My Conference Championship picks went 1-1, bringing my 2020 season mark to 179-88.
Here is my Super Bowl pick. The write-up below details which team is predicted to win and provides a summary of why that selection was made. The pick also contains a confidence value based on a 1-10 scale with “10” being the most confident and “1” being the least confident.
Super Bowl LV
Sunday, February 7, 2021
Kansas City vs. Tampa Bay
KC’s pick: Kansas City
Confidence level: 6
One of the notable elements in the Conference Championship round is that both Kansas City and Tampa Bay won their respective contests in a shootout, which is defined as a game where both teams score 24 or more points.
What makes this element so notable is it provides Tampa Bay with a difficult quandary. Take a look at the Chiefs record in shootout/non-shootout games over the past three seasons:
Kansas City in shootout games:
Kansas City in non-shootout games
Remove the meaningless Week 17 non-shootout loss against the Chargers to end this season and the Chiefs are 28-1 in non-shootout games versus 16-9 in shootout games since Patrick Mahomes took over as a full-time starter.
This historical track record would seem to point strongly towards Tampa Bay wanting to go with a shootout mode for this matchup. That push gets even stronger when noting that Tampa Bay was 4-2 in shootout games this year and has won three straight contests of that nature following a 27-24 shootout loss to Kansas City in Week 12.
This mindset also fits well with Tampa Bay’s penchant for games with a high number of drives.
Per pro-football-reference.com’s Stathead section, the Buccaneers had the eighth highest offensive drive volume this year and had 16 games with 11+ drives. Bruce Arians’ no risk it, no biscuit approach has some built in peril, but Arians aims to use sheer drive volume to give his team extra chances to rack up more big plays than their opponent.
This is the opposite approach of Kansas City. The Chiefs had the fifth lowest offensive drive total this year and had 12 games with 10 or fewer offensive drives. Andy Reid realized in 2018 that a shootout approach wasn’t working, so he now tries to merge big plays with holding the ball on offense while forcing opponents to make time consuming drives when Kansas City is on defense. This mindset limits overall drive volume and keeps contests in the non-shootout territory where the Chiefs are nearly unbeatable.
So, all of this points in the direction of Tampa Bay needing a shootout game to win, but that approach also has two major problems.
The first is starting cornerback Carlton Davis.
Since Week 9, Davis has allowed 11.8 yards per target (YPT) on 73 targets (per pro-football-reference). This isn’t the case of a game or two skewing Davis’ numbers, as he has given up a 9.9 or higher YPT in every game but one in that span. Davis gave up three touchdowns against Kansas City in that aforementioned earlier matchup and allowed three more touchdowns in the postseason, including two scores against Green Bay.
Davis has been on the field for all but one of Tampa Bay’s defensive snaps in the playoffs, so he’s not some part time player they can hide in coverage. He is a full-time coverage liability facing the greatest quarterback/wide receiver combination in the NFL today as well as Andy Reid and Eric Bieniemy, a playcalling duo that is off the charts great when given extra time to create a game plan.
The Bucs also aren’t adept at covering tight ends, as they ranked 26th in tight end receptions (86) and tied for 22nd in tight end touchdowns allowed (9) this year.
Add it up and it seems that Tampa Bay’s best chance is to try for a 34-31 style game, but their coverage issues will make going that route almost as dangerous as trying to win a low scoring battle against Mahomes and company.
That means the Chiefs have more paths to victory in this one and thus earn this season ending selection.