Shapiro's Super Bowl LV preview: Can the Chiefs repeat?
Not only did the NFL find a way to navigate through the season according to schedule during a pandemic, but the league was fortunate to get a high-quality title game.
Super Bowl LV will pit the most accomplished quarterback of all time against arguably the best to ever play the position over a four-year span. Kansas City Chiefs vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers is all a pigskin fanatic could ask for.
Sun, February 7 2021, 11:30 PM
Kansas City narrowly came out on top in Week 12
Much the conference title games, Sunday’s game is a rematch of a regular-season contest. As was often the case in 2020, Kansas City outscored its opponent but failed to cover the spread in a 27-24 victory over Tom Brady and the Buccaneers.
It was a first quarter to remember for Tyreek Hill in the Week 12 Chiefs win. The All-Pro wide receiver caught seven passes for an absurd 203 yards and two touchdowns in the first fifteen minutes, and the defending champions forged to a 17-0 lead.
From there, the Tampa defense made some adjustments and Brady connected on two fourth-quarter scores to Mike Evans, but the early deficit was too much to overcome.
Mahomes will face different coverage in Super Bowl LV
Like we saw on Championship Sunday, it is unlikely the rematch will go like the first encounter. There is little chance Tampa Bay defensive coordinator Todd Bowles will use a single high safety anywhere near as often as he did when Patrick Mahomes and Hill picked the Bucs apart, but the Nov. 29 meeting was just more than two months ago, so ignoring it would be a mistake.
There is the possibility that the Bucs defense will put forth a better effort, after the first-quarter education at Raymond James Stadium in November. Not only are the Buccaneers unlikely to employ a similar first-half game plan against Kansas City, but they also may be able to get to Mahomes without frequently bringing the blitz.
Kansas City left tackle Eric Fisher will be out because of a torn Achilles he suffered in the AFC Championship Game, and right tackle Mitchell Schwartz is unlikely to return to the lineup, after he missed much of the season with a back injury. Those absences on the Chiefs offensive line should allow the Bucs to get regular pressure on Mahomes with just their front four, led by Shaq Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul.
But last year’s Super Bowl MVP and his incredible weaponry can still beat you, despite perfect execution. Mahomes might get sacked more than he did against Tampa in November (once), but look for him to get rid of the ball quicker and also make a number of big plays with his legs.
It is hard to imagine the Chiefs scoring fewer than the 27 points they posted in Week 12.
Tampa Bay's offense has been on fire
If Tampa wants to win its second Super Bowl, it will need to create a couple turnovers and find the end zone with regularity. There is reason for optimism on offense, as the Bucs have scored 30 points or more in six consecutive games.
That being said, the Chiefs secondary is strong, and Steve Spagnuolo’s defense has played pretty well down the stretch. Gaining extra possessions has been a major factor in Tampa Bay’s first run to the Super Bowl since 2002. The Bucs turned the Saints over four times in their Divisional Round victory in New Orleans and gained two extra possessions at Lambeau Field, in their 31-26 upset of the Packers.
That's easier said than done, however, as Mahomes has yet to throw an interception in the postseason and Kansas City has only lost one fumble.
Chiefs are poised to repeat
During the second half of the regular season, the Chiefs were not kind to those that backed them against the spread. They rattled off 10 straight wins, then rested their starters in Week 17, but failed to cover in seven of their last eight regular-season games.
That does not worry me at all, though, because Kansas City is coming off one of its most complete performances of the year. With Mahomes back to 100%, the Chiefs appear poised to be the first team to win back-to-back championships since Brady and the Patriots in 2004 and 2005.
Thank you to all the loyal readers of my NFL articles this season. I look forward to greater successes in 2021, when hopefully the stadiums will be rowdier and the wins will be more plentiful. Cheers!