Rather amazingly, the 2020-21 NFL season will make it the full way through with every single game being played during a COVID pandemic. Truly an astonishing feat for the league and its medical personnel. Super Bowl 55 wraps things up Sunday as the Kansas City Chiefs are 3-point favorites on the NFL odds against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who are the first team to ever play in a Super Bowl in their own stadium.
Chiefs vs Bucs | 2021 Super Bowl 55 Expert Analysis
The two clear storylines: Patrick Mahomes and Kansas City look to repeat, while Tom Brady looks for his seventh Super Bowl title in his 10th appearance – but first not with the New England Patriots.
It appears both teams will be pretty healthy Sunday. Kansas City won’t have starting offensive tackles Mitchell Schwartz and Eric Fisher, but that was known days ago. The Chiefs had a COVID scare this week with a team barber testing positive that led to receiver Demarcus Robinson and backup center Daniel Kilgore landing on the COVID list, but both have tested positive every day since and should be good to go. Neither are vital to the Chiefs but could be should other players get injured.
Receiver Sammy Watkins and running back Le’Veon Bell were both limited at practice Thursday but both figures to play. Bell is probably the third-string tailback at this point, while Watkins is no better than the No. 2 wideout and probably No. 3.
Bucs receiver Antonio Brown (knee) was upgraded to full for Thursday’s practice, so he will be good to go after missing the past two games. Brown could be something of an X-factor as Chris Godwin deals with the Chiefs’ good slot coverage. Brown was limited to two grabs for 12 yards the first time these two teams met in Week 12.
Cameron Brate (back) was limited during Thursday’s practice. Brate, who has functioned as Tampa’s primary pass-catching tight end during the playoffs even over Rob Gronkowski, also should play. The Kansas City defense allowed the eighth-most receptions to tight ends in the 2020 season.
Not only did the Bucs win their first playoff game since the 2002 season, but they also won three straight road playoff games to earn the right to fight for a title in their own stadium. While Brady has a 6-3 straight up record in Super Bowls, he’s 4-5 against the spread. He has covered in four of his six victories, while all three losses came as a favorite.
The key for the Chiefs is to pressure Brady. When Brady has had a clean pocket and hasn’t been pressured this season, he’s statistically a top-10 quarterback. However, under pressure, Brady’s TD-INT ratio ranks 23rd in the league, his yards per attempt are 24th, and his passer rating is 26th among 35 qualified quarterbacks.
The team entering with the worse record (Bucs) has covered 13 of the past 14 Super Bowls, which excludes games with identical records in 2017, 2014, 2013. Since 2003, only the 2016 Falcons have failed to cover with a worse pregame record than their opponent. The entering with the worse record has won 10 of the past 12 Super Bowls. Only the 2016 Falcons and 2008 Cardinals lost with a worse pregame record than their opponent.
The favorite has won each of the past two Super Bowls by double-digits. Last year, Mahomes and the Chiefs won by 11 over San Francisco as a 1.5-point favorite. The season before, Brady and the Patriots won by 10 as a 2.5-point favorite over the Rams.
The total of 56 is one of the highest in Super Bowl history. The highest closing total in a Super Bowl is 57 between the Patriots and Falcons in 2016. That game went over the total, but it was 28-28 at the end of regulation. In Super Bowl history, the under is 8-3-1 with a closing total of 50 or higher.
No matter what happens Sunday, the Chiefs will be favored to win Super Bowl 56 in Los Angeles on the first Sunday of February 2022.
Chiefs 30, Bucs 27 (buy K.C. down to -2.5)