Nothing says Super Bowl LV quite like the popular Yoda-Baby Yoda meme that has taken off as the matchup between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the seemingly ageless wonder that is quarterback Tom Brady vs. the favored Kansas City Chiefs and young quarterback sensation Patrick Mahomes. Brady, of course, is the Yoda Jedi Master who is 800 years old or whatever but still able to get the big jobs done in a flamboyant, fantastic manner.
Mahomes is the Baby Yoda, whose game-changing and season-changing powers are already enormous and also likely to continue growing as he’s just an infant in NFL quarterback terms at age 25, in just his third season as a full-time starter.
The big game is set for this Sunday, Feb. 7 in Tampa Bay at Raymond James Stadium at 6:30 p.m. ET. And, of course, there is more to it than the two quarterbacks who stand in such fascinating contrast to each other: Brady (actually “only” 43 years of age) with the six Super Bowl rings he already owns via his earlier run with the New England Patriots, vs. Mahomes and the defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs who appear to be sitting on the precipice of possibly their own Patriots-type NFL dynasty. But the two QBs certainly stand front and center.
The teams took dramatically different paths to this Super Bowl as well. The Chiefs (14-2 in the regular season) represent the top seed for the AFC and, as defending champs, more or less were expected to be here.
Meanwhile, the Buccaneers (11-5 in the regular season) didn’t even win their own NFC South division, entered the playoffs only as a wild card, and as the NFC’s No. 5 seed had to win three consecutive road games just to come back home to play in this one. The Bucs are only the fourth wild-card team to make the Super Bowl since 1990, with the previous three teams (2005 Steelers, 2007 Giants, 2010 Packers) all emerging victorious.
The Line: Kansas City (-3.5) vs Tampa Bay O/U: 56.5
|Teams||Spread||Money Line||Total Points|
|Kansas City Chiefs||-3½ (-115)||-170||O 56½ (-115)|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers||+3½ (-105)||+140||U 56½ (-105)|
It is important to shop around numerous sportsbooks to get the best line available, keeping in mind that it could fluctuate at least slightly throughout the week leading up to kickoff. MyBookie currently offers Tampa Bay +3.5 if you want to bet on the Bucs’ spread. If you want to bet Kansas City, they are only three-point favorites on Bovada and BetOnline.
Here are the full listed odds on each of the three sites as of Monday, Feb. 1:
Why the Chiefs Are Favored
Kansas City is favored because the Chiefs are the defending Super Bowl champions, but also because they have already played Tampa Bay in Raymond James Stadium this season. The Chiefs won a Week 12 matchup against the Bucs 27-24.
Kansas City jumped out to a 17-0 lead in the first quarter of the prior matchup thanks in large part to the 203 receiving yards that wide receiver Tyreek Hill posted in the first quarter. Brady and Mahomes combined for 807 yards through the air as the Bucs scored 14 unanswered in the fourth quarter to cut it to a field goal with just over four minutes to go.
But the Bucs never got the ball back as Mahomes and company successfully moved the football up the field enough to drain the clock and seal the win.
Can You Bet Against Brady?
The answer is yes. Betting against Tom Brady in the Super Bowl has been a profitable trend throughout his career. Brady has a 4-5 record against the spread in the big game, despite having a 6-3 record straight up. This will be only the second time Brady has been an underdog in the Super Bowl, with the other occasion being Super Bowl XXXVI when the Patriots were 14-point underdogs to the Rams.
But as always, placing any bets against Brady comes at a risk. Brady has already picked up two wins this postseason from the underdog role, so the Bucs are more than familiar with being counted out. Brady’s last three postseason games as an underdog were this season against the Saints and Packers, and two years ago as a Patriot when he beat these Chiefs in Arrowhead to win the AFC Championship game.
When the Bucs Have the Ball
The Buccaneers offense has changed drastically from the regular season to the postseason. In the regular season, Tampa Bay ranked second in the NFL in passing yards per game and 28th in rushing yards per game. As the player prop bets start to come out as the game gets closer, Tampa Bay running Leonard Fournette is the first one to keep a close eye on.
Fournette only eclipsed 55 yards rushing once during the regular season, but he and the Bucs’ rushing attack seem reborn in the playoffs. Initially thrust into a larger role mainly because of injuries to fellow running back Ronald Jones II, Fournette has rushed for over 55 yards in all three games this postseason and also has been a factor catching short passes and turning them into large gains out of the backfield. Furthermore, Fournette has shown a nose for the end zone. After scoring only three rushing touchdowns in the first 14 weeks of the regular season, he has since Week 15 scored a total of six TDs, including one in each playoff game. The 20-yard receiving touchdown he registered in the Bucs’ playoff win over New Orleans was his first of the season. Fournette’s total of three postseason TDs are already second in Tampa Bay postseason history behind only Mike Alstott’s four in 2002. So the bottom line: keep your eye on player prop opportunities for Fournette regarding his rushing yards total, his combined rushing and receiving yards total, and anything to do with him reaching the end zone.
