Well Buc Nation, we’ve ALL been waiting 18 years for this and it is FINALLY here.
IT’S SUPER BOWL WEEKEND and our Buccaneers are playing in the BIG game on Sunday!
After winning three straight playoff games on the road against the Redskins (Yeah, I said it again!), Saints and Packers, the Bucs are returning home to play Super Bowl LV in Raymond James Stadium. For the first time in NFL history, a team will play in and host a Super Bowl in their own stadium. Now the question is, can they win it?
They’re facing the young phenom Patrick Mahomes and his defending World Champion Kansas City Chiefs. That’s no easy task. Head coach Andy Reid took over a 2-14 team in 2013 and hasn’t finished worse than 9-7 since, making the playoffs in seven of those eight seasons. They’ve finished 11-5 twice, 12-4 three times and 14-2 this season during that span. This just in…they’re pretty freakin good. And now the Buccaneers have to play them.
So how do they beat them? How do they slow down this juggernaut enough to win their second Lombardi Trophy? Well, that’s what I’m here to tell you. After watching their first matchup from Week 12, I’ve come up with a sure fire game plan to knock the Chiefs off, both offensively and defensively. I’ve also come up with my list of Bucs players who need to step up AND Chiefs players that need to be stopped. And just for shits and gigs, I’m giving my MVP predictions as well as my prediction of the final score. (Here’s a hint, Chiefs lose!) So without any further delay, enjoy my Super Bowl LV preview!
HOW THE BUCS BEAT THE CHIEFS
1. Keep Brady clean!
Tampa’s offensive line has been playing lights out all season long and they’ll need to do it one last time for the Bucs to win this game. They’ve only allowed five sacks in three playoff games and three of those were against Washington. If they can keep Brady upright, then they have a great chance of winning this game.
2. Catch the friggin football!
After at least a dozen dropped passes in these playoffs, including six or seven by the normally dependable Chris Godwin, the butterfinger stuff has to stop. Drops have cost this team first downs and touchdowns over the last three games and they can’t afford to miss out on either one of those things against the Chiefs or they will get blown out in this game.
3. Keep the chains moving!
The Bucs cannot go three and out against this Kansas City team. Let me repeat that. The Bucs CANNOT go three and out against this Kansas City team. They have to get first downs. They have to sustain drives. They have to keep that other offense off of the field as much as possible. And even if they don’t get points out of a drive, they need to be able to win the field position battle and make the Chiefs go 80 or 90 yards to score.
4. Run the ball when needed!
Even though this might be the worst run defense they’ve faced in this postseason, I don’t expect the Bucs to run a whole lot in this game. They’ll try here and there just to keep the defense honest and to help sell their play action passing game, but it would surprise me if they rush more than 25 times total. That being said, when they do decide to run the ball, they need to do it well. They need to keep averaging 4+ yards per carry so that the chains keep moving and the clock keeps running, which keeps Mahomes ass on the bench.
5. Play ALL 4 quarters!
This Buccaneers team has now played 19 games this season, yet we STILL haven’t seen them play up to their potential in ALL three phases for ALL four quarters in any of those games. That’s a scary thought considering they’re playing in the Super Bowl on Sunday. But one of these days, it’s going to happen. One of these days, this entire team will play up to our expectations from the time the toe hits the leather (Shout-out to the great Gene Deckerhoff!) until the clock hits all zeros. And when they do, it will be a sight to see. Why can’t that day be this Sunday?
1. Keep Kelce out of the endzone!
In their Week 12 matchup, Travis Kelce had 8 catches on 8 targets for 82 yards and NO TOUCHDOWNS. That’s exactly what the Bucs defense needs to do again in this game. Keep his targets low and take him away in the redzone, that should be the game plan for him. Don’t be surprised if you see Lavonte David matched up with him on the inside and Carlton Davis lined up against him when he’s outside.
2. Keep Mahomes on his toes!
Literally, keep him on his toes. He’s been battling turf toe for the last few weeks and it’s unknown how much or even if it will effect him in this game. But the more uncomfortable the Bucs can make him in the pocket, the more dancing around he’ll have to do. The more dancing around he does, the more chance there is of that turf toe flaring up. He’ll be working behind a makeshift offensive line where their right tackle is now playing left tackle, their right guard is now playing right tackle and their backup o-lineman is starting his first game at right guard. If the Bucs defensive line can’t get to Mahomes through this line, then they might be in trouble.
