Super Bowl LV betting guide: Picks, best bets and favorite props

By VSiN Staff  (VSiN.com) 

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Super Bowl LV between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers is finally here.

Our experts -- Adam Chernoff, Drew Dinsick, William Hill, Dave Tuley, Jonathan Von Tobel and Matt Youmans -- break down the biggest sports betting event of the year from every angle, offering their opinions on the side, total and their favorite prop bets.

Super Bowl home | Betting guide | Expert picks | Biggest bets | Cross-sport props Point Spread Weekly

Super Bowl LV: Kansas City Chiefs (-3, 56.5) vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tuley: While I couldn’t pull the trigger on the underdog 49ers last year or the Rams the year before, I love the Buccaneers getting the + 3.5. If you have been unable to grab it yet, we hope it comes back over the weekend while the public loads up on the favored Chiefs. It’s obviously better to get the hook, but we’re also confident Bucs 3 (EVEN) is a strong play.

We could write chapter and verse about all the matchups and stats, but it comes down to the fact these teams are closer than a field goal in my power ratings and the game should be closer to pick-’em. I see this as ending up right around 27-24 either way, so I also like Under 56.5 and think all four teaser combinations could hit if you choose to play it that way. Let’s not forget that the Chiefs won the regular-season meeting 27-24, with the Buccaneers rallying to get the back-door cover as 3.5-point home underdogs. That was the game in which Mahomes and Tyreek Hill hooked up seven times for 203 yards and two TDs in the first quarter(!), yet the Buccaneers still covered. I see no reason this shouldn’t also be a back-and-forth game, with the SU and ATS results hanging in the balance late and the spread possibly coming into play.

Pick: Bucs + 3.5

Dinsick:  It’s tough to ask for a better Super Bowl matchup. Both the Bucs and Chiefs bring superlative offenses, outstanding weapons and defensive stars and are fully deserving of their chance to win the Lombardi Trophy.

The market has settled in at a fair price of Chiefs -3, albeit a juicy 3 to back Kansas City. The moneyline suggests that the Chiefs have about a 60% chance to win, 40% for the Bucs to pull off the upset (KC -160 has a breakeven probability of 61.5% with a vig-free implied win probability of 59.6%). The total is at a sky-high 56 market-wide, making this the fourth Super Bowl in the last five years with a total in the 50s.

In my opinion, Tampa Bay has gotten here in spite of its coaching decisions. Their play-sequencing often reverts to a run-first approach with routes and targets that do not entirely take advantage of their top-end wide receiver and tight end talent. Tampa comes into this contest with a clear edge in the trenches on both sides of the ball; this tends to manifest as an advantage early in the game when paired with the extra rest that is afforded prior to the Super Bowl and Tampa can capitalize and take an early lead.  The signal is clear that you can’t expect to hold the Chiefs down with defense alone for four quarters, so it is important that the Bucs not be satisfied with an early lead and continue to put scoreboard pressure on the Chiefs through attacking downfield and going for it on fourth-down opportunities. 

The Tampa Bay offense does not have an ideal matchup against the Chiefs, considering Brady’s primary strength is diagnosing the defense pre-snap and Steve Spagnuolo has mastered the art of disguise while also finding unique ways to generate interior pressure, which Tom Brady’s kryptonite. If the game-state is flipped and the Chiefs take the lead early, the Bucs are entirely capable of comeback mode with their excellent run defense and passing weapons.

The coaching advantage for Kansas City is significant and it has a quarterback advantage as well with Mahomes playing at an elite level in big games and proving he is completely unphased by difficult circumstances.  The Chiefs are clearly the best team in the NFL and the rightful favorite, but the point spread is fair; my numbers suggesting the most likely outcome of a 3-point win for the Chiefs. 

