Tom Brady is poised to lead the Buccaneers to victory in Super Bowl LV
It's been 18 years since the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last made an appearance in the Super Bowl. But thanks in part to the addition of Tom Brady, the best postseason quarterback to ever play the game, that drought came to an end last Sunday. The Buccaneers raised the George Halas Trophy for just the second time in franchise history, officially crowning them as NFC champions by virtue of a 31-26 victory over the top-seeded Packers. It's a title that did not come easy for the NFC's No. 5 seed. Tampa Bay had to overcome difficult matchups against Washington (31-23), New Orleans (30-20), and Green Bay to become just the fifth team ever to win three consecutive playoff road games to advance to the Super Bowl. For their efforts, the Buccaneers now have the privilege of being the first team in NFL history to play a Super Bowl in their home stadium.
Bruce Arians and his Buccaneers will now face the ultimate test on the NFL’s biggest stage against the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs had some difficulty in the Divisional Round against Cleveland after losing star quarterback Patrick Mahomes to a concussion. But Kansas City ultimately persevered with a 22-17 victory over the Browns. Mahomes returned last Sunday for the AFC Championship Game against Buffalo, as the top-seeded Chiefs scored a convincing 38-24 win over the Bills to punch their ticket into the big game for the second year in a row. Oddsmakers in Vegas have the Chiefs pegged as an early three-point favorite over the Buccaneers in Super Bowl LV. That might actually be good news for the Bucs, who have thrived as an underdog during the postseason, playing the role of spoiler in each of their last two playoff matchups. That is just one of several reasons to like Tampa Bay's chances on Super Sunday. But just in case you need further convincing, here are five reasons why you will see the Buccaneers hoisting the coveted Lombardi Trophy when all is said and done on Feb. 7 inside Raymond James Stadium.
5 Reasons Why the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Will Win Super Bowl LV
1. Tom Brady — The G.O.A.T.
This one is obvious, but there is not another quarterback on the planet more valuable on Super Sunday than Tom Brady. He is already the proud owner of six Super Bowl rings and four Super Bowl MVP trophies. And he's unquestionably the greatest postseason quarterback of all time. Super Bowl LV will mark Brady's 10th appearance in the big game. And even at age 43, he continues to play at a very high level. In his first regular-season in a Buccaneer uniform, Brady completed 66 percent of his pass attempts for 4,633 yards with 40 touchdowns and a passer rating of 102.2. More importantly, there's no substitute for Brady's talent, experience, poise, and fortitude, which will all pay big dividends in Super LV. Patrick Mahomes is a very worthy adversary as a former Super Bowl champion and MVP himself, but this isn't Jimmy Garoppolo that he will be paired against this time around - he's going head-to-head with the G.O.A.T. Brady has already bounced legendary quarterbacks Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers from the playoffs, and he's more than capable of doing the same to Mahomes, particularly in a Super Bowl setting, where Brady is typically at his best.
2. Plenty of offensive firepower on tap
There's no question that Brady is the primary catalyst behind Tampa Bay's rise to prominence this season. But he couldn't have done it alone. And while Mahomes' supporting cast in Kansas City ranks among the best in the league, a strong argument can be made that Brady's arsenal of explosive weapons is even better. Tampa Bay doesn't have just one former All-Pro wide receiver on the roster, or even two for that matter — they have three. Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown are all elite talents that give defensive backs fits and can put up huge numbers in any given game. And the superstar talent doesn't end there. The Bucs also have future Hall of Fame tight end Rob Gronkowski, a favorite target of Brady's through their many years together. Backup tight end Cameron Brate has proven to be a valuable asset as well, while wide receivers Scotty Miller and Tyler Johnson are capable pass catchers. Add in a pair of talented running backs in Ronald Jones II and Leonard Fournette, and you might just have the best arsenal of weapons in the league. And we'd be remiss to leave out Tampa Bay's offensive line, which allowed the fourth-fewest sacks (22) during the regular season and graded out as the fifth-best in the NFL — six spots ahead of Kansas City's O-line (according to PFF). The Buccaneers have more than enough firepower on offense to get the job done against a middle-of-the-road Kansas City defense on Super Sunday.
3. Superior defense
Tampa Bay ranked ninth in the NFL this season in defensive efficiency, while Kansas City ranked a mediocre 20th. Tampa Bay also boasts the No. 1-ranked run defense in the NFL (80.6 ypg, 3.6 ypc, and the fewest rushing TDs allowed), while Kansas City finished the season ranked 21st against the run. The Chiefs were better in terms of passing yards allowed, but it was by a pretty small margin. And a Kansas City pass rush that produced 32 sacks pales in comparison to a Buccaneers' pass rush that generated 48 (fourth-most) during the regular season. That bodes well for top-flight pass rushers Jason Pierre-Paul (11.5 sacks including playoffs), Shaquil Barrett (11) and Devin White (9), who will be paired against a Kansas City offensive line that will be without three starters from last year's Super Bowl-winning team in All-Pro guard Mitchell Schwartz (knee), Pro Bowl left tackle Eric Fisher (Achilles) and guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif (opted out). Tampa Bay also has one of the most opportunistic defenses in the league. The Buccaneers scored 101 points (third-most in the NFL) off of 25 takeaways (fourth-most) during the regular season. And they have been even better in that regard during the postseason, capitalizing on seven turnovers to produce 41 of their 93 total points in three playoff games so far. Todd Bowles' defense isn't without its faults, but the Bucs seems to have the clear advantage on that side of the ball in his matchup.
4. Momentum and home-field advantage
It takes momentum to make it all the way to the Super Bowl, and both teams come into this game with plenty of it. However, only one of these teams will make their way into Super Bowl LV riding a seven-game winning streak. Tampa Bay also is averaging a ridiculous 34.3 points per game during that stretch, which includes three consecutive playoff road games. Meanwhile, the Chiefs have produced at a clip of 26.4 points per game during that same seven-game stretch.
Tampa Bay has the benefit of home-field advantage as well. Raymond James Stadium won't be chock-full of Buccaneer supporters on Super Sunday due to COVID-19 restrictions. But the comforts and familiarity that come with playing in their home stadium should provide the Bucs with an edge. Tampa Bay head coach Bruce Arians also thinks being at home will provide an advantage, stating "I think the big advantage is we stay in our own beds, sleep here and just do our normal routine. Nothing is out of the ordinary until we hit the media sessions next week. But just to be able to stay in your routine, sleep in your bed and all that stuff, I think it's a huge advantage."
5. The kicking game
Kickers rarely get the credit they deserve. However, the kicking game can be a huge part of a team's success (or lack thereof). The kicking game almost always plays a critical role in the outcome, with games won and lost every week in the NFL based on this often-overlooked aspect. And with Super LV shaping up to be a closely contested shootout, one made or missed kick could make all the difference. That being said, you couldn't ask for a more clutch kicker than Tampa Bay's Ryan Succop at the moment. Succop has missed just one field goal in his last 15 games. He's made good on 31 of his last 32 field goal attempts, including a perfect 8-for-8 in the playoffs. Kansas City kicker Harrison Butker is solid in his own right, but he's already missed a 33-yard field goal and an extra point in the Chiefs' two playoff games. If Super Bowl LV comes down to the kicking game, and it very well could, the red-hot Succop might just be the x-factor that helps lead the Bucs to the title.
— Written by Rob McVey, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @Rob_UTVOLS.
(Top photo courtesy of buccaneers.com)