Brady or Mahomes? Our predictions for the Chiefs v Buccaneers Super Bowl

ASFN Admin

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May 8, 2002
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Will Tampa Bay become the first team to win a championship in their own home stadium? Or will the reigning champions retain their title? This year’s Super Bowl features some of the NFL’s top talent including, clockwise from left, Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill, Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski. Composite: Reuters, Getty, AP What the Chiefs need to do to win … Be the Chiefs. That may sound flippant, but no team gives more credit to the ‘flip the switch’ theory than this season’s Chiefs. When they’re fully engaged, when they’re at their full Chiefs-ness, there’s not much any other team in the league can do to stop them. There are flaws on defense, but at some point, Patrick Mahomes will have the ball. Even with an excellent defense, Tampa will have a hard time slowing down the Mahomes-Hill-Kelce triumvirate. OC With their top two offensive tackles likely out of this matchup, it figures to be tough sledding for the Chiefs on the edge. Look for Andy Reid to dial up plenty of screen passes to capitalize on the speed and shiftiness of his backs and receivers – Tyreek Hill’s especially. AL Win the battle of the turnovers. Brady threw three interceptions against the Green Bay Packers, but the Packers could only score on one of the ensuing possessions. If the Bucs do that against KC, this game could be over quickly. HF Eliminate the deep ball. Keep two safeties on the field so the Bucs are forced to run. You cannot play chicken with Brady like the Packers did – it only ends one way. Well, unless the offense explodes as well it may. Reid will need an extra splash of trickery to flummox Tampa. That or dump it off to Hill. GS What the Bucs need to do to win … Shorten the game. The Bucs have proven they can swap between a number of styles this season. They can win with their exceptional defense. They can rely on Tom Brady to hang in a shootout. Against the Chiefs, though it won’t be as entertaining, they will have to rely on the run-game to extend drives against a weak-ish Chiefs front in order to contain the scoreline. Get Brady to the final drive with a chance to win the game, that should be the plan. OC Sic Jason Pierre-Paul, William Gholston and Ndamukong Suh on the Chiefs’ backup tackles. Mix it up a little on first down. (The handoffs to Leonard Fournette & Co are so predictable.) And capitalize on every opportunity to connect with receivers downfield, a point of emphasis for Bruce Arians all season. If Antonio Brown is looking for a time to shine, this is it. AL Brady’s doesn’t want to get into a throwing contest with Mahomes at this point of his career. His edge will lie in his experience. He doesn’t want to be a pure game-manager here, he’s going to have to connect on a few long-balls to win, but if he focuses on making the right play over trying for the big play, his team have a solid chance. HF Tampa must play to their strengths and blitz early and often. They have the pedigree – nine sacks and two wins against Rodgers this season – and can slow down Mahomes by attacking an offensive line missing both its starting tackles. You run the risk of death by a thousand Tyreek and Travis-shaped cuts but Todd Bowles must be brave to limit Kansas City’s scoring. GS Key player for the Chiefs … Patrick Mahomes. Of course it’s Mahomes. Going with anyone else would be a hipster choice. The Bucs could run the perfect gameplan. They could play as well as imaginable on both sides of the ball. Yet if Mahomes turns up and plays at his best, there is nothing anyone can do to stop him. OC Other than the obvious? Let’s go with Tyrann Mathieu, whose powers of anticipation and interruption give off major Ed Reed vibes. He, not Mahomes, is Tom Brady’s true opponent – and the Honey Badger will make the GOAT pay for all those 50-50 balls he likes to throw up so much. Mathieu intercepted Brady on a tipped ball in their Week 12 matchup. AL Travis Kelce. We talk about Brady v Mahomes, but what about Kelce v Gronkowski? Since Gronkowski’s (temporary) retirement, Kelce has been fighting to surpass him as the league’s best tight end ever. A Super Bowl win over a diminished Gronk would be more of a symbolic touchstone, but it wouldn’t hurt his