by Nick Ratliff
The Super Bowl is one of the biggest sporting events in the world. It happens every year on the first Sunday of February. This year’s Super Bowl will be held in Tampa Bay, the home of the Buccaneers. This marks the first time in NFL history that a team will play in its home stadium, and this fact alone could determine the outcome for this Super Bowl.
Home field advantage is a key to success in any sport, let alone the NFL, as evidenced by the Buccaneers going 5-3 at home this year. That said, the Chiefs are a perfect 8-0 on away games. While the Chiefs’ record is 14-2 on the season, they sat at 24th in schedule strength with one of the easier schedules.. In comparison, the Buccaneers’ record is 11-5, and their strength of schedule ranks 13th.
The Buccaneers’ quarterback Tom Brady has been to the Super Bowl more than any other player in NFL history, boasting a winning record of 6-3. While the Chief’s won last year’s Super Bowl, Brady definitely has the edge in terms of experience. In addition, the Buccaneers are loaded on offense this year. Besides adding Brady over the offseason, they have also added running back Leonard Fournette, tight end Rob Gronkowski, and wide receiver Antonio Brown during the season. These additions only built on their preexistent power team, which includes wide receiver Mike Evans, running back Ronald Jones, wide receiver Chris Godwin, and tight end O.J. Howard. They rank fourth in receiving yards with 4,776 yards and second in receiving touchdowns with 42.
The Buccaneers defense is also loaded. Devin White and Lavonte David are their defensive anchors: White ranks sixth in total tackles for the season, and the Buccaneers’ defense ranks eighth overall. Moreover, their rush defense is ranked first because of players like Ndamukong Suh, Jason Pierre-Paul, and Shaquil Barrett. This D-Line has given up 3.6 yards per
carry this season. This defense also had 48 sacks on the season, ranking fourth in the NFL. Devin White alone collected nine of these 48 sacks. Even Justin Watson, a wide receiver for the Bucs, recorded a sack on a punt.
The only downfall of this defense is the secondary -the players who cover the wide receivers, including cornerbacks and safeties. The Buccaneers’ secondary frequently gets burnt for big plays. While the secondary improved from last year, they still ranked 21st in passing yards against. This will play a key part in this game because of the Chiefs’ big playmaking courtesy of offensive duo quarterback Patrick Mahomes and wide receiver Tyreek Hill.
The Chiefs’ offense is as stacked as the Buccaneers’ offense. Mahomes is a generational talent and phenomenal athlete. He can throw the ball as far as quarterback Rodgers and has running ability close to quarterback Deshaun Watson. We have already seen Mahomes win one Super Bowl, meaning he could potentially win two Super Bowls before he turns 26. It’s possible that we are seeing the current GOAT vs the future GOAT, as Mahomes signed the largest contract in sports history just last summer. Besides Mahomes, the Chiefs have stars on offense, including Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, and Le’veon Bell. The Chiefs rank first in receiving yards with 5,005 yards and third in receiving touchdowns with 40.
That said, the Chief’s defense is not as good as the Buccaneers’ defense. The Chiefs gave up 4.5 yards per carry, putting them around the middle of the league, while the Bucs gave up only 3.6 yards per carry. The Chiefs also gave up 700 more yards and four touchdowns than the Bucs did. But where their rushing defense lacks, their secondary, led by Tyrann Mathieu, backs them up. They gave up 400 less passing yards than the Buccaneers, but they gave up the same amount of passing touchdowns. A key factor is how this defense plays. If the Chiefs can hold the
Buccaneers to around 24 to 28 points, their offense can easily outscore the Bucs. Frank Clark and Chris Jones on the defensive line will need to have a good game for this to happen. The quarterback edge is a close battle, but I would have to give the edge to the Chiefs, given Mahomes’ throwing ability and playmaking prowess. Meanwhile, the Buccaneers win the running back battle; Ronald Jones and Leonard Fournette are going to be too much to handle for the Chiefs defensive line, and I could see one of them rushing for 100 yards. Then again, earlier in the year, they had a game where they only ran the ball four times.
Next, the receivers edge is close, but I am going to give this one to the Chiefs. Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill are going to rip up the secondary, as Kelce has the second most receiving yards as a tight end.
Offensive line also plays a key part in winning football games, and the Buccaneers’ offensive line has the edge over the Chiefs’ line. They have done a stellar job of protecting 43-year-old Brady all year.
The defensive line battle is a no-brainer, as the Buccaneers have one of the best defensive lines of the last few years with a very balanced pass rush and run stuff defense. The linebackers contest is also a no-brainer: Devin White and Lavonte David are the best linebacker pair in the sport right now, consistently holding down the middle of the field for the Buccaneers.
The secondary edge goes to the Chiefs, who like to be aggressive on the ball and force turnovers at the cost of sometimes giving up big plays.
Special Teams goes to the Chiefs as well. Mecole Hardman’s returning kicks is very dangerous for opposing special teams. I would not be surprised if he returned a kick for a touchdown.
Coaching plays a big factor as well in the Super Bowl. A few years ago, the Atlanta Falcons blew a 28-3 lead because of poor coaching. Coaching big games can be a struggle for many coaches. Luckily for the Chiefs, they have one of the most experienced coaches in the NFL today. Andy Reid has been coaching for decades and won a Super Bowl just last season, so big games are not a struggle for him and his staff.
The same cannot be said for Buccaneers’ coach Bruce Arians. Bruce Arians has never been to the Super Bowl as a Head Coach. The closest he came was in 2015. He was head coach of the Arizona Cardinals which made it to the NFC Championship game but ultimately lost to the Panthers. Good thing for Arians is that his quarterback is the most experienced when it comes to Super Bowls. Arians went on record to say sometimes Brady calls the shots. We will probably see this in the Super Bowl.
Because the Bucs made it to the Super Bowl, we can finally stop saying that Tom Brady is a system quarterback. Brady did not need Bill Belichick to win Super Bowls. Yes, a good player still needs a decent coach and team around him to win, but Brady has proven the haters wrong this season.
I went back and looked at recent Super Bowl final scores. It was interesting to find that most games end with a 3-10 point differential. With that said, after my analysis of both teams and past experience, my prediction for the game is that the Chiefs win 31-27. I think this game will be very intense from start to finish and could come down to the last drive. I always say to never bet against Tom Brady, so I’m not counting him out just yet, but I do believe that the Chiefs will be NFL Champions once again.