The 2020 NFL season has just one game left on the schedule, and it's the biggest of them all. We're down to the Chiefs and Buccaneers, with a Lombardi Trophy on the line. It's young gunslinger versus perpetual champion, with Patrick Mahomes and Tom Brady under center. Who could've scripted a better showdown?
Oddsmakers understandably think this one will be close, with the reigning champion Chiefs favored by just three points. So who's actually set to come out on top? Here's an early forecast of how Super Bowl LV will unfold:
Super Bowl LV prediction
Let's start here: This should be a lot of fun. The storylines by themselves are Super Bowl-caliber: Mahomes looking to become the youngest to win multiple Super Bowls, Brady looking to become the first player to win seven championships, Andy Reid looking to exact revenge on Brady for his first Super Bowl defeat back in 2004, the Chiefs looking to confirm themselves as today's dynasty-in-the-making, Tampa Bay looking to prove you can essentially buy your way to a title with big names.
As for the on-field matchup, let's break it down by what each side has going for it.
What picks can you make with confidence or the Super Bowl? What props should you make? And what will the exact final score be? Visit SportsLine now to see which picks you should be all over, all from the model that's up nearly $7,900 on its top-rated picks.
What the Chiefs have going for them:
- An unmatched ability to score on a moment's notice. As long as Mahomes is at quarterback and Reid is steering the ship, the Chiefs simply cannot be counted out offensively. It doesn't matter if you kill 10 minutes of clock and take a late lead; if there's time for even a couple plays with the ball in Mahomes' hands, Kansas City is within reach.
- The Bucs have dropped at least 30 points in six straight games dating back to mid-December, but consider who they've beaten along the way: the 4-12 Falcons (twice), the 5-11 Lions, 7-9 Washington, the Saints with Drew Brees halfway settled into retirement, and a Packers team that chose conservative game-planning over Aaron Rodgers' arm in the NFC Championship Game. They're explosive, but the Chiefs are a different animal, as evidenced by K.C.'s 17-0 run to start the two sides' matchup earlier this year -- a victory for the Chiefs.
- A bend-but-don't-break defense. Everyone knows this game is all about Mahomes and the Chiefs' fireworks (Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, etc.), but guys like Chris Jones and Tyrann Mathieu are built for championship moments. They flashed in the AFC title game and are more than capable of feasting on miscues from Brady, who's not been immune to multiple-interception games.
What the Buccaneers have going for them:
- Destiny. How else do you describe Brady's Hall of Fame trajectory? No, the guy isn't always putting his teams on his back, but you don't go to 10 Super Bowls and win six Lombardi Trophies by accident. One look at his weaponry, from Mike Evans to Chris Godwin to Antonio Brown to Leonard Fournette, should be reason enough to believe he can go toe to toe with Mahomes on the big stage, even if it's not as consistently flashy.
- The Chiefs lost left tackle Eric Fisher to a big injury in the AFC title game. Without him, they're going to either have trouble or be forced to get creative blocking the Bucs' pass rush, headlined by Jason Pierre-Paul, Shaquil Barrett and blitzing linebacker Devin White. Mahomes is nimble enough to get out of pressure, but a consistent push in his face would go a long way toward shortening Kansas City series.
- Home-field advantage. This one doesn't deserve too much stock, but it should not be discounted. Never before has a team played a Super Bowl on its own turf. The Bucs will be coming out of their locker room, using their sidelines, defending their field. Couple that with the fact defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, a former Andy Reid staffer, should be at least slightly familiar with some of K.C.'s offensive wrinkles; not to mention the Chiefs' game plan from earlier this year, and Tampa should come in confident.
This figures to be close. Brady cannot be counted out. Period. But at the end of the day, the Chiefs are the Chiefs, and as hyperbolic as dynasty talk may have been after their last Super Bowl win, the reality is they all but went half-speed for much of 2020 and still ended up 14-2, cruising past the Bills in the AFC Championship Game with some of the league's most explosive play-makers. If it's fourth down at midfield, they're not going to play it safe, unlike the Saints and Packers who matched up with Tampa Bay earlier this postseason. They're going to go for it all. And they, despite every effort from Brady, will do it again.
Pick: Chiefs 32, Buccaneers 28