Super Bowl LV Position Preview

One Generation GOAT vs. The next Generation GOAT in the making.

I was already pretty excited for this year’s Super Bowl, but this past weekend of no football has only added more hype and anticipation as we get set for Super Bowl LV.

This game features Super Bowl LIV MVP and champion, Patrick Mahomes, and Tom Brady who is making his 10th Super Bowl appearance, an NFL record. I love what this game entails as there should be no shortage of points scored (over/under is 56.5). Also, for the first time in Super Bowl history, a team (Tampa Bay) will be playing the Super Bowl in their home stadium.

Everyone is watching this game… there’s no way around it. Whether you’re preparing for a party, loading up on snacks and beer while talking trash about both teams if you don’t have a rooting interest, you’re going to be glued to the TV for at least four hours on Sunday.

I love this time of year. The beers will be flowing and a ton of food will be eaten. Hell, a drinking game may even be added for additional entertainment. And since it’s become a tradition at this point, I’ll once again be a trooper and go to work on hangover Monday. Physically, in person. No work from home for this guy!

Let’s jump into the preview as we breakdown the QB’s, RB’s, WR’s, TE’s and defenses!

Quarterbacks

We’ll start with the visiting team in each of these. The last time these two teams met, back in Week 10, Mahomes went 37/49 for 462 yards and three touchdowns along with four carries for another 28 yards and one lost fumble.

The 14-2 Chiefs are coming into Raymond James Stadium after taking down both Cleveland and Buffalo behind 580 passing yards and four touchdowns from Mahomes. This season, Mahomes continued to prove he’s one of the game’s elites throwing for 4,740 yards (2nd in the league) and 38 touchdowns (4th in the league) to lead the Chiefs to the #1 seed in the AFC, securing homefield advantage and a first-round bye.

Tom Brady has shown that age is just a number, but the 43-year-old Michigan man had a bit of a struggle the last time these two met going 27/41 for 345 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. The game didn’t start well for Tampa as Kansas City went up 17-0 quickly, but per usual, Brady worked his magic and got the Bucs within three before ultimately falling short, 27-24.

This season the GOAT has been able to put up stellar stats as he finished with 4,633 passing yards (3rd in the league) and 40 touchdowns. Good enough for the #5 seed in the NFC and the Bucs’ second Super Bowl appearance since 2002.

We’ve seen that Mahomes and the Chiefs have plenty of offense to beat anyone in the league, but we’re starting to see the Bucs’ defense showing the dominance it had earlier in the season, which could provide Mahomes with a few issues. The closest game the Chiefs had so far during the playoffs was against the Cleveland Browns, and the majority of that had to do with Mahomes going out in the third quarter with a concussion. As we all know, Chad Henne was able to maintain the lead and keep Baker Mayfield and the Browns from completing the comeback. Then, in the conference championship against Buffalo, Mahomes came back from a 9-0 deficit to win with ease, 38-24. This Kansas City Chiefs team is on a hot streak and will look to continue rolling with their high-tempo quarterback, who should be close to 100% from his turf toe injury.

Brady, on the other hand, has had lady luck on his side during the playoffs. We all knew how the outcome of the Washington game would be, but still, they (Washington) put up a good fight against this Tampa Bay team. The following week was a different story against the New Orleans Saints. The final score was 30-20, but it was really Drew Brees and his three interceptions that cost New Orleans the game. I’m not blaming the entire loss on him, but the final interception on a pass that bounced off Jared Cook sealed the deal. If that pass was complete, the game outcome could have been totally different.

Onto the conference championship which was… fun. 

Here at Loaded Box we have a huge Packers fan in DJ Premo. What tops that is another contributor, Patrick Doyle, aka POD, is a Patriots/Brady fan. Do you see where I am going with this?

Patrick and DJ were going back and forth about the NFC Championship game and Pat couldn’t have said it any better. This game might as well be called the Tom Brady Invitational. Brady is a winner and always knows how to find his way to the top. If you could have seen the messaging going back and forth between these two in our LBP group message, you would have been quite entertained.

The game lived up to the hype as Tampa Bay went on to win, 31-26, despite Brady throwing three interceptions and the Packers electing to kick a field goal when they were eight yards away from the end zone with just 2:09 left on the clock.

