Moneyline: Kansas City -169; Buffalo +150
It all comes down to one more game for the Chiefs and Buccaneers on February 7 as the two teams will meet in the last game of the NFL season to decide the winner of Super Bowl LV (that’s 55 for you non-Roman numeral fans). The Chiefs enter this game as small favorites which seems surprising based on the fact they’re the defending champions and have now only lost twice in their last 27-games and one of those losses came in Week 17 of this year when they rested their entire first-string offense.
The small spread can likely be traced back to a couple of factors here. The first is the venue. Tampa Bay is playing in its home stadium and this makes them the first team ever to reach a Super Bowl that is being hosted in their home city. It’s a hard thing to factor in in terms of handicapping this game as the game won’t have a ton of fans this year anyways (it looks 22,000 fans at most) and many of them are neutral anyways. Regardless, the home field is likely making at least a small impact in the betting markets.
The other factor here is who they’re going against. Tom Brady is (incredibly) making his 10th Super Bowl appearance this week and first for a team other than the Patriots. If you count all the seasons he’s started and finished (ie take out the ACL injury year in 2008) he’s now made the Super Bowl 50% of the time. That kind of consistency deserves some respect and that seems to be what the general public are giving him. Brady’s passer rating in the Super Bowl is just 95.6 but he’s been clutch in crunch time.
Brady will also have a solid defense helping out as the Bucs were sixth in sacks per game this year and took down Aaron Rodgers five-times in the NFC Championship.
Ultimately, despite playing at such a high level over the past five games, Brady and the Bucs defense may still need to find a higher gear. The Chiefs have developed into a kind of natural disaster, funneling through opponents in all various sorts of forms this season. Earlier in the season, they went full F5 Tornado on the Buccaneers secondary as Patrick Mahomes threw for 462-yards and three TDs while Tyreek Hill nearly shattered some single-game records with 13-receptions, 269 yards, and 3 TDs. That game ended 27-24 but really wasn’t close for the most part until late when the Chiefs defense got a little too flexible late in the game when up big. KC’s defensive unit has been under the radar solid all season though and is coming off a dominant performance against MVP candidate Josh Allen as they limited him to a 58% completion percentage–one of his worst performances of the year–and sacked him four times.
This game does have a 57 O/U (as of writing) and two QBs playing at the highest level but the defenses here could tell the story.
Against the Spread
- Kansas City 8-10 ATS in 2020 and 4-4 ATS away
- Tampa Bay 11-8 ATS in 2020 and 5-3 ATS at home
- The Chiefs listed eight players as limited in their first practice of the week. Running backs Le’Veon Bell (knee) and Clyde Edwards-Helaire (ankle/hip), cornerbacks Rashad Fenton (foot) and L’Jarius Sneed (concussion), linebacker Willie Gay Jr. (ankle) offensive linemen Mike Remmers (groin), and Andrew Wylie (ankle) and wide receiver Sammy Watkins (calf).
- Patrick Mahomes practiced in full. He is now recovered from his concussion/neck issue that he suffered in the Division round but is still dealing with a toe issue that limited his mobility a touch in the Chiefs first playoff game. The extra week could be very helpful to him in that regard.
- Eric Fisher (achilles) is out for this game opening up a big hole on the Chiefs Offensive Line. The Bucs path to winning here (if they have one) definitely included their D-Line taking over.
- WR Antonio Brown, S Jordan Whitehead, and S Antoine Winfield Jr. were all listed as “did not participate” for Wednesday
- Brown and Winfield will be important names to monitor this week as both are key figures in the Bucs plans and both missed the game vs. Green Bay
- It’s possible the Bcs will be close to full strength this week although there has been a lot of cloak and dagger stuff around the severity of Brown’s injury
Chiefs Offense vs. Buccaneers defense
The Chiefs offense ranked first in total yards per game at 415 and in pass yards at 303 per. They sat sixth in total points and gave up the fourth fewest TO’s on the year with just 16. KC didn’t have an elite rush attack but did rank 11th in YPC this year on offense at 4.5 YPC. Patrick Mahomes definitely has some sneaky upside in this department too as he averaged over 5.0 YPC for the second season in a row.
Tampa’s defense is marked by an elite front-7 and a talented but mistake prone secondary. The Bucs gave up the fewest YPC this year at 3.7 YPC and also ranked sixth in the league in sacks per game. On the backend though, they gave up the fifth most receptions to opposing WRs and the 12th most yards passing per game. They did rank fifth in TO’s created, however, and creating fumbles or INTs here might be the only way they slow down this elite KC unit.
