Super Bowl Matchups
Kansas City Rushing Offense vs Tampa Bay- Bad
The Chiefs running game has been a unit that has been struggling throughout the playoffs but has done just enough to complement the passing offense that is on another level right now. The Chiefs did get Clyde Edwards-Helaire back last week, although he struggled mightily as he had only six carries amounting just seven yards as Darrell Williams continues to lead the backfield for the Chiefs in what is a nice surprise in Kansas City. Williams throughout the playoffs is averaging 5.0 yards per carry and is averaging 65 yards per game. The biggest question for the Chiefs heading into this game is their offensive line, which continues to be a bit of a mess as they are missing four of the five starters that they originally were expecting to open the season with as Eric Fisher is the latest to go down with an Achilles injury.
The Buccaneers continue to be the elite run defense in the NFL, and they proved it once again in the Conference Championship as they essentially eliminated the rushing attack from Green Bay holding Aaron Jones to just 27 yards rushing and holding the Packers as a team to just 67 yards total. The defensive line is one of the best in the NFL led by Ndamukong Suh, Jason Pierre-Paul, and Shaq Barrett, but most importantly they have gotten Vita Vea the space-eating defensive tackle back for this game which should keep the elite linebacker group from having to deal with blockers. The linebackers in Devin White and Lavonte David are two of the best run-stopping linebackers in the NFL as they have the speed with the play recognition to shut down most offenses. If there is a concern for the Buccaneers, it is David who is dealing with a hamstring injury which is something to keep an eye on as he is taking it “day by day”. This is a team that has only allowed three running backs all season to top 50 yards. Two of those running backs were the league’s best in Dalvin Cook (102) and Christian McCaffrey (59), while the third was in Week 17 as Brian Hill broke a 62-yard run in the fourth quarter of that game.
Tampa Bay Rushing Offense vs Kansas City- Good
Leonard Fournette is a big reason that the Buccaneers are headed to the Super Bowl this year as Fournette has looked like a different player in the playoffs. While most of his work has been as a receiver, he has been solid as a running back as well. Fournette, who struggled with consistency for most of the season, has scored two touchdowns in three games and has averaged 70 yards rushing per game. What makes it even more surprising is two of those three games were against top tier run defenses in Washington and New Orleans. The offensive line for Tampa Bay has been outstanding all season led by Ali Marpet and Ryan Jensen, this will be a force that will be difficult for the Chiefs to handle. The big question will be if the Buccaneers can get Ronald Jones II going as well as Jones struggled mightily against the Packers as he only had 16 yards on just 10 carries, but is still an explosive runner particularly when he gets past the defensive line.
The Chiefs run defense has been a unit that has largely been a vulnerable unit this season. On the season, the Chiefs are allowing 4.6 yards-per-carry to opposing running backs and allowing 101 yards per game which is the 10th-most in the NFL this season. The key for the Chiefs will be to mimic the Week 12 performance in which they got out to an early lead which forced the Buccaneers to all but abandon their running game as they ran the ball only 12 times. When the Buccaneers did run in that game, they did have success averaging 6.3 yards-per-carry. The Chiefs are a defense that is set up to get out to an early lead and shut down your passing game as Chris Jones and Frank Clark while great players are pass rush focused. The Chiefs linebackers are one of the weak spots on this team as they typically only have two on the field at a time playing a 4-2-5 Nickel, but Damien Wilson and Anthony Hitchens are both sub-par linebackers.
Tampa Bay Passing Offense vs Kansas City- Good
It was a tale of two halves for the Buccaneers against the Packers as Tom Brady and company looked like the best offense in the NFL in the first half and then struggled mightily in the second half throwing three interceptions on three consecutive drives allowing Green Bay to get back into the game. The Buccaneers when they are on, are extremely dangerous as they have pass-catching weapons across the entire offense with Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, Rob Gronkowski who has been much improved in the second half, and Leonard Fournette who has caught 14 passes so far this playoff season. The Buccaneers all season have had their offensive line do a tremendous job in keeping Brady upright as he has been sacked the fourth-fewest times on the year. This will be a key to this game as it is expected that the Buccaneers will have to find success through the air to compete in this game.
Kansas City’s pass defense has been a bit of a roller coaster on the year. Allowing just 246 passing yards per game doesn’t tell the full story. This is a defense that when they are good, they are outstanding, but they are largely inconsistent as they have allowed 7 quarterbacks during the regular season to throw for 300+ yards including Brady who threw for 345 yards and 3 touchdowns in their first appearance back in Week 12. The issue for the Chiefs is in the secondary as Charvarius Ward and Bashaud Breeland are simply average to below-average while Daniel Sorensen at safety has struggled mightily for most of the season and is the weak spot in this defense. With the safety issues in Sorensen, it is no surprise that the Chiefs have struggled against tight ends this season allowing the fourth-most receiving yards to the position on the year and Rob Gronkowski topped 100 yards in the teams earlier meeting.
Kansas City Passing Offense vs Tampa Bay- Good
At this point, there is not much more to say about Kansas City that has not already been said. They are nearly impossible to stop due to their creative play-calling, speed mismatches in Tyreek Hill, and quite possibly the best receiving tight end of all time in Travis Kelce. The one concern heading into this game is that Sammy Watkins appears highly questionable heading into this game, and Demarcus Robinson remains on the Covid list after he received a haircut from a barber who tested positive for Covid. There will be a heavy dependency much like there has been for most of the season on Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill to carry the load for the Chiefs, and with Patrick Mahomes II’ ingenuity at the quarterback position, they often make the game seem incredibly simple at times. The loss of Eric Fisher to an Achilles’ injury could become a factor in this game as the Chiefs are shuffling their offensive line around as they are down four of their original five starters to begin the season.
Tampa Bay’s pass defense has been a work in progress for most of the year but is definitely a weak spot on this team. This defense in Week 12 was absolutely torched by the Chiefs allowing 462 yards and 4 touchdowns to Patrick Mahomes II as the defense could not stop Tyreek Hill who had 269 yards in that game. The Buccaneers have seemingly been incapable of stopping speed wide receivers as Marques Valdez-Scantling topped 100 yards last week, Tre'Quan Smith had 85 yards and 2 touchdowns the week before, and 11 receivers have topped 90 yards on the year against this defense. While Antoine Winfield Jr. has been outstanding in run defense, he has struggled mightily in coverage, while Jordan Whitehead has struggled in general for most of the last two years. This is a unit that is entirely set up by the pass rush, as they were tied for fourth in sacks with 48 on the season as Jason Pierre-Paul, Ndamukong Suh, Shaq Barrett, and Vita Vea make up the league’s best defensive line. The key to this game is whether the pass rush can get to Mahomes and company fast enough as they were unable to in the first meeting between these two teams, and the secondary showed they were incapable of defending Tyreek Hill.