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Why the Buccaneers Can Beat the Chiefs in Super Bowl LV

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Why the Buccaneers Can Beat the Chiefs in Super Bowl LV
Devin White #45, Antoine Winfield Jr. #31 and Mike Edwards #32 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Ethan Miller/Getty Images/AFP

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers (14-5) will be the first team to host the Super Bowl in their own stadium when they take on the Kansas City Chiefs (16-2) in a rematch from Week 12. The Chiefs won that game 27-24, the most recent loss for Tampa Bay.

Kansas City Chiefs vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Sunday, February 07, 2021 – 06:30 PM EST at Raymond James Stadium

The Super Bowl odds again look to be in Kansas City’s favor as most sportsbooks have them as a 3-point favorite. However, the winner in the regular season is only 6-7 in past Super Bowl rematches, and the team that only won by one possession like the Chiefs did in Week 12 is 2-7 in the Super Bowl. No team has repeated as Super Bowl champions since the 2003-04 Patriots, who of course had Tom Brady at quarterback.

Let’s look at the reasons the Buccaneers can beat the Chiefs in Super Bowl LV. For a list of reasons the Chiefs can beat the Buccaneers, click here.

You Face Patrick Mahomes, You Better Score a Ton of Points

Patrick Mahomes is 44-9 (.830) as a starter in the NFL with the Chiefs. If you hope to beat him, you better be able to move the ball at a high level and finish drives with touchdowns. Mahomes is 37-1 when the Chiefs allow fewer than 29 pointsm and it shows on the NFL odds.

Tampa Bay scored the third-most points in the league this season (30.8 per game) and actually finished with 19 more points than the Chiefs. The Buccaneers are 11-0 when scoring at least 30 points this season and they have hit that mark in all three playoff games. The Chiefs allow the highest rate of touchdowns in the red zone this season.

The Raiders are the only team to beat the Chiefs with Mahomes in his last 26 starts. They did it by scoring 40 points and getting a career day from Derek Carr on deep passes. Tom Brady is the last quarterback to throw for over 300 yards against the Chiefs, but he got off to a slow start while the Chiefs sprinted out to a 17-0 lead and then threw two interceptions during the comeback attempt.

Tampa Bay certainly has the pass protection to keep Brady upright and the firepower to outscore the Chiefs. Mike Evans caught two touchdowns in the Week 12 meeting. Chris Godwin had 97 yards and caught eight of his nine targets. Rob Gronkowski had a season-high 106 receiving yards. Cameron Brate has been catching everything this postseason. Scotty Miller and Tyler Johnson have some of the biggest plays for this offense in the playoffs. Antonio Brown could even return from injury in this matchup to add another weapon. However, one of the secrets to beating the Chiefs is that you need a good ground game as well.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tom Brady #12 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers hands the ball off to Leonard Fournette #28. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images/AFP

Say, Lenny and Ronnie, Have You Seen Them Yet?

It almost feels sacrilegious to say this in 2021 but running the football matters when you are playing the Chiefs. Mahomes is never out of a game and he has never lost in the NFL by more than eight points. That means he has never played a game where the opponent had a big lead and just ran the ball to chew up time and pad the stats. No such game exists in Mahomes’ career.

Of the nine teams to beat Mahomes, eight of them rushed for at least 119 yards. The only one who did not was the 2018 Rams, who had to score 54 points to beat him 54-51. Six of the nine teams rushed for at least 170 yards, and six teams also held the ball for more than 35 minutes in time of possession. That clock advantage is easier to create when your offense runs the ball effectively and your third-down offense is efficient. It also means teams are 3-41 (.068) when they don’t hold the ball for at least 35 minutes against Mahomes.

In Week 12, the Buccaneers fell behind 17-0 in the first quarter and never really tried to establish the run. The running back duo of Ronald Jones and Leonard Fournette finished with 12 carries for 76 yards as Jones broke off a 34-yard run to go with his 37-yard touchdown catch. The backs, especially Fournette, have been good for Tampa this postseason, though there was not a ton of production on Sunday in Green Bay. They'll have to produce to be worthy of NFL picks.

With the way the Chiefs play, it is in your best interest to run the ball well, keep Mahomes on the sidelines, and continue to score points. The Buccaneers have been fairly predictable with early-down runs, but they need to be productive on those plays to keep the offense on schedule and avoid third-and-long.

Week 10 at Carolina was the only game all season where Tampa Bay rushed for more than 160 yards, so breaking 170 is not likely in this game. However, it would still be immensely helpful for Brady if his backs did contribute at least 120 to the effort in this one. The other reason is that Kansas City’s defense is better at defending the pass than the run. Over the last three seasons, the Chiefs’ average rank in pass defense DVOA is 13.7 while the run defense DVOA is 29.7, including a rank of 31st this season. This could give Bucs backers some hope for their sports betting.