While the injuries to the Chiefs offensive line are concerning, they are generally offset by Mahomes ability to thrive outside the pocket and hit the home run deep pass when pressured; Mahomes’ scrambling ability will also be a key factor for Kansas City’s ability to extend drives. The Chiefs are pass-first to put away leads with long methodical drives and will be pass-heavy if a comeback is needed, which presents an edge on the expected pass attempts for Mahomes at 41.5. Travis Kelce is a nightmare matchup for any team, including Tampa Bay, and would be expected to be a principal component of the game plan regardless of game-state (i.e. putting away a lead or coming from behind). The Chiefs defense is also underrated by the marke, in general, and has the two most important pieces for limiting Tom Brady: an interior pass rush and a ball-hawking safety in Chris Jones and Tyrann Mathieu, respectively.

Ultimately, the pre-game side and total are fair numbers and the edge for me is slightly in favor of the Chiefs. Everything needs to go right for the Bucs to get into the 30s, whereas Kansas City’s home-run threat against an aggressive pass defense could make this game one-way traffic if the Bucs are less efficient than expected on offense.  No lead is safe against Mahomes and the most likely game-state by my projections is Tampa Bay’s advantage in the trenches manifesting an early lead followed by a Kansas City comeback with the Chiefs prevailing 31-27. 

The best angle of attack in-play will be a live over if the Bucs generate a two-score lead or a live under if the Chiefs get out to a two-score lead.

Pick: Chiefs -3, Mahomes Over 41.5 pass attempts

Prop bets

Game tied after 0-0? (Yes, -110)

Tuley: This is pretty simple. We’re just cheering for the game to be tied at some point, just like last year, when it was 10-10 at halftime, or the year before, when the Patriots and Rams were tied 3-3.

Youmans: Bet against a blowout. The most likely script is a tight contest that features Brady and Mahomes trading shots until a dramatic ending.

Largest lead (Under 14.5 points, + 100)

Tuley: Again, with a back-and-forth game, we just need neither team to go up by more than two touchdowns. We’ve cashed this the last three Super Bowls, and we still get even money on it.

 

Double result of halftime/game winner (Tie/Chiefs 12-1 and Tie/Buccaneers 15-1)

Tuley: This looks more complicated, but we’re basically betting that the game is tied at halftime (like last year when we cashed this again), and then it doesn’t matter who wins the game. We found this at 14.25-1 and 18.5-1 at Circa, but most other books were around the 12-1 and 15-1. You can even bet a little more on Tie/Chiefs (25% more in our stated odds) if you want to win the same amount.

Will K.C. or T.B. score three straight times (+ 180)?

Tuley: This is usually a sucker bet. It looks like a juicy price, though there usually are at least three unanswered scores in most NFL games (which is why the “yes” is favored at more than -200). But I trust Mahomes and Brady to answer if the other drives to back-to-back scores.

Will there be overtime? (Yes, + 800)

Tuley: This is also usually a sucker bet -- and only one of the previous Super Bowls have gone to overtime, so books offer a cheap price. But I’m taking a shot with it this year as, again, anything can happen in a close, back-and-forth game. Plus I trust Mahomes and Brady if they need to rally from three, seven or eight points late. This scenario also would cash our first bet if we don’t get the tie at halftime or elsewhere.

 

Total points scored, between 51-55 (Yes, 6-1)

Tuley: VSiN colleague Jonathan Von Tobel put me on this last year, and I like it again Sunday. It cashes if the game comes just below the total of 56.5 yet pays a nice 6-1. If you lean to the Over, you could add the 56-60 range, which also pays 6-1 and still gives you 3-1 for the game landing between 51 and 60, which we see as much more likely than one time in four.

Brady to score first TD (25-1)

Tuley: On the VSiN NFL Consensus Page, I was asked to recommend a “Player to Score First TD.” I went with Brady, so I have to bet it now and think I should include it here. Brady rarely runs these days, but he’s still great at the quarterback sneak, and maybe he’ll call his own number if the Bucs get inside the Chiefs’ 1-yard line. I would also love to see a naked bootleg near the goal line, as the Chiefs wouldn’t be expecting that. Or, hey, why not a “Tampa Bay Special” like the Eagles ran against the Patriots three years ago?

Jersey number of first player to score TD (Under 17.5, -110)

Tuley: You could take a bigger price on an individual player, but I prefer this option as you get both quarterbacks as well as Chiefs receivers Tyreek Hill (10), Demarcus Robinson (11), Sammy Watkins (14) and Mecole Hardman (17) as well as Buccaneers WRs Scotty Miller (10), Mike Evans (13) and Chris Godwin (14). You could bet the running backs or tight ends separately if you want to cover those possibilities.