Buccaneers Offense vs. Chiefs defense
The Buccaneers offense comes into this game ranked third in points scored per game and seventh in total yards gained. They’ve been even more of a one dimensional offense than the Chiefs, averaging under 100-yards rushing per game (94.9) and ranked fourth-last in that category in 2020. Tampa likes to take deep shots though and they ranked seventh in yards per play this year and eighth in yards per pass attempt.
The Bucs will likely try and air it out often when they can but they’ll be going up against an opportunistic secondary. The Chiefs were fifth in INTs and ninth in total turnovers this year and nobody allowed fewer receptions to the WR position this year. KC also allowed the second fewest receiving yards to opposing WRs so the duel between KC’s secondary and Tampa’s WR-crew is going to be an important one. If Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and co. can make some plays downfield like they did last game Tampa will at least force KC to keep the pedal down all game on offense.
Chiefs 31 Buccaneers 24
The Chiefs are the best team in football, with the best player in football. No disrespect to the Buccaneers who have been on quite a late season run but looking back at their win over Green Bay and you can see how luck perhaps has played a factor in them being here. The Bucs have a great defensive line, one that took down Aaron Rodgers five times last week. Pressure can win games against poor QBs but Aaron Rodgers didn’t lose that game for Green Bay. He put up a 101.6 passer rating, threw for 346 yards and three TDs and by all means gave the Packers a chance to tie the game at the end, a chance their coach ultimately didn’t take. In Week 10, the Bucs sacked Patrick Mahomes twice and hit him seven times but still allowed him 462 yards and three TDs.
The Bucs have really been succeeding late in the year because of a crazy deep ball completion percentage late in the year that seems likely to regress soon. The Chiefs secondary has been airtight all season, especially on the outside against big WRs where they’ve allowed the second fewest yards to the WR position all season. Tampa’s a gutsy team with a coach that is willing to take shots on third and long when it’s right to do so. That makes them a tough opponent but also a beatable one as they still find themselves in those situations far too often. The Chiefs are a fine-oiled machine on both sides of the field right now, a better version of the Packers team the Bucs had to run like God-against like week to beat. I’ll take the Chiefs here and happily pay for the -3, whatever the price. KC shouldn’t be this small favorites against anyone in the league right now and I think they show why on Feb. 7th.
As I mentioned above, the Bucs have been living and dying by the deep ball and that seems like a bad recipe for points against a Chiefs defense who has been so good late in the year at limiting those big plays. KC has limited their last two opponents to an average of 20.5 points and held their last two QBs to completion percentage under 63% and passer ratings under 82%. If you take the Week 17 game against L.A (where they sat starters) the last three Chiefs games have all hit the under easily. You also have history to contend with here as Super Bowls have rarely hit this high a total with only three of the last 15 going for more than 56 points. With two underrated defenses in play, I’ll side with the under.
I outlined why I like the Chiefs above so looking for more risky, but plus-money opportunities to take the Chiefs in props is worthwhile for me. Neither of these teams have been great starters but Tampa’s recipe for getting points (Brady chucking it deep on third and long) feels much more likely to lead to a poor start here. It’s worth noting too that while KC has gotten off to some slow starts in the first Q, they were more than a TD ahead in each of their first two playoff games at halftime. If you don’t like full game spreads or are just looking for a different way to add more Chiefs to the betting portfolio, this one sticks out to me as a good way to do so.
Williams played over 45% of the snaps last week against Buffalo and has now converted five targets over their first two playoff games into 5 receptions. Tampa Bay by default allows lots of RB targets given how well they stop the run and I expect the Chiefs to attack that weakness with an extra screen or two to Williams in this game. The big plus money here makes chasing the over here worthwhile.
I like targeting overs on WRs who can make big splash plays and Hardman certainly fits this bill. While he can mistake prone he still averaged over 13 yards per reception on the season and should get some really good looks against a Bucs secondary who just allowed similar speed threat Marquez Valdez Scantling to go for 114 yards on just four catches. I also like thinking about Hardman as a possible SB MVP longshot bet given his role on special teams opens up the possibility of a multi-score game (think Desmond Howard circa Green Bay 1997).
Butker has already kicked four FGs this playoff run and had five attempts. The Chiefs land right in the middle of the pack in terms of kicks made this year but Tampa’s red zone defense has looked solid in the postseason and Butker has a good range. Chasing kicker bets is a little thin but ultimately the price we’re getting here seems big enough to grab the over.
Brady and the Bucs seem likely to leave nothing in the tank here. While their success on deep plays has led to a few lessor pass attempts in their last couple of playoff games the Chiefs defense doesn’t seem likely to allow as many deep completions here. Ultimately, Brady had thrown 40 or more times in five of his last seven games before wins over Green Bay and New Orleans. The Chiefs have also allowed an average of 43.5 pass attempts against in their two playoff games.