Super Bowl LV has finally arrived. In one corner, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers led by one Tom Brady. In the other, the Kansas City Chiefs led by one Patrick Mahomes. The narratives are ripe and the play should be entertaining.
We here at The Big Lead have some thoughts about the main event. Thus, a series of bold predictions for you to chew on. Here we go.
Super Bowl Predictions
Jason Pierre-Paul Wins MVP to Cap Off Remarkable Comeback Story
The Super Bowl MVP almost always goes to the most productive offensive player of the winning team. Occasionally it is a defensive player, usually one who returns an interception for a touchdown (like Seattle's Malcolm Smith against the Broncos in 2014). But this is a space for the boldest of claims, so this is mine: the Super Bowl MVP will be Jason Pierre-Paul. The Chiefs' offensive line has been ravaged by injuries as the season has gone along, capped off by losing left tackle Eric Fisher to an Achilles injury in the AFC Championship Game.
JPP lived in the backfield against Green Bay in the NFCCG, notching two QB hits and two sacks along with two tackles for loss. He'll rack up three sacks as the most disruptive linemen on the field on Sunday along with a forced and recovered fumble and will become the first Super Bowl MVP with less than 10 fingers. I assume. -- Liam McKeone
Ronald Jones will play a big role
Ronald Jones II only rushed for 16 yards on 10 carries during the NFC title game and had issues finding room to run against the Green Bay Packers. Don't expect a repeat of that. While Leonard Fournette should see a decent amount of carries, Jones is Tampa Bay's only true home run threat at running back. The Chiefs struggled to corral opponents on the ground all year, allowing 121.9 yards per game. The Bucs will need to run the ball to keep pressure off Tom Brady.
Jones averaged 5.1 yards per carry in a breakout season in 2020. Expect him to get a chance to show off his speed during the big game. -- Ryan Phillips
Travis Kelce Will Be a Non-Factor
Travis Kelce was far and away the most important Chiefs player against the Bills not named Patrick Mahomes, catching 13 passes for 118 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The Bucs know this. They also have two of the best cover linebackers in the league in Devin White and Lavonte David. Tyreek Hill and all the other weapons Kansas City has will be planned for, but Tampa Bay will be dedicating most of their attention to ensuring Kelce doesn't break their back on every third down. When the Mahomes-Kelce connection is strong, the opponent has no chance. The Bucs will shut down Kelce, but it won't be easy, and there will be plentiful opportunities for the Chiefs' receiving corps. -- McKeone
Mecole Hardman Scores on Special Teams
In the history of the Super Bowl, there have only been 10 kick-off returns for a touchdown and there's never been a punt returned for a touchdown. Mecole Hardman could easily add his name to the first list or make history himself. He has the speed (4.33 40-yard-dash), vision and moves to make people miss in the open field, which is how he scored on a punt return earlier this year. It should also help that he's facing a Tampa Bay special teams unit that was ranked 26th in the NFL by Football Outsiders. -- Brian Giuffra
Tom Brady Scores the First Touchdown
Tom Brady has done so much winning at the NFL level that it's virtually impossible to believe he's the same pale guy from the combine. Until he endeavors on a run in open space. Then one can very much believe he's still the same guy, only with two decades' worth of inhuman wear and tear on his body.
So it seems counterintuitive to take a chance on him at 28-1 to score the game's first touchdown. But never forget that the 43-year-old remains one of the finest sneakers of the football to ever say hut and then move forward really quickly into the line. So if Tampa Bay gets the ball down to the one-yard line, why would they screw around with a goal line fade when they could go with the path of least resistance? -- Kyle Koster
The Game Will Be Decided in the Fourth Quarter
With Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes under center, don't expect a blowout either way. Two of the best late-game quarterbacks in NFL history are going to give us a classic on Sunday night. Mahomes and the Chiefs have a penchant for starting slow and finishing strong, and Brady has authored several heroic late-game Super Bowl wins. Expect the GOAT and the Baby GOAT to go back and forth down the stretch, culminating with a great, late-game finish. -- Phillips
Things Will Feel Moderately Normal
This will be a Super Bowl like no previous Super Bowl. The reduced attendance and protocols and completely lack of supporting revelry have become the new normal. But considering the fact that the Bucs are playing at home, and CBS is going to go to great lengths to make things feel normal, it may not be as different from previous years. In fact, upon replay, the only way we'll know it was the COVID era will be the facial coverings. -- Koster
Tony Romo Makes Sexual Innuendo
If you've followed Tony Romo the last few weeks, you know him and Jim Nantz have gotten a kick out of accidental sexual innuendo mentions. On a Drew Brees touchdown against the Bears, Romo mentioned "just the tip" of the ball needing to cross the goal line for it to be a TD. Nantz got a kick out of that and the two have been giggling about any similar reference since. It's bold to project Romo making mention of that during the big game, but now that he's got a taste for the humor, I could see it happening again. -- Giuffra