From left: Staff Writer Karl Winter, Sports Editor Paxton Ritchey, Assistant News Editor Kyle McCabe, Photo Editor Ali Levens, Assistant Sports Editor Justin Touhey and Staff Writer Austin Hall. This group of six made its picks for the Super Bowl, which features the defending champion Chiefs and the hometown Buccaneers. Art by Madeline Duvall
We’ve finally reached the final week of a tumultuous year of NFL football.
With no Pro Bowl to distract fans of losing teams, speculation abounds regarding the draft, trading block and free agency market.
Before we get there, one game remains. Super Bowl LV — or 55, if you don’t read Roman numerals well — features familiar faces.
Quarterback Patrick Mahomes, Head Coach Andy Reid and the Kansas City Chiefs are the defending champions, attempting to become the first repeat champions since the New England Patriots in Super Bowls XXXVIII and XXXIX. Tom Brady, Tampa Bay’s 43-year-old quarterback and New England’s quarterback during those back-to-back championship seasons, is playing in his 10th Super Bowl and seeking his 7th ring.
Some things about the game are also very new: The Buccaneers haven’t played for the Lombardi Trophy since winning Super Bowl XXXVII in 2003.
The Bucs are also the first-ever team to play for it in their home stadium.
However, it will be the least-attended Super Bowl ever, with only 25,000 fans allowed inside Raymond James Stadium due to the COVID-19 pandemic — 7,500 of which will be vaccinated health care workers. The previous least-attended game was the very first Super Bowl — with just under 62,000.
Nevertheless, the game will likely average around 100 million viewers on CBS. The Weeknd reportedly plans to spend around $7 million of his own money to boost his halftime performance for television audiences.
The game itself marks the bittersweet culmination of a season-long undertaking that began in early September. Our staff will express their NFL hot takes for the final time this season.
The PGM Sports desk members have picked 267 NFL games this season, yet the battles for first and fourth place remain undecided. Will Sports Editor Paxton Ritchey complete the come-from-behind victory to top the standings? Or will Staff Writer Karl Winter hold on until the end? Or will the season-long competition end in a tie?
Without further ado, allow Staff Writers Winter and Austin Hall, Assistant Sports Editor Justin Touhey, Ritchey, Photo Editor Ali Levens and Assistant News Editor Kyle McCabe to make their selections for Sunday’s spectacle.
AFC No. 1 Kansas City Chiefs (16-2) at NFC No. 5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (14-5) (Sunday, Feb. 7 at 3:30 p.m., PST)
“I abandoned Tom Brady last week — what a poor decision on my part. I thought the bad man [Aaron Rodgers] could beat him — wrong. Tom Brady is an unstoppable force. He’s already said he’s playing next year, so he’ll live rent free in your heads again next year. The biggest reason I’m picking the Bucs is because of my homer status towards Tom Brady, but also, if the Bucs do win, it’s going to be for a couple of reasons. One, the Chiefs defense is not as good as the Bucs. Also, [the Chiefs] rush game is like 16th in the league. If they win, it’s going to be basically because of Mahomes. While their offense obviously is crazy good, I think that Tom Brady and the Bucs are very methodical. They don’t blow you away with behind-the-back throws; they blow you away with their three-to-five-yard annoying pass completions each down to make sure that they get a first down each time. If the Bucs do win, it’s because the Chiefs defense can’t handle the Bucs. The Bucs defense is also going to give Pat Mahomes trouble. They gave Aaron Rodgers and the Packers — who were on an absolute tear — troubles.” — Justin
“The comparison I was going to make is to another AFC West team — the Denver Broncos that won Super Bowl 50 with an all-time great QB, who was actually a liability for that football team. The Denver Broncos won Super Bowl 50 in spite of Peyton Manning, rather than because of Peyton Manning. That takes nothing away from Peyton Manning’s career, but it’s the truth. The Broncos just had far and away the better defense, the better running game, the better coaching. The Buccaneers are going to need to win all of those battles against the Chiefs to beat them in the Super Bowl and they’re just not going to. A lot of people have been saying that the Chiefs have the better offense and the Bucs have the better defense. Overall, that’s probably true, but the Bucs defense isn’t good enough to tip the scale. Who’s going to cover Tyreek Hill on that defense? We saw the way that the Chiefs adjusted the second time playing a team — against Buffalo, where they just killed him over the top with Hill in the first meeting, and in the second meeting, they just took what the defense gave them underneath to Travis Kelce, who had 15 catches. Patrick Mahomes also is just going to play a cleaner football game than Tom Brady at this stage of his career. Tom Brady in the last two years in the playoffs, he’s won, but he hasn’t been great. His last Patriots pass was a pick-six. He had three second-half interceptions against Green Bay when he should have been icing the game and running down the clock and he wasn’t able to. Patrick Mahomes thrives under pressure. A stat which is just mind-blowing to me: In Patrick Mahomes’ career when his teams go down by two scores, he is 8-1. That’s just absurd. I just see the Chiefs being better-coached, playing cleaner football, having a better quarterback right now, and so they are going to get my pick.” — Paxton