Total number of players to have a passing attempt (Over 2.5, + 160)

Tuley: I lost with this one last year, but I’m coming back with it. As noted above, a “Philadelphia Special” redux could be in the works for Brady, plus the Chiefs have it in their playbook too. We don’t condone cheering for a quarterback injury, but it also would cash if a backup is pressed into duty even if just for one pass — and we know Andy Reid trusts his backup, Chad Henne.

Shortest touchdown (Under 1.5 yards, -170)

Tuley: I’ve been recommending this prop year after year, back from when we used to get plus money on it. We cashed it the last four years and six of the last seven, so the argument could be made that the books still haven’t adjusted enough as the juice is up to -170. Your call, but again we love the scenario of a QB sneak by Brady.

No score in first six minutes (-110)

Hill: You’re on a big date or you’re in a big game. We all know it can take a few minutes or so to settle into these things. Nobody wants to lose the biggest game of his life in the first few minutes with a careless mistake, so teams generally come out fired up on defense and a bit conservative on offense. The Bucs’ Todd Bowles and the Chiefs’ Steve Spagnuolo are outstanding defensive coordinators who will have had two weeks to prepare.

Brady has played in nine Super Bowls. In those nine first quarters, his teams have scored a total of three points. The 2004 Panthers-Patriots Super Bowl was scoreless with three minutes left in the first half before the Pats won 32-29. The Patriots-Seahawks in 2015 was 7-0 approaching the two-minute warning of the first half. It went into halftime 14-14, finishing 28-24 Patriots with Seattle a yard from getting seven more points. I like “no score in the first six minutes,” and I will likely look to jump in on an Over in live wagering after what could be a clunky start. If you like the Under, bet it before the game. If you like the Over, wait for a lower number after a few drives.

Patrick Mahomes Over 40.5 pass attempts (-110)

Hill: Andy Reid will have spent two weeks watching the Bucs on tape and will realize that running against their fast, physical front will be a waste. The Bucs have an elite rushing defense, and Reid will be playing right into their hands every time he calls a running play. Not only does a run play challenge the Bucs at what they do best, but it takes the ball out of the hands of the best player in the league. Mahomes threw for 462 yards when these teams played in the regular season, and I think Reid will go back to the well and lean on his best player to throw his team to back-to-back titles. The Overs in passing attempts and yards (about 320 at most books) are strong plays to consider, given the game script I expect.

Tyreek Hill Over 93.5 yards (-110)

Hill: Do you really want to sit there for four hours and have your money invested in Hill not making big plays? Does that sound like a pleasant viewing experience? Hill has averaged 141 yards in two playoff games, and that’s without Mahomes for a large part of one of them. He had 13 catches for 269 yards in their first meeting and is simply too fast to be marginalized by any scheme the Bucs might employ to try to limit his explosiveness. I usually lean toward the Under in these player props, but even I have my limits. Hill can eclipse this total with just a few catches. Expect him to break 100 yet again.

Youmans: Hill torched Tampa Bay the first time around by totaling 13 receptions for 269 yards and three touchdowns. In the playoffs, Hill had 172 yards against Buffalo and 110 against Cleveland, so anything under 100 is a low number. Hill had nine catches for 105 yards in last year’s Super Bowl.

First score of the game: Field goal/safety + 190

Youmans: A touchdown is the favorite to be the first score, but the South Point offers the top plus price on the other side, as most other books price this about + 160. In the Chiefs’ 27-24 regular-season win at Tampa Bay, Kansas City scored first on Harrison Butker’s 19-yard field goal.

