The wait has been tedious, but it is time. Super Bowl LV, the most anticipated showdown of the season, is here! With more storylines than we can count and all kinds of records on the line, hopefully we can all agree this Super Bowl was well worth the wait. We’ve got the Tampa Bay Buccaneers taking on the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs. We’ve got Tyreek Hill and Mike Evans, Travis Kelce and Chris Godwin, Jason Pierre-Paul and Chris Jones, Shaquil Barrett and Tyrann Mathieu — and, of course, Patrick Mahomes and Tom Brady. Talk about stingy defenses and explosive offenses!
We’ll break it all down, but first here is how you can watch Super Bowl LV coverage all day today.
How to watch Super Bowl LV
How to watch pregame coverage
This year, CBS Sports is offering extensive access to pregame Super Bowl LV coverage.
CBS is providing viewers with seven hours of Super Bowl pregame coverage on Sunday, beginning with That Other Pregame Show (11:30 a.m. ET); followed by NFL Films special, Road to the Super Bowl (Noon, ET); Tony goes to the Super Bowl (1 p.m., ET), The Super Bowl Today (2 p.m., ET) and Super Bowl on CBS Kick-Off Show (6 p.m., ET).
CBS Sports HQ, the 24/7 streaming sports news network available for free across digital platforms, services and connected devices, will be live from Tampa during the week leading up to CBS Sports’ live stream of the game. Beginning Monday, Feb. 1, CBS Sports HQ will deliver on-site programming and reports throughout each day, and on game day will stream live pregame coverage, plus postgame analysis and highlights.
Starting at 2 p.m. ET on Sunday, Feb. 7, CBS Sports’ streaming coverage will also be available to viewers across an expanded lineup of platforms and devices, including unauthenticated at CBSSports.com and on the CBS Sports app for OTT devices and services, smart TVs and mobile devices.
When the Chiefs have the ball
On Thursday, we broke down exactly what happened in the first matchup between the Chiefs and Bucs, when Patrick Mahomes and Tyreek Hill lit the secondary aflame with relative ease. You can read the full story here, but the relevant excerpts are below:
Kansas City defeated the Buccaneers, 27-24, back in Week 12, behind an explosive performance from Mahomes and Hill. Mahomes completed 37 of 49 passes for 462 yards and three touchdowns. Hill hauled in 13 of 15 targets for 269 yards and was on the receiving end of all three of Mahomes’ scores.
Put simply, the Bucs had absolutely no answer for either of them, and because they didn’t, they lost the game. If they’re to reverse the result this time around, they’ll have to figure something out. So, it’s worth looking at exactly what happened in that first game, how it happened, and what — if anything — the Bucs may be able to do about it on Sunday night…
Early in the game, the Bucs tried to use a bunch of single-high safety looks (Cover-1 and Cover-3), and the Chiefs beat them. Later in the game, they went to more Cover-2 and Cover-4, and the Chiefs beat them. Poor Carlton Davis got tasked with following Hill wherever he went on the field for most of the game, and got absolutely roasted the entire afternoon. No matter what changes Tampa made, Mahomes and Hill had an answer…
The single-high safety looks got torched by Hill early in the game, so the Bucs changed things up a bit in the second half… They also blitzed far less often after the break. Mahomes lit up their blitzes by going 5 of 8 for 86 yards and a touchdown in the first half, so Todd Bowles only sent one blitz in the second half. It didn’t much matter. When Tampa sat back in soft zones, he just continually found Travis Kelce on underneath routes. The Chiefs repeatedly took advantage of Kelce being matched up on a linebacker or safety in space, where the Bucs just had no hope of containing him.
No matter how you slice it, the Chiefs will have a matchup advantage with either Hill or Kelce on just about every snap. If the Bucs try to double both players, they will leave Sammy Watkins (assuming he suits up, as it seems somewhat likely now), Mecole Hardman, or one of the running backs one-on-one, and will likely be vulnerable to Mahomes taking off and running as well. Forcing the Chiefs to pursue one of those options is preferable to letting Hill or Kelce torch your secondary, of course, but it’s still not ideal. (Especially because both Hill and Kelce can beat doubles anyway.)
