Super Bowl Sunday will undoubtedly have a different feel this year.
You probably won’t be able to pack out your house with friends and family or head to your favorite bar with your buds to see the Tampa Bay Buccaneers host (and we mean literally host) the defending-champion Kansas City Chiefs for Super Bowl LV on Sunday from Raymond James Stadium in Tampa (6:30 p.m. ET, CBS).
But you will be treated to one of the best quarterbacking matchups in Super Bowl history — one that is on the same level as Drew Brees vs. Peyton Manning in XLIV or Joe Montana vs. Dan Marino in Super Bowl XIX. Many believe that this year’s NFL title game will bring about the proverbial passing of the torch from Tom Brady — who many label as the G.O.A.T — to Patrick Mahomes, the next legend in the making. But Brady is still clicking on all cylinders while Mahomes’ Chiefs have put together one of the most overwhelming offensive units the game has ever seen.
Hopefully, it can live up to the marquee billing and provide one of the largest, most-needed distractions we deserve based on the last 10 months. So let’s get you all caught up on the Super Bowl LV’s combatants so you can properly immerse yourself in the biggest game of the year.
How did they get here?
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- Year Established: 1976
- Super Bowl Titles: 1 (XXXVII)
- Previous Super Bowl Appearances: 1 (XXXVII)
- 2020 Record: 11-5 (2nd in NFC South)
- Head Coach: Bruce Arians
The Buccaneers have long been an afterthought around the NFL, a place where the swashbuckling squad was synonymous with mediocrity. In their 45-year history, they’ve only finished above third place in their division 11 times, riding one of the best defenses we’ve seen over the last two decades to the franchise’s lone Super Bowl title 18 years ago.
Before 2020, they had only made the playoffs twice since their lone championship and were on a 13-year postseason drought as quarterbacking trouble punctuated their problems. But the organization’s decision to move on from Jamies Winston — once believed to be their long-term solution at franchise quarterback — turned out to be one of the best decisions in franchise history as it opened the door to bring on a 43-year-old Brady. The six-time Super Bowl champion is surrounded by one of the best cast of playmakers in his career and it’s shown as the Buccaneers possessed the third-best scoring offense in the NFL along with a resolute defense that is once again a calling card.
An 11-5 season led to a Wild Card win over the Washington Football Team before taking down two of the best quarterbacks of this generation — Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints in the Divisional Round before squeaking past Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.
Kansas City Chiefs
- Year Established: 1960
- Super Bowl Titles: 2 (IV, LIV)
- Previous Super Bowl Appearances: 3 (I, IV, LIV)
- 2020 Record: 14-2 (1st in AFC West)
- Head Coach: Andy Reid
These Kansas City Chiefs are no longer the lovable underdogs headed by one of the most well-respected head coaches in pro football in Andy Reid.
After winning their first Super Bowl title in 50 years last season, the Chiefs never took their foot off the pedal, posting the best record in the NFL this season behind Mahomes and an unrelenting arsenal of weapons that is setting the new benchmark for offensive excellence.
Mahomes development has coincided with the Chiefs’ most successful spell in franchise history as he’s navigated the last three of Kansas City’s six straight postseason appearances. It’s only the second time the organization has made the playoffs in as many consecutive times (1990-1995).
Kansas City’s defense isn’t much to write home about. They’re susceptible to the big play and they had a bottom-10 run defense in the league this year, yet they’ve yielded the 10th-fewest points. It hasn’t mattered much considering Mahomes and the Chiefs offense has always found a way to do just enough.
After squeaking by the Cleveland Browns that provided a concussion scare for Mahomes in the Divisional Round, the Chiefs pulled out a two-touchdown win over the upstart Buffalo Bills in the Conference title game.
But Brady and the Bucs pose a completely different kind of threat to what Kansas City has seen.
Players to Watch
Tom Brady, QB, Buccaneers: Arguably the best big-game quarterback in NFL history, Brady is appearing in his 10th Super Bowl. That’s more than every team in the NFL except his former club, the New England Patriots, who had just two title-game appearances before he showed up.
Despite being the oldest quarterback to start a Super Bowl at 43, Brady has thrived in a Buccaneers offense that boasts a litany of big-play pass-catching options, ranging from Mike Evans (70 catches, 1,006 yards, 13 TD) to Chris Godwin (65 catches, 840 yards, 7 TD) to Antonio Brown, how posted 45 catches, 483 yards, and four scores in just eight games after joining Tampa mid-season. Brady’s 4,633 yards in 2020 are the fourth-most that he’s passed for in his career while his 40 touchdowns rank second.
Another Super Bowl title further cements his legacy as the greatest of all-time.
Patrick Mahomes, QB, Chiefs: Mahomes has known nothing but success since taking over in Kansas City. In his three years as a starter, he made an AFC Championship appearance before winning a Super Bowl title in just his second year.
Now he’s back with a vengeance as he meets Brady — who defeated him in that AFC title game two years ago — on the grandest stage of them all.
There’s no denying Mahomes’ talent, but it’s only amplified when you have the kind of options that he has to work with. Pick your poison: Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, Mecole Hardman, and Demarcus Robinson all had over 40 receptions this year.
If he can out-manage Brady, there’s no denying that he has officially accepted the torch from the G.O.A.T.
Devin White, LB, Buccaneers: It’s rather remarkable that Devin White is only 22 years, has played just two full NFL seasons and is already one of the best linebackers in all of football. The LSU product ranked third in the NFL with 97 solo tackles to go with nine sacks and 15 tackles for a loss.
He’s unrelenting and he’s everywhere on the field as one of the most daunting, dynamic players at his position in the game. There’s no better stage to assert yourself as a superstar than this one.
Tyrann Mathieu, Strong Safety, Chiefs: You won’t find many other strong safeties in the NFL with the game-changing abilities of Mathieu. The veteran safety has been a ballhawk this season, posting a career-high six interceptions. He tacked on another momentum-swinging pick in the Divisional Round against the Browns and Baker Mayfield.
When Brady and Mahomes meet, it’s usually always close. They are 2-2 against each other in four previous meetings — including a Week 12 triumph by the Chiefs this season — with Mahomes outscoring Brady 121-120.
The Chiefs are the popular pick, and rightfully so. They can find so many ways to beat you and can grind down even the most composed teams. But you just can’t count out Brady or the Buccaneers’ defense, which should have something special planned for Mahomes thanks to two full weeks of preparation.
It’s going to be the close one, but I’ll take the Chiefs by a field goal, 34-31.
This first appeared on AMNY.com