Went 1-1 in the Conference Championship round with an outright victory by Tampa Bay over Green Bay and a heart-breaking loss with Buffalo over 26 team total just losing by two points. It’s really hard to reconcile how a smart head coach like Sean McDermott would kick four field goals and inexplicably kick two field goals from inside the 10 on fourth-and-3 or less against Chiefs.

At this point, there have been tons of trends and stats for past Super Bowl matchups posted all over the place so there’s not really much more I can add that is much different. So, let’s get to my favorite pick of this year’s Super Bowl.

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Over 56 Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs Kansas City Chiefs

I understand the notion that this total seems high but there are way more paths to get this over in my opinion. It doesn’t take a genius to understand that both of these teams can score on anyone but let’s just take a quick look at their first matchup for some clues to how this game may go.

In that game, the pre-game over/under was also 56 and the final was 27-24. But that final score was not even close to indicative to how it should have played out. Both offenses were explosive, and we saw a combined 12 explosive pass plays on 94 attempts, a rate of 12.7%. This is astronomical in a single game as the league average rate is 8%.

Both teams generated a tremendous yardage total. Kansas City produced 7.6 yards per play and Tampa Bay hit 7.5. Having two teams clear 7.5 yards per play is rare and this first matchup was only one of two instances of this occurring this season (Houston vs Cincinnati was the other). In fact, since 2000, this has only happened a total of 18 times. If you exclude the first matchup, the other 17 games produced an average of 73.4 points with only one game producing less than 61 total points.

What happened in this first matchup was a complete anomaly. In that game, the Chiefs fumbled on first-and-goal, kicked a field goal at the 1-yard line and ended up scoring only six total points on three trips inside the Tampa 20-yard line. Excluding this game, the Chiefs had zero fumbles, have scored a touchdown on 70% of drives, and averaged 5.6 points per drive on just those drives that reached the opponents’ 20-yard line.

As good as Tampa’s defense has been this season, they only rank 19th in DVOA inside the red zone on defense and KC ranks 10th-best on offense. To come away with no touchdowns and only two points per drive is most likely not going to happen again. The Chiefs have produced over 7.5 yards per play on offense nine other times in Patrick Mahomes’s career and averaged over 41 points in those instances.

Tampa also kicked a field goal after reaching the Kansas City 5-yard line and Tom Brady threw two interceptions inside the KC 36-yard line. Brady threw a combined three interceptions inside an opponents’ 36-yard line the entire regular season, excluding this game. Not scoring a touchdown inside the Chiefs’ red zone is rare as they rank dead last in DVOA red zone defense, more than 2x worse than the 31st ranked team. After generating no offense in the first quarter with only one first down and no punts, the Bucs did not punt the rest of the game and scored on four of their final six drives. Tampa produced over 7.5 yards per play only two other instances this season, against Atlanta and Detroit, and scored 44 and 47 points in those games.

In terms of how this game should flow, there really shouldn’t be any divergence from that first matchup. The Chiefs threw the ball 50 times out of 70 offensive plays, at a rate of 71.4%. This is dramatic, considering the Chiefs led from start to finish and held a double-digit lead from mid-first quarter all the way until late in the fourth quarter. If you isolate the first three quarters only, Kansas City threw the ball an astonishing 78% of the time. This shouldn’t be surprising considering the Tampa Bay defense totally lends itself to being thrown on.

They rank first in DVOA run defense, so opposing offenses have thrown the ball at the highest rate in the NFL in one score situations, at 63%. Kansas City ranks sixth in pass frequency at 62% in one-score situations. The Chiefs rank fourth in pass rate over expectation and Tampa’s defense ranks second in allowing opposing offenses to throw above expectation in neutral game situations.

Tampa has played four other games against teams that rank in the top-seven in pass rate at 60% or higher, in Carolina and Atlanta twice each. Those teams threw the ball at a rate of 67%, 65%, 71%, and 62% against Tampa in those games.

The Chiefs have faced five teams with opposing neutral game pass rates of 60% or higher (TB, NYJ, ATL, and DEN 2x) and Kansas City threw the ball at rates of 57% (snow game vs Denver), 70%, 71%, 65%, and 68% in those games. In the first three quarters of those games, the Chiefs threw the ball 73% of the time! It’s no surprise that Mahomes attempted his most passes this season in that game against Tampa Bay and he has a real shot to obliterate his 40.5 attempts prop.

If you think that the fact that rematches from in-season games make the over less attractive based on the teams being more prepared to defend each other then think again. Since 2015, overs have gone 16-8 in second-game rematches that have occurred in the playoffs and Super Bowl. I personally think that the Bucs will take more chances and blitz much more in this game than in their first matchup.

Tampa is fifth in blitz rate at 39% but in their first game against Kansas City, defensive coordinator Todd Bowles elected to only blitz Mahomes nine times on 53 dropbacks (17%). He got burned and with potential protection and communication issues with backup tackles in both spots for the Chiefs, it is likely that Bowles will dial up more pressures. This will play into Andy Reid and Mahomes’s hands and heavy blitzes do tend to lead to big plays given up if pressure doesn’t get home.

Not an official pick but if I had to bet a side, I would take Tampa +3.5 and lay the extra juice (-120ish). I have ridden the Buccaneers since before the season and have bet them the last two weeks, ironically both times at 3.5. I won’t stop now. 37-34 KC wins but Tampa covers.

Playoff Best Bets Record YTD: 5-4 ats (56%)

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