My editor provided the headline “Do the Bucs have what it takes to win Super Bowl 55?” and the answer is of course they do. After all, they got this far and they have the GOAT under center in Tom Brady – he of the record six Super Bowl rings. It’s Brady’s 10th Super Bowl all-time but his Bucs are 3-point favorites for Sunday at home vs. the Kansas City Chiefs. It’s just the second time Brady is a Super Bowl underdog on the NFL odds.
Super Bowl 55 | 2021 NFL Expert AnalysisAt age 43, Brady was about as good as ever – there were a few bad interceptions but he looked 33 most of the time. In his 21st NFL season, Brady led all qualified quarterbacks in air yards per attempt (9.6), redefining what can be expected of a quarterback his age. He stood as an outlier against the QB age curve when it comes to the vertical passing game.
The combination of Brady’s experience and arm talent, coupled with coach Bruce Arians‘ propensity to feature vertical routes, made the Bucs’ offense one of the most dangerous downfield passing attacks at any moment in the dropback. Since the Bucs and Chiefs met in Week 12, a 27-24 Kansas City win in Tampa, Brady has thrown at least one touchdown pass over 20 yards downfield in 7 of his last 8 games.
Since Week 12, Brady is 25-for-52 with 10 touchdowns and three interceptions on passes at least 20 yards downfield. In Week 1-11, he was 14-for-58 with two TDs and three picks on those throws.
Will Brady have Antonio Brown? The former All-Pro wideout is one of the best deep threats in the NFL. He missed the past two playoff games due to injury but is widely expected to play Sunday. The Buccaneers won’t put out another injury report until after Wednesday’s practice.
Brown re-joined Brady when he signed an incentive-laden 1-year, $1.6 million contract. The deal included a base salary of $750,000 and a $250,000 roster bonus. It also came with Super Bowl bonuses. Brown would earn an additional $750,000 if the Bucs win the game. That would match his entire base salary for his first season in Tampa Bay. Even if he doesn’t play in the Super Bowl, he gets $750,000 with a win.
Tampa Bay could catch a break if the Chiefs have a COVID outbreak and lose some key players. No one wants that, of course, but on Monday the team center Daniel Kilgore and receiver Demarcus Robinson on the league’s Reserve/COVID-19 list due to close contacts.
Robinson finished the regular season with the third-most receptions and fourth-most receiving yards on Kansas City’s roster, hauling in 45 catches for 466 yards and three touchdowns. Kilgore is crucial for depth along the Chiefs’ offensive line as the unit already will be without offensive tackles Mitchell Schwartz and Eric Fisher will miss the Super Bowl due to injuries.
Look for the Bucs to run the ball as much as possible to keep the high-powered Chiefs offense off the field. Tampa won’t beat Mahomes in a shootout; the Bills already proved that in the AFC title game and their offense was far more potent during the regular season than the Bucs’ was.Leonard Fournette could thus be crucial for Tampa Bay. After being waived by Jacksonville, the
Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed Fournette to a one-year contract. Competing with Ronald Jones for touches in the backfield, Fournette carried the ball just 97 times this regular-season for 367 yards and six touchdowns.
However, Fournette has taken over as the main guy in the playoffs. Fournette rushed 12 times for 55 yards and a touchdown in the Bucs’ NFC Championship Game win over the Packers, adding five receptions for 19 additional yards. Jones, meanwhile, has been banged up the past few games but is feeling better each day.
He struggled and got used sparingly against Green Bay, carrying the ball just 10 times for 16 total yards. Furthermore, Jones also didn’t receive any targets from quarterback Tom Brady for only the second time all year. Jones did have a good regular season as the lead back for the Buccaneers offense with a career-high 978 rushing yards on 5.1 yards per carry over 14 games.
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