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Super Bowl LV preview: Chiefs vs. Buccaneers

Who has the edge in Super Bowl LV? We take a look at each position.

Why Jerome Bettis thinks the Chiefs have the edge in the Big Game

We are now officially in Super Bowl LV betting week! The Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers square off this Sunday for the Lombardi Trophy to close the 2020 season.

These two weeks before the “Big Game” can be the longest two weeks of a fan’s life and this year it is no different. But, it is always nice to have the teams as healthy as possible. Now that we are closing in on the actual game, we’ll take a look at how these teams stack up to each other heading into Sunday.

This game has a spread of just three points with the Chiefs favored, but there is no truly overwhelming favorite in this game. When looking at the defensive and offensive positions individually, the Buccaneers likely have the advantage, but of course, that isn’t an automatic win in the NFL, which weights quarterback play as the most important.

We’ll take a look at each position and who has the edge on Sunday.

Patrick Mahomes vs. Tom Brady

Edge: Chiefs

Is Tom Brady the greatest of all time? Yes, there’s no doubt that six Super Bowl wins and elite numbers for much of his career give him that moniker. We can argue the point, but the point is legitimate. But, even the sun is eclipsed at some point and Mahomes has proven he is the best quarterback in the league over the last three seasons.

Through three seasons as the Chiefs starter, Mahomes has averaged 364 completions (66.1%) for 4,622 yards, 38 TDs, 7.7 INTs, 9.1 AY/A. 109.3 rate.

Brady’s best three-season stretch came in his 11th to 13th seasons from 2010 to 2012, when he averaged 375 completions (64.7%) for 4,654.5 yards, 36.3 TDs, 8 INTs, 8.7 AY/A. 104.6 rate.

These are very much on par with each other, with Mahomes holding the slight edge, but Mahomes has put these numbers up in his first three seasons, while we wouldn’t want to compare Brady’s first three seasons as to not embarrass him.

What is beyond amazing are the stats Brady put up this season, his 21st season, at the age of 43. He was very much comparable to Mahomes, as Brady had 401 completions (65.7%) for 4,633 yards, 40 TDs, 12 INTs, 8.0 AY/A. 102.2 rate, while Mahomes had 390 completions (66%) for 4,740 yards, 38 TDs, 6 INTs, 8.9 AY/A, 108.2 rate.

Again, the numbers remain comparable despite an 18 year age difference. But, Mahomes was slightly better statistically and was more consistent throughout the season. When we compare their playoff statistics for this season, Mahomes has the edge as well, as he has averaged 25 completions (75%) for 290 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs, and a 118.5 rate in two games while Brady has averaged 20 completions (55%) for 286 yards, 2.3 TDs, 1 INT, and a 90.8 rate in three games.

Mahomes will need to do what he’s doing for quite a while to catch up to Brady overall, but going into this Super Bowl, he has the edge and helps balance out the edges that Tampa Bay holds elsewhere.

Chiefs running backs vs. Bucs running backs

Edge: Buccaneers

This one isn’t clear-cut, as Chiefs rookie, Clyde-Edwards Helaire is quite good and if I wanted any of the running backs from this Super Bowl on my team, it would be him. But, Edwards-Helaire has been injured while Leonard Fournette has been playing well in the postseason.

Fournette has taken over the lead role after performing well while Ronald Jones has been slowed with a quad injury. And on the other side, Darrel Williams has played well in relief of Edwards-Helaire but hasn’t seen as many opportunities as Fournette. The Chiefs are going to throw the ball and avoid the run for the most part, but getting a fully healthy Clyde Edwards-Helaire back could be a boon.

On the season, Jones was the best of all these backs statistically, as he averaged 5.1 yards per carry and totaled 1,143 yards with eight touchdowns, while Fournette averaged just 3.8 yards per carry and scored six touchdowns. Edwards-Helaire was the best of the Chiefs backfield, with 4.4 yards per carry and exactly 1,100 total yards and five total touchdowns. Le’Veon Bell had more work than Williams, but Williams was better on a per touch basis and eventually beat Bell out for the No. 2 position.

