THE season showpiece is nearly with us, the finale, the pinnacle, the game that 32 teams were fighting for all season. We're down to the final two as the Chiefs and the Buccaneers go head to head to take home the Lombardi trophy.
The Chiefs have had a relatively easy route to this game, they had the bye week then faced the Cleveland Browns, even losing Patrick Mahomes during the 3rd quarter they saw the game out before dealing with the Bills with consumate ease a couple of weeks ago. They strolled through the regular season knowing they were favourites to get to this point, and rightly come into this one as favourites.
The Bucs on the other hand had a tougher route to the finalé, they have had to go on the road three times, beating Washington, New Orleans and the Green Bay Packers on their way here, they were underdogs in two of them and made it through. It required a team effort last time out as Brady threw 3 interceptions, but they're well built and well coached and saw it through.
Superbowl LV; Chiefs -3 @ Buccaneers: 56
Should be able to get 3.5 and 56.5 still in places.
Viewable on BBC, Sky (401, 407 and 106), Gamepass
The main storyline for me in this game has to be the QB matchup, one one side you've got Tom Brady, the GOAT, the “winningest” (I hate that phrase) QB in terms of Superbowls, looking for his 7th ring, a number which would take him past Michael Jordan in terms of championships in American sports.
This is Brady's 10th Superbowl in his 20 years as a starter, he's appeared in 25% of the SuperBowls since he was born. 18% of the Superbowls EVER. His record in the 9 so far is 6-3, he's 4-5 against the spread in those 9 though.
This year was always going to be a test of whether the success in New England was Brady or Belichick, and while it's safe to say it was a mixture of both, this year has shown that Brady might be a fairly good player. He finished the year 3rd in passing yards, 2nd in TDs thrown and top 10 in QBR.
Since the very late bye week they've reeled off 7 wins a row, Brady has thrown for 19 TDs and 4 interceptions (3 of those came last game). Of course he holds all post-season records. This is his time.
On the otherside of the ball is the future GOAT, possibly the most talented signal caller the league has seen, Patrick Mahomes.
At 25, and in his 3rd year as a starter this is his second Superbowl (would have been 3 had it not been for a Dee Ford offside) meaning he's now appeared in two Superbowls before losing a single game by more than one score.
His career record is 44-9, 9 losses… in 3 seasons, and the average points needed to defeat a Patrick Mahomes Chiefs team? 31.3 points.
The Chiefs and Mahomes had a relatively quiet year, they took care of business and barely raised a mention, yet Mahomes still finished 2nd in passing yards, 2nd in QBR, 4th in TDs thrown (just 2 behind Brady) and he rushed in for a couple as well.
This post-season had that scare against the Browns, fortunately it didn't seem a “concussion” and he returned to burn the Bills last week, he's probably suffering with Turf toe (basically a sprained big toe) which tends to linger, but he's got a few months off after this I doubt we'll see much of an issue from it here.
Mahomes is the better QB, Brady has the experience.
It's an easier call at running back, the Bucs had the #1 rated run defense in the league in the regular season and the Chiefs rushing attack hasn't been effective all season. They should have Clyde Edwards-Helaire properly back for this one, he returned against the Bills and ran for 7 yards on 6 carries and a TD, but he was returning from a hip/foot injury, the two weeks off will have helped him.
Whether he'll be able to do much on the ground is another thing, I didn't think he was going to be a successful runner coming into the league, he's too small in my opinion and that's shown so far. He is an adept pass-catcher though, and they should be able to use him there.
Darrel Williams filled in well while Clyde was out injured, he ran hard against the Browns and essentially shut out that game for them, and caught a few passes as well, I'd imagine he'll go back to RB2, but it could be more of a committee backfield where they have near-equal snaps.
The Buccaneers side should have more success, the Chiefs ranked 31st against the run according to DVOA (I use them to compare) and the Bucs have a couple of good runners. It has looked like Leonard Fournette is the man during the playoffs, he's had the majority of the work and has done pretty well with it scoring in each of their three playoff games so far. It is worth mentioning that Ronald Jones was out of favour or injured for at least 1.5 of those games though.
And this is where I'm a little apprehensive on dubbing “playoff Lenny” the main back in this team. Ronald Jones was the RB1 all season for them before his injury and I'm still expecting him to jump back into that role. His draw-back is that they don't have him out there on third downs, while even though Fournette has brick hands, he tends to get the snaps. For me Jones is the better runner, but that doesn't mean a whole lot in the grand scheme of things. I think like the Chiefs it's probably going to be a split backfield.
Usually I'd go for wide receivier and tight end separately but the Chiefs demand that you combine the two. Last game they played Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce accounted for 290 of the 325 yards thrown by Patrick Mahomes and it's been largely the case for a lot of the season.
