After one of the most unconventional seasons yet, the NFL is finally about to turn the page on the 2020-2021 season. From game reschedulings to teams weighing the consequences of winning versus tanking, this season was a rollercoaster. Yet on Feb. 7, the curtain will close and Super Bowl LV will kick off as the Kansas City Chiefs face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Tampa Bay, Florida.
With the face of the next generation of quarterbacks squaring up against one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game, this year’s Super Bowl will be nothing short of thrilling. With a close game expected, Wheel staff offered some predictions on what team will take Super Bowl LV. Read our analysis below.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Jessica Solomon, sports editor: Brady magic
It’s hard to root against an all-time great. While I would love to choose quarterback Patrick Mahomes and his Chiefs as the victors in Super Bowl LV, I have to consider their opponent. Time and time again, Tom Brady has shown us just how powerful a team can become with the right quarterback. The Buccaneers, who went 7-9 last season without Brady, finished the regular season with an 11-5 record. As a hardcore Baltimore Ravens fan, I’m still scarred by Brady’s parade against the Ravens in the 2014 AFC divisional playoff game, where Brady and the New England Patriots triumphed 35-31 after coming back from a 14-point deficit. From a fan standpoint, I’m all in on Brady’s opponent. But if I’m honest with myself, I can’t avoid the feeling that Brady will somehow emerge victorious with his magic. On top of all that, it’s hard to root against one of the greatest underdog stories of all time. When Brady was drafted in 2000, he wasn’t selected by the Patriots until the sixth round. In his first season in the NFL, Brady only played in one game and was kept as the backup to quarterback Drew Bledsoe. However, when Bledsoe was injured in the 2001 season, Brady stepped up and led the team to a Super Bowl championship. From there, as we all know, the rest is history. So, in this Super Bowl, the choice for me is clear: Tampa Bay will take the throne.
Michael Mariam, asst. sports editor: Lombardi Trophy stays in TB with TB
I will not be making the same mistake I made in my 2020-2021 NFL season preview: underestimating Brady. At 43 years old, Brady is still playing top-notch football alongside his star-studded receiving corps of Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown and Rob Gronkowski. Although the Chiefs are the defending Super Bowl champions and won the AFC with a 14-2 record, Brady and the Bucs have a 12th man: home-field advantage. For the first time ever, one of the teams in the big game is playing on their home turf. While the stadium won’t be decked out in Bucs decorations like it would be on a normal game day, the comfort of playing at home cannot be trivialized. What’s even more valuable this year about playing at home is the elimination of travel. The Chiefs have already placed two of their players on the COVID-19 list while the Bucs are still COVID-free. Since the Bucs won’t need to take a plane, there’s one less opportunity for a player to contract the virus or even travel fatigue. In an entertaining quarterback face-off between Brady and Mahomes, expect a high-scoring affair where Brady’s 20-plus years of experience will prevail.
Kansas City Chiefs
Andrew Feld, contributing writer: Torch passed
As a Saints fan, it’s hard to support the team that ended our season just a few weeks ago. Luckily for me, I don’t even have to pick them. Over their last 27 games, the Chiefs are on fire, posting a remarkable 25-2 record and looking to become the eighth team ever to win back-to-back Super Bowls. The Chiefs are in a prime position to pull it off, too. Coming into Super Bowl LV, they rank No. 1 in both total offense and passing offense. Led by Mahomes, who will regain wide receiver Sammy Watkins and running back Le’Veon Bell from injuries, the Chiefs should be able to exploit a No. 21-ranked Bucs’ passing defense that may be without a pair of starting safeties in Antoine Winfield Jr. and Jordan Whitehead. In such a big game, experience matters. And while Brady has plenty, the rest of the Bucs will be facing a juggernaut that was here just a year ago. Expect the Chiefs to win a highly entertaining game.
Ethan Mayblum, contributing writer: Birth of a dynasty
This could be the game where Brady’s torch is officially passed to Mahomes, and it might very well be the establishment of the Chiefs’ dynasty. Kansas City is coming in hot after a clean win over the Bills in the AFC championship game, while the Buccaneers narrowly upset the Green Bay Packers in their conference championship. Both teams are loaded with offensive weapons and sport imposing defenses to boot. However, Brady can’t afford to throw three interceptions this week and expect his defense to bail him out against the Chiefs’ powerful offense. It’s hard to count Brady out, but the first Super Bowl in NFL history played on a team’s home field won’t be enough to help the Buccaneers win.
Jonathan Fineman, contributing writer: Chiefs are due for a repeat
While the NFL hasn’t seen a back-to-back champion since the Patriots won the Super Bowl in 2003 and 2004, the Kansas City Chiefs will be the next repeat offender this Sunday. Mahomes, still only 25 years old, provides the Chiefs with “generational talent” at the quarterback position and an ability to change the outcome of a game at any second. I still think back to Super Bowl LIV when Mahomes connected with wide receiver Tyreek Hill on a pivotal third-down throw that brought the Chiefs back in the game and ultimately secured them a priceless victory. Coupled with Andy Reid, a head coach with an unparalleled passion for football and brilliant offensive mind, Mahomes will have the support to thrive when it matters most. I have nothing but respect for Brady and his collection of Super Bowl rings, but Mahomes and Reid have cultivated something special these past two seasons. Their momentum will be sustained.
Grace Reyer, contributing writer: The GOAT against his rightful heir
This year’s Super Bowl will be an exciting one. Brady, arguably the greatest NFL quarterback in history, will face off against Mahomes, the top contender for best NFL quarterback. The Chiefs and the Bucs both have excellent defenses and very solid running games. While the Bucs have the home-field advantage, I predict that the reigning Super Bowl champions will once again take home the Vince Lombardi Trophy. Mahomes is versatile as he is capable of making a pass from anywhere — he can throw on the run, inside and outside of the pocket and can make unexpected shovel passes for extra yardage. Alongside Mahomes is Hill, one of the game’s fastest and most disruptive receivers. The Chiefs also have tight end Travis Kelce. At 6-foot-5 and 260 pounds, Kelce runs patterns so well that he gets open with almost too much ease. In 2020, he caught 105 passes for 1,416 yards, an average of 13.5 yards per reception, and scored 11 touchdowns. His combination of size, skill, speed and athleticism has made him the best tight end, and possibly receiver, in the NFL.
Although the Bucs have Gronkowski, who still makes incredible plays, he simply cannot move or impact the game like Kelce, at least not anymore. The Chiefs offense has it all: the running game, passing options deep down the field, the tight end option and of course, the conductor — Mahomes. Super Bowl LV will be fun to watch, and although I suspect a Chiefs victory, I would love to see the Bucs win as it would be a slap in the face to the Patriots and their general manager Bill Belichick, who controversially let Brady go last season. Brady is Brady, but Mahomes has proved that he will be his rightful heir. I expect nothing but amazing plays out of both teams, so let this potential battle of the ages begin.
Tripp Burton, staff writer: This is more than Brady vs. Mahomes
The other writers have the Brady and Mahomes narratives covered. While Super Bowls often come down to who has the best player under center, this game is more than just the GOAT against his touted successor. The head coaching matchup favors the Chiefs, where Reid, who is strong at reading the situation and getting his best players the ball in prime situations, is against Bruce Arians, the erratically aggressive Tampa Bay head coach who may not have the best relationship with his quarterback. The Buccaneers have a slight edge on the defensive side of the ball, but the Kansas City defense has played excellent in the playoffs. Both teams are highly skilled, versatile squads who execute their game plans to near perfection. But Super Bowls are not won on game plans. They are won on the magic born from chaos. Enter Mahomes, who will create just enough magic to get his second ring.