The past takes on the present in Super Bowl LV Sunday night when the reigning-champion Kansas City Chiefs defend their title against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Tampa.
While Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes is widely considered today’s best, opposite number Tom Brady, playing in his record-10th Super Bowl at age 43, may well be the greatest ever.
Brady has taken the Buccaneers to their first Super Bowl since January 2003, and first playoff appearance since 2007 in his first season with the team after winning six Super Bowls in New England, cementing his legacy independent of Patriots coach Bill Belichick.Embed from Getty Images
Throwing 40 touchdowns to an all-star receiving cast including Mike Evans, who became the only player in history to start his career with seven-straight 1,000-yard seasons, and Chris Godwin, Brady led the league’s 2nd strongest passing attack to an 11-5 regular season record and defeated three division champions in the playoffs.
Brady’s arrival also helped bring his old favourite target Rob Gronkowski and disgraced former All-Pro Antonio Brown to Tampa.
Former Patriots tight-end Gronkowski came out of retirement, and Brown spent time living at Brady’s house earlier in the season during an eight-game suspension for multiple legal issues.Embed from Getty Images
The league’s sixth-best defence, led by linebackers Lavonte David and Devin White and a strong defensive line featuring ends Jason Pierre-Paul and Shaq Barrett, have ably assisted.
The pressure they put on Aaron Rodgers in the NFC Championship Game helped secure a 31-26 win over the Green Bay Packers despite Brady’s three second-half interceptions.Embed from Getty Images
But Mahomes has almost effortlessly led the only stronger passing attack than Brady’s, and best overall offence in the NFL, to 14-2 in the regular season, and a return to the title game.
The 25-year-old has only been an NFL starter for three seasons and his least successful season was 2018 where he only reached the AFC Championship Game and was named NFL MVP.
This year, tight-end Travis Kelce set the record for the position in receiving yardage with 1,416 and became the first tight-end in history with multiple 100 catch seasons, while Tyreek Hill caught 15 of Mahomes’ 38 touchdown passes, with both players having huge games in the 38-24 AFC conference title victory over the Buffalo Bills.Embed from Getty Images
Frank Clark, along with Chris Jones and All-Pro safety Tyrann Mathieu, are the stand-out names on an underrated Kansas City defence, ranked 16th in the league, that operates in the shadow of the fireworks from the offence.
The effect of the Buccaneers playing the Super Bowl in their home Raymond James Stadium, a league first, could go either way, as could Kansas City’s 27-24 victory in the same stadium in November, where they held off a Tampa Bay comeback and Tyreek Hill had 269 yards receiving plus three touchdowns.Embed from Getty Images
The Chiefs lost left tackle Eric Fisher to an Achilles injury against Buffalo, and linebacker Willie Gay is also out, but receiver Sammy Watkins is expected to be available.
Tight-end Cameron Brate is questionable for the Buccaneers, while Brown who missed the Packers game with a knee injury seems likely to play.
Kansas City will be favourites but Brady, who would personally surpass all NFL teams with a seventh Super Bowl victory, has already defied plenty of odds to reach this point.
Predicted Score – Chiefs 31-27 Buccaneers
To listen to the podcast preview discussion of the game between Sam Carroll and myself click here.