The Bucs know they have to establish a rushing attack to win this football game and they have shown Fournette is their guy in the postseason over Jones. But don’t rule out Jones completely in the Super Bowl, as he finally appears to be healthy following thumb surgery and a nagging quad injury. If the Over/Under player prop bet of Jones getting around eight or fewer rushing attempts presents itself in the coming days, grab it. Fournette is likely to get the bulk of carries and rightly so, based on his postseason production, but Jones will see some action, too.
Brady threw for 280 yards in the NFC Championship game against Green Bay, but threw three interceptions. Brady threw two interceptions the last time these two teams met, so expect him to cough up at least one in this game.
The Bucs will be forced to keep up with the explosive Kansas City offense. Brady threw the ball 41 times in their previous matchup and probably will go to the air around that many times again, meaning the potential will be there for him to throw for 275 yards or more again.
When the Chiefs Have the Ball
Kansas City has the top passing offense in the NFL, thanks to the arm and entertaining creativeness of Mahomes, the MVP of Super LIV. Mahomes threw for 38 touchdowns in his 15 regular season games, while only throwing six interceptions. And while the Buccaneers boast the top run defense in the league, they rank 21st in passing yards allowed per game and it was evident in the first matchup between these teams when Mahomes threw for 462 yards. One bet to grab it you can get it will be for Mahomes to throw for three touchdowns or more, and another that bears considering will be the Over/Under numbers on how many passing yards he will pile up.
On the receiving end of an astonishing 269 yards of Mahomes’ passes in the first meeting between these teams went to speedy wide receiver Tyreek Hill. Remarkably, Hill had 203 yards receiving in the first quarter before being “held” to 66 yds over the next three quarters.
Expect Tampa Bay to dedicate a large amount of its gameplan to stopping Hill, which very well may just leave the door wide open for Travis Kelce to have a big game. The Bucs aren’t going to be able to stop Hill completely, either, no matter what they try. He’s too good and his chemistry with Mahomes is outstanding.
Who Has the Edge in Special Teams?
Tampa Bay placekicker Ryan Succop has made 28-of-31 field-goal attempts this season and has been a blessing for a team that is on its ninth kicker in the last five seasons.Succop is 8-for-8 on field-goal attempts this postseason, but has missed one extra point.
Kansas City placekicker Harrison Butker has been one of the best kickers in the NFL over the past couple seasons but has been far from perfect so far this postseason, making 4-of-5 field-goal attempts and also missing an extra point. While the kicker position is essentially a wash, the kick return game seems to be a slight advantage to Kansas City. Mecole Hardman fumbled last week inside the 10-yard line to set up a Buffalo score, but when he catches the ball and hangs onto it he is always a threat to break a long return.
Tampa Bay’s return game is led by Jaydon Mickens, who had a solid 43-yard return in the NFC Championship game, however, he has been primarily average throughout the season. The Chiefs rarely use the punting game, calling on punter Tommy Townsend once all postseason, where he pinned his only try inside the 20-yard line. Tampa Bay punter Bradley Pinion is six for nine this postseason when it comes to pinning punts inside the 20.
The Game Picks
Kansas City boasts too much offensive firepower to not light up the scoreboard Sunday night. Tampa Bay has allowed teams to move the football on them this postseason. The Bucs’ defense has just been able to force enough turnovers that it has not proven deadly yet.
Tampa Bay has done a decent job of finding a rushing attack with Leonard Fournette this postseason, but Brady has had difficulty limiting his mistakes. He got away with the three interceptions vs. Green Bay in the NFC championship game but won’t be able to afford making the same number of errant throws in this one.
Kansas City was nervous in last year’s Super Bowl and started slowly against San Francisco Despite that they still won the game by double figures. The Chiefs have most of the same guys still on their roster and know exactly what to expect this time when Sunday night comes around, where on the flip side, the Buccaneers not named Tom Brady might have trouble settling in.
There also is value on the Over/Under total Sunday night, with only two Super Bowls ever having higher totals going in. It is hard to score that many points on the big stage. If not for overtime in Super Bowl LI, those previous two large Overs would be 0-2. Considering these two teams have already met this season in a game with little to no stakes on the line and were only able to combine for 51 then, there is no logical reason to expect this game to go Over 56.5 points.