It’s a matchup you’ll tell your grandchildren about; Tom Brady, the greatest quarterback of all time, facing off against Patrick Mahomes, the best young QB in NFL history. Super Bowl LV will also be known as the Super Bowl played with only 25,000 fans in attendance due to COVID concerns, with the previous record low attendance belonging to Super Bowl I, which saw over 61,000 fans watch the Packers beat the Chiefs.
According to NFL odds gurus, the Chiefs are three point favorites over the Bucs in most books. Kansas City has only covered the spread seven times all season, and their win over the Bills was the first time they beat the spread in any game since their November 1 victory over the Jets. At one point, the Chiefs won seven straight games without covering a single game (note: some books had them as -2.5 favorites over the Saints when they beat them by 3, but most books had them at -3 or -3.5.)
Kansas City defeated the Bucs 27-24 on November 29, as Tampa covered the +3.5 spread. In that game, the Chiefs actually raced out to a 17-0 lead and were up 27-10 into the fourth quarter. Brady, who had thrown an interception while driving late in the third quarter, led Tampa on two lightning quick TD drives in the fourth quarter, but the Chiefs never surrendered the ball after the Bucs cut their lead to three.
It is fair to say that the game was not as close as the final score appeared, although had Patrick Mahomes fourth quarter interception not have been called off because of a roughing the passer penalty on Jason Pierre-Paul, Tampa Bay might have been able to get the ball back with enough time to win the game.
Kansas City has looked better in the postseason than they did down the stretch, and their 38-24 win over an excellent Bills team was as equally impressive as Tampa Bay’s ten point win in Green Bay. The Bucs hope to win the Super Bowl boils down to one factor: can they take advantage of Kansas City’s injury-depleted offensive line?
The Chiefs will be without starting left tackle, and former first overall pick, Eric Fisher, who is being replaced by Mike Remmers. The last time a defensive unit won a Super Bowl by taking over the game was when Denver manhandled Carolina and got to Cam Newton on a near constant basis, sacking him six times. Who was the Denver lineman who primarily struggled to block eventual game MVP Von Miller? None other than Mike Remmers.
Tampa Bay’s front seven gave Green Bay fits all game in the NFC Championship and they should be more dangerous on Sunday with their best defensive lineman Vita Vea returning to fill health. Vea missed three months after being injured in Week 5 but returned to play half of the snaps against the Packers. If Vea can team with Pierre-Paul to wreak havoc, Patrick Mahomes turf toe might be the game’s X factor, as he will be on the run all game.
It’s fun to imagine a scenario where the Bucs defense controls the line of scrimmage and Kansas City plays from behind like they did on last year’s Super Bowl, but the more realistic outcome is that the Chiefs, the 16-2, historically dominant, defending Super Bowl champions, are able to impose their will on the Buccaneers, like they did for three quarters in November.
Ask yourself what the odds are that the Bucs blow out the Chiefs. Incredibly slim, right? If you want to bet an alternative point spread, you can get the Bucs -7 at a whopping +390. Moving the Chiefs to -7 would get you +175 odds, for reference. Now, ask yourself what the odds are that the Chiefs win by double digits. It seems totally realistic, Mahomes stakes the Chiefs to a quick lead, Tampa has to abandon the running game, and Brady throws an errant interception or three, like he did against the Packers two weeks ago. That’s why the pick here is Kansas City.
As far as the total is concerned, the number sat at 56.5 but now has fallen to 56, indicating a good deal of action on the under. Only eight of eighteen Chiefs games have hit 56 this season, while just seven of nineteen Bucs games would have hit an over of 56.
If 56 seems high, that’s because it is a uniquely large total, the only Tampa Bay game this season to have a total that high was their game against Kansas City, and that game ended 27-24, going under. Kansas City had one game above 56, and that was against an atrocious Raiders defense. Twelve of the last sixteen Super Bowls have gone under 56 points, including Kansas City’s 31-20 win last year over the 49ers. The play here is the under.