Sunday’s game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers is sure to hold heavy implications on the playoff picture. In the AFC, Kansas City is still hoping for a shot at the number one seed and home field advantage. On the other hand, Tampa Bay is a game and a half back in their division, having already lost both games to New Orleans.
This will also be the fourth meeting between quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes and Tom Brady. The older, veteran signal caller holds a 2-1 lead in head to head meetings. Meanwhile, the pace the Chiefs’ quarterback is on this season will be a strong test to Brady’s new team. With that in mind, let’s look into how each team could emerge victorious. Here are our three keys to victory for each team.
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Kansas City- 3 Keys To Victory
1) Pressure Brady Early, Often
Last week in Vegas, the Chiefs pass rush was the most absent it had been all season. Chris Jones and Frank Clark struggled to provide a push. The only times Kansas City got any remote shot at the quarterback, was if a defensive back was helping or pinching in on a blitz call. This matchup against Tampa Bay is far more advantageous. But, the results have to materialize.
The more time Brady has to throw the more open throwing lanes become. We know the Chiefs can have issues with missed tackles or being out of position. To help mitigate those issues, the pressure has to get home. Rushing from the interior and pressuring Brady from the blindside could be the best course of action for KC. Steve Spagnuolo must get his guys going early, like he did against this quarterback last season.
2) Attack Deep
This Tampa Bay secondary and defense as a whole works best when staying over the top and attacking downhill. Specifically, safeties Antoine Winfield Jr and Jordan Whitehead are going to be key to watch. They play a very physical brand of football. As a result, the Chiefs weapons have to be able to match that intensity. In addition, Andy Reid and Mahomes should attempt to test the back seven by changing direction and taking deep shots.
Last week, the Bucs were a little slow to stop the opponent’s speed and misdirection. The Chiefs are obviously going to be aware of the instincts and ball skills of guys like Lavonte David, Devin White, Carlton Davis and Sean Murphy-Bunting. Watch for Tyreek Hill or Mecole Hardman to receive vertical shots in this one.
3) Don’t Abandon The Run
Over the last year and a half, the Tampa Bay run defense has been among the best in the NFL. Just this season alone, the Bucs have allowed the second fewest rushing yards on the season. They have also allowed just a measly 3.2 yard per carry, best in the league. The key here, is going to be that the Chiefs cannot totally abandon the running game.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire continues to grow each week. His ability to gain additional yards after first contact, and surprise with quick bursts around the edge, have been a welcome addition to the pace of the offense this season. Even Le’Veon Bell has shown off a more physical running style, than we have seen from him in past years. This pace will be important to keep in a big game like this. Straight handoffs won’t get the job done, though. Reid needs to show off his creativity in the running game to help ensure a win.
Tampa Bay- 3 Keys To Victory
1) Mix Up The Play Calling
A big reason as to why the Buccaneers have lost two of the last three games, is because their offense is too predictable. Too many times, they have made simple handoffs on first or second and long. Brady has been less effective on deep passes or third down because of obvious passing situations. The Kansas City defense is struggling right now. However, this team cannot go in with the same mindset. Test the Chiefs run defense on the edge and force them to contain and pursuit to the ball. Elsewhere, Brady will look to test this defense in all three levels of the field. Building a new game script would be smart for the Tampa Bay Bucs.
2) Takeaway Travis
Travis Kelce has long been one of the best tight ends around the league. This year has been even better somehow. He is already only 104 yards away from his fifth straight 1,000 yard season. And there is still five more games to be played after Sunday.
This is actually a pass defense that could legitimately take Kelce out of the equation. The aforementioned David and White duo at linebacker will have a tall task in covering the tight end. Look for those two to try and take away those attempts of catching it in soft zones. While that will be a tall task, we have seen Kelce have a few drops here and there, including one last week. They have not occurred as much this season overall. Nonetheless, this is the kind of matchup where the Bucs will be more motivated than ever to make stops.
3) Stay On Top Of Routes
Piggybacking off of that last point a little, the Bucs cannot get fooled with speed and misdirection again. I would anticipate a ton of looks being thrown Mahomes way. Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles is a good coach because he can specialize in multiple areas. The Chiefs offensive line will have their work cut out for them in both run and pass blocking. The receivers have to have stout ball security after the catch. Most of all for the Tampa defense, they must keep passes in front of them. Mahomes’ ability to improvise and win outside of the pocket will be dangerous. Though, the Bucs have the makings to corral him and get in the way of passing lanes.
– Braden Holecek is the Kansas City Chiefs managing editor for Full Press Coverage. He covers the NFL. Like and follow on Follow @ebearcat9//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js Follow @FPC_Chiefs//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js and Facebook.