You might describe the Superbowl matchup as the standout team of the season (and current title-holder) versus the team that currently has Tom Brady at QB.
Showing no signs of hangover, the Chiefs have put together a near-flawless season. On offence, Mahomes keeps getting better and has a array of powerful weapons, including his own mobility and legs. His speedsters can run deep routes, but are equally able to get the ball with a screen, an underneath pass or an end-around, and turn those into big yardage plays. Such a multi-dimensional offence poses a huge challenge for even the best defence. The defence has done everything required of it, and recently held strong offences like the Browns and the Bills in the battle of the young, emerging QBs. Mahomes still leads that cohort, but both Mayfield & Allen have made huge strides this season. It’s great seeing the next generation of QBs on the rise.
The Bucs have culminated several years of strong roster-building and had almost all the pieces in place – good running attack, deep threat speedsters, very fast pass rush and a strong secondary. This season, they put the icing on the cake with the addition of Brady & Gronk. Brady doesn’t have the arm strength and accuracy that he used to, but he’s still … Brady. Most of the time, the offensive line has given him the time he needs to make the throws he can (as they did in New England), and as the season has developed, he has gelled with his targets, and the defence has improved significantly. The way they totally stifled a very strong Packers offence at home was super-impressive.
The combatants both fully deserve their place in the final game of what has been an amazing season.
Kudos to the NFL for running a complete season with minimal COVID disruption. A few games were rescheduled. Players moved in and out of the COVID roster (and that materially affected some games, but mostly evened out for everyone). Stadia were empty or sparse (which recently posed a challenge for QBs not used to the noise during playoff matches). Overall, the league struck a good balance and were therefore able to complete the season.
Who is going to win? I think KC have a slight edge in both offence and defence. In order to win, the Bucs will have to run the ball a lot, control the clock and keep the KC offence off the field. I can’t see them winning a shoot out – when needed Mahomes can score faster than anyone – and I don’t think this will be an ultra-defensive low-scoring affair. Of course the X-factor is Brady – I was there when he led the best comeback ever against the Falcons. His stage presence on the field lifts everyone around him and gives them the confidence that they can do anything. While this is the first time a Superbowl has ever been played at the home ground of one of the teams, I don’t think it will be a huge factor: the crowd will not be overly skewed to the Bucs, and the climate is pleasant.
Betting: KC are 3.5 point favourites. Total points line 55.5. I’m tipping KC to cover the line, and overs on total points scored. It may take a quarter or two before the scoring really opens up, and either team is capable of working their way back into the games from a 2- or 3-score deficit, so there should be some in-play betting opportunities.