The regular season game between these two teams saw Hill put up 203 yards and 2 TDs in the first quarter alone as he out-paced the defense and got open down the field. I think it's safe to assume they'll try and cut that out here, but that should open up the middle of the field for the likes of Kelce and others.
Hill finished with 3 in that game, as part of his 17 total TDs in the regular season and he's aiming for his 5th playoff game in a row with over 100 yards.
Kelce finished second in receiving yards and put up 11 TDs, he's now scored in 6 games in a row after 2 against the Bills last week. Outside of the big two for the Chiefs they will be hoping Sammy Watkins returns from injury as has a similar game to the Superbowl last year where a big catch helped set up the win for them.
He's missed the last couple of months with a calf injury, but will get targeted if playing. Mecole Hardman will get the ball a fair bit whether it's catches of jet sweeps, they get their playmakers the ball and he's one of the quickest players in the league, his line last week sums him up really, 2 of 3 targets for 4 yards receiving and a 50 yard rush.
Demarcus Robinson is available and Byron Pringle stepped up fairly well with Watkins out of the lineup.
The Buccaneers have arguably the best 3 WRs grouping in the league with Mike Evans becoming the first player to top 1,000 yards in his first 7 seasons in the league, Chris Godwin seemingly back to full health and Antonio Brown out of retirement to help Tom Brady reach this game.
Evans has had an up and down season, a lot of games with very few yards, but he gets a lot of use in the redzone and is rightly the most likely pass-catcher to score a TD for them. Godwin had a big game against the Packers last time with AB missing the game, I think he'll be the most targeted of the three in this one, while Antonio Brown has shown despite being a nutter he's one of the more talented receivers in the league still.
They're the main three for the Bucs, but they've got a couple of seasoned tight ends in Rob Gronkowski and Cameron Brate, Gronk returned for Brady and did well during the regular season, but he's been used more for blocking in the post-season and Brate has led the group in receptions as well as scoring last time they played.
Scotty Miller is the downfield threat, played well and scored last time with Brown out of the lineup, he'll probably get a deep shot at some poiint in this game. The rookie Tyler Johnson is probably the last of the viable targets for them, I wouldn't hold me breath on him getting a catch though.
The Bucs definitely win on the defensive front. They've got a bit of everything, and their pass-rush was in the backfield constantly against the Packers last week.
They'll be looking to take advantage of Eric Fisher, the Chiefs left tackle missing the game after snapping his achilles last week, and honestly that's the main worry for me in regards to the Chiefs winning this game.
Shaq Barrett has shown that he wasn't a one-season wonder, he had 3 sacks and 2 tackles for loss last week, while Jason Pierre-Paul caused issues all game. Vita Vea returned from injury to further bolster their stellar run defense, he's a large gentleman.
Devin White and Tahir Whitehead both played well against the Packers as well. The way to beat them is through the air, and they're not terrible there either.
The Chiefs defense isn't rated terribly well but puts up better results on the field than the numbers show. Tyrann Mathieu (the honey-badger) will be all over the field and looking for an interception, and Chris Jones should get pressure up front, both of them made the pro-bowl this year.
They're the two main studs on the defense which is largely a bunch of no-namers, but Steve Spagnoulo the defensive co-ordinator has caused Brady issues before and should be able to cook up something to prove their worth.
I've posted all my Game Props and Player Props here, although I've summarised all my bets below.
It should be a cracking game. I want the Chiefs to win and I think they will, but the 3 point line is probably exactly where I'd line it.
The total at 56 suggests there should be a lot of points, and obviously that's what we all hope for. I have to lean over it, but it is the 3rd highest total in Superbowl history so a little risky there as well.
There's a TONNNN of props available on this game and that's where you should be aiming really. TD scorer prices aren't the best, a lot of points are expected so there's very little value on any player there.
My punt would be Patrick Mahomes or Mecole Hardman, both best priced at 3/1 but neither are exactly “bet the house” territory for me.
So IF I were betting the main lines I'd be taking Chiefs -3, and over the 56
What am I on?
- First quarter under 10 points – 1/1 (Bet365, William Hill, Redzone)
- Longest field goal u47.5 yards – 5/6 (Bet365)
- Patrick Mahomes to throw a 2nd qtr TD – 4/6 (Paddy Power)
- Most rush yards – Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 5/6 (Bet365)
- Kelce over 100 yards and a TD – 5/2 (Skybet)
Good luck with whatever you're on, well done if you stay awake. Should be a belter.
Thanks for reading and interacting all season. It's been fun.
Adam (@TouchdownTips on twitter)