The stage is set for the biggest Super Bowl matchup, and perhaps biggest sporting event, in quite some time. Super Bowl 55 pits two great teams against each other, but more importantly, two of the biggest names in the game at the quarterback position.

On one side, Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs look to defend last year’s Super Bowl title and begin to establish themselves as the NFL’s next dynasty. On the other side, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers haven’t won the Super Bowl since 2002. Their quarterback, however, has won six championships since then: future Hall of Famer Tom Brady.

While football is a team sport and there will be world-class players at every position, the matchup of Mahomes and Brady can’t be understated: it’s must-watch television. It’s NFL history, live and in the making.

Join me in my annual Super Bowl prediction piece: I’m 1-1 so far, splitting my last two Super Bowl picks. I did correctly pick the Chiefs last year, so I’m also looking to make it two in a row.

Picks Record

Regular Season: 157-98-1 (62% correct)

Wildcard Round: 4-2

Divisional Round: 3-1

Conference Championships: 2-0

I’m doing pretty well in the postseason so far, with a 9-3 record through twelve games.

Looking back at my Super Bowl Predictions throughout the year:

So my preseason pick was off, as I tried foolishly to bet against the Kansas City Chiefs. By midseason I was all-in on the Chiefs winning back-to-back Super Bowls, though I still found the Seattle Seahawks to be the NFC’s finest. Finally, heading in to the postseason, I thought Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints might reach the Super Bowl, but still projected the Chiefs as the victors.

Past Super Bowl Picks

Super Bowl 53: I predicted a shootout, as well as an overtime period being necessary to decide this meeting between Tom Brady’s New England Patriots and a well-rounded Los Angeles Rams team. I picked the Rams to win 36-30, but the prediction turned out to be quite wrong. The game failed to live up to the hype, and the Patriots beat the Rams 13-3.

Super Bowl 54: This prediction ended up much more accurate, despite the San Francisco 49ers leading late in the fourth quarter. I did anticipate the 49ers taking an early lead, but not holding it as late as they did. I had the Chiefs winning 37-30, staving off a late comeback attempt. In reality, Kansas City prevailed 31-20.

Super Bowl 55

Tom Brady and Buccaneers make it close, but fall short in a loss to Patrick  Mahomes and Chiefs - The Boston Globe
Photo: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Line: Kansas City Chiefs (-3.0)

Over/Under: 56.5

Location: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Florida

Time: 6:30 PM ET

Super Bowl 55 is the most exciting championship matchup in recent history for United States-based professional sports. The paramount feature of this matchup is, of course, the quarterbacks. Tom Brady, by far the most successful quarterback in NFL history, takes the Super Bowl stage for a staggering tenth time, looking for his seventh title. The opposing quarterback, Patrick Mahomes, is looking for his second Super Bowl at the ripe age of 25. Brady and Mahomes have won the last two Super Bowls, creating a rare and unique meeting.

But the overall narrative couldn’t be clearer: this is a matchup that involves the best player ever at the quarterback position, against one who is actively rewriting the history books and threatening to eventually take that title. Mahomes isn’t just an upstart young quarterback, he’s playing the game at a record-breaking level. When all is said and done, Mahomes could conceivably retire with similar accolades to Brady: such as ten Super Bowl appearences.

In this sense, the outcome of Sunday’s game could have a much larger impact on NFL history. If Brady wins his seventh title, while keeping Mahomes at just one, it will be very difficult for Brady’s record to ever be broken. But if the Chiefs win, Mahomes will have two Super Bowl wins to Brady’s six. Mahomes could still have ten to fifteen seasons (or even more if his career is as long as Brady’s) to win four or five more Super Bowls, matching and eventually surpassing the great Tom Brady. That might be too much of a “big picture” look, as there’s no telling if Mahomes and the Chiefs will create a multi-decade dynasty as the Patriots did. But it’s certainly a possibility, and for me, the biggest storyline of this matchup.