They key for the Bucs, then, will be to speed the Chiefs up. They have to make Mahomes throw short and quick, as opposed to deep down the field. The game plan needs to look a whole lot like it did in the NFC title game, where Jason Pierre-Paul and Shaquil Barrett dominated their matchups on the edge, boxing Aaron Rodgers into the pocket. Crucially, they didn’t just get to the edge; they turned the corner and got to Rodgers before he could escape to make something happen. It’s not enough to just pressure a QB like Rodgers or Mahomes. You have to put them on the ground. JPP and Barrett have plus matchups against Mike Remmers and Andrew Wylie, and if the Bucs are to win the game, it’ll likely be on the strength of that duo performing as well or better than they did in the conference title game.
The way Tampa runs its defense encourages the opposing offense to throw the ball. The Bucs stack the box with extra defenders more often than most teams in the league, counting on their interior linemen (Ndamukong Suh and Vita Vea) to plug the middle of the line and their linebackers (Lavonte David and Devin White) to flow sideline-to-sideline and sweep ball-carriers up before they break into the open field. Because that quartet of players is so good at those jobs, defenses passed the ball against the Bucs far more often than expected based on down, distance, time, and score. The Chiefs — as we have seen throughout the year — are incredibly willing to take opponents up on a dare to throw the ball as often as possible. It’s likely they will do so on Sunday night as well. Down the field, the Chiefs have the advantages. The Bucs need to reverse them by winning up front.
When the Buccaneers have the ball
Why Jones? Because as everyone knows, the best way to disrupt a Tom Brady-led offense is by getting pressure with your front four and being able to keep seven in coverage. That’s obvious. It’s the key against just about every quarterback. But with Brady specifically, the key is to get pressure up the middle.
Brady is great at a great many things, but escaping pressure to the outside and throwing on the move is not one of them. He wants to step up through the pocket, reset himself, then deliver the ball downfield. Against edge pressure, he can do that. But if the pocket gets collapsed up the middle, it’s much more difficult. That’s where Jones comes in. The Bucs are without Alex Cappa for the Super Bowl, leaving Aaron Stinnie filling in at right guard. The Bucs can give him some help, but Jones should have ample opportunity to work over Stinnie and make things difficult for Brady. If he dominates that matchup, it will cause a whole lot of problems for Tampa’s offense.
Why Sneed? Because he spends most of his time in the slot, aligning there on 53 percent of his snaps, per Pro Football Focus. That means he should see more of Chris Godwin than will any other Chiefs corner. Godwin lined up inside on 66 percent of his snaps, and did a whole lot of damage there. Sneed had an excellent rookie season despite its interruption due to injury, but he’s also coming off a concussion suffered during the AFC title game. It’s already a difficult job to guard Godwin, and having been at all limited in practice over the last couple weeks will only make it more so.
Why Ward? Mostly because he’s not Bashaud Breeland. The Chiefs play sides with their corners, using Breeland on the right and Ward on the left. That allows opposing offenses to largely choose which of the two they want to attack. Ward is a good player, but Breeland’s a better one. So, it’s likely that if the Bucs want to get Mike Evans or Antonio Brown or Rob Gronkowski an isolation matchup, they’ll try to go to work on Ward instead. He’s proven up to the task for most of the last two seasons, but he is sure to be tested one more time on Sunday.
It will be tempting for the Bucs to pursue a slow-it-down, run the ball down their throats strategy against the Kansas City defense. They should resist that temptation. First of all, Tampa’s pass offense is the strength of the team — far more so than Leonard Fournette and Ronald Jones running the ball. Second of all, the Chiefs have lost just 10 games during the Mahomes era. In only two of those 10 games did the victorious team score fewer than 30 points — and in one of those two, they scored 29. The 10 teams to beat the Chiefs averaged 36.4 points per game. That means you’ve got to score five touchdowns if you want to give yourself a good chance of victory. You don’t do that by leaning on Fournette and Jones. You do it with Brady, Evans, Godwin, Brown, and Gronk. That’s Tampa’s best shot.
Prediction: Chiefs 33, Buccaneers 27