Even though the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are playing in their home stadium for Super Bowl LV and have Tom Brady on their side, many are still picking the Kansas City Chiefs to win, and for good reason.
Actually, for several reasons.
The defending-champion Chiefs have quarterback Patrick Mahomes, a dynamic offense with tight end Travis Kelce and other speedy playmakers, and a solid defense that has three Pro Bowlers in linemen Chris Jones and Frank Clark, and defensive back Tyrann Mathieu.
However, there looks to be one area in which the Chiefs appear vulnerable, that the Buccaneers can exploit.
Late in Kansas City’s AFC Championship game victory vs. Buffalo, Chiefs starting offensive left tackle Eric Fisher left the game with an injury.
Named to the Pro Bowl, Fisher has since been ruled out of the Super Bowl after suffering a torn Achilles tendon.
For those not too familiar with the X’s and O’s of football, a left tackle is one of the most important players on the field because that position is tasked with protecting the blindside of the quarterback from oncoming pass rushers on the opposing defensive line.
Kansas City was already missing its starting right tackle, Mitchell Schwartz, who has been out since Week 6 with a back injury, although the Chiefs have seemed to compensate just fine in his absence.
But losing Fisher could be a different story.
Veteran Mike Remmers will likely step into Fisher’s role as the starting left tackle, but no doubt Tampa Bay will view it as a major opportunity.
The Buccaneers finished tied for fourth during the regular season in the 32-team league with 48 sacks.
Playing against a Green Bay team that was also depleted along the offensive line due to a season-ending injury to Pro Bowl tackle David Bakhtiari, Tampa Bay feasted in a 31-26 NFC Championship win.
Led by Jason Pierre-Paul, Shaquil Barrett and Ndamukong Suh, the defensive line for the Buccaneers harassed Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers throughout the game and recorded five sacks.
Although he’s played and been brilliant, Mahomes has also been hobbled in recent weeks with a toe injury, and likely won’t be fully mobile.
So yes, Tampa Bay has the big-game greatness of Brady and home-field advantage, but that won’t be its biggest chance to win.
The matchup to watch will be Tampa Bay’s defensive line vs. Kansas City’s offensive line.
If Kansas City neutralizes the matchup, it could be a blowout.
If the Buccaneers take advantage of it like they did against Green Bay, then the defending champs could end up walking the plank at the end.