Ahead of Super Bowl LV between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Sportsnet writers will break down why each team can win the Lombardi Trophy on Sunday.
First up, the Buccaneers.
It's hard to add to a legacy when you’re already considered The Greatest of All Time, but Tom Brady can do just that this Sunday.
In search of his seventh Lombardi Trophy in his 10th Super Bowl appearance, Brady could join Peyton Manning as the only other quarterback to win a Super Bowl with two different teams, and would do so after having made the bold move out of Bill Belichick's shadow last spring to branch out on his own.
A Super Bowl LV win would be another remarkable accomplishment in a career full of them.
Standing in the way is Patrick Mahomes, Andy Reid and the Kansas City Chiefs, as formidable an opponent as there is in the NFL.
Can the Buccaneers, underdogs as the first-ever true home Super Bowl team, overcome the defending champions and add to Brady's collection of rings? We think they’ll do just that.
THE SUPER BOWL GOAT
When Brady takes his first snap of the game on Sunday, he’ll become the oldest player to have ever played in a Super Bowl.
But age is just a number to TB12, and while others in their 40s who have played for the Lombardi Trophy have largely done so after taking a step back, Brady hasn’t lost a step entering his 10th Super Bowl.
We don’t really need to explain to you why Brady is a threat to the Chiefs capturing their second consecutive Super Bowl, but here goes.
Firstly, the 43-year-old future Hall of Famer is fresh off one of his best regular seasons in years – ranked behind only Aaron Rodgers by Pro Football Focus while throwing his most TD passes (40) since 2007 – and is leading a red-hot Bucs offence into the Super Bowl. Tampa has won seven straight games in which the team is averaging more than 34 points per game. Over that span, Brady has 19 touchdowns to just four interceptions.
With a top-notch supporting cast around him, Brady’s got game-breaking wide receivers in Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown (more on them later), and lines up behind an offensive line that PFF ranked fifth in the NFL in the regular season. That type of support behind the GOAT should strike fear into any opponent.
Secondly, Brady is the best player the Super Bowl has ever seen. Not only does he own a ton of Super Bowl records and boasts a load of jaw-dropping Super Bowl stats, but every championship game he’s played in has come down to the wire – win or lose. All nine NFL title games in which Brady has started have been decided by one score, meaning No. 12 is going to have the Bucs in a position to win this Sunday.
— NFL (@NFL) February 3, 2021
Against a Chiefs defence that’s been just OK in 2020, including the league’s worst red-zone defence, we see Brady orchestrating his seventh Super Bowl–winning drive and lifting the Lombardi Trophy once again.
Finally, Brady brings leadership to the game that’s unrivalled in the league.
ADVANTAGE: BUCCANEERS DEFENSIVE LINE
How will Brady get into a position to win the game against these Chiefs? It comes down to the trenches, where the Bucs have their biggest advantage of the game.
While Brady and the offence get most of the attention, Tampa’s defence has been the team’s most consistent unit this season – and that’s thanks to one of the NFL’s best defensive fronts.
Tampa boasts two of the NFL’s most effective pass rushers in Jason Pierre-Paul and Shaq Barrett, a duo that combined for 17.5 sacks in the regular season and accounted for all five sacks of Aaron Rodgers in the NFC title game, dominating one of the league’s best offensive lines in the process.
— NFL (@NFL) January 24, 2021
In the interior are defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh and Vita Vea – one a three-time All-Pro who has made a name for himself across 11 NFL seasons as a game-wrecker and the other a third-year player who has flown under the radar this season after playing just five games due to a broken leg.
Together, Suh and Vea have the potential to give any offensive line fits, let alone a Chiefs line dealing with its share of issues heading into the Super Bowl.
And that’s where the Bucs’ advantage lies. Thanks to injuries and absences, the Chiefs will be starting a patchwork offensive line in Tampa on Sunday. If the Bucs can get pressure on Mahomes without blitzing, like it did in the NFC title game against Green Bay, it could alter the outcome of Sunday’s game.
Factor in that just behind that dominant defensive line is one of the best inside linebacker pairings in the NFL in Lavonte David and Devin White, and you’ve got a potential recipe for slowing down Mahomes and the Chiefs.
VERSATILE WEAPONS ON OFFENCE
We bring it back to the offence in our final reason for why the Bucs will win Super Bowl LV.
Undoubtedly, the Chiefs have one of the most talented groups of offensive skill position players in the game, but if there’s one team that can rival K.C. in that department, it’s Tampa.
In Evans, Godwin and Brown, the Buccaneers have one of the best wide receiver trios in the NFL. All three have elite skills possessed by few others at their position while each bringing something different to the table.
Against a Chiefs defence that has struggled to defend the pass at times this season, any one of them – or all three – could have a big game on Sunday.
— NFL (@NFL) February 2, 2021
Don’t sleep on the other weapons surrounding Brady, either. We all know about Rob Gronkowski, who hasn’t made the major impact coming out of retirement that we all expected, but has a history of coming up big in Super Bowls. Alongside Gronk, Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard offer Brady viable options to take advantage of the Chiefs’ weak red-zone defence.
And while the Bucs’ run game won’t get a lot of attention in the lead-up to the big game, Ronald Jones and Leonard Fournette could be factors on Sunday. K.C. ranked 21st against the run this season, and Jones was able to average more than five yards per carry as he came just 22 yards short of his first 1,000-yard rushing campaign.
Fournette was not a factor in the regular season, but he’s been Tampa’s go-to back so far in the post-season, and “Playoff Lenny” has shown flashes.