More points scored in second half/OT -1.5 -110

Youmans: In nine Super Bowl appearances with the Patriots, Brady’s offenses produced a total of three points in the first quarter. Brady is a slow starter in title games, for some odd reason, and the Chiefs have had a habit of falling behind in playoff games the last two seasons. If those trends continue, expect more scoring after halftime and lay 1.5 points at William Hill. For what it’s worth, the 2019 game between Brady and Mahomes produced 14 first-half points and 54 after the half. Play this prop in connection with Over 3.5 second-half touchdowns at + 100. The total of 56.5 projects six or seven touchdowns to be scored. Envision how the game script could play out, and it’s easy to see Brady and Mahomes warming up before getting involved in another second-half shootout.

Roughing-the-passer penalty: Yes + 100

Youmans: NFL rules protect all quarterbacks to an absurd degree. A defensive player’s hand brushing a helmet is a penalty. These QBs demand superstar treatment from the officials, so this penalty should be better than a coin-flip proposition. With 80-plus passes projected, also consider betting Over 3.5 sacks at -160 at the Westgate.

Will Mahomes throw an interception? Yes + 155

Youmans: He rallied to win the game, so it’s easy to forget Mahomes was not very good in the first 3.5 quarters of last year’s Super Bowl. He threw two interceptions, and the Chiefs trailed the 49ers 20-10 with seven minutes left. The Tampa Bay defense will blitz Mahomes often because that’s the only way to pressure him into mistakes and high-risk throws. In the playoffs, the Buccaneers intercepted the Saints’ Drew Brees three times and the Packers’ Aaron Rodgers once.

Touchdown passes by Mahomes: Over 2 -200

Youmans: Chiefs coach Andy Reid is a gambler who will trust Mahomes and give him the freedom to let it fly. In the regular-season meeting, Mahomes went 37-for-49 for 462 yards and three touchdowns. Kansas City scored in each of the first three quarters and did not score in the fourth only because it was sitting on a 27-10 lead. Reid will not sit on a lead against Brady in the Super Bowl. The worst-case scenario for Mahomes seems to be two TD passes, which would mean a push on this total at the Westgate.

Brady touchdown pass in third quarter: Yes + 140

Youmans: This is a two-part bet in connection with a Brady TD pass in the fourth quarter at + 110. The Westgate offers plus prices on each quarter, so it takes only one Brady TD in the second half to turn at least a small profit. Brady had two fourth-quarter touchdown passes in the teams’ first meeting.

Antonio Brown receptions 4: Under -110

Youmans: Brady targeted Brown frequently late in the regular season, but Brown had a total of only three receptions in the Buccaneers’ first two playoff games. He missed the NFC title game with a knee injury and seems unlikely to be a major part of the game plan this week.

Will the game be decided by exactly 3 points? Yes + 425

Youmans: Even with a point spread of three, the math says this is not an advantage play, yet this game has the feel of one that’s going to the wire. Each of Brady’s first four Super Bowls were decided by three points and each of his next two were decided by four points.

Cross-sport props

Jamal Murray PTS REB AST (2/6 DEN at SAC) vs. Tom Brady Pass ATT (-8.5)

Von Tobel: Using just season averages as a starting point, bettors will find Jamal Murray averages 27.3 points, rebounds and assists per game while Tom Brady averaged 38.1 pass attempts per game in the regular season. We’ve seen Brady’s pass attempts dip slightly in the postseason to 36.3 per game, possibly because of Bruce Arian’s obsession with running on early downs.

Now, let’s factor in opponents. Murray will be facing the Sacramento Kings on Saturday, and the Kings are not exactly a defensive force. They are last in defensive efficiency (119.0), and one can likely expect a bump in points and potentially assists for Murray against them. Tie in the fact that Tampa Bay is facing the 31st-ranked run defense in Kansas City and we could see even more of a dip in Brady’s pass attempts.

Jamal Murray 3P Made (2/6 DEN @ SAC) vs. Patrick Mahomes TD PASSES (PK)

Von Tobel: Through 19 games this season Murray is averaging 2.1 made 3-point attempts per game, while Mahomes averaged 2.53 touchdown passes per game in the regular season. As we noted earlier, the Kings are the worst defense in the league, and one of the biggest issues is their perimeter defense. Opponents take 35.8 percent of their attempts from deep against Sacramento, and they shoot 39.0 percent on those attempts. We can realistically expect Denver as a whole to take more 3-point shots in this game, but how many will go to Murray?