3. Get home with the front four!
I just mentioned that the Chiefs o-line is basically an experimental process going into this game. The Buccaneers defensive front of Vita Vea, Ndamukong Suh, Will Gholston, Shaq Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul SHOULD have a field day against them. Let me rephrase that. They NEED to have a field day against them. Pat Mahomes is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL against the blitz, so it would benefit the Bucs to not have to do it much in this game.
4. Make Watkins or Hardman beat you!
In their last meeting, Tyreek Hill had 200+ yards and 2 touchdowns IN THE FIRST QUARTER ALONE! That cannot happen again. Todd Bowles made adjustments after that opening quarter and gave Carlton Davis some safety help over the top, which worked out much better in the second half. This time, I see them defending this Chiefs team a little differently. In that first meeting, the Bucs were playing WITHOUT cornerback Jamel Dean who is their fastest corner. I think this time around, Dean covers Hill, which leaves Davis free to cover Sammy Watkins and Sean Murphy-Bunting to cover Mecole Hardman. Dean will still need some safety help over the top, but his speed should match up better with Hill’s.
5. Be aggressive!
One reason the Buccaneers defense has had so much success in this postseason is because of the physical and aggressive style that they’ve been playing in these playoffs. More press man with the corners. Vita Vea now collapsing the middle of the pocket. Shaq and JPP getting it done off the edge. The linebackers and safeties flying around the field making plays. It’s all led to more sacks, more turnovers and more wins. They can’t stop now. This one’s for all the marbles. It’s time to let it rip. No holding back. No taking prisoners. No pulling punches. The best way to handle a bully is to hit him first. The Chiefs are the biggest bullies in the NFL right now. The Bucs have to strike hard, strike fast and strike first. Hit them in the mouth and knock them down, then step on their throats.
WHICH BUCS MUST STEP UP?
1. Tom Brady
Sure, he’s “the GOAT“. But he hasn’t been playing like it in these playoffs. He did throw for 381 yards and 2 touchdowns against Washington in the wildcard round, but over the last two games he’s averaged just 240 yards per game, completed just 55% of his passes and had 5 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. Those are not “GOAT“-like numbers. The Bucs will need the Super Bowl Tom Brady to come out and play for a few hours on Sunday if they want to compete with Mahomes and the Chiefs.
2. Aaron Stinnie
After losing right guard Alex Cappa in the wildcard round, Stinnie got his first career start in the divisional round against the Saints. Then he got his second career start in the NFC Championship game against the Packers. Now he’s getting his third career start in the Super Bowl against the Chiefs and he will have his hands full, especially when he’s lined up across from Chris Jones.
3. Mike Evans & Chris Godwin
Between the dropped passes and the lack of production during these playoffs, Evans and Godwin have not been performing like the superstar receivers they are. In the last two games, Evans has just 4 catches on 11 targets for 54 yards and 2 touchdowns. Godwin did have 110 yards against Green Bay, but he also has just 14 catches on 28 targets and one touchdown in his three playoff games to go along with 7 dropped passes. Both of these guys need to step their games up for this offense to have a shot at keeping up with the Chiefs scoring machine.
4. Ronald Jones
RoJo has missed three of the Bucs last six games and his last outing against Green Bay was his worst game of the season rushing 10 times for 16 yards and a season worst 1.6 yards per carry average. Even though Leonard Fournette has been playing well as of late averaging 4.5 yards per carry, it would be really nice if the RoJo that was just 22 yards short of his first 1,000 yard season would show up in this game and hammer away at the Chiefs 19th ranked run defense.
5. Mike Edwards
So far, it looks as though safety Jordan Whitehead will play on Sunday. However if for some reason he doesn’t, Edwards will need to step in and step up BIG time in his place. The back end of the Buccaneers defense will play a HUGE part in slowing down Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce in this game, so if Whitehead can’t go then that next man up needs to come ready to play.
WHICH CHIEFS MUST THEY STOP?
1. Patrick Mahomes
Duh, right? The Chiefs offense isn’t the same without him. He can do it all. He’s got the arm. He’s got the legs. He’s got the IQ. He’s got “IT“. Fortunately for the Bucs, what he doesn’t have in this game is BOTH of his starting tackles. With Vita Vea back, healthy and in better football shape, JPP and Shaq SHOULD have plenty of opportunities to get to Mahomes. The question is, will they?
