The Kansas City Chiefs leveraged a 21-point second quarter to erase an early deficit en route to a 38-24 win over the Buffalo Bills in the AFC Championship Game and reach the Super Bowl for the second time in as many years after the franchise suffered through a 50-year drought without an AFC title to its name. That win sets up a matchup with the NFC champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers — the first team to play in a Super Bowl in its home stadium — in Super Bowl LV on Feb. 7 at Raymond James Stadium.
The Chiefs (16-2) have lost just twice all season — and only once since the middle of October — riding a 10-game winning streak from Oct. 19 through the end of the calendar year. And the second loss, in the final week of the regular season, came with most of the team's starters on both sides of the ball kept on the sidelines with the No. 1 seed and first-round bye in the AFC bracket already secured.
With momentum in its favor, Kansas City brings an incredibly talented team to Tampa, with a dynamic playmaking quarterback and two-time Super Bowl champion (once as a head coach, once as an assistant) at the helm in head coach Andy Reid. Here are five reasons why these Chiefs will overcome the Bucs' home-field advantage to come away victorious in Super Bowl LV and become the eighth franchise to repeat as Super Bowl champions.
5 Reasons Why the Kansas City Chiefs Will Win Super Bowl LV
1. Multitude of playmakers on offense
There's no getting around this: Kansas City has proven that its offense can strike in a number of different ways. When Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, Mecole Hardman, and Clyde Edwards-Helaire are all featured members of the offense, a defense has to wonder which one Patrick Mahomes will target... that is, if he doesn't keep the ball himself.
Hill and Kelce ranked first and second in the NFL, respectively, in yards per touch during the regular season with 14 and 13.5. To put that in context, only eight qualified players — those with 100 or more touches (rushes + receptions) — even average 10 yards per touch, and only 15 mustered more than six. Here's another indicator: Kelce (9.8) and Hill (9.7) each averaged nearly 10 yards *per target* during the season. So based on their performance throughout the season, Mahomes can be fairly confident that his offense will gain a first down simply by throwing at either of his top targets. Having one of those game-changing talents can provide a big boost to an offense; having two can be a true difference-maker, especially in a game of this magnitude.
2. Defense's ability to limit opposing wide receivers
Tampa Bay showed in the NFC Championship Game against Green Bay that it also has plenty of pass-catching threats at its disposal, even with Antonio Brown sidelined by a knee injury. Against Washington in the Wild Card Round, Mike Evans led the way with six catches for 119 yards, while Chris Godwin and Brown each hauled in a touchdown while notching 79 and 49 yards, respectively. Last week it was Godwin who eclipsed the century mark with five receptions for 110 yards, while Evans (3 rec., 51 yds.) and Scotty Miller (2, 36) each found the end zone.
But during the regular season, the Chiefs allowed the second-fewest receiving yards (2,159 or 134.9 ypg) to opposing wide receivers, trailing only the Los Angeles Rams (2,075, 130) in that category. Of Josh Allen's 287 passing yards passing on Sunday, 195 went to wide receivers, while the Chiefs allowed just 207 yards through the air — only 131 to wide receivers — in the Divisional Round against Cleveland. With the Buccaneers, like the Chiefs, possessing a wide range of options in the passing game, limiting Tom Brady and his wide receivers will be a crucial task for the Chiefs.
3. Mahomes' blitz-beating capability
One way to attempt to get an opposing offense out of rhythm is to bring a blitz, and Tampa Bay — led by defensive coordinator Todd Bowles — is no stranger to doing just that. According to Pro Football Focus, the Buccaneers blitzed on 39 percent of dropbacks, the fifth-highest rate in the NFL and second-highest in the NFC behind only Arizona (Bowles' former team), who blitzed at a 39.3 percent clip.
But Mahomes has thrived against pressure-heavy looks throughout the season. He's faced a blitz on nearly 22 percent of his dropbacks this season and has actually done better facing a blitz than when not. For the season he's completed 66.5 percent of his passes, a mark that jumps to 70.8 percent when blitzed (66.2 percent when not blitzed). Sixteen of his 39 touchdowns have come against a blitz, but he has thrown just one of his six interceptions in that situation. Mahomes' intimate knowledge of the playbook and his pass catchers' tendencies have been integral to his success even when facing pressure, and the ability to make the right read when blitzed or make something happen off-script will need to be on full display once again against a defense that has been successful bringing pressure the majority of this season.
4. Defensive line causing havoc
Just as Mahomes has thrived on beating the blitz, his defensive teammates have done well with pressuring opposing quarterbacks. Per PFF, the Chiefs have allowed the lowest opponent survival rate (rate of preventing a QB pressure) after just two seconds after the snap.
While Mahomes has excelled against pressure, Brady has not enjoyed the same level of success when blitzed. Brady has faced a blitz on a little more than 27 percent of his dropbacks, and his completion percentage (58.5 percent) is nearly eight points lower than when he is not blitzed (66.2). Perhaps more notable is that, per PFF, while his touchdown share (14 vs. blitz, 33 vs. no blitz) falls more in line with the rate at which he's blitzed, a troubling 40 percent of his interceptions (six of 15) have come against a blitz, a likely area for the Chiefs' defensive front to try and exploit.
5. Team's belief that it can win any game
Thanks to its prolific offense, Kansas City has a strong belief that it is hardly out of any game, even when behind early — which was the case on Sunday when Buffalo led 9-0 after the first 15 minutes of play. The second quarter has been the money quarter for the Chiefs all season long, as their 10.2 points per game in the second quarter alone are tied for the second-best mark in the NFL.
Kansas City has scored 40 second-quarter points across its last three games, including 21 against Buffalo and 13 against Cleveland in the Divisional Round. That level of firepower on offense helps instill a belief that the team can be aggressive because, in most situations when they have fallen behind, the Chiefs have demonstrated an ability to get up off the mat and claw back into games, often en route to a win.
Without question, Kansas City possesses a brilliant offense that can strike in a number of ways. Those dynamic playmakers on offense stand alongside a defense that's the best in the league at getting quick pressure while having a knack for keeping opposing wideouts in check. That combination offers this Kansas City team a legitimate chance at keeping one of the greatest quarterbacks in history from hoisting his seventh Lombardi Trophy while joining the exclusive club of repeat Super Bowl champions.
— Written by Juan Jose Rodriguez, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a 2019 graduate of the University of Notre Dame. Rodriguez was an intern for Athlon during summer 2017 and worked for a variety of media outlets on campus, including as the Editor-in-Chief of Scholastic Magazine. Follow him on Twitter @JuanJoseRG02.
(Top photo by Andrew Mather, courtesy of chiefs.com)