If we’re setting the number of touchdown passes for Mahomes at 2.5, then Murray will need a minimum of three made 3-pointers to challenge this prop bet. In seven of his 19 games, Murray has made three or more 3-pointers. Couple that with a poor perimeter defense in Sacramento, it seems as if Murray will be pretty live here.

Nikola Jokic PTS REB (2/6 DEN at SAC) vs. Distance of First Made FG (-0.5)

Von Tobel: Using just the season-long averages puts Jokic’s number in this prop at 38.6, but that might not paint the whole picture. Jokic has been on an otherworldly run of late. Over his last 14 games, he’s totaling 40.6 points and rebounds, and in his last eight the number is 43.2. Against a team like Sacramento, which has no real defensive presence in the frontcourt, this could be yet another monster game for Jokic.

If we’re using 38.6 points and rebounds as our starting point, that would mean a 40-yard field goal or longer would be needed to beat you on this prop. In a Super Bowl coaches tend to call plays tighter, and they are likely to settle for field goals once inside enemy territory. If Jokic can take advantage of the Kings’ horrendous defense, it makes this a tight number.

Kevin Durant PTS REB (2/6 BRK at PHI) (-6.5) vs. Darrel Williams (KC) RUSH YDS

Von Tobel: This is a pretty fascinating prop considering Williams has found a role with Kansas City in the postseason. In the Chiefs’ two playoff games he averaged 65 rushing yards per game on 13 attempts. Kevin Durant is averaging just 38.3 points and rebounds per game, so on the surface it seems like there is an advantage in taking Williams plus-6.5 here.

However, there are some real questions with Williams here. First, is his role secure with Kansas City? Clyde Edwards-Helaire totaled fewer touches than Williams in the AFC championship game but is reportedly getting healthier as the Chiefs prepare for the Super Bowl, and keep in mind he actually played more snaps than Williams against Buffalo. Add the fact that Tampa Bay has the NFL’s best run defense, according to Football Outsiders, and this looks like a play on Durant.

Joel Embiid PTS (-1.5) (2/6 BRK at PHI) vs. Tampa Bay PTS

Von Tobel: This is one of my favorite cross-sport props on the board. Embiid has been absolutely incredible this season, averaging 28.3 points per game. If Embiid just hits his average, then the Bucs would need to be held to 26 points or fewer for you to win this prop, but there are a few things working in the bettor’s favor.

Brooklyn has been atrocious defensively this season, ranking 27th in defensive efficiency since acquiring James Harden. At the center of that, literally and figuratively, is DeAndre Jordan. The Brooklyn big man has been atrocious this season, ranking 54th among centers in ESPN’s Defensive Real Plus-Minus metric. Embiid ranks second among centers in Offensive Real Plus-Minus and should be able to feast on Jordan and the Nets defense. This looks like a game for Embiid that could see him score well over 30 points, and Tampa Bay managed just 24 points in its first meeting with Kansas City on Nov. 29.

Adam Chernoff's Super Bowl breakdown and best bet

Chernoff: There are three decisions that I believe will decide this Super Bowl side and total. Each of them will be made by a member of the Buccaneers coaching staff.

“Old roots, or repeat of Week 12 demolition?”

  

Todd Bowles is one of the most aggressive defensive coaches in the NFL and earns acclaim for how he disguises blitzes and his relentless effort to generate pressure on opposing QBs. This season, his Bucs defense generated the third-highest rate of pressure on opposing QB’s (28%) and the fourth-highest rate of sacks (48%). Bowles elects to send extra pass-rushers in the blitz the fifth-highest rate of any team (39%).

The issue is that Mahomes excels when blitzed; his numbers across the board when blitzed this season rank among the highest of any QB in the last 15 seasons. The ability of Mahomes to find the open man has led to teams blitzing him on just 20% of snaps this season -- the lowest rate of any NFL QB.

In the Week 12 matchup between these teams, Bowles elected to send extra pass-rushers on just 17% of snaps, 22% below the Tampa Bay’s season average. While the Bucs’ pressure rate was at their season average mark, Mahomes still threw for 462 yards, 9.4 yards per attempt and a 125 QB rating.

