We have made it. Within a year of a pandemic, Super Bowl LV is set, and while the future G.O.A.T. is taking on Father Time, Kenny Van Doren and Payton Havermann are taking opposing sides to point out the key reasons why either team could win. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the first team to ever play a Super Bowl in their home stadium, will be taking on the 1st seed Kansas City Chiefs. Here are their takes:
Kenny Van Doren
We have seen this quarterback matchup before in the 2019 playoffs, and as we all watched Patrick Mahomes cheer from the sidelines, an offsides penalty paused his chances of advancing to his first ever Super Bowl. While Tom Brady went on to win his 6th Super Bowl, the former Texas Tech Red Raider was taking home the league MVP. Mahomes has the talent to one day retire as the greatest of all time, but you can’t count out the active G.O.A.T.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers look slightly different from their 8-8 campaign of 2019. They added a veteran quarterback in Tom Brady, a power back in Leonard Fournette, and also during the season, they added a former top-five receiver in Antonio Brown. Along with their “graveyard” defense, the team has the weapons to succeed in the big game. Brady has top-50 receivers in Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Brown, two talented tight ends in Rob Gronkowski and Cameron Brate, and a heavy running back room in Leonard Fournette, Ronald Jones II, and LeSean McCoy. The weapons are all there for the former New England Patriot, but at the age of 43, he doesn’t look totally like his former self. We saw a few other throws and balls into the ground in Green Bay for the NFC Championship, but you can’t ever count out Brady.
Tampa Bay is entering with a healthy defense, and while their front seven has been banged up and aging, DT Vita Vea has made his return to the field. The linebacking core is one of the best in the league within pass coverage and rushing. The secondary has started adding players to their “graveyard” when they lock receivers in their shoes. The defense will have to play smart against the fastest receiver in the league in Tyreek Hill, along with the best tight end, Travis Kelce. The defense has held the Washington Football Team to 23 points, the New Orleans Saints to 20 points, and the Green Bay Packers to 26 points. Although all three games ended close in score, Tampa Bay possibly has Brown returning from injury for the Super Bowl. The talent is there, and while on the biggest stage, Brady and the offense will show out.
This will be Brady’s first Super Bowl with an NFC team and his tenth total. If Mahomes and the Chiefs pull out a win, then it could be a great passing of the torch from one goat to the next. All in all, I am taking the Buccaneers to win their first Super Bowl since 2003.
Prediction: Tampa Bay 45 – Kansas City 38
The last time Mahomes and Brady faced off in the playoffs, it was hailed with such potential as a “Passing of the Torch” or “Changing of the Guard” game. Mahomes was in his first full year as a starter and was the slam dunk MVP, as he had deadlifted the Chiefs and their historically bad defense to a 12-4 record and an AFC title game appearance. He was facing Tom Brady, the greatest quarterback of all time, in his 19th season who was in his 13th conference title, and who many thought was declining. The stage was set for a truly monumental moment in NFL history, but the passing of the torch ceremony was delayed. Mahomes struggled in the first half of the AFC championship, but he rallied in the 2nd half to send the game to overtime. However, Mahomes could only watch from the sidelines as his defense was unable to make a stop in overtime, a theme that season, and his legacy was denied.
Now Mahomes and the Chiefs enter Super Bowl LV with another chance for the torch to be passed. The Chiefs defense was by far the worst defense in the league back in 2019, but it’s a much improved 16th best unit in the league. Steve Spagnuolo has done an incredible job with the unit since he was hired in 2019. A new defensive coordinator, an improved defensive line that features Chris Jones and Frank Clark, along with a revamped secondary that’s well complimented with young guys like L’Jarius Sneed, Charvarius Ward, and Juan Thornhill, with one of the best safeties in football in Tyrann Mathieu.
The Chiefs defense actually lines up well with the Buccaneers offense. The Buccaneers strength is undisputedly their receivers. Brady’s air attack has been overwhelmingly to his receivers this year, as his tight end room features a freshly unretired Gronk and Cameron Brate, neither of which are overly dominant at their position in the same way that Chris Godwin is. The Chiefs secondary should be able to handle the Buccaneers receiving core pretty well, so the Bucs may try to get their tight ends and running backs involved to take advantage of a weak Chiefs linebacking core. How the Chiefs handle the Bucs’ tight ends and running game is going to wind up being a critical part of the game, but the other side of the ball for both teams is going to be even more important.
The Bucs’ defense is a very underrated unit. They have a young secondary full of potential, a fantastic defensive line, and a stellar linebacker duo. The last time the Chiefs played the Bucs, however, it would’ve been hard to notice any of this as Tyreek Hill ran circles around the defense for over 250 yards and, for 3 quarters, the Chiefs offense dominated. However, in the 4th quarter, the Bucs defense adjusted and shut out the Chiefs in the 4th, almost leading to a miraculous Tampa comeback.
The Tampa defense may have found a way to at least slow Tyreek Hill down, but they have another entire issue to solve. Travis Kelce. The Bucs linebacker duo of Devin White and Lavonte David have been among the league’s best against the run, but their pass coverage has been a completely different story. The Bucs can’t use their safeties to help with Kelce, as that would once again open the Tyreek Hill floodgates, so it puts them in a tough situation. The Chiefs will likely look to exploit this and Travis Kelce will likely have a massive day, which I think will ultimately make the difference in Super Bowl LV. I predict that the torch will be passed in a shootout.
Prediction: Kansas City 38 – Tampa Bay 28
Edited by Tyler Kading