You’re probably asking yourself where I am going with this as I barely scraped the surface with Mahomes, but am going into depth on Brady. Well, there has been a tail of Tom Brady. Against the Packers, he did all of his damage in the first half and then turned into a bit of a disaster in the second half. Also, throughout this year’s playoffs, his QB rating has gone down from 104.3>92.9>73.8. This is not a trend that bodes well for Brady heading into the most important game of the season. This game will come down to more than just how well Brady plays, but I do think this is where the luck comes to an end for Brady and the Cinderella story of the 2020 Tampa Bay Buccaneers. 

Advantage: Kansas City Chiefs

Running Backs

The Kansas City Chiefs used the 32nd pick in last year’s draft to select 2019 LSU National Champion Clyde Edwards-Helaire. I was super excited when they drafted him and I instantly thought he would supersede, at that time, Damien Williams as the team’s starting RB. As we all found out as the regular season approached, Williams opted out due to COVID-19 concerns and it was history. CEH wasn’t a stud, per say, but he delivered when needed during the season with 181 attempts for 803 yards and four touchdowns along with 36 receptions (54 targets) for another 297 yards and one touchdown. He should be back closer to 100 percent after the hip injury held him to just six carries for seven yards and a touchdown in the AFC Championship against Buffalo. 

Darrel Williams is a name you may hear often this Sunday depending on how Edwards-Helaire feels with the hip. Williams held his own rushing the ball 13 times for 52 yards and a touchdown against the Bills and did just fine with CEH being limited. Even if CEH is close to 100%, expect Williams to spell him at various times throughout the game.

Le’Veon Bell has went from a high-round fantasy pick to a third-string running back in a very short amount of time. Bell was second on the team in rushing with 63 attempts for 254 yards and two touchdowns while adding 13 receptions for 99 yards through the air. He really hasn’t been able to deliver for Andy Reid after being signed during the season as it appears his best days are behind him. He is currently “limited” with a knee injury, but it sounds like he could be available if needed.

Ronald Jones was primarily the lead back in Tampa with 192 rush attempts, 978 rushing yards and seven touchdowns. He was up and down for the season as the Bucs went with the “hot-hand approach” as this backfield turned more into a committee depending on game script. During the NFC Championship game, Jones was listed with a quad injury and was limited to just 10 carries for 16 yards. With the extra week off Jones should be ready to go at full speed on Sunday.

The latest memory everyone has of Leonard Fournette is him being the main back in the NFC Championship game; and did he ever deliver. He finished the game with 12 carries for 55 (insert Sammy Hagar “I can’t drive 55” here; shut up, I’m old) yards and a touchdown. He performed well for the Bucs this season despite finishing with a career-low 97 attempts for 367 yards and six touchdowns. Jones and Fournette should split the backfield fairly evenly and provide a good thunder/lightning combination to keep the Chiefs’ defense on its heels.

These two backfields will be fun to monitor throughout the game as it wouldn’t surprise me to see one of these players have a bit of a breakout and become the ultimate X-factor in what most believe will be a game determined by the big-name quarterbacks and pass catchers.

Advantage: Even

Wide Receivers 

The cheetah himself, Tyreek Hill is so fast he can make a game-changing play from anywhere on the field. Defenses have a hard time stopping him because once those jets are at full speed, good luck catching him. I wrote these same exact words in the 2019 version of this article and it won’t change in this year’s version. He’s just that good. He led Chiefs’ wide receivers with 87 receptions (135 targets) for 1,276 yards and 15 touchdowns. Hill has been as advertised so far through the playoffs receiving back-to-back, double-digit target games and over 100 receiving yards in both. He doesn’t have a touchdown yet this postseason, but you know that can change at any point in time. Remember what Hill did to Tampa Bay earlier in the season? I’d say there’s a good chance his scoreless playoffs comes to an end Sunday.

The other wide receivers in this core are built off solid speed. If Sammy Watkins is able to play this Sunday opposite of Tyreek, I like the Chiefs’ odds better; if not, they still have plenty of firepower in Mecole Hardman, Demarcus Robinson (COVID-19 list), and if you’re lucky, Byron Pringle. I like Hardman to be the No. 2 threat on the outside for Kansas City as his speed puts him in the same category as Hill when it comes to being able to score on any given play.