There’s plenty of intrigue in Super Bowl 55 besides the obvious meeting of two all-time great quarterbacks (yes, Mahomes has earned that title in just his third season as a starter.) Staying on the quarterbacks, but not the matchup, for just a moment, this has been an incredible ride for Tom Brady. While he’s obviously no stranger to success, spurning the Patriots for the Buccaneers after nearly two decades was one of the most surprising moves in NFL history. No one knew how his tenure in Tampa Bay, at age 43, would play out. Would Brady be exposed as the “system quarterback” his haters always thought he was? Would the Patriots still be a playoff contender wihout him?

Brady stepped in to the starting role with the Buccaneers, and despite a couple bumps in the road against good teams, was a major catalyst for Tampa Bay’s leap in 2020. I call it the LeBron James effect, as we’ve seen in the NBA: being able to walk in to a new situation and instantly make that team a championship contender. The Buccaneers overall roster isn’t shabby at all, but I have little doubt at this point that Brady could take at least half the league to the Super Bowl in just one season.

For Mahomes’ personal story, winning this matchup would mean winning two Super Bowls in three seasons as a starter, as well as adding a postseason win over Brady to his resume. The Chiefs would have been in three straight Super Bowls, if not for a Patriots overtime AFC Championship in Kansas City two seasons ago. Mahomes is looking to avenge that loss and add to his already loaded resume at the age of 25.

Picking the Game

Picking Super Bowl 55 isn’t going to be about advanced analytics or underappreciated matchup problems. It’s about which force you think is more unstoppable: Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs, or Tom Brady’s will and ability to win in the postseason.

The Chiefs have been vulnerable at points this postseason, and last postseason they infamously needed comebacks of 10 points or more in all three of their postseason wins. Kansas City’s defense isn’t their strong point, and they’ve shown signs of weakness, especially in the first half. If Mahomes can give the Chiefs an early lead, however, the defense could quickly gain an edge if Tampa Bay’s offense becomes pass-happy.

If the outcome of the game does come down to wits and grits, I would like to have Brady’s vast wealth of experience on my side. Bruce Arians cedes a lot of control to Brady, and if the situation gets tough late in the game, I wouldn’t be surprised if Arians looked to Brady for guidance.

My prediction isn’t too radical at all, as I think it will mimic the flow of many Chiefs games. Brady and the Buccaneers will score on their first two possessions, while Kansas City will not move the ball much at all. Tampa Bay leads 10-0 early in the first quarter, and while 10 points used to be a huge lead in the Super Bowl, it will feel like nothing against this Chiefs team.

Mahomes and the Chiefs snap back with back-to-back touchdown drives, the second one taking a mere five plays to drive 75 yards. Kansas City takes a 14-10 lead early in the second quarter. After that, the game settles down with a little back-and-forth action, no touchdowns, maybe a couple of field goals and a few punts. By halftime, the Chiefs cling to a 17-16 lead. A close game and still on pace for scoring in the 30’s, but perhaps a little lower scoring than fans anticipated.

From the second half kickoff until the final seconds of the fourth quarter, I expect nothing less than chaos. Maybe the Buccaneers strike back with the game’s next two touchdowns, taking a 30-17 lead while the Chiefs quickly search for answers.

The fourth quarter begins, and the Chiefs are able to churn out a long drive, earning an all-important touchdown to make the score 30-24, a one-score game. To their chagrin, the Buccaneers respond with a field goal, taking a 33-24 lead with seven or eight minutes left. I don’t know how the Chiefs will score their next touchdown, but they will, narrowing the score to 33-31 with four minutes left to play.

If the Buccaneers score a touchdown in this situation, they go up nine points and the game is essentially over. Kansas City’s defense bends, but doesn’t break. Brady and the Buccaneers get another three points via field goal (36-31 Tampa Bay), and worst of all, leave the Chiefs with under two minutes to play, needing a touchdown to win.

With the clock against them and the live odds favoring the Buccaneers, Mahomes and the Chiefs pull off a frantic comeback drive with over 100 million viewers watching at home. With under 30 seconds to go, Kansas City’s offense enters the red-zone, and in after a flurry of pass attempts, Mahomes connects in the endzone, probably with Travis Kelce, for the game-winning score. The Chiefs go for two to go up a field goal, but fail on that attempt. However, with no time left, there’s not much Brady can do but chuck up a last-second Hail Mary pass.

Chiefs win 37-36, Buccaneers win ATS

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Header Photo Credit: Getty Images via Fox13

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