Nik’s Picks: Super Bowl LV

It’s NFL playoffs time. With no Canadian football to watch in 2020 my eyeballs crossed over the border to the American game, which had its most unique regular season in history. Of course, I laid down a couple loonies and toonies and at the end of the day I profited 3.47 units in the regular season, and I haven’t been so hot in the playoffs meaning I’m down 5.34 units in the playoffs. Onto the Super Bowl!

Tampa Bay vs. Kansas City (-3)

Although football fans around North America for the most part were robbed of convening on Sundays, 2021 is treating us with one of the best quarterback matchups in a Super Bowl. Tom Brady’s 10th Super Bowl appearance is absurd, a record that should never get touched… unless Patrick Mahomes keeps running it back in KC. The defending champion Chiefs cruised through the AFC Championship and will now have to defeat the final Bowser, if you will — Brady.

Luckily for both Brady and Mahomes, the rain in Tampa Bay appears to just be missing the big game. Wind may still be a factor, meaning even with these two prolific offences the under is worth a hard look. And let’s not forget the Bucs’ defence overcoming a three-interception second half from Brady at Lambeau. Steve Spagnuolo’s unit in KC ain’t no breeze either. With a Lombardi on the line, Mahomes and Brady go head-to-head with each hoping to build their legacy.

Why Tampa Bay:

The obvious is because Brady is a true winner, with his six Super Bowl rings to show for. Based off the eye test though, Tamps Bay’s defence is the stronger unit at the moment. Their all-around physicality should actually hold its own against KC’s top weapons.

And yes, Tyreek Hill busted off a 269-yard, two-touchdown game in these teams’ first meeting back on November 29 but Todd Bowles isn’t considered one of the league’s brightest defensive minds for nothing. Bowles knows the explosions can’t happen if Tampa is to win. In order to stop any splurge of points against, Bowles’ defence has to bracket a safety overtop of Hill at all times. It’s exactly how the Bucs adjusted back in Week 12.

The Bucs might just bank on their defensive front being unstoppable, a winning formula itself. Shaq Barrett and Jason Pierre Paul combined for five sacks in the NFC Championship and with the Chiefs missing both their starting tackles, Tampa’s premier pass-rushers should eat again.

Then on offence, Brady and Co. are scoring over 30 points on 391 yards per game in the post-season. Brady’s even had to deal with several drops from Chris Godwin, but with a full lineup including Mike Evans, Antonio Brown, Rob Gronkowski, and Leonard Fournette the Bucs should be able to match Kansas City’s scoring. Oh, and did I mention this is a home game for Tampa?

Why Kansas City:

Eric Bieniemy should be fully aware of the Bucs taking away Hill downfield at all costs. But that’s okay, because Travis Kelce should roam wild. Kelce’s 2020–21 season was one of the greatest ever by a tight end, and he’s followed it up with 21 catches for 227 yards and three scores in two post-season wins. Tony Romo did make it clear what the Bucs’ best hope is: jam the hell out of Kelce to disrupt the timing of his routes. And Romo was speaking to you, Devin White.

It’s a sports cliché, but the Chiefs’ greatest strength might be the ability to flick on their switch. It was on full display in the AFC Championship too after Kansas City gifted a touchdown to Buffalo, it was go time. Mecole Hardman made up for his error with a touchdown and then a 50-yard run on Kansas City’s next two drives. You blinked and the Chiefs scored on six straight full drives. Mahomes’ offence can score 20-plus in a quarter with ease, think about that.

On defence, Spagnuolo likes to mix things up with disguised blitzes and often man coverage to back them up. Bashuad Breeland is their best cover-man, but the X-factors are Tyrann Mathieu and Chris Jones. Mathieu’s going to do a little of everything, while Jones’ only job is to collapse Brady’s pocket from the inside. Kansas City has shown the ability to slow down elite offences in talent-versus-talent scenarios – hell, even rookie corner L’Jarius Sneed can lock up WRs.

Tampa Bay 22 Kansas City 27

Personal plays

Opening kickoff touchback – no +260 2u

Why: In eighteen of the past 20 Super Bowls, the opening kickoff has been returned. Jaydon Mickens has returned two of three opening kickoffs in the playoffs for the Bucs. Plus, who doesn’t want to pull a Devin Hester?

Rob Gronkowski over 29.5 receiving yards 1.5u

Why: Gronk’s only 100-yard game in 2020 coming against Kansas City wasn’t a fluke. The Chiefs gave up the fifth-most yards to tight ends in the regular season and they don’t have a good answer for Gronk. He’s also hit at least 87 yards in his last two Super Bowls.

Tyreek Hill under 96.5 receiving yards +100 1u

Why: Recency bias is a hell of a drug. Hill has games of over 100 yards in both of Kansas City’s playoff games and a season-high 269 against Tampa in Week 12 but Bowles and I will be damned if Hill hits the century mark again. Also, Hill’s over is the highest public play Sunday.

Travis Kelce over 8.5 receptions -125 1u

Why: Kelce only went over eight receptions three times in 2020, but had at least eight in 11 of his 17 games played including eight of his last nine games. This bet relates to the Hill bet too. If Tampa Bay’s number one focus is Hill downfield, Kelce will get open for catches.

Sammy Watkins over 37.5 receiving yards -120 1u

Why: Watkins should get a ton of one-on-one looks with the Bucs’ safeties focusing on Hill and Kelce. If so 38 yards isn’t a ton to ask for from one of KC’s most reliable receivers. Watkins also averaged 96 yards per game in last year’s playoffs and hasn’t played since Week 16.

Onside kick attempt – yes +135 1u

Why: If this game’s tight toward the end an onside kick is almost a guarantee, and I wouldn’t put it past Bruce Arians or even Andy Reid to go for a sneaky attempt a la Sean Payton. In a game that could become a shootout, someone might need this risk if their opponent’s scoring anyways.

Travis Kelce MVP +1000 .2u, Mecole Hardman MVP +5000 .2u, Jason Pierre Paul MVP +7000 .2u

Why: Kelce can score two touchdowns and put up his usual numbers to make a strong case. Hardmans’s Kansas City’s return man and is burner who could get some chances on offence with Hill being the spotlight. If anyone on defence can get a couple sacks and a turnover, it’s JPP off the edge, plus he’s got great value to boot.

First halftime song: Starboy +133

Why: Is this insider info? Maybe, maybe not.

Highest scoring half: second half -110 2u

Why: Brady’s early struggles in Super Bowls is well documented and I fully expect both teams to have a feeling out period against Bowles’ and Spagnuolo’s defences respectively. KC scored 21 points in the final frame of last year’s big game, proving desperation can equal quick scores.

Playoffs: 15-22 -5.34u
Year to date: -1.87u

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