During the playoffs, Fournette has upped his average to 4.4 yards per carry and totaled 313 yards and three touchdowns in three games. The Chiefs defense has allowed 4.53 yards per carry through 18 games, ranking them 20th in the league, while the Bucs have given up just 3.41 yards per carry in 19 games, ranking them first.

The hope for the Chiefs is that they’ll be able to score quickly with Mahomes at the helm, pushing the Bucs to pass instead of run while the Chiefs will likely just use the run game to slow down the pass rush at times while giving Edwards-Helaire some chances in the receiving game.

Chiefs wide receivers vs. Bucs wide receivers

Edge: Buccaneers

When a team’s three starting wide receivers are Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, and Antonio Brown, it is tough to rank any other unit as better and the Chiefs wide receivers are no exception. Yes, Tyreek Hill is a monster and has put up better numbers than any of the receivers individually, but after Hill there is a steep drop off in Kansas City’s wide receiver room.

But on the whole, the duo of Hill and tight end Travis Kelce have put up better numbers than the three Bucs starters. If we were comparing all pass catchers and productivity as a whole, it would be much closer.

Both teams have injured receivers, as Sammy Watkins and Brown were out for the Championship Round, but both should be able to be ready for the title match. It’s taken the Bucs passing game a long time to gel and with some easy competition to end the season, it was tough to tell if they were able to put up big numbers due to the competition or because they finally got on the same page. Playing the Vikings, Lions and Falcons twice to end the season was a good way to get

Tyreek Hill has 17 receptions for 282 yards and no touchdowns in two postseason games, while he had 87 receptions for 1,276 yards and 15 receiving touchdowns during the regular season.

In three postseason games, Godwin has 14 receptions for 223 yards and a touchdown while Evans has 10 receptions for 173 yards and two touchdowns. During the regular season, Evans has 70 receptions for 1,006 yards and 13 touchdowns while Godwin has 65 receptions for 840 yards and seven touchdowns. Brown’s numbers were middling, as he wasn’t a big-play receiver as the WR3 and averaged just 10.7 yards per catch. Add in his knee injury, and his name carries much more weight than his recent play.

The Chiefs Mecole Hardman scares defenses with his raw speed, but can also make big mistakes. He had a huge fumble on a kick return last week, but he also took a sweep 50 yards and scored on a short reception. He’s a wildcard, but one that can be a game-changer.

Tampa Bay has their own speedster in Scotty Miller, who can make a difference in a hurry. His touchdown reception just before half was huge in the NFC Championship game and if Brown isn’t up to speed, he could be a big factor again.

Chiefs tight ends vs. Bucs tight ends

Edge: Chiefs

Travis Kelce is the best tight end in the league, so he gets the edge here even though he’s going against one of the best tight ends to ever play in Rob Gronkowski. Kelce set the record for most receiving yards for a tight end with 1,416 this season, which was also the second-most receiving yards by any player this year, while his 11 touchdowns ranked fifth. So far in the postseason, he has three touchdowns in just two games. He is very much a wide receiver in his skill set, as he can take on cornerbacks as well as safeties and linebackers, beating them all.

Gronkowski and Cameron Brate are two above-average tight ends at this point and together you could make a case for them being closer to Kelce than Gronkowski is individually, but they still aren’t that close. Gronkowski led the way in the regular season with 45 receptions for 623 yards and seven touchdowns, but Brate has surpassed him during the postseason, as he has 11 receptions on 16 targets for 149 yards and a touchdown, while Gronkowski has two receptions on just seven targets for 43 yards. Neither are exceptional and shutting them down wouldn’t stop the Bucs offense that much, while shutting Kelce down would be a huge blow to Kansas City.

Chiefs offensive line vs. Bucs offensive line

Edge: Buccaneers

The Chiefs offensive line has taken numerous setbacks this season, as they had two linemen opt-out due to COVID-19 to start the year and then lost guard Kelechi Osemele and tackle Mitchell Schwartz for the season with injuries early on. Then left tackle Eric Fisher went down with an Achilles tear in the AFC Championship game. The only Week 1 starter in his original position is center Austin Reiter. There is no doubt that their offensive line has been patch-worked together this year, but they did continue to play well statistically, allowing just 24 sacks during the regular season and the fourth-best adjusted sack rate.

