Who will feel Super on Super Bowl Sunday?
For the second straight year, the Super Bowl is back in the Sunshine State — Florida, for those not familiar with state nicknames — which normally wouldn’t grab people’s attention as that state is a frequent setting for the biggest sporting event in the country.
However, this year is different and not just because Super Bowl LV (55) is in Tampa instead of Miami Gardens.
It’s because, for the first in NFL history, a franchise gets to play in its home stadium, which I’m sure will be mentioned at least a few times Sunday. There’s been times where a team has come close, like in Super Bowl XIV (the Rams played in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena near to their Los Angeles home) and Super Bowl XIX (the 49ers played in Stanford Stadium, not far from San Francisco), but not its true home like the Buccaneers will do.
The game is also in Tampa for the first time in a dozen years, which is quite a gap with the way the NFL loves Florida. The Steelers won the most recent Super Bowl title in Tampa, edging the Cardinals, historically one of the league’s most woeful franchises.
How much does that hurt Detroit Lions fans that Arizona made it to the Super Bowl before they did?
Tampa is also the site where Marcus Allen ran wild over the Washington now-non-Redskins, Scott Norwood missed his famous field goal attempt for the Buffalo Bills, and arguably the best defense ever, the 2000 Baltimore Ravens, crushed the New York Giants in a game that in many minds was over before it started.
So some memorable games have taken place in Tampa over the years.
This one has the potential to be even more memorable, though, with Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady defying Father Time and getting to play in his 10th Super Bowl.
If Tampa wins, it’ll be his seventh win and first with a team other than New England. I imagine Patriots fans are quite conflicted about this game. It’s like your spouse getting remarried and you get invited to watch. You’re happy for them, but you get reminded of how things used to be, and my guess is you’ll be partaking in some alcohol before the evening is over.
The Buccaneers are an interesting team, primarily because they needed Brady as that extra piece to get to the big game. His arrival in Tampa even convinced tight end Rob Gronkowski to come out of retirement, which also makes people think the only reason Gronk was successful is because he played with a guy who refuses to age.
The Bucs won in their only other Super Bowl appearance, mostly due to their lockdown defense that included Hall of Famers Derrick Brooks and Warren Sapp. Tampa doesn’t get to the Super Bowl often, but it does make a big statement when it does.
The other way this game could potentially be memorable is that it will provide the Kansas City Chiefs a chance to repeat. That would be the first time that’s happened since the Patriots did it in Super Bowl XXXIX. Normally, this might be annoying, but KC is so fun to watch that a back-to-back champion is something I’d be OK with.
Unlike last year, where it needed to come back twice in the playoffs and in the Super Bowl to get a title, Kansas City has looked like the team to beat in the AFC. The Chiefs held off the Browns and looked strong in the AFC Championship against the Bills, while also making me look dumb for picking Buffalo to win it all a couple weeks ago.
Patrick Mahomes is the best quarterback in the conference and you could make the case that he’s also the best in the NFL. He also has a great receiving corps in Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins, if he plays, along with tight end Travis Kelce. If they get rolling early, Tampa is in trouble.
As fun as the game will probably be, what makes it better is the prop bets and now that online sports betting is legal in Michigan, you could have a chance for a big payday. I’ve gotten pretty good at these with my columns, but like I said last year, if you do bet money on the game, don’t blame me if you lose it.
Let’s look at a few:
• Will the national anthem be sung in less than two minutes? This year, it’ll be two people I’ve never heard of — country artist Eric Church and R&B artist Jazmine Sullivan. So this is a bet I’m not very confident in. I’ll say it will, but I wouldn’t rely on my opinion.
• Who scores first? The Chiefs have the better offense and unlike last year where they had to make a bunch of comebacks, they tend to figure it out after a bit. I’ll say a touchdown pass from Mahomes to Kelce in the back of the end zone.
• Will a field goal be missed? It didn’t happen last year after I thought there would be. Both the Chiefs’ Harrison Butker and the Bucs’ Ryan Succop are reliable, with the latter making all of his attempts in the playoffs, so I’m predicting no.
• What will the halftime score be? Last year, it was 10-10 and much more entertaining than the dud between the Pats and Rams the previous season. I’ll say it’s 17-14 Kansas City, but both teams will be looking good.
• What will be the highlight of the halftime show? This year’s act will be The Weeknd — for those not familiar, yes that vowel is supposed to be missing — who should put together a good show. He may not be as recognizable as Jennifer Lopez or Shakira were in Miami, but he’s got some great songs. I’ll say the big moment will be his song “Blinding Lights,” which will probably live up to its name.
• Will there be a safety or nonoffensive touchdown? I’ll go no to the former as neither team has done it this postseason, but the Chiefs would be most likely to do it, considering how Brady moves at the speed of a tortoise. With the latter, I’ll say yes and it’ll be the Chiefs with a pick-six. Brady threw three picks against the Packers two weeks ago. He’ll throw at least one against Kansas City.
• What color will the Gatorade be during the postgame dump? Again, this is a tough prop bet as there’s lots of colors. Last year, the Chiefs went with orange and it’s also part of the Bucs’ color scheme, although not as much as the retro uniforms. I’ll say it’s orange again.
• Who wins and who’s the MVP? Here’s the big prediction. The Chiefs on paper seem like they have the better team, but the Bucs have Brady and they’ve won three straight playoff games, including last week when he wasn’t at his best.
Last year, I predicted that Kansas City would rally in the fourth quarter and I said they’d get the winning touchdown in the final two minutes. That was pretty close as it scored the winner with 2:44 left. This year, I think the Chiefs are ahead going into the fourth and Tampa rallies to cut its deficit down to one possession in the final two minutes. However, the Bucs ultimately come up short, turning it over on downs and Kansas City repeats with Mahomes winning MVP honors for the second straight year.
Even though the game is in Tampa this year and not Miami, Florida has been nice to the Chiefs and even though the sun will have set by the end of the game, Kansas City’s fortunes will be bright and shiny again.
Ryan Stieg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.