Mike Evans was the WR1 on this stacked wide receiver core leading the way with 70 receptions (109 targets) 1,006 yards and 13 touchdowns. He has now shown to be QB-proof when switching QB’s, but when you get Brady as your QB, you’re likely to succeed regardless. He has struggled a little bit the last two games but has been able to score when needed, which is on par for what he did during the regular season.

Chris Godwin finished second in all receiving categories behind Evans; all while only playing 12 games. He’s essentially served as the team’s WR1 during the playoffs, and as most of us predicted, he put together another solid outing against the Packers as Jaire Alexander saw more Evans than Godwin. Not that you would, but don’t sleep on Godwin as he’s turned into Brady’s go-to man.

Finally, that brings us to Antonio Brown. Who would have thought that one team would ever feature Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown all at the same time? Antonio Brown hasn’t been, well the Antonio Brown that we knew before he had his issues off of the field. He’s played for Tampa since Week 9, due to NFL league suspension, but occasionally we’ve seen a few glimpses of the old Antonio Brown, even at the age of 32. He hasn’t played since the New Orleans game and his status for the Super Bowl is looking doubtful. However, that’s perfectly okay as Scott Miller is starting to become a player of his own. Oh yeah, and he thinks he can beat Tyreek Hill in a foot race, so let’s see if he can show up on the biggest stage in sports.

I love both of these wide receiver cores and it’s hard to pick because both Mahomes and Brady operate in pass-happy offenses, but I give a slight advantage to Tampa.

Advantage: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tight Ends

This one is a fun one. Travis Kelce is the league’s new Rob Gronkowski. Kelce led the Chiefs with 105 receptions for 1,416 yards, the most in NFL history for a tight end. Kelce has been Mahomes’ favorite target all season, including the postseason. He hasn’t seen less than 10 targets since Week 12 and no less than six targets since a Week 7 blowout win over the Denver Broncos. He’s a touchdown machine and the best safety blanket in the league, in my opinion.

Rob Gronkowski has shown flashes of what he formerly was throughout the season, but more often than not he’s been just another guy. Gronkowski “retired” back at the end of the 2018 season, just to come back once Brady signed with the Buccaneers. But, as we have seen in recent years with Gronkowski, he’s taken a bit of a step back and isn’t the dominate force he once was in his earlier days in New England.

Also, we can’t forget about Cameron Brate. He wasn’t used much during the regular season, but has been making an impact during the playoffs. He’s a name you may hear quite often on Sunday, because as we all know, Brady’s not scared to get his tight ends involved early.

Baby Gronk vs. Gronk should be fun, but we all know who the best tight end in the league is. There is no question here. Travis Kelce takes this matchup; and with his freak size and athleticism, he has no problem bulldozing over defenders. Move over, Gronk.

Advantage: Kansas City Chiefs

Defense

After taking a deeper dive into the numbers, Kansas City features a better defense than I originally thought. They finished as the 11th-ranked defense in the league and were able to limit opposing team’s top receiver multiple times this season, most recently against the Bills when they held Stefon Diggs to six catches for 77 yards on 11 targets. This defense will force you to pass and put you in uncomfortable situations, which has led to 16 forced interceptions. They help keep games close, but with Mahomes manning the offense, they truly don’t need to be great or elite.

The Bucs’ defense surprised me as well as they were the 8th-ranked defense in the league. So we’ve got two top-12 defenses going up against each other, which should keep this score tight. Tampa Bay was just one forced interception behind the Chiefs with 15, but they feature a more disruptive defensive line and linebackers than Kansas City.

With the Chiefs losing Eric Fisher for the game, I am curious to see how they handle the Tampa defensive line that will be doing everything possible to harass Mahomes. On the other hand, Brady has been throwing interceptions lately, but it’s a team game, something that Brady will have to overcome, which I think he will.

Advantage: Pick’em

We should be in store for a solid back-and-forth Super Bowl as I’m looking for a high-scoring battle between these two teams.

My Prediction: Chiefs, 38-34.

Sorry Tom Brady, the throne has been handed over.

Ryan Miner is a featured blogger for the Loaded Box Podcast. Check out his article archive and find more from the Loaded Box on Twitter & Facebook

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