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Brady or Mahomes? Our predictions for the Chiefs versus Buccaneers Super Bowl
Will Tampa Bay be the first team to win a championship in their own home ground? Or will the reigning champions keep their title? This year’s Super Bowl features some of the NFL’s best talent, including Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill, Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski, clockwise from left. Composite: Reuters, Getty, AP What the Chiefs Do to Win … Be the Chiefs. That may sound funky, but no team appreciates the “flip the switch” theory more than this season’s Chiefs. When they’re fully engaged, when they’re fully occupied, there’s not much that any other team in the league can do to stop them. There are shortcomings in defense but at some point Patrick Mahomes will have the ball. Despite an excellent defense, Tampa will have a hard time slowing the Mahomes-Hill-Kelce Triumvirate. OK With the two most offensive tackles likely to have emerged from this matchup, it’s a tough sledding on the fringes for the Chiefs. Look for Andy Reid dialing up lots of screen badges to take advantage of the speed and shifting of his backs and receivers – Tyreek Hill in particular. AL Win the battle for sales. Brady threw three interceptions against the Green Bay Packers, but the Packers could only score on one of the following properties. If the Bucs do that against KC, this game could be over quickly. HF Eliminate the deep ball. Maintain two safety precautions on the field of play to force the bucs to run. You can’t play chicken with Brady like the Packers – it only ends in one direction. Well, unless the offense explodes too. Reid will need an extra shot trick to flummox Tampa. That or throw it at Hill. GS What the Bucs have to do to win … Shorten the game. The Bucs have proven that they can switch between different styles this season. You can win with their exceptional defense. You can trust Tom Brady to take part in a shootout. Against the Chiefs, while it won’t be as entertaining, they’ll have to rely on the run-game to stretch the drives against a weak Chiefs front to contain the scoreline. Take Brady to the final ride with a chance to win the game, that should be the plan. OK Sic Jason Pierre-Paul, William Gholston, and Ndamukong Suh on the Chiefs’ backup tackles. Mix it up a little first. (The handovers to Leonard Fournette & Co are so predictable.) And take every opportunity to connect with the recipients downfield, a focus for Bruce Arians throughout the season. If Antonio Brown is looking for a time to shine, this is it. AL Brady doesn’t want to get into a throwing contest with Mahomes at this point in his career. Its advantage will be in its experience. He doesn’t want to be a pure game manager here, he has to go for a couple of long balls to win, but if he focuses on making the right game rather than trying the big game, his team has a solid chance. HF Tampa has to play with her strengths and her lightning bolt early and often. They have the pedigree – nine sacks and two wins against Rodgers this season – and can slow Mahomes down by attacking an offensive line that is missing both starting tackles. You risk dying from a thousand Tyreek and Travis-shaped cuts, but Todd Bowles has to be brave to narrow Kansas City’s score. GS key player for the Chiefs … Patrick Mahomes. Of course it’s Mahomes. Going out with someone else would be a hipster choice. The Bucs could execute the perfect game plan. They could play as good as imaginable on either side of the ball. But when Mahomes shows up and plays at his best, nothing can be done to stop him. OK Other than the obvious? Let’s go to tyrant Mathieu, whose anticipatory and interruptive power emits great Ed Reed vibrations. He, not Mahomes, is Tom Brady’s real opponent – and the Honey Badger will make the GOAT pay for all the 50-50 balls he loves to throw up. Mathieu caught Brady with a tipped ball in her matchup in Week 12. AL Travis Kelce. We’re talking Brady versus Mahomes, but what about Kelce versus Gronkowski? Since Gronkowski’s (temporary) retirement, Kelce has been struggling to top him as the best close end in the league of all time. A Super Bowl win against a diminished Gronk would be more of a symbolic touchstone, but it wouldn’t hurt his fall. HF tyrant Mathieu. We can be sure Brady will take risks in the air, so Mathieu’s ability to diagnose and tear down recipient routes must be triggered to disrupt Tampa’s temporary attack. If Brady is put under pressure to consider whether or not Mathieu will consistently skip a route, it could frustrate the veteran into making costly mistakes. GS key player for the Bucs … Todd Bowles. Not a player, but the Bucs defense coordinator. Tampa’s defense played at championship level all season. There aren’t a lot of schematic fireworks. Instead, Bowles relies on a core set of games and its players all play at the highest level. Against Mahomes, he’ll need a few wrinkles or a fresh look to create a negative game or two. OC Lavonte David, one of the best linebackers the game has ever seen. His ability to close ball carriers and stop their swing, or sometimes even reverse, should prove particularly useful against a skilled unit of the chief who knows how to stack after the catch in large yards. His sideline-to-sideline scope will be key to upholding Coordinator Todd Bowles’ bend-but-don’t-break principles. AL Leonard Fournette. Fournette was cut by the Jaguars and came back from Tampa Bay as a backup. Now he’s putting his best work of the season into the playoffs, including an amazing touchdown run against Green Bay. Another touchdown or two would be nice, but if he can catch up a lot of yards on the first downs, the game book will open wide for Brady. HF A gunfight beckons although the cannons at Raymond James Stadium fall silent (couldn’t the cannons have fired for the Chiefs too? Why do I care so much about the cannons?). The Bucs can bully the Chiefs’ defense with the superior size and strength of Mike Evans in the Redzone. The extra attention he receives also creates holes for others to score points. GS A bold prediction … The Weeknd has more than one song. I mean seriously? The weeknd? For the Super Bowl? Am I old now OK Somebody’s gonna pull out a trick game. Either the Chiefs build on the legendary “Four Tops” they put up for the 49ers last year, or Arians chooses a nervous answer. Either way, you will love soccer love language. AL How about a goalless first quarter? After all the talk about this being an offensive showdown, both sides may get performance anxiety right away and we see a lot of three-and-offs, some offensive errors and even a missed field goal in the first 15 minutes. HF Tony Romo spots Bill Belichick in the crowd wearing a Jack Sparrow mask as a disguise. Of course, Romo can’t contain his excitement and orchestrates a happy reunion on the field after Brady lifts a Lombardi without his one-time mentor. “This is my boy,” Belichick will say. GS The end result will be … Chiefs 31-24 Buccaneers. The Brady and Bowles combo is about as good as you can hope for trying to knock the Chiefs out of their place. No one is able to stop the Chiefs, but all the Bucs need is a defense that slows Mahomes-Andy Reid’s machine down, even for a possession or two. Tampa has the talent and the people to implement such a plan. I have the bucs who give Brady a chance at the final ball but only show up briefly. Despite all the goodness of Bowles, the Chiefs’ offensive power is just too overwhelming. And even if the games crash, nobody is better than Mahomes. The Chiefs leave in a row and Mahomes takes home a second MVP in a row. OK bosses 30-29 privateers. As exposed as Mahome’s characters may be, it was easy to see the Bucs defenses forget about the QB’s wheels until it was too late. Mahomes will take heart at some point, whether it’s collecting piece goods or buying time to fire darts for Cheetah & Co. AL Chiefs 34-17 privateers. Look for the teams to keep it tight for a while, but by the fourth quarter the Chiefs will be in the lead, spicing it up with one of those Mahomes bursts that will knock off two touchdowns in the blink of an eye. HF Chiefs 30-33 privateers. I said it in the middle of the season and I’ll say it again, Tom Brady and the Bucs are going to win the Super Bowl. Playing against Brady is a breeze, especially now that he’s an underdog. Six titles and your team that isn’t a favorite is proof of how good the Chiefs are, but Brady will have the final say in the game with a last minute ride and maybe QB really is the best. Same time next year, Tom. GS
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