The media this week is putting enormous emphasis on the Buccaneers defensive line against the Chiefs offensive line. The Eric Fisher injury is another blow against the line in a season littered with them. In turn the brunt of mainstream media analysis of this Super Bowl is now on how Kansas City will slow down pressure, rather than how Tampa Bay will slow down the explosive Chiefs offense. 

What I believe is being missed is the Week 12 game for the Buccaneers was the outlier of the season where Bowles went out of character and hardly blitzed at all. That was the game where Tampa Bay’s defensive scheme erred on the side of caution and was completely out of the norm. 

Handicapping this Super Bowl should not be an evaluation of how the Chiefs will deal with the pressure, but rather a question of whether Bowles and the Buccaneers will revert to their usual tendencies and try to generate more pressure than the Week 12 matchup. 

Both Bowles and Arians have been around the league for a long time, are extremely unique in their coaching styles and quite stubborn when it comes to decision making. The blueprint for defending the Chiefs all season has been not to blitz, sit safeties deep to help with Tyreek Hill and try prevent any deep passes over a defense’s head. This is fundamentally against how both Bowles and Arians operate, yet they tried to implement this exact game plan in Week 12. 

They were pummeled. 

In the biggest game of his career, I doubt Bowles will use the same game plan that goes against his preferred defensive scheme. Vita Vea’s return and the Chiefs missing another starter on the O-line only encourages more of a reversion to tendency.

All this does in my opinion is increase the variance of the game. The Buccaneers will inevitably get to Mahomes. They will tally up hits, sacks, hurries and pressures, but they will also in turn be vulnerable on the back end in coverage. Arians said after the Week 12 contest that Tampa Bay got burned every time it went to man. It is difficult to blitz at the rate the Bucs do and play anything but man behind. Tampa Bay will smother the run game of Kansas City, but the Chiefs will hit on multiple big plays.

Byron Leftwich:

“Playoff play-calling jitters, or just sticking to the plan?”

Tom Brady was ecstatic entering the Week 13 bye. He exclaimed about finally getting the time to work with receivers and get on the same page, something he struggled with all season up to that point. The work put in during the week off was reported to be fantastic. The team came out of the bye and have averaged north of 30 points per game in the seven weeks since. 

Much of the success and explosion in offensive output can be attributed to the deep pass. Since Week 13, Brady has thrown for a gain of 15 yards or more on one in every six pass attempts. That is the highest rate in the league and significantly higher than the 1-in-11 mark for the Bucs in the 12 weeks prior.

At face value, everything is clicking for the Buccaneers offense. 

Dig deeper and there is an incredible play-calling change and success rate discrepancy.

Prior to the bye, the Buccaneers passed on 57% of first or second downs; the final four weeks of the season the rate dipped to 50%. In the playoffs, pass rate on early downs has dipped further to 46%. Not only has the pass rate dropped 11% over the course of seven weeks, but the success rate of runs has tanked as well. In three playoff games, Tampa Bay has run for just a 32% success rate on early downs (16% below its season average). In 12 quarters these playoffs, the Buccaneers have had just one explosive first down run.

Despite calling more early-down runs and having significantly less success on those runs, the Buccaneers have scored 31, 30 and 31 points in three playoff games. On third downs this postseason, Tampa Bay is averaging 10.5 yards per attempt and has an explosive pass rate of 22%. The splits are absolutely mind boggling and in almost any other scenario be deemed unsustainable.

However, believe it or not, this is what the Buccaneers want.

Arians said in his postgame Week 12 press conference that he got everything he wanted from the game, but the team just did not execute on third down. He was right, as Tampa Bay was 3-of-9 on third down. All nine plays were passes, only two were less than 10 yards downfield. Leftwich’s comments following the game fell in line with Arians, as Leftwich said that ball control on early downs was the focus of the offense moving forward.

Matched up against the Chiefs and one of the best big-game defensive coordinators in NFL history (Steve Spagnuolo) this would appear to be a likely spot for the Buccaneers third-down luck to run out. However, I question if this even matters at all to him? 

