Over/Under: 56 | Kickoff: 6:30 p.m ET | TV: CBS
A lot of things in life don’t live up to the hype. But this? This virtual passing-of-the-torch spectacle between maybe the two men who will ultimately be remembered as the two best to ever do it?
Well, you’d simply be a fool not to trust the present glamour and all the past glory in delivering a sure showdown for the ages.
As such, that means to look toward the scoreboard hosting plenty of activity all evening long. I mean, how could you not?
There’s Tom Brady. Just the name itself elicits almost goosebumps at this point. He’s 43 years old, yet here he is once again in his 10th Super Bowl, chasing a seventh ring. Brady remarkably already holds the record for both.
Adding extra spiciness to this particular journey to Super Sunday is that it has come in his first year outside of New England. A trip going all the way with the Bucs also required snapping the NFC’s longest playoff dry spell (13 years).
Not only that, Brady is clearly still playing at a high level, as evident in the 102.2 passer rating he registered this season. Furthermore, his offense hung up 30.8 points per game, ranking Tampa third. To put the significance of this in perspective, a Brady-led offense had not averaged 30 points each week since the 2012 Patriots.
Probably the most powerful component of Brady’s allure is his excellence in big games. There’s nothing quite like playing in a Super Bowl, thus making it crucial to consider one’s track record. Brady has played in more of them (nine) than anyone else in history, and his success throughout that lengthy sample size is astounding.
In those nine championship affairs, Brady notched a 95.6 passer rating, but has been even sharper in the more recent ones. The man’s thrown for a whopping 350 yards on average over his last six Super Bowls, after all. But just as important as anything, it’s basically automatic that he’ll throw a lot, which is a tendency he’s displayed on this big stage.
Specifically, Brady has averaged 43.6 pass attempts (45.6 if you take out his first one back in ‘01). And that’s even when he’s often been the winning quarterback. In other words, no matter how this game plays out — whether it be the Buccaneers down and having to play in catch-up mode, or simply trying to hold off and outscore the Chiefs — Tampa Bay will be taking to the air plenty. As it is, they are one of the NFL’s pass-happier teams.
That’s critical to note in terms of game flow and cranking out a healthy amount of scoring — because we know that’s what KC will do, as we’ve grown accustomed to.
Patrick Mahomes being right up there with Brady when his career is all said and done is no exaggeration. Yes, he’s only about to complete his third campaign as a starting QB1 but think about it: Mahomes really should be shooting for his third title here.
Ironically, Mahomes met Brady at the conclusion of his first year as a starter in the NFC Championship Game. If not for an ill-advised Dee Ford defensive offsides penalty with a minute left in that game (which wiped out a game-sealing interception that it had nothing to do with), KC would’ve advanced — and we can say they’d have rolled over the Rams.
Mahomes shined last year in his first Super Bowl conquest and will look to pull off the first championship repeat feat since — who else? — Brady and the Patriots almost two full decades ago.
Comparisons to Michael Jordan began to grow rampant this week thanks to owner Clark Hunt, but as I first highlighted earlier during the season, the thoughts are no doubt legit. Like Mike, Mahomes’ own brand of “Airness” has been glaringly special right from the onset of his career. Hyperlink:
What I love about Mahomes is that he never disappoints. There are no bigger spots to deliver than postseason ones and just look at what the former Red Raider has done in seven lifetime playoff dates: 65.5 percent passing, 17 touchdowns compared to only two interceptions, and, really, a mesmerizing 109.8 passer rating.
Most importantly when it comes to over/unders is the points Mahomes has been able to dial up from this output. You couldn’t really ask for more, as the Chiefs are absurdly plating 34.1 points in postseason contests with Mahomes as the signal-caller — and this includes the 22-point outing in the Divisional Round when he was limited to only about a half.
While it’s true that Kansas City’s banged-up offensive line could play a negative role for the superstar, I don’t think it will be that severe. Mahomes, remember, was the only quarterback in the league to finish with a positive EPA (Expected Points Added) while dealing with pressure, something that he also accomplished as the only QB to do so just a season ago.
These clubs were cemented first and second, respectively, in the NFL in passing yards per game. Both throw a lot within the identity of their offenses, and why wouldn’t they continue to do so given the legends they have working behind center?
Normally I wouldn’t advise buying two points, which creates unfriendly -150 odds, but being the last game of the year and having the chance to secure a main key number like 54 (think 34-20/30-24) on this type of matchup, I’m going for it.
The Play: OVER 54 (-150)
The Record: 10-9-1, -0.4 unit
Last Game: Bills-Chiefs Over 54 (WIN)
*Each bet graded as if it were to win 1 unit
Tom Brady Over/Under 39.5 Pass Attempts
Just like I went through above, Brady has showcased a habit for throwing and throwing frequently when playing in the Big Game. No matter the game outcome, the former Patriot should sail beyond that.
The Pick: OVER 39.5 (-110)
Buccaneers First Offensive Play: Pass or Run
OK, I’ve gone on and on about Brady’s consistency in Super Bowls. Another wrinkle is that his offenses have almost always come out to start the game with a pass. That’s exactly what happened in his first eight Super Bowls before the Pats ran a running play in his most recent one. Given that this could be Brady’s last, I say he sets the tone on the first play, seeking a sizable chunk through the air. Bruce Arians provides him that freedom as well.
The Pick: PASS (+105)