“[The Chiefs] didn’t even play a phenomenal game against Buffalo, but most of that game, Buffalo — who’s been probably the hottest team in football — looked like they shouldn’t have even been on the same field. Josh Allen couldn’t do anything. He was standing in the pocket all day. The Chiefs defense is really, really underrated. […] It’s a lot better [this season]. They don’t get a ton of sacks and I don’t think they get a ton of takeaways, but they do their job. They had Josh Allen running around trying to make plays. Their zone coverage was blistering. Diggs was a non factor and the running game was a non factor. […] Even though they didn’t beat the Bills by by 35, which there were times where it seems like they could have, they definitely looked like they were in a different class than any other team that I’ve seen. And then, for the Bucs […] What an unbelievable year for [Tom Brady]. Week after week, he proved me wrong and defied my expectations. The fact that they made it, in and of itself, is unbelievable. I hope it’s a good game. Defensive battle, high-scoring — it doesn’t really matter. I don’t really want to see another Patriots-Rams Super Bowl, but I do want to see a competitive game, which I think it has a chance to be. Yes, Tom Brady is the best player of all time, undisputed, but I think I’d rather take the best player right now. That’s what’s going to decide it. It is incredibly hard for any team in any sport to go back to back, but I think this Chiefs team has enough.” — Austin
“Any normal week, I would probably pick the Chiefs. I’ve been saying I’m going to pick the AFC to beat whoever from the NFC — but I wasn’t expecting it to be frickin’ Tom Brady in the Super Bowl. Tom Brady and the Bucs have been mostly healthy throughout this year. The Chiefs have definitely had a couple hold-ups; a couple of their players are injured. I think that will catch up with the Chiefs. The Bucs are going to come together more. They know how to win, obviously. As much as I don’t want Tom Brady to get another, how many has he won? I just think it makes the most sense, so I choose the Bucs because they think they can do it. And it’s really hard to win Super Bowls back to back, no matter how good a team may be. ” — Ali
“Of course, my basic reasoning for picking the Bucs is that my disdain for Tom Brady winning another Super Bowl does not outweigh my disdain for the Kansas City Chiefs winning back-to-back Super Bowls. But I will stick by what I’ve been saying throughout the playoffs and even the last few weeks of the season — Kansas City is a beatable team. They have weaknesses that so far nobody’s been able to expose well enough to actually take them down. There’s a formula there that people just haven’t really paid any attention to. I’m not going to enjoy watching the Super Bowl, so there’s not really much to look forward to, but I’ll just pick the Bucs in hopes that the Chiefs don’t win back to back.”— Kyle
“Before the playoffs, if you’d asked me what my least favorite Super Bowl matchup would be, this would probably have been it. I will be rooting for both teams to lose and I’ll be watching the game so I understand the memes, and for the commercials and the halftime show. My one consolation is that the game is on CBS instead of FOX so I can listen to [Tony] Romo instead of Joe Buck. When it comes down to it, these two teams are the two most talented teams in the league for sure. They both have pretty stacked rosters from top to bottom. The Chiefs have the better and more talented quarterback but the Bucs have the luckier quarterback, whose final plot to get his team to win by infecting the Chiefs barber did not work. So that is why I’ll be going with the Kansas City Chiefs. It was a close game back in Week 12, and the Bucs have come a long way since then, but the Chiefs have come a long way as well. When they’re down two scores, you still think they’re going to win. They play so well from behind, and they also play so well from the front, like you saw against the Bills. They’re not going to blow a 28-3 lead. Knock on wood! The Bucs run defense, which is a really good unit — that throwback D-line with Ndamukong Suh and [Jason Pierre-Paul] and such — they can do a good job against the run, but then you’re just giving the ball to Patrick Mahomes more. Patrick Mahomes is a much more agile quarterback than Aaron Rodgers at this point in his career. If you force him out of the pocket, he’s just going to beat you in different ways. Even though I think these two teams are pretty even in terms of talent across the board, the Chiefs also have the experience. They know this stage, and Andy Reid finally got over the hump last year and I think he can do it again. Bruce Arians is a Super Bowl caliber coach and he’s great and hopefully he’ll get one in his career, but I don’t think it’s going to come this year.”— Karl
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