The Tampa Bay Buccaneers (14-5) look to become the first team to celebrate a Super Bowl win in their home stadium. The Kansas City Chiefs (16-2) can become the first team to repeat as champions since the 2003-04 Patriots.
Kansas City Chiefs vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Sunday, February 07, 2021 – 06:30 PM EST at Raymond James Stadium
Since losing twice to Tom Brady and the Patriots in 2018, Patrick Mahomes is 8-0 in rematches the last two seasons, including 3-0 in the playoffs. The Chiefs already beat Tampa Bay 27-24 in Week 12, but the Buccaneers have not lost since. Mahomes has only lost one of his last 26 starts. The Chiefs are again a 3-point favorite, so the Super Bowl odds are in their favor, but can they close out one more tough opponent? Expectations should be for a high-scoring game that is close late.
What Can We Predict from Week 12?
Every NFL game is a unique, singular event, but we would be foolish to say that nothing from the last meeting matters for the rematch. There are going to be matchups and elements that carry over. The Green Bay Packers had issues with pass protection and turnovers against Tampa Bay in Week 6 and both showed up again in the NFC Championship Game loss. Josh Allen and the Bills could never find big passing plays in eight quarters against the Chiefs, and Travis Kelce happened to have both of his multi-touchdown games this season against a Buffalo defense that could not contain him.
If passing is believed to be the most reliably consistent element of a football team, then that makes for an interesting Week 12 rematch between these teams. The Chiefs had 456 net passing yards in Tampa Bay, the single-highest game of the Mahomes era. Tampa Bay’s 342 net passing yards were only 5 yards shy of setting a season-high for Kansas City’s defense, which allowed 346 yards to the Raiders in a 40-32 loss, the only loss for the Chiefs with Mahomes in their last 26 games. Brady is the last quarterback to pass for over 300 yards against the Chiefs this season.
Both teams showed they could hit the big passing plays. It was one of only two games in this season where both offenses completed at least three pass plays of 34-plus yards. These teams have a strong argument for featuring the most loaded receiving corps in Super Bowl history, and that is true even if the injured Antonio Brown and Sammy Watkins ultimately do not take the field on Sunday. These teams are both still loaded with skill player talent.
This just has to be another passing fest. It would be an absolute shocker if Leonard Fournette were named Super Bowl MVP, or if Mahomes struggled to pass for 200 yards against this defense. As good as Tampa Bay’s defense has been with seven takeaways this postseason, they have still allowed at least 20 points in every playoff game. Now they draw Mahomes, who has led the Chiefs to at least 22 points in 51 of his 53 career starts. He has led the Chiefs to at least 31 points in all six of the playoff games he has finished. Remember that before heading to betting sites.
So how does Tampa Bay slow him down and hold him under 30 points to win this game?
The Wild Card: Eric Fisher’s Injury
Most Super Bowls have a key injury situation to monitor. This year’s unlucky player is Kansas City left tackle Eric Fisher, the rock of the offensive line. The Chiefs have already been playing without right tackle Mitchell Schwartz since Week 6 and have not skipped a beat, but now both tackles are out for the big game against a pass rush that sacked Aaron Rodgers five times without blitzing last week.
This can be a game changer, but if anyone can manage it, it is the Chiefs, who have had multiple starters either opt out before the season or go down with injury during it. Mike Remmers and Andrew Wylie will start at tackle in the Super Bowl and both have played over 700 snaps for the Chiefs this season. Remmers moves to left tackle while Wylie moves from right guard to right tackle. While it is good news for the pass rush of Shaq Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul, if anyone can overcome a few sacks and still deliver points, it is Mahomes. He has been sacked four times in three different playoff games, including last year’s Super Bowl, and the Chiefs still finished each game with 31 points.
The Chiefs have won four straight games in which they had multiple turnovers, the longest active streak in the league, which again includes last year’s Super Bowl win over San Francisco. The Chiefs only had two games this season with multiple giveaways, but Mahomes did lose a fumble in the red zone on a strip-sack in Tampa Bay in Week 12.
Still, it takes more than recovering the obligatory Kansas City fumble. Even getting multiple sacks and/or multiple turnovers is usually not enough to beat the Chiefs. Mahomes is 8-4 (.667) when he takes at least three sacks. The rest of the NFL since 2018 wins 33.0% of the time when allowing three or more sacks. The Chiefs are 6-3 (.667) when losing the turnover battle with Mahomes while the rest of the NFL wins 21.1% of the time doing that since 2018.
But one quick edge pressure that causes a turnover can be the difference in such a big game. Remmers was the right tackle for the 2015 Panthers in Super Bowl 50 and his poor game led to Von Miller winning MVP honors for Denver. That could give Bucs backers hope for their NFL betting. Remmers is better coached in this offense, but the performance of the tackles will be under the spotlight on Sunday.
With how creative the Chiefs and head coach Andy Reid are with new plays, pre-snap motion, and Mahomes’ unique talents, this team is unlikely to succumb to the pitfalls normal offenses would face with a flawed offensive line. But the Fisher injury absolutely is something to focus on this Sunday.
