Buccaneers (6:30PM ET CBS) – It’s been a great NFL season at 46-31 +42.6 units and my work is already done as I’ll end up well in the plus regardless of what happens in this game. I know it annoys people when I say this year in and year out, but the Super Bowl really is just another game. I treat this no differently than I treat a random game in the middle of the season, there’s either a play or there isn’t, but this year I do see enough to go big when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers take on the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.
Let’s start right there, the game is at Raymond James Stadium which means it is a home game for the Bucs and, while there’s no precedence for that being an advantage or not, it’s absolutely not a disadvantage to get to play the biggest game of the season in your home stadium. I was on the Bucs for a 5* selection as my only move for Championship weekend so I obviously already like this team and I also like the fact the Bucs have revenge here from a close loss on this field to the Chiefs earlier in the season. What most remember from that game is the Chiefs winning and the absurd first quarter Tyreek Hill had but what I remember is the Bucs settling in and giving up just 10 points the rest of the way in what turned into a hard fought 27-24 loss. That tells me Tampa Bay made the adjustments on defense and the Bucs defense only gets better here as they get Safety Antoine Winfield Jr back from injury. I don’t think anyone would argue with Kansas City having the better offense here, but the Bucs offense isn’t that far behind and Antonio Brown will be available which is a boost on the offensive side of the ball as well. The Chiefs, on the other hand, have injuries on offense (specifically the offensive line), it’s a big reason Kansas City has been terrible against the spread since Week 8 and if the Chiefs do find a way to win I will take a chance that it’s by a field goal or less.
Kansas City lost star offensive lineman Mitchell Schwartz in their Week 6 win over the Bills. Kansas City managed to cover the next two weeks against the terrible Broncos and Jets then failed to cover a single game until getting it done against Buffalo in the AFC Championship game. I don’t think that’s a coincidence, with Schwartz out the pass protection simply isn’t as good, and it’s meant less time for Patrick Mahomes to scramble around and make plays downfield. Kansas City has since had guys improve and Mahomes is one of the few that can win a game without a great offensive line but the Chiefs will now be without Eric Fisher who went down with injury in the AFC Championship game and has been ruled out here. Schwartz hasn’t officially been ruled out yet, but I can’t see him playing which means Kansas City will be severely shorthanded on the offensive line. The Bucs have one of the best run defenses in the league and a capable pass rush and they also have their own blueprint since they got to play Kansas City earlier this season. I don’t think Tampa Bay will be caught off guard like they were in the first quarter of the regular season meeting between these two teams and had the Bucs not dug a 17 point hole there’s a good chance they would have won that game.
I love Tom Brady, I love the rare occasion he’s an underdog and all of the experience he brings into this game so that definitely factors in but the Bucs defense is the reason I expect Tampa Bay to win Super Bowl LV. I’ve talked about DVOA (a metric created by Football Outsiders) as being the most relevant way to rate a defense and the Bucs now lead the league in Total DVOA after beating the Packers. The Bucs have a far better red zone defense than the Chiefs and I think the team that manages more red zone stops will ultimately be the winner here. I noted Tampa Bay gets Winfield back, the Bucs also got a boost last week getting Vita Vea back and, uncoincidentally, what transpired was one of the Bucs best defensive performances of their season. The Bucs have an outstanding defensive line which is notable for their ability to stop the run, but they are also a top 10 pass rush in terms of pressure rate. Again, Mahomes is more than capable of making plays under any circumstances but I think his playmaking ability masked just how bad this Chiefs offensive line really is. Without Fisher Kansas City’s offensive line can only be worse, I have a feeling it’s “much worse” and I think that’s all the Bucs defense needs to gain the upper hand here.
I’m not ruling out the possibility of Mahomes making plays in spite of the offensive line concerns but even if that’s the case I still like the Bucs ability to match Kansas City score for score. I know it’s turned into a cliché at this point, but Tom Brady is one of the greatest to ever play the position and poise on the biggest stage does count for something. Brady also had a GREAT season, he completed 66 percent of his passes and threw for over 4600 yards so the numbers put him on the same playing field with Mahomes too. We hear about the multitude of weapons Mahomes has at his disposal constantly but Brady has one of the top receivers in the game in Mike Evans and one of the best up and coming pass catchers in Chris Godwin. It’s the Super Bowl so we should get a max effort out of Antonio Brown who was arguably the top pass catcher in the game not too long ago. The Bucs have a number of solid role players (Gronk included) and Leonard Fournette has resurrected his career in Tampa and finally playing like a 1st round pick. Tampa Bay’s offensive line has only allowed 22 sacks all season and it’s a known fact the way to beat Brady is to pressure him. The Chiefs pass rush is average, I think the Bucs offense line keeps Brady upright and that’s going to be another big component of a Bucs win.
Again, I treat the Super Bowl like any other game so this 5* play is no bigger than a 5* I give out in college hoop or the NBA. I see a great betting opportunity here on the Bucs as I’ve heard a lot of people say they like the Chiefs followed by the rationale of “well it’s the Chiefs”. I think if you do the work and dig deep here the overwhelming correct side in this matchup is the Buccaneers. I’ve been waiting for some +3.5’s to start popping up and now they have. If you have the reduced juice +3 (Even) you can easily buy that to +3.5 for -120 and I will go ahead and lock in and take a very generous number with the Bucs though I think they win Super Bowl LV outright. Play on Buccaneers +3.5 for 5 units
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