The big game is just around the corner! Super Bowl LV promises to deliver an incredible and memorable game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. However, every team needs to have a balanced roster as a fundamental philosophy to ensure sustainable success. Both KC and Tampa had that more than their competition previously during the 2020 campaign. Therefore, a big part of the preview of Sunday’s game is the Super Bowl unit matchups comparison.
How We Got Here
Despite the different roads to the game, the two teams have many similarities. Firstly, both do not falsely rely on just their famed quarterbacks, or their spotlight offensive units. Secondly, both the Chiefs and the Bucs have favorable grades for their defensive units that seemed unlikely to occur.
The champions of the AFC and the NFC have both strived to achieve the aforementioned roster balance. Furthermore, this has boosted their efforts to reach this year’s edition of the Super Bowl, otherwise leaving them shorthanded against much more balanced competition in regular-season and postseason contention. This makes the upcoming clash surely much spicier and, likely, not only closer but higher-quality.
Here are the biggest Super Bowl unit matchups for this year’s final NFL game.
Super Bowl Unit Matchups: KC Offensive Line vs TB Pass-Rush
KC: 24 allowed sacks, 5th in the NFL
TB: 48 sacks, 4th in the NFL
This was already the most anticipated showdown of the afternoon at Raymond James Stadium. Both teams ranked top-five during the regular season in success in their respective fields. However, a key injury to the Chiefs’ unit could prove to affect the positivity on the KC side.
Over the course of the 2020 NFL season, the Buccaneers committed 48 sacks, standing out as one of the four best pass-rushing groups in the league. Jason Pierre-Paul, Shaquil Barrett, and Devin White all posted more than eight sacks during a productive regular season. Despite the former’s lack of recent practice participation, everyone has the green light to square up against the Chiefs on Sunday. For now, that is.
Meanwhile, feelings aren’t nearly as positive in the Kansas City “corner”. The Chiefs’ offensive line put on the fifth-best performance in the regular portion of the campaign. However, Eric Fisher suffered an Achilles injury in the AFC Championship Game against the Bills. This has caused KC to mark him as “out” ahead of Sunday’s matchup. He remains the only offensive player marked out, alongside linebacker Willie Gay.
Fisher was the team’s starting left tackle and a 2020 Pro-Bowl selection. His absence, and the addition of Martinas Rankin in left, may be so severe it might give Tampa Bay a significant advantage in this department.
Super Bowl Unit Matchups: TB Passing Offense vs KC Passing Defense
TB: 298.5 yards/game (4th), 102.8 passer rating (9th), 65.5% completion percentage (15th)
KC: 236.2 allowed yards/game (14th), 89.4 allowed passer rating (10th), 62.7% allowed completion percentage (4th)
For the Chiefs passing defense to be a cornerstone was once impossible, yet this is undoubtedly the situation as of now. No surprises as regards the Tom Brady-led unit. But details speak louder than mainstream stats for both sides.
On the one hand, the general narrative is to some extent correct. Firstly, the Buccaneers indeed, now with Brady, have one of the best air raids. Secondly, KC’s defense against the pass is very consistent. In terms of yardage, the two teams’ positions look incomparable at first sight.
However, yardage figures are prone to issues due to differences in workload distribution. The Chiefs faced more passing attempts than ten teams with fewer conceded yards. Meanwhile, Tampa’s passing group had the sixth-most throws. Instead, stats that have to do with efficiency are more suitable here.
Tom Brady and Tampa Bay averaged the ninth-highest team passer rating at 102.8. Brady benefitted from a wide variety of receiving targets in his debut year in Florida. Chris Godwin and Mike Evans both recorded more than 65 reception this past year. In the meantime, Antonio Brown also made his presence known in eight games since signing with 45 catches.
Tight end Cameron Brate has been named questionable but that won’t be a huge loss given Rob Gronkowski‘s emergence. Gronk has had his struggles, though. For instance, he only managed to put on a catch percentage of 58.4%.
As for the Chiefs, they registered an increase in terms of both allowed yards and passer rating. However, the latter has been holding more steadily. The conceded passer rating by the Chiefs, last year standing at 80.8, is still amongst the top in the league.
On the Bucs side, if they can be efficient despite the busy workload, then their air raid has the advantage. Nonetheless, the Chiefs have proven to be a very tough opposition to any solid passing offense in the NFL.
Individual Matchup: Buccaneers WR Mike Evans (109 targets, 70 receptions, 64.2 catch %, 14.4 yards/rec) vs Chiefs CB Bashaud Breeland (60 targets, 30 completions, 78.3 allowed passer rating in coverage)
Super Bowl Unit Matchups: KC Passing Offense vs TB Passing Defense
KC: 312.8 yards/game (1st), 107.3 passer rating (4th), 65.5% completion percentage (15th)
TB: 246.6 allowed yards/game (20th), 94.3 allowed passer rating (18th), 66.7% allowed completion percentage (11th)
This Super Bowl unit matchups part might be drastically more one-sided than the aforementioned ones. Still, it is a much more relevant one as opposed to TB’s dominance against the run, which the Chiefs rarely use, even with a healthy Clyde Edwards-Helaire.
Patrick Mahomes has led the Chiefs to a top finish for his air-raid again. Now, the road to his second consecutive Super Bowl MVP award is beyond clear. Sammy Watkins is on the “questionable” list with a calf injury. Mahomes has succeeded regardless of his absence this whole season. That is as he has the needed arsenal even without him.
Furthermore, the Buccaneers have struggled against opposing passing factions throughout the entirety of the 2020 campaign. This establishes that matchup as the one that could win the trophy for KC if everything goes as planned. If the Chiefs perform up to their usual level, against that opposition, the Bucs have no alternative but to outperform them with their own air raid. As concluded in the previous Super Bowl unit matchups part, that will be an exceptionally tough task.
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