Special Teams and Officiating: Tampa Bay Edges?
It takes an unbelievable effort to beat the Chiefs, and the NFL odds show it. You basically must be great and still hope for some breaks to go your way.
We’ll look for every edge we can that gives Tampa Bay some hope. Good special teams are usually never the story with the Buccaneers, and that was true again this year as they finished 26th in DVOA. However, this is an area where the Chiefs have been poor this postseason and the Buccaneers can capitalize.
Kicker Harrison Butker could run into his worst enemy: kicks from 33 yards out. That extra point distance bugs him as he misses more than he should for a kicker of his caliber. Butker cost the Chiefs four points on missed kicks against the Browns, which could have been a much bigger story if that fourth quarter turned out differently.
Then there are the muffed kicks. Mecole Hardman had one on a punt return against Buffalo, setting the Bills up for a 3-yard touchdown drive. That is the kind of field position mistake the Buccaneers have been feasting on this postseason, though it usually is thanks to their defense rather than their special teams. However, a muffed kick is just an unforced error waiting to be pounced on by the opponent.
Do not forget the officiating crew, which switches to an “all-star” group for the Super Bowl.
Carl Cheffers was chosen as the head referee to lead the crew, which may not be good news for the visiting Chiefs. Cheffers has this season’s largest disparity in penalties going against the road team (+1.63 on average) compared to all other head referees according to data from nflpenalties.com. This will be Cheffers’ first Tampa Bay game in 2020. Cheffers officiated Kansas City wins in Los Angeles and Las Vegas this season, but both games saw the Chiefs flagged around 10 times for 90 yards. The Chiefs were penalized a season-high five times for offensive holding in Los Angeles and were hit with a big defensive pass interference in the end zone late against the Raiders.
With deep throws to talented receivers expected, watch out especially for defensive pass interference (DPI) in this game. Cheffers’ crew has called five DPI on home teams and 15 on road teams, but most notably they have had 13 DPI flags dismissed. No other officiating crew has more than four dismissed flags this year, and no other crew in the last 12 years had more than seven, so he might be extra sensitive to that type of foul, arguably the costliest one in the game.
The 2020 Buccaneers set a modern NFL record by drawing 23 DPI flags in the regular season and had another big one to ice the NFC Championship Game in Green Bay. The Kansas City defense has the third-most DPI flags (15) this season and the offense has only benefited from the third-fewest such penalties with four. No NFL team in the last 12 years has benefited from DPI more than the Buccaneers (+17 first downs and +317 yards) while the 2020 Chiefs (-11 first downs and -146 yards) are near the very bottom of that list. It is another thing to keep an eye on this Sunday when doing your sports betting.
Prediction: Good Luck, Tampa Bay
If any team can replicate what the Raiders did to beat the Chiefs 40-32 this season, it might be Tampa Bay. The Raiders pulled that off after Derek Carr had a career day in hitting deep balls and he even sneaked for a couple of first downs on fourth down. Well, we know Brady has mastered the quarterback sneak, and if he is on target with the deep throws to his receivers, then they have the talent to put up a healthy number of points on this Kansas City defense.
But the Raiders, not known for having a pass rush, also got a season-high 21 pressures on Mahomes that day and they did it without blitzing. Mahomes had his highest pressure rate (42%) in a game this season and was feeling the heat. Tampa Bay had 14 pressures on him in Week 12 and will have to do even better this time against an offensive line without Fisher.
That all sounds plausible, but the truth is you still must catch some lucky breaks to beat the Chiefs and sportsbooks know it. The Raiders allowed two touchdown passes to Mahomes in the first half that were called back for penalties (offensive holding and offensive pass interference). Instead of scoring 14 points, the Chiefs came away with three points on those drives. There was also another holding penalty that led to a third-and-20 where the receiver dropped a pass at midfield to end another drive. The Raiders still had to run the clock out on Mahomes to avoid blowing a 16-point lead in the final minutes.
Can the Buccaneers replicate those breaks on top of playing great on both sides of the ball? Maybe the Chiefs will get cute with play-calling at the 1-yard line and have Kelce try to throw a touchdown to Mahomes before Reid shockingly settles for a field goal. Maybe Hardman will drop an 89-yard touchdown pass with no one around him. Maybe the defense can recover a Mahomes fumble in the red zone. Maybe the Chiefs will get called for offensive holding three times on one drive in the fourth quarter, leading to a punt after a dropped pass on third-and-27.
Oh wait, all those things already happened in Week 12 for the Buccaneers and they still lost to the Chiefs. Short of the pass rush destroying the line and Brady dropping dimes all night, the Chiefs should win this game. That is why for my final NFL pick of the season, I am taking the Chiefs to cover and end the longest drought in NFL history without a repeat champion.
*The pick reflects the line at the moment the writer made the play, the odds at the beginning of this article show the live line movement. Since the lines might vary, don’t forget to refer back to our live odds.