Super Bowl LV Preview


(Photo by: Dirk Shadd/Times)

Connor Easterday

It’s that time of year again. Super Bowl LV is just around the corner, as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Kansas City Chiefs will battle it out on Sunday, February 7th. The game will kick off at 6:40 pm ET at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Bay, Florida. This marks the first time that a team will be playing at their home stadium in the big game. Will Tom Brady, in his 21st season, add a seventh Lombardi trophy to his resume? Will Patrick Mahomes get his second before turning the age of 26? I’m here to help answer those questions.
To make things a little bit simple, I’m going to be breaking this up into two sections: Chiefs offense versus Buccaneers defense and Buccaneers offense versus Chiefs defense. I’ll go into thorough detail on each topic, and conclude with my final prediction. So let’s get right into it.


Chiefs Offense vs. Buccaneers Defense

(Photo by: Mark LoMoglio/AP)

There is no doubt that this is the best unit, on either side of the field, for either team. The Chiefs have made a killing with their offense, and specifically their passing offense, in the past three years. With the universally-accepted best Quarterback in the game, Patrick Mahomes II, targets such as Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce, and Andy Reid calling the plays…its widely understood that this Chiefs offense is one of the greatest of all time.

Something of note, is that the Chiefs and Buccaneers actually faced off in week 12 of the regular season. Kansas City won 27-24, though the score may be misleading. The Chiefs were in firm control of the game throughout each of the first three quarters. Tom Brady’s struggles showed more than ever, throwing two interceptions and ultimately losing the game. Meanwhile, Mahomes had his best game of the season.

It was wide receiver Tyreek Hill, however, that the Buccaneers will be studying the most from that game. He finished with a franchise-record 269 yards and 3 touchdowns. Tampa Bay’s defense was lost all game, especially when trying to cover Hill, possibly the fastest player in the game. He’s a matchup nightmare that often requires a double-team, with the defense playing more zone-coverage, and even bringing down a safety to help. The problem last time around, is that the Buccaneers gave cornerback, Carlton Davis, too much of the responsibility. While Davis is talented, he’s not the kind of player who can cover Tyreek Hill, one-on-one. In fact, almost nobody is. Despite this, they often threw him out there on an island in man-coverage, without the help of a safety. Even when they did play zone, Davis would over-commit to routes. If the Buccaneers learned anything from last time, its that they must play more zone, double Hill, and let Davis cover his area of the field.

Another key that will be taken away from the last matchup, is the Chiefs’ success versus the blitz. Tampa Bay is the number one most blitz-heavy team in the NFL. However, when they played Kansas City, they only blitzed nine times. This is because Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs’ offense play off the blitz as well as anybody in the league. In fact, in that one game alone, Mahomes went 6/9 with 109 yards and two touchdowns just against the blitz. I think the Buccaneers have learned that even bringing five guys every now and then is too often. They must rush four every play on Sunday. All blitzing will do is take one more guy out of coverage. That leads to bigger passing lanes for Mahomes to throw into. If Tampa Bay can win some matchups with Ndamukong Suh, Vita Vea, Jason Pierre-Paul, and Shaquil Barrett, with Devin White covering the running back, and Antonie Winfield in the deep-zone, then they should have a chance to win this game.

The question for the Chiefs is, how would they combat this? Well first and foremost, it won’t be through the ground game. Many have suggested that the Chiefs should slow the game down and run the ball. To me, this is a terrible gameplan, as Tampa Bay has the number one rush defense in the NFL. The Chiefs must go for the jugular early and often in the air. The passing game is the strength of this team, and if they want to win, it’ll be with Mahomes throwing the ball.

A key for Kansas City’s offense will be to utilize speed and motion. This means pre-snap movement with their speedy receivers, jet sweeps, end-arounds, sprint-outs, play actions. Anything that will cause the Buccaneers’ defensive line to hesitate, and give the Chiefs’ the split-second advantage to make a play.

Ultimately, the Chiefs have a clear leg-up in this department. While the Buccaneers have elite playmakers on their defense, it pales in comparison to the likes of Kansas City’s offensive personnel. While I think Tampa Bay could win a few matchups with their defensive front, I’m giving Mahomes and Tyreek Hill, specifically, the advantage here.


Buccaneers Offense vs. Chiefs Defense

(Photo by: Jason Behnken/AP Photo)

I have many questions about the Buccaneers offense. The last time we saw this matchup, Tom Brady played one of the worst games of his career. It was nothing but incompletions and punts in that first quarter. This led to the Chiefs taking a 17-0 advantage. If that happens again, the Buccaneers will be doomed. So what did Kansas City do to cause this? I think the biggest thing was the pressure. When the Chiefs showed an uncomplicated, vanilla look, Brady would decipher it in an instant. But, when the Chiefs showed an exotic blitz, they would pressure number 12 and that’d be the end of it. Especially early on, they got to Brady better than any defense all season. Whether it was an interior rush with Chris Jones or an outside rush with Frank Clark, Brady couldn’t do anything. What caused things to teeter off, was the 17-0 lead itself. Playing comfortably with a lead, the Chiefs stepped off the gas pedal and started to play a “bend don’t break defense.” Well that doesn’t work against Tom Brady. Tampa got into a rhythm, and actually put themselves back in the ball game. I think both teams have learned from that game. This time around, I would expect the Chiefs to be in attack-mode the entire game. Blitzes, 5-man rushes, 6-man rushes, cornerbacks flying off the edge, linebackers coming up the middle, etc.

For the Buccaneers’ offense, arguably the number one key to the game will be the run game. If they can establish Leonard Fournette and Ronald Jones as threats early on, it will force Kansas City to back off and slow it down, which ultimately helps out Brady. If they can get this done, it’ll be huge, as every Buccaneers loss this season was due to pressure. Unfortunately for them, I don’t have much faith for this to happen. While the Buccaneers’ offensive line is top-notch, the Chiefs have some big bodies up front as well. I see this matchup specifically, as almost being a wash. That doesn’t bode well for the Buccaneers, as they need to win here.

An interesting note is that the Chiefs’ defensive coordinator, Steve Spagnuolo, was actually the defensive coordinator for the Giants in each of their two Super Bowl wins over Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. This means that he’ll know exactly what looks to throw at Brady, in order to throw him off. One thing he’ll try to do is “disguise.” This means, showing the look of a certain coverage, while actually playing a different one when the play starts. Its a hallmark of the “Spags” defense, was one of the factors in each of those two super bowls, is something that has been carried over to the Chiefs’ defense, and will no doubt be a factor again on Sunday.

At the end of the day, this matchup will be where the game is won. If the Buccaneers manage to control the run game, win matchups up front, and eat some clock, all while keeping Brady clean, they’ll win this game. But, if they don’t, its going to get ugly for them.


Final Prediction

This is such a great Super Bowl matchup, as its the “old GOAT” versus the “new GOAT”. Its set up to be the perfect passing of the torch moment, if there ever was one. No matter who wins, there’s no doubt that its going to be a close game. Both teams are well coached, have all the talent in the world, and can win in a number of ways. Ultimately, for me, it comes down to the Chiefs’ offensive advantage with Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce, and Steve Spagnuolo’s familiarity with Tom Brady. I think the Buccaneers’ stay in it all game. However, Kansas City has one too many tricks up their sleeve to lose this one. I think Mahomes will anoint himself the best quarterback in the NFL, if there were any doubters left, and snatch the crown from Tom Brady.