case. HF Tyrann Mathieu. We can be sure Brady is going to take risks through the air so Mathieu’s ability to diagnose and demolish receiver routes will need to be firing to disrupt Tampa’s passing attack. Putting Brady under pressure to second guess whether Mathieu will jump a route consistently could frustrate the veteran into making costly mistakes. GS Key player for the Bucs … Todd Bowles. Not a player, but the Bucs’ defensive coordinator. Tampa’s defense has played at a championship level all season. There aren’t many schematic fireworks. Instead, Bowles relies on a core group of plays and his players all playing at the highest possible level. Against Mahomes, he is going to need a couple of wrinkles or fresh looks in order to create a negative play or two. OC Lavonte David, one of the finest linebackers the game has ever seen. His ability to close on ballcarriers and stop or even sometimes reverse their momentum should prove especially useful against a Chiefs skilled unit adept at piling on big yards after the catch. His sideline-to-sideline range will be key to maintaining coordinator Todd Bowles’s bend-but-don’t-break principles. AL Leonard Fournette. Fournette was cut by the Jaguars and came in as Tampa Bay’s backup running back. Now he’s putting his best work of the season in the playoffs, including an astonishing touchdown run against Green Bay. Another touchdown or two would be nice, but if he can pick up plenty of yardage on first downs, it will open the playbook wide open for Brady. HF A shootout beckons despite the cannons falling silent at Raymond James Stadium (couldn’t the cannons have fired for the Chiefs as well? Why do I care so much about the cannons?). The Bucs can bully the Chiefs’ defense using the superior size and strength of Mike Evans in the redzone. The extra attention he receives will also create holes for others to rack up points. GS One bold prediction … The Weeknd has more than one song. I mean, seriously? The Weeknd? For the Super Bowl? Am I old now? OC Someone’s gonna pull out a trick play. Either the Chiefs build on the iconic “Four Tops” they sprang on the 49ers last year, or Arians dials up a nervy retort. Either way, you will love the football love language. AL How about a scoreless first quarter? After all the talk about this being an offensive showdown, maybe both sides get performance anxiety right off the gate and we see a lot of three-and-outs, some offensive miscues 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. Naturally, Romo cannot contain his excitement and orchestrates a joyous on-field reunion after Brady lifts a Lombardi without his one-time mentor. “That’s my boy,” Belichick will say. GS The final score will be … Chiefs 31-24 Buccaneers. The combination of Brady and Bowles is about as good as you can hope for in trying to knock the Chiefs off their perch. No one is capable of stopping the Chiefs, but all the Bucs require is a defense that slows Mahomes-Andy Reid machine down, even for a possession or two. Tampa have the talent and staff to be able to pull off such a plan. I have the Bucs giving Brady a chance on the final possession but coming up just short. The Chiefs’ offensive power, even with all the Bowles goodness, is just too overwhelming. And even when plays break down, nobody is better off-script than Mahomes. The Chiefs go back-to-back and Mahomes takes home a second successive MVP. OC Chiefs 30-29 Buccaneers. As exposed as Mahomes figures to be on the edge, one could easily see the Bucs defense forgetting about the QB’s wheels until it’s too late. Whether it’s by picking up chunk yardage or buying time to fire darts to Cheetah & Co, eventually, Mahomes will take their heart. AL Chiefs 34-17 Buccaneers. Look for the teams to keep it close for a while but by the fourth quarter, the Chiefs will have the lead and salt it way with one of those Mahomes bursts where he rattles off two touchdowns in the blink of an eye. HF Chiefs 30-33 Buccaneers. I said it mid-season and I will say it again, Tom Brady and the Bucs will win the Super Bowl. Picking against Brady is a fool’s errand especially now he is an underdog. Six titles and your team not being favourite is testament to how good the Chiefs are but Brady will have the last word in the game with a last-minute drive and possibly on which QB is truly the greatest. Same time next year, Tom. GS

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