Kansas City is 29th in rush defense success rate both overall and on early downs. Despite conceding yards against the rush, the Chiefs are terrific at preventing big runs (their explosive run rate against just 7% this season, fourth in the NFL). If Leftwich and the Buccaneers want to run on early downs, it is beneficial for Kansas City to let them run.

The Buccaneers should have success on early downs and find themselves in high-leverage third-down situations. But rather than the third-and-long situations they were routinely in against Washington, New Orleans and Green Bay, it is likely they will be in third-and-short against Kansas City. 

While many may look at the Leftwich early down play calling as a detriment, oddly enough, it is likely going to lead to indifference against Kansas City … or perhaps even success for Tampa Bay?

Bruce Arians

“Risk it for the biscuit”

The above motto Arians lives and coaches by is going to be tested at some point in this Super Bowl. The question is: Will he be forced into making the decision himself, or will the scoreboard make it for him?

On all downs with any scoreline all season, the Buccaneers pass the football on 62% of snaps.

If Tampa Bay leads by one score or more, the pass rate on all downs drops to 52% overall and 44% on early downs.

If Tampa Bay trails by one score or more, the pass rate on all downs increases to 74% overall and 70% on early downs.

As predictable as Leftwich’s play-calling is, the way that Arians manages games is even more predictable. Arians is aggressive overall, but when he is leading, he gets very conservative and when he is trailing he gets hyper aggressive.

After taking the lead 28-10 against Green Bay, the Buccaneers went run-run-interception. The following series after a Packers touchdown, the Buccaneers went four runs and a pass before another interception. The following series still playing with a lead (now just five points), the Buccaneers went run, then screen before the third consecutive interception. Aside from the 35-yard completion up 28-23 against Washington late in the fourth quarter, we have not seen the Tampa Bay attempt much of anything downfield when playing with a lead.

The Buccaneers let both Washington and Green Bay work their way back into the game after holding big leads. Kansas City is one of four other teams in the NFL that pass at a rate higher than 70% when trailing by a touchdown. The Chiefs also have a higher success rate (58%) than any other team in the league.

How likely is Arians to change game state tendencies in his second Super Bowl?

My prediction

All three coaches for the Buccaneers introduce a ton of variance into this game. 

I believe Bowles goes back to his roots and risks bringing extra rushers trying to get through the beat-up offensive line to Mahomes. He will leave his banged-up safeties vulnerable on the back end, but it will be a chance he is willing to take. 

I think Leftwich stays with the run-heavy approach on early downs, backs into accidental success with them, which gets disguised by multiple big plays. Tight ends will bail out both Brady and Leftwich from another play-calling disaster. 

It will be a back-and-forth game for four quarters with both sides getting hyper aggressive when playing from behind. Arians will not make any changes to his tendencies when the Buccaneers have a lead and instead of continuing to pass, they will give the ball back and allow Kansas City back in the game.

But what about the Chiefs!?

When it comes to Kansas City, quite frankly, it does not really matter. All season long they have been tormented by teams putting together their best possible game plan, but also the most extreme game plan possible. 

Teams like Buffalo, Las Vegas, Carolina, Los Angeles, and Houston did everything possible to not get beat deep. What did the Chiefs do? They adjusted and took everything underneath all game long. 

For teams like Baltimore, Denver, New York and Miami that wanted to test the pass rush and hope coverage would hold up, they did everything possible to bring pressure and get to Mahomes. What did the Chiefs do? They adjusted and took deep shot after deep shot all game long.

The Buccaneers likely make the latter strategy more of a reality in this matchup. Kansas City’s run game will be non-existent, so Mahomes will be enticed to throw deep, forced out of the pocket and made to move. He will miss throws, but also connect on a number of big ones against single coverage downfield. Just as the Buccaneers will live and die by the deep ball, the Chiefs will too.

The first meeting between these two teams produced 1,000 yards of offense and 7.5 yards per play, but only 51 points. Not only will this game exceed both of those marks, but it will also exceed the total of 56.

For prop bets, I would take individual Kansas City Chiefs running backs under for attempts, yardage and Mahomes passing attempts over.

The pick: Over 56

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