On Feb. 7, the AFC champion Kansas City Chiefs will kick off against the NFC champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Super Bowl LV. The game will be held at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Bay, Florida, marking the first time in Super Bowl history where a team will play the championship game in their home stadium. The Buccaneers will return to the Super Bowl for the first time since the 2002 season, while the Kansas City Chiefs look to repeat their victory—a feat that has only been accomplished once in the 21st century.
Both teams have had a unique path to the Super Bowl this season. Kansas City continued their success from last season, finishing 14-2, placing them first in the AFC and granting them a first-round bye in the playoffs. In the Divisional round, the Chiefs narrowly beat the six-seeded Cleveland Browns, despite Super Bowl LIV MVP quarterback Patrick Mahomes sustaining a concussion in the second half. In the AFC championship game, the Chiefs punched their ticket to the big game with a significant win over the upstart Buffalo Bills. On the other side, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, led by four-time Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady, finished the season 11-5, placing fifth in the NFC. Tampa Bay went on the road to Washington in the Wild Card round, and New Orleans in the Divisional Round, beating both teams in closely contested games. In the NFC championship game, the Buccaneers beat the favourite Green Bay Packers, converting on a first half hail-mary and intercepting Aaron Rodgers on three occasions.
When assessing the player and team statistics from the regular season, the strengths and weaknesses of each team are made clear. On offence, each team was reliant on a strong passing game. Kansas City led the league in passing yards per game with 303.4 and placed third in passing touchdowns with 40. Tampa Bay finished second in passing yards per game with 289.1 and second in passing touchdowns with 42. Although neither had a strong rushing game, Kansas City had a significantly better performance, finishing 16th in the league in rushing yards per game, compared to Tampa Bay in 28th.
On defence, the Buccaneers were reliant on a strong front seven, allowing the league’s least rushing yards per game, only 80.6 and 10 rushing touchdowns. In comparison, the Chiefs finished lower in both categories, giving up 14 rushing touchdowns and 122.1 yards per game on the ground to opponents.
The most important matchup in this contest will be the Kansas City offence against the Tampa Bay defence. At the line of scrimmage, the Buccaneers will have a significant advantage going into the game. The Chiefs offensive line lost left tackle Eric Fisher, their former first overall pick, to a torn Achilles, a difficult blow to a unit that already lost first-team All-Pro Mitchell Schwartz earlier in the season. On the other side, the Buccaneers front seven are peaking at the right time. 2018 first round pick and defensive tackle Vita Veta’s return from injury last week was a critical addition to an exceptionally good core that features a staggering five former All-Pro selections.
However, despite this advantage, Kansas City’s offensive weapons are historic. Patrick Mahomes, one of the most talented quarterbacks in NFL history, has connected with his two First team All-Pro selection targets Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce throughout the season and playoffs, a trend that should remain consistent this Sunday. Complemented by Head Coach Andy Reid’s strategic, aggressive play-calling, the Chiefs’ air attack will pose a difficult challenge for the upstart, young Buccaneers secondary.
The McGill Tribune predicts that, ultimately, the Buccaneers will struggle to stop the Chiefs’ pass attack and their offence will come up just short, with Kansas City emerging victorious 31–27. The contest will live up to its significance, with two quarterbacks striving to end their careers as the greatest to ever play.