The immaculate touchdown passes from Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes to beloved tight end Travis Kelce or speedster wide receiver Tyreek Hill during Sunday’s Super Bowl is something fans of the NFL have been anticipating since they punched their ticket for the second straight year nearly two weeks ago.
Just as anticipated on the other side of midfield is legendary QB Tom Brady looking to win his record-setting seventh ring, and first with his new Tampa Bay Buccaneers team, with more-than-deserving WR Mike Evans for the first time who has been a staple to the Tampa Bay offense for his entire career.
While the magic of the league’s superstars will be on display, neither team will be able to stand under the confetti without the help of a few phantom shadows who are looking to raise havoc and be a storyline of their own after the clock strikes zero on Sunday.
We’re talking about the difference makers, the x-factors, those who’s possibly only play, or even overall presence, could change the outcome of the game.
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Cameron Brate, Tampa Bay Tight End
I know what you’re thinking here, that doesn’t read “Rob Gronkowski”. And it shouldn’t. Sure Brady and Gronkowski’s history stems years, and do I expect them to have a clutch play at some point or to see Brady look his way in a time of desperation or two? Of course.
But when Cameron Brate is on the field he’s in the game for a reason and he’s used. Despite playing roughly half the offensive snaps Gronkowski plays he has more than doubled his target share (16 to seven). He also either has 50 yards or a touchdown in all three playoff games.
Against Washington in the Wild Card round Brate even averaged 20 yards per catch, and kept those numbers in the double digits during the Divisional Round against the New Orleans Saints with 12.5. If you think back a few weeks the Buccaneers even struggled with drive time in that game, meaning Brate’s usage came in even less time, pointing to Brady’s trust to lean on his go-to position. I expect Brate to score on Sunday.
*It’s important to note that Brate is currently listed with a back injury, but is expected to play with no limitations, and was limited in practice this week for precautionary reasons only.*
Mike Remmers, Kansas City Left Tackle
Eric Fisher, Kansas City’s starting left tackle, is out for the Super Bowl after suffering an Achilles injury in the AFC Championship game. The Chiefs will start Mike Remmers, who usually plays tackle, in his place. This explains the 31-year old veteran’s offensive snap share this season on Kansas City’s offensive line, but how will that transition into a new position against guys like defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul? We saw the raucous he helped serve in the Bucs’ upset win in Lambeau against QB Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. Tampa Bay got to Rodgers for five sacks and forced an interception.
The good news here that many likely are unaware of is that the Chiefs faced a similar situation during the regular season prior to Week 15.
Fisher was dealing with a back injury that left him in doubt to play against New Orleans, leaving Kansas City to plan to play without him. Head coach Andy Reid and company made this plan: Remmers would take Fisher’s spot while right guard Andrew Wylie moved out to tackle and Stefen Wisniewski came into the game at right guard. However, Fisher ended up miraculously starting, and playing a complete game, but Fansided has reported this is the projected set for the Super Bowl.
Antoine Winfield Jr. & Jordan Whitehead, Tampa Bay Safeties
I couldn’t just pick one safety here based on the tough matchups. These aren’t small name guys, but their tasks on Sunday will make or break this Tampa defense over the course of four quarters. Chiefs TE Travis Kelce has been abusing safeties all season and he should see some type of man-coverage approach in this game, my guess coming mostly from Antoine Winfield Jr. Although, with the Buccaneers’ strength as a unit, they’ll likely transition in and out of coverages all game to try and contain Kelce and others.
While cornerbacks will have their hands full with receivers such as Hill and guys like Demarcus Robinson and Mecole Hardman, guys in the slot and short field will see Jordan Whitehead. In order for WRs like Sammy Watkins and Byron Pringle to not burn Tampa Bay in the middle or short-field, Whitehead’s head will have to be rotating on all cylinders.
Sammy Watkins, Kansas City Wide Receiver
Speaking of one of those wild-card receivers, Watkins is a guy who performs surprisingly well in the postseason. For a guy who can’t seem to stay healthy for a full regular season, he has jumped from home to home and made the postseason a number of times in his seven-year, three-team career.
Over the course of just a handful of games he has 25 postseason catches as not a top-option for his postseason teams and is averaging 19.5 yards per catch in his career. He has increased his number of receptions in each year he has been in the playoffs.
The multitude of weapons on this Chiefs offense will stretch the Buccaneers offense thin more times than not and players will be lost sight of. Guys in the middle, such as Watkins and Pringle, are the most likely to find the open space in the chaos and find success. Watkins may not wow you with his stat line, but a key catch for a first down? A key catch for a touchdown? A key fourth down conversion that keeps a drive alive? We’ve seen it before.
Devin White, Tampa Bay Middle Linebacker
The 2019 first-round pick is proving why Tampa Bay drafted him so far this season. Through two games against NFC powerhouses, Devin White has 26 total tackles as well as a fumble recovery in each game against both the New Orleans Saints and the Green Bay Packers.
Let’s be honest. Brady has been carried by his defense in a lot of Super Bowls and postseason runs and he’s being gifted White as a huge asset again in 2021.
White’s pass coverage alone against the Saints was a nightmare in what is rumored to be Drew Brees’ final career game and it was definitely a game he wants to forget. Brees’ multiple interceptions and failures to complete passes to a lot of receivers were due in large part to White. He contributed picking off Brees once in that game as well as recorded one pass defensed of his own too. His play alongside LBs Lavonte David, Shaquil Barrett and Pierre-Paul have helped hold both the Saints and Packers under a jaw-dropping 27 points this postseason and will give Mahomes and his receiving corps a stiff test they aren’t used to on Sunday.
Harrison Butker, Kansas City Kicker
A kicker? As an x-factor? For a Super Bowl team? Yes, this guy stresses me out and he shouldn’t.
In the regular season it was beautiful to see Harrison Butker convert 4-for-4 from 50-plus and see him only ding two field goals all season. He sat at the top of the league in that regard and his long-distance accuracy is something to revel at.
However, Butker missed six extra point attempts and went 48-for-54 on the season from chip-shot land.
You can drill a 55-yard field goal but can’t make a 33-yard extra point? Again? And again? And again? You get the idea. That makes no sense.
If you think back to the NFL’s Week 12, Kansas City and Tampa Bay’s game was separated by just three points. While that’s a field goal and not an extra point, and Butker converted all of his kicks that day, that only points to a probability of a close Super Bowl where ALL kicks matter and it could come down to a SINGLE kick.
If Butker is shown up by former Chiefs kicker Ryan Succop, who’s now on his fourth NFL team, I know the first headline I’m printing on Super Bowl Monday.
– Kayla Morton is the Managing Editor for Full Press Coverage Miami Dolphins. She is also the co-host of the FPC Fantasy Pod. Like and follow on Follow @northdakayla74 Follow @FPC_Dolphins and Facebook.
– 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.