2. Travis Kelce
Nothing against my dude Gronk, but Kelce is playing on a different level than any other tight end in the league. He had a career best 1,416 yards and 11 touchdowns in 15 games this season. Those are insane numbers for a tight end. To slow his roll, the Bucs will need to tag team this monster with some double coverage, especially in the redzone.
3. Darrel Williams, Le’Veon Bell & Clyde Edwards-Helaire
The Bucs #1 ranked run defense has got to shut down the Chiefs three-headed rushing attack and make them one dimensional as an offense. Even though they don’t run the football much, they can still do damage. All three of these guys average more than 4 yards per carry, so stopping the run is a must in this game. That will be Devin White’s responsibility on Sunday. Well, that and killing anything that moves with the football.
4. Chris Jones
This guy didn’t load up the stat sheets this season, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t disruptive. He had 7.5 sacks this year and he could be a BIG problem lining up across from Aaron Stinnie who’s making just his third career start on Sunday. The Bucs may have to consider putting an extra offensive lineman or a tight end over there to help him out if it looks like Stinnie is starting to struggle.
5. Tyrann Mathieu
Bruce Arians knows this guy all too well. After all, he’s the one who originally picked him with the Cardinals in the 2013 NFL Draft. He’s coming off of one of his best seasons where he snagged a career high 6 interceptions. Tom Brady will be fully aware of where he is on each and every play during this game. He needs to be. Mathieu is the rare type of defensive player that can effect the outcome of a game with his big time playmaking ability. And Brady has to give him as few chances to make those plays as possible.
I don’t know why, it’s just a feeling I have about him. He was really starting to get into this offense before he hurt his knee in New Orleans. After missing the NFC Championship game in Green Bay, he’s probably chomping at the bit to get back out there. He should be healthy and good to go for Sunday. Big time players make big time plays in big time games. And he’s ALWAYS been a big time player. The Chiefs secondary might be so preoccupied with Evans and Godwin that they forget about this “other guy“. I think he goes off in this game.
This might be a no brainier after the way he’s played in the last two games, which were his FIRST career playoff games, totaling 26 tackles, 2 fumble recoveries and an interception. He is the heart and soul of this defense, even if he is just 22 years old. He’s a man on a mission. He wants to be the best. And to be the best, you have to beat the best. Right now, the Chiefs are the best. And unfortunately for them, they’re in his way.
SUPER BOWL MVP
Yep, he does it again. He wins his 7th Super Bowl ring AND his 5th Super Bowl MVP by beating back the young phenom Pat Mahomes. He’ll have to have a HUGE game in order for the Bucs to win. He can’t throw for 240 yards and 2 touchdowns like he averaged against the Saints and Packers. He’ll need to be GREAT. He’ll need to be “the GOAT“. And I think he rises to the occasion and pulls off the improbable.
Okay, here’s where I’m torn. My head is telling me that this should be a close game. That this will be a one score game where the team who scores last probably wins. That the score will be something like 34-30 or so with the Bucs edging out a narrow win. However, I can’t shake this feeling in my gut that the Bucs are going to absolutely DESTROY the Chiefs in this game.
I don’t know, I just feel it. Maybe I’m just being an optimistic fan. Maybe I’m just being blindly biased. But I’ve seen how much the Buccaneers are being dismissed and disrespected in the national media and I can’t help but think the Bucs players are seeing it too. They see it, but they’re not hearing it. They know what they’re about. They know what they’re capable of IF they play like they’re supposed to. They’ve totally bought in to the “Super Bowl or bust” mindset. It’s that whole “Don’t talk about it, be about it” philosophy.
The older guys like Suh and Lavonte want that elusive ring. The guys like JPP, Gronk and Brady want another ring. The young guys want to help them all get those rings. And they ALL want to make history by winning a Super Bowl in their own stadium. All the talk has been about the Chiefs offense this and Pat Mahomes that. But guess what…Todd Bowles has had two weeks to sit around and watch game film while coming up with a defensive scheme to shut down that offense and shut up the doubters. So I’m going BIG with this one y’all. After all, it is the Super Bowl. I’m going with the Bucs winning 45-23 for my final score. We’ll see if I’m right on Sunday!
Until then, as always…GO BUCS!!!