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Shawn’s Super Bowl Staturday: What the stats say about the Chiefs’ chances at running it all the way back

With just one game left between Kansas City and their third Super Bowl victory in 51 years, there are plenty of statistics that both help and hurt their probability of winning back-to-back Lombardi trophies.

Kansas City, it’s almost time. The Chiefs are just 60 football minutes away from being the first back-to-back Super Bowl champs since Tom Brady and the Patriots did it in Super Bowls XXXVIII & XXXIV.

With Tampa Bay being the first team to ever host a Super Bowl it’ll be hard to imagine a better “home field advantage” feel than the Bucs will have after COVID kept stadiums from having such a thing this season.

With the previous two weeks of rest being prime healing time for Patrick Mahomes and his toe, RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire and his hip/ankle, and WR Watkins with his calf, it’s now going to be harder for Tampa Bay to keep Kansas City’s offense at bay.

Now that the Chiefs’ offense has been healed and are prepared to take on the stout defensive pressure that Tampa will be bringing let’s look at the stats to see what Kansas City and “Tompa” Bay will look like analytically.

First off, the weather is looking like it will be a typical Florida Sunday: 71 degrees and rainy. That could mean more rushing yards for RBs Edwards-Helaire, Le’veon Bell, and Darrel Williams but it could also lead to more dropped passes, fumbles, and ‘turnover-worthy plays’.

Although this Sunday’s Super Bowl matchup might be the second Super Bowl ever to have rain (SB XLI between Indianapolis and Chicago had rain and eight turnovers) it could still easily be Mahomes’ air-raid time considering he can “spin it in anything.”

The rain really might put a damper on what was supposed to be one of the highest-rated passing matchups in NFL history. In fact, according to Elias Sports, Super Bowl LV will have the second most combined passing TDs entering the game (78), which is only three behind the record-setting SB XLVIII between Peyton Manning & Russell Wilson.

Rain or shine, Mahomes’ has done better in warmer weather than he has in mild or cold weather; in games where he has played in 60+ degrees, he has a 68.6% CMP%, over 335 passing yds/gm, and 81.7 QBR, and holds a 15-3 record.

And whether the run game takes off like it did against Buffalo earlier in the season the game plan should still be somewhat the same for both Tampa and Kansas City. One thing that definitely should not change for Tampa DC Todd Bowles is his decision not to blitz Mahomes, much like he did in week 12 when he only blitzed Mahomes on 17% of his dropbacks.

Although Bowles and Tampa Bay have blitzed often (5th-highest in the NFL-39.0%) and blitzed well this season (4th-most sacks in the reg. season–48) it doesn’t mean that the blitz packages will work on Mahomes and the battered Chiefs offensive line.

Why? Because Mahomes has shown he thrives when blitzed, registering a +0.42 EPA (expected points added) when being blitzed since becoming KC’s starting QB–more than double the EPA of any other starting QB in that time–and this year Mahomes led the league in QBR when pressured (75.6).

These stats may not matter much if, and when, the rain comes because running the ball and protecting it will become the main focus, that is both good and bad for Kansas City who allowed 1,954 rushing yards this season (ranked 21st in the NFL).

That doesn’t mean that Tampa Bay automatically gets the W with their dual-threat rushing game between Ronald Jones and Leonard Fournette–not to mention LeSean McCoy–because Tampa Bay ran the ball purposely 34% of the time this season but only finished the season with 94.9 rushing yds/gm (28th in NFL).

It also helps that the Chiefs defense, much like last year’s postseason, has become better in almost every category since Week 16 when the starters played their final regular-season game. In fact, KC’s defense this postseason has held both Josh Allen and Baker Mayfield to 60% CMP% or less and only 5.8 yds/attempt.

Throw in the fact that Tom Brady had three interceptions on three straight drives against Green Bay in the NFC Championship and the fact that ESPN’s advanced metrics have marked KC’s pass-rush as #1 out of all 14 postseason teams, and there are heavy considerations about how much better KC’s defense might be in this matchup.

The major problem that the Chiefs have seemed to keep at bay during this postseason is their terrible red zone defense which gave up touchdowns on 76.6% of opponent’s red zone attempts this season–worst by a Super Bowl team in 20 years.

If the Chiefs defense can keep up their postseason scourge and pressure Tom Brady into making even one mistake then the Chiefs can likely ruin Brady’s 10th Super Bowl appearance and ruin Tampa’s home-field Super Bowl, even with a hobbled O-line and dismaying weather.

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