This upcoming Sunday, we get to see what ESPN anchor Mike Greenberg considers the greatest quarterback matchup in Super Bowl history. Statistical analysis aside, both Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes have intelligence that goes beyond just their playing abilities. On Sunday, we’ll see these two highly respected, level-headed leaders compete head-to-head in their fifth matchup, a tiebreaker for their previous four matchups.
Looking at the road to the championship, I would not say that the Bucs had a free ride to the Super Bowl, but I also don’t see anything spectacular or impressive about their victories over a 7-9 Washington Football Team, or a declining Drew Brees. And for as talented as Aaron Rodgers is, out of five NFC conference appearances, he’s only advanced once to the Super Bowl. Green Bay’s inability to capitalize on Tampa Bay’s mistakes in the Conference Championship (and a highly questionable call by Matt LeFleur to kick a field goal at the end of the fourth quarter) made it easier for the Buccaneers to emerge victorious.
Going beyond the quarterback talent of both teams, Kansas City’s statistics and roster depth give them an edge in this Super Bowl LV matchup. In particular, the Chiefs have more offensive weapons that should presumably outplay the Bucs’ defense. Tampa Bay, whose overall defense is ranked sixth by ESPN for the 2020 regular season, holds better statistics for their rush defense, allowing the fewest rush yards per game and yards per carry in the NFL. However, their passing defense lands further in the middle of the pack for both of these statistical categories.
Mahomes possesses two incredible offensive weapons: Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill. Both were two of only seven players to record at least 1,000 yards receiving and 10 touchdowns during the regular season. Their 14-2 regular season record and offensive success are due largely to the connections Mahomes shares with his star pass catchers. In short, the Chiefs passing offense is their greatest strength, and something that the Buccaneers will need to focus on shutting down this upcoming Sunday if they hope to come out on top. The Buccaneers pass-rush might have an edge over the Chiefs though, given Kansas City will be playing without their starting left tackle Eric Fisher, who suffered a season-ending injury when he tore his achilles in the AFC Championship.
While an aggressive defensive line would normally be something a team should be concerned about, Patrick Mahomes has proved time and again that he can perform outstandingly under pressure. Mahomes’ ability to scramble and get a quick release to a speedy Hill or unstoppable Kelce will be enough to combat any pressure the Tampa Bay defense poses.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Chiefs need to have a repeat of their matchup against the Buccaneers offensive attack in Week 12. Tampa Bay’s passing statistics are slightly less impressive than Kansas City’s, and they were shut down quickly when the two met earlier this season. However, Brady did lead the Buccaneers back from a seventeen point deficit to score two touchdowns, giving the Chiefs only a three-point victory. In this matchup, Kansas City needs to begin again, as they did in Week 12, with pressure on the offense and close coverage of Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. The Chiefs defense proved very capable in the AFC Championship game of cutting off top Bills receivers Stefon Diggs and Cole Beasley, and their success lies in following a similar manner on Sunday.
As we’ve seen in previous performances, the Chiefs defense is capable of shutting down elite receivers, which will be troubling for Brady and the Buccaneers’ offense, who don’t have a particularly outstanding rushing game. The Chiefs, on the other hand, have a nearly unstoppable passing front with Mahomes’ connections to Hill and Kelce. While I anticipate a close and high-scoring Super Bowl LV, the speed and stamina of the Chiefs passing game should be what gives them the offensive edge over the Buccaneers and ultimately the game’s victory.