The Buccaneers shored up their offensive line this offseason by drafting right tackle Tristan Wirfs in the first round, who has played at a high level along with his compatriots on the line. On the season, they’ve allowed the third-best adjusted sack rate, allowing a small total of 22 sacks. Those numbers are only slightly better than the Chiefs on the season, but the Bucs also didn’t just lose their starting left tackle.

When these teams met the last time in Week 12, the Buccaneers were able to get 16 QB pressures and that was with Fisher in the mix. The good news is that Mahomes is one of the leaders in getting the ball out quickly, which can make up for a lot of offensive line problems. We saw his ability against pressure in the last Super Bowl, as the 49ers great defensive line was able to disrupt the offense, but Mahomes was just too good in the end.

The Bucs have the better offensive line and I don’t think that can be disputed. It should be able to keep Brady clean for much of the game and help the rushing game efficiency. Mahomes is a quarterback that can help hide his line’s inefficiencies better than Brady at this point though. It isn’t a wash, but it’s not quite as lopsided as it looks.

Chiefs defensive line vs. Bucs defensive line

Edge: Buccaneers

Two of the Chiefs best defensive players are defensive linemen Chris Jones and Frank Clark in their 4-3 defense, while the Buccaneers have Ndamukong Suh and Vita Vea anchoring their 3-4 defense. When you add a great set of linebackers to those two, the core lineman can handle so much, that the linebackers have a much easier time getting to the quarterback.

The Chiefs don’t get much help from their linebackers, so need Clark and Jones to create pressure, which ended up being inconsistent this season. They finished 14th with 32 sacks, but ranked 18th in adjusted sack rate, while the Bucs finished fifth with 48 sacks and sixth in adjusted sack rate. The rushing numbers allowed end up similarly in the rankings, as the Chiefs are in the middle of the pack while the Bucs are the best in the league. There is no doubt that the Bucs are better at getting to the quarterback and stopping the run.

Chiefs linebackers vs. Bucs linebackers

Edge: Buccaneers

Injuries have really hit the Chiefs hard compared to the Buccaneers of late. Besides Fisher, Kansas City also lost rookie linebacker Willie Gay, who suffered a knee injury in practice. Gay wasn’t a full-time starter, but had been gaining snaps all season and was playing well. He was likely the best coverage linebacker on the team and that has been a weakness, as Kansas City has allowed the second-most receiving yards to running backs this season.

The Buccaneers have given up the most running back receptions though, as their defensive line has been outstanding at stopping the run and getting to the quarterback, forcing teams to dump it off to their backs.

The Buccaneers have one of the better linebacking groups in the league with Jason Pierre-Paul, Devin White and Shaq Barrrett. Paul, Barrett and White all surpassed eight sacks on the season. They should be difference makers in a game with the Chiefs offensive line not at full strength.

Chiefs secondary vs. Bucs secondary

Edge: Chiefs

The Chiefs secondary has played well this season, allowing 246.2 passing yards at a 62.3 percent completion rate compared to the Bucs 270.3 yards at a 67.9 completion percent rate. The Chiefs' secondary is aggressive, as they play press coverage more than any other team, while they also send six or more defenders after the quarterback more than any other team. They are playing with fire, but have been able to get the job done. Safety Tyrann Mathieu’s versatility helps them play aggressively and is a huge part of them being able to get away with taking it to receivers.

The Buccaneers secondary hasn’t performed as well as the Chiefs overall, but they do get a big boost by the pressure their front seven puts on the quarterback. Their secondary has five starters who were drafted in 2018 or later. They have a lot of swagger and have been good at turning the ball over. Just last week, safety Jordan Whitehead caused two fumbles in the NFC Championship game. They will give up yardage to Mahomes, there is no doubt about that, but they can also take the ball away with the help of their front seven. Overall, it’s fairly close between the two when you factor in the pass rush disrupting throws.