game. And KC by far has the more explosive running backs in Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Darrel Williams. Of the two offenses, Kansas City’s is harder to consistently stop.
There are so many stories within the game. KC is trying to become the first repeat champion since Brady did it with the New England Patriots in 2004. And who was coaching the team that lost to Brady that year? Chiefs coach Andy Reid, who was then coaching the Philadelphia Eagles.
Tampa is the first team to play in a Super Bowl on its home field, yet the crowd will be limited to just over 20,000, meaning this will be the lowest attendance of any Super Bowl in history. Will the home field be an advantage? Probably not a big deal.
Manopause Team Super Bowl Predictions
Everything about the trends heading into this game says Brady won’t be denied and Tampa will harass Mahomes enough to win the game. That’s how a lot of people see it, including my colleagues at Manopause.com, who I asked to send me their predictions:
Marc Serota says it will be Tampa Bay 38, KC 35.
Mike Essrig says it will be Tampa Bay 28, KC 35.
Larry Pollack says it will be Tampa Bay 31, KC 28.
Rubin Hanan predicts Tampa Bay 38, KC 33.
My feeling is the Chiefs are getting a little disrespected. They have the best player in the league and they also have the better coach. Nothing against Bruce Arians, but in a huge matchup I’d choose Reid. There is no doubt Reid and the Chiefs are getting something ready to counteract the Bucs’ pass rush.
So I’m going the other way. This will be a tight game, very likely decided by turnovers. I say it’s the Chiefs who get to the immobile Brady and force him into at least two interceptions. As for Mahomes, you can’t hit him if you can’t catch him. This is the game in which he shows the world that he is the new king of NFL quarterbacks with back-to-back Super Bowl titles at the age of 25.
Kansas City 42, Tampa Bay 35