The Buccaneers will become the first team to ever play in a Super Bowl in their own stadium, and Dave Gray looks at how they can keep the Lombardi Trophy in Tampa Bay...
"The belief he gave everybody in the organization that this could be done - it only took one man," said Bruce Arians following the NFC Championship win over Green Bay."
Roger Goodell and the NFL could not have wished for a better Super Bowl than this. We get Patrick Mahomes, the young superstar, reigning champion and former MVP up against the man with six rings and considered by most to be the greatest NFL player of all time, Tom Brady. While much of the talk will be about that match up - and rightfully so - a lot of the other key battles in this one are being overlooked.
Defence win championships
It is a cliché but come January, it so often comes down to which team can get a stop. The Buccaneers have the fifth ranked defence in the NFL in DVOA. The Chiefs have faced just one top eight defence all season and that was the Saints. In that game they scraped by but it was against Drew Brees who was coming off the back of a month long absence and was still playing hurt. While they didn't shut them down they did manage to slow them down and the Buccaneers can do that and more on Sunday.
The Bucs are actually the number one rated team in pass rush and that could be the key to this game. If Patrick Mahomes has time in the pocket he is going to kill a team, but if the Buccaneers can get to him and speed up his decision making as we saw the 49ers do last year, then Tampa Bay have every chance to upset the defending champions. The 49ers blew the lead but if Brady and co are in the same situation they are unlikely to make the same mistakes.
Buccaneers can run the ball
While Ronald Jones or Leonard Fournette may not be the greatest running backs in the league, they're more than capable of taking down the Chiefs rush defence. Kansas City ranks 31st in by DVOA against the run. No team has more rushing attempts or touchdowns in these playoffs than the Buccaneers and only the Ravens have more yards. It is hard to believe that game plan will change too much up against the real weakness of this Chiefs defence.
This game is being built up as Mahomes vs Brady, but this game could well be won by that duo of running backs. You can currently back the MVP to be a RB, FB, WR or TE at 4/1 and while Brady or Mahomes are most likely, there could be some value there. Fournette alone is currently at 4/1 on the Exchange so getting all those other players on either side, it feels like a no brainer.
Tampa offence can match up
The Chiefs offence is phenomenal, but weighted DVOA actually has the Buccaneers ranked the better of the two. I would not argue that I would take Brady and co over Mahomes and the rest of the Chiefs right now, but it just shows that the gap between the two is not as great as some will suggest in the build up.
We hear so much about Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill and the array of weapons at Mahomes disposal, but Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown and even Rob Gronkowski and Cameron Brate are hard to beat. Any of those players, particularly the wide receivers, can beat you on any week.
Kansas City have playmakers on defence, but Tyrann Mathieu and Chris Jones can only do so much. They have other talented players but they are not as strong and it is hard to see how they will manage to cover all those players. Brady does so many things well but finding the mismatch may be at the top of that list.
There are lots of other reasons why the Buccaneers can do this and win a first Super Bowl since 2003, but Brady and all his experience is the thing that brings it all together. Tampa Bay have an excellent roster. Lots of talent on offence, an incredible defence and a superb offensive line.
"The belief he gave everybody in the organization that this could be done - it only took one man," said head coach Bruce Arians following the NFC Championship win over Green Bay. While Brady may not be the same player he was, his decline was vastly overrated.
As somebody that watched every game of the Patriots last season, I can tell you that he both did not have any trust in his pass catchers and also had absolutely no time to throw due to a decimated offensive line. That is not the case in Tampa and it is showing.
Brady has led this team to the Super Bowl and with one of the best supporting casts he has had in his 10th Super Bowl, he can make it ring number seven and cement his place as the greatest player we have ever seen.