The Browns ran the ball well this year but struggled in Kansas City in the divisional round. Baker Mayfield also was not effective throwing that day to give the Browns a balanced attack. Josh Allen struggled mightily against the Chiefs in both games this year and the Bills never really look to use the running backs on the ground anyway. With Tampa Bay, there is so much receiving talent that if Brady can hit some big throws early to make the defense back off, then he has a chance to use the backs for other success as well.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Jason Pierre-Paul #90 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images/AFP

Trust in Tampa Bay’s Defense

In certain measures such as yards and expected points added, the Tampa Bay defense had its worst game of the season against the Chiefs in Week 12. On the other hand, the Chiefs only turned their 543 yards of offense into 27 points because the Tampa Bay defense kept them out of the end zone on three red zone trips. That includes a strip-sack of Mahomes by Shaq Barrett to keep the game within reach for the offense.

Takeaways and red zone stops are what the Tampa Bay defense has lived on this postseason, and the seven takeaways in particular have been setting up very short fields for the Brady-led offense to capitalize on. The 2020 Buccaneers are the only offense in the last 20 postseasons to have three touchdown drives start inside the opponent’s 20. They'll need to keep that going to shock the world, betting sites included.

The Buccaneers intercepted Drew Brees three times in New Orleans and forced two turnovers and two huge red zone stops in Green Bay against what was the best offense in the league this year. Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul combined for 5.0 sacks of Aaron Rodgers in a game where he was without his star left tackle David Bakhtiari.

The really bad news for the Chiefs is they will be without left tackle Eric Fisher, the rock of their line, for this matchup after he injured his Achilles on Sunday. This could lead to serious problems for Mahomes, who did not have to move much with his turf toe injury against the Bills. Mahomes has been barely pressured this postseason, but in Week 12 in Tampa, he had his fourth-highest pressure total and rate in a game this season. Barrett and Pierre-Paul have a shot to do some damage in this matchup as does an aggressive secondary that will likely not get burned for over 200 yards by Tyreek Hill again.

Tom Brady
Tom Brady #12 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on November 15, 2020 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Grant Halverson/Getty Images/AFP

Luckiness Over Greatness

Finally, there is the hard truth that the most likely way to beat the Chiefs is for the Chiefs to beat themselves. That means catching some breaks with dropped passes, missed kicks by Harrison Butker, ill-timed penalties that take away scores or big plays, and just some general good luck and bounces of the ball.

The Bills caught several of those breaks on their way to building an early 9-0 lead on Sunday before the Chiefs proceeded to destroy Buffalo. However, it was the first time the Chiefs won a game by more than six points since early November, which caused Chiefs backers to regret their NFL betting during the regular season.

This team has been living on the edge for much of this season, but all it takes is one play to swing a Super Bowl. Had the Chiefs not converted on their third-and-15 “Wasp” play against the 49ers in Super Bowl LIV, they likely lose that game. So far it is the only playoff game out of seven where Mahomes turned the ball over, and his only playoff loss was to Brady and the 2018 Patriots in a game that went to overtime without him ever getting the ball back.

Is there anyone better positioned to work their voodoo magic on the Chiefs than Brady?

Let’s just think about his Super Bowl career alone. He is 6-3 in the Super Bowl despite leading his team to one field goal in nine first quarters. He is the only quarterback to win a Super Bowl after leading his offense to 13 points and he has done it twice (both against the Rams). He tried to win two more rings against the Giants after only scoring 14 and 17 points.

Brady led a game-winning drive against the 2003 Panthers after their kicker sailed the kickoff out of bounds to put the ball at the 40, something that has yet to happen again in the final two minutes of a tied NFL game in the last 17 seasons. He watched Malcolm Butler make the biggest interception in NFL history at the 1-yard line to knock off the 2014 Seahawks, then came back from a 28-3 deficit against another Dan Quinn defense after Atlanta inexplicably did not close out that lead with many chances to do so, including a dropped interception of a Brady pass that ended up going to Julian Edelman for a 23-yard completion.

Brady is in his 10th Super Bowl after becoming the first quarterback in NFL history to throw three interceptions in a road Conference Championship Game and still win. The previous quarterbacks were 0-17. The game was essentially wrapped up after the Packers were penalized for pass interference late after a relatively flag-free day. In the regular season, Tampa Bay set a modern NFL record by drawing 24 defensive pass interference penalties, but none were bigger this year than that call. All that good fortune and a very talented roster on both sides of the ball is what Kansas City has to deal with here.

The Chiefs have thrived all season with Mahomes having the ball in the fourth quarter with a one-score lead before he either adds to the lead or runs out the clock like he did to the final 4:10 in Week 12 after Brady led back-to-back touchdown drives. But all it takes is one mistake, and if Brady gets the ball back late, he has the best record in NFL history (63-48, .568) at game-winning drive opportunities, and Bruce Arians (33-26-1, .558) has the second-best record among active head coaches.

This postseason has yet to have a lead change in the fourth quarter, which has happened at least once in every postseason since 2006. Sixteen of the last 17 Super Bowls have been within one score in the fourth quarter too, so chances are we will have a close finish.

It is hard to bet against the Chiefs and top sportsbooks know it, but it may be even harder to bet against Brady’s unrivaled luck and team success in big games like this one.