With one game left, we’re both 9-3 in the playoffs. Someone will claim the postseason crown, because MDS and I disagree on the outcome of Super Bowl LV.
Against the spread, the best I can hope for is a tie. MDS is 7-5, and I’m 6-6.
For our Super Bowl selections, keep read. (Or not; the page view already has registered.)
MDS’s take: Never in NFL history has there been a quarterback matchup better than this one: Tom Brady is polishing off the greatest résumé any NFL player has ever put together, while Patrick Mahomes is the one young quarterback who might plausibly surpass Brady one day. We’re lucky to get to see these two great players, one young and one old, face each other in the Super Bowl.
But it is, of course, about much more than just the quarterbacks. The Chiefs have Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce going up against a Buccaneers secondary that’s young and may not be 100 percent healthy. Kansas City has the ability to create so many mismatches that I just can’t see the Bucs’ defense holding the Chiefs’ offense in check. The Buccaneers do have a good defensive line going up against a banged-up Chiefs offensive line, and that could put a lot of pressure on Mahomes. Bucs defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, in particular, is a player I could see having a big game. But Mahomes is comfortable enough throwing on the run that even if he does face a lot of pressure, I think he’s due for another Super Bowl MVP performance.
Can Brady match that with another Super Bowl MVP performance of his own? I see him falling short. The Chiefs will bring pressure with Chris Jones and Frank Clark, and I see Tyrann Mathieu making some impact plays in the secondary. In the fourth quarter, the Chiefs’ offense will pull away while the Chiefs’ defense shuts down Brady’s final comeback attempt.
MDS’s pick: Chiefs 31, Buccaneers 21.
Florio’s take: I have a dilemma. Before the season began, I picked the Buccaneers to win the Super Bowl. As the Buccaneers prepare to play in the Super Bowl, I’m not so sure the Bucs will win. I predicted a Bucs-Pats matchup in Tampa, and I envisioned Tom Brady’s new team getting the better of his old team. Tampa Bay versus Kansas City presents a different analysis.
The Chiefs have played extremely well as the hunted. They play even better when they are also hunting. That’s why the postseason version of the Chiefs seems to be even better than the regular-season edition.
This year, the regular-season Chiefs were good enough to run up a 17-0 lead in Tampa and then hold on. While the Chiefs may not have similar luck right out of the gates, a more focused and locked-in Chiefs team easily could blow out the Buccaneers. From a pick-your-poison-and-then-be-fed-both-anyway offense featuring Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce catching passing from Patrick Mahomes to a defense with the firepower up front to put maximum pressure on Tom Brady (especially with 2007 Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo drawing up the K.C. defense) and the skill on the back end (led by Tyrann Mathieu) to slow down the Tampa receivers, the Chiefs seem loaded.
But the Buccaneers have Brady a great array of pass-catchers, a couple of very good ballcarriers, and an offensive line that has gotten better and better. The defense has, too, with high-end talent at every level.
Without the defense, the Bucs wouldn’t have gotten past the Saints. Without the defense, the Bucs wouldn’t have survived Brady’s three interceptions in three possessions in Green Bay. Without the defense, the Bucs would have no chance to outscore the Chiefs.
With the defense, the Bucs have a chance. With the defense, someone like Shaq Barrett, Devin White, or Antoine Winfield Jr. can provide the spark that flips the field and/or breaks serve, keeping the Chiefs from scoring and giving the Bucs more points.
In nine prior Super Bowls, Brady has always kept things close. Eight games ended within one score. Two years ago, the Patriots beat the Rams by 10, but the score remained 3-3 with fewer than eight minutes to play.
Although I can see the Chiefs winning, and winning easily, I can’t abandon the Bucs now. Brady, I believe, will keep it close. Brady, I believe, will make a big throw in a big spot. The defense, I believe, will make a big play in a big moment. The Buccaneers, I believe, will manage to look up at the scoreboard when the game is over and see, through the confetti, that they scored more points than the Buccaneers.
Florio’s pick: Buccaneers 30, Chiefs 27.