By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Imagine if Tom Brady wins a seventh Super Bowl? That would truly be banana land kind of stuff.
Technically, winning six Super Bowls already qualifies as a banana land accomplishment, according to the official Banana Land Constitution and Bylaws. But a seventh? In this economy?! It’s hard to fathom.
It could happen. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are a good football team, no doubt, and they earned their spot in Super Bowl LV for a lot of reasons that don’t involve Tom Brady. The defense has come up with seven turnovers, picking off Drew Brees in the dome three times and forcing Aaron Rodgers to throw just his sixth interception of the entire season. A game-changing forced fumble by Antoine Winfield Jr. on Jared Cook might have been the Bucs’ play of the year. Leonard Fournette’s touchdown run at Lambeau was insane, as was Chris Godwin’s jump-ball efforts to set it up. Jason Pierre-Paul and Shaq Barrett ruined Rodgers’ whole season, Ryan Succop has been money, and you’d be hard-pressed to find issue with any decision Bruce Arians has made.
You get it. The Bucs are good. And the unmistakable impact Brady has had on them — with 40 touchdowns and also with driving a culture — makes them a believable story to win this Super Bowl. No doubt.
But then … you watch five minutes of Chiefs tape and you’re left to wonder whether you’re a bumbling buffoon, a belligerent bozo, or both.
The Chiefs aren’t a good football team. They are a frightening football team. They went 14-2 during the regular season without even switching out of cruise control, and one of those losses came in Week 17 without most of their starters playing. They didn’t quite hit the accelerator in their narrow divisional round win against Cleveland, thus opening the window for nitwitted fools like me to think the Bills actually had a chance in the AFC title game.
Dear reader, I must spoil this for you in case you have not yet caught up on DVR: The Bills did not have a chance in the AFC title game.
Seemingly with the flick of a switch, the Chiefs realized it was time to go full Voltron and remind the world how easily they can annihilate any team on any day.
That’s why, for as much as I’d personally enjoy the spectacle of that old fella winning a seventh Super Bowl, actually picking him to do so requires a level of cognitive dissonance that I’m not quite ready to employ.
Kansas City (-3.5) over TAMPA BAY
We could list all of the reasons that the Chiefs are rightfully favored, but that would be a poor use of time. You know that Tyreek Hill can turn a 5-yard gain into an 80-yard touchdown in a blink. You know Patrick Mahomes can make every throw imaginable and even invent a few new ones on the fly. You know that Travis Kelce manages to get himself more wide open than seemingly any player has ever been before. You know that Tyrann Mathieu is a game changer, that Chris Jones and Frank Clark are monsters, and that Steve Spagnuolo has historically somehow had Tom Brady’s number.
The Chiefs should win the football game.
Buuuuut … we can’t just ignore the reasons that the Buccaneers should be able to compete.
The foremost reason is the most obvious one. Eric Fisher busted his Achilles in the championship round, thus leading to some changes on the Chiefs’ O-line. Mike Remmers will have to move from right tackle to left tackle, something that has Jason Pierre-Paul licking his chops.
“I didn’t even know who that was,” Pierre-Paul said about Remmers. “Man, I’m not going to lie to you. Is this a tackle that you’re talking about? Like I said, I don’t care too much about it. They got to figure that out. I’m going to play some great football this weekend.”
Andrew Wylie will move from right guard to right tackle, and veteran backup Stefen Wisniewski will slide in at guard. It’s not a disastrous situation for the Chiefs, no, but we saw in the NFC title game what it looks like when Pierre-Paul and Barrett are spending the bulk of the game in the backfield. Throw in Vita Vea’s enormous presence, and the battle at the line of scrimmage seems to decisively tilt in the Bucs’ favor.
The other big factor? The Chiefs’ cornerbacks are … OK. They’re good. Can they cover Mike Evans in the red zone? Are they liable to get beat on a crosser by Chris Godwin? Are they potential victims of Scotty Miller’s speed? Yes, yes, and yes. The safety duo of Mathieu and Daniel Sorenson adds heft to the secondary, sure, but the point is, a quarterback like Brady should be able to get his receivers some wins. The Bucs should be able to score.
Ultimately, though, the difference-maker is Mahomes. For as exciting as it may feel to envision JPP (a legend, really) making Super Bowl-changing plays … I can’t help but recall seeing countless examples of Mahomes being dead to rights in the pocket, only to magically escape pressure, scramble for his life, and then deliver an absolute strike down the field for a big gain. It’s insane. He does it a bunch of different ways, too.
This one, against the Bills, stands out as the freshest in recent memory:
— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) January 25, 2021
But it’s hardly a rare occurrence.
Very underrated play by Mahomes. 2nd and 5, down 3 on their own 40 YL. Bosa has him dead to rights, but he's too strong and stays calm after shaking the tackle to find Kelce.
Difference between a 1st down and 3rd and 12 or so. pic.twitter.com/rE5L8oK2QC
— Seth Keysor (@RealMNchiefsfan) February 8, 2020
— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) January 29, 2021
— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) November 23, 2020
— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) November 23, 2020
— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) December 13, 2020
To me, Mahomes has revolutionized his offense because even if a four-man rush can “get home” against the KC O-line … they’re not getting home. Mahomes has left the building, and he’s more often than not throwing a dagger into the heart of his opponent.
Throw in all of their red zone wrinkles from Andy Reid, plus the standard dimes that Mahomes delivers from clean pockets, and they’re just too much.
You can pick against him if you want. You can hope he has a bad day for some reason. That’s a dangerous idea, though.
Chiefs 34, Buccaneers 24
It’s been a heck of a year to try to make NFL picks, I’ll tell you that much. I started off red-hot, then had the worst stretch of all time, then recovered to make things respectable.
But after an 0-2 showing on championship weekend, here I am, exactly one game above .500.
Some people might say that the football gods or the bozo gods — whichever gods are overlooking my picks here — have determined that I was destined to be .500 this year. That’s .500 on the regular season, .500 on the postseason, .500 overall.
The Mike Hurley Story.
So … do with that information what you will. It would have been wrong for me to not disclose it.
Last week: 0-2
Regular season: 126-126-4