When the Chiefs started blowing out the Bills my immediate thought was that I didn’t want to bet against either of these quarterbacks. Kansas City over San Fran last year was a clear choice and so was New England over the Rams two years ago. Mahomes vs Brady was tough. Then the Eric Fisher injury hit late in the game and that’s a big deal. Tampa Bay already has the better pass rush and better defense. Then Mike Remmers was announced the starting left tackle for Kansas City and that confirmed where I’m going with this one. I watched Remmers closely with the Panthers and then the Giants last year – he’s just not a good tackle. His primary position is RT and now he’s moving over to the left side. Mahomes is going to make plays and escape a lot of pass rushes like he always does but he’s going to get pressured more this game than a lot of games he’s played in this year and Tampa Bay is going to be aggressive and has multiple guys they can move around and throw at Remmers. Mahomes doesn’t have to be pressured all day it just takes those 1 or 2 big plays on defense that make a difference. Tampa Bay sacked Aaron Rodgers 5 times in the NFC Championship.
Then there’s the defensive argument. I don’t think there’s a debate with who the better defense in this game. The Chiefs run defense never got to a level this year where they were consistently stopping teams and that was the one area that hurt the Bills is that they didn’t have a huge run game to lean on. Brady has been handing off to Fournette all playoffs and with good success – 211 yards on 48 carries, good for 4.4 yards/carry. Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt were both able to run for over 5 yards/carry on Kansas City in the Divisional game and now if you mix in Tom Brady’s arm and a better defense than the Browns, this is where Kansas City can be exposed more than other teams were able to. Kansas City’s defense also struggled vs tight ends this season and Brady is for sure going to look Gronk and Brate’s way in big spots. Kansas City gave up 140 yards on 10 catches to Gronk and Brate in the first game. Granted, Kansas City won, but that was before Tampa Bay had a balanced offense and started running the ball more and setting up manageable 3rd downs instead of chucking it down the field every 2-3 plays. Kansas City also gave up 9 catches for 110 yards to Miami’s tight ends and 12 catches for 123 yards to Denver’s tight ends. Kansas City’s defense was 32nd in the NFL in red zone defense during the regular season. In a big game I’m looking for little edges where a big play or two can make the difference and Kansas City’s red zone defense, tackles, and run defense fit the bill. Tampa Bay’s offense has also been very good on 3rd down in the playoffs – 9/17 vs Green Bay, 8/17 vs New Orleans, and 6/14 vs Washington. I have a lot of confidence in Brady converting at a high clip vs this defense.
There really is no true answer to stop Mahomes, Kelce, and Hill. They will move the ball and put up points. This is just a matter of which defense can get more key stops. Tampa Bay’s defense has the better personnel and we’re getting a new Chiefs offensive line for the biggest game of the year. Tampa Bay also has Vita Vea back in the middle of the defense and Jamel Dean back at corner after both of them didn’t play in the first game vs Kansas City. Jamel Dean is Tampa’s fastest corner (4.3 40) and will help a lot after Tyreek Hill burned Carlton Davis all game in the first matchup.
I see a close game with Brady having a big 4th quarter drive that puts Tampa ahead in the game and ultimately win the game straight up. Flashes of New England vs Kansas City AFC Championship game 2019.