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Mike Preston: Bucs have right formula to win Super Bowl; they just don’t have Patrick Mahomes | COMMENTARY

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the perfect team to defeat the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday in Super Bowl LV.

They have perhaps the best quarterback ever in Tom Brady, whose skills have diminished but are still good enough to beat Kansas City. They have a complementary running game and the game’s best defensive coordinator in Todd Bowles, whose Bucs have shut down two of the top quarterbacks in the modern era in the playoffs.

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Tampa Bay has what the Ravens lacked: balance. But they don’t have Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, the best player in the NFL with some apologies to Los Angeles Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald.

And that’s why Kansas City will beat Tampa Bay on Sunday night. Just on his skills alone, it is hard to beat Mahomes because of his elusiveness, pocket awareness, touch, vision and no-look passes. Combined with receivers Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins and Mecole Hardman and tight end Travis Kelce, the Chiefs are nearly impossible to beat when the offense is humming.

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But that’s what is so intriguing about Kansas City’s matchup with the Bucs. Tampa Bay has enough on both sides of the ball to throw the Chiefs slightly off kilter and win.

Let’s start with Bowles and the Bucs defense. He struggled as head coach of the New York Jets from 2015 through 2018, but a lot of coaches have failed under the erratic leadership of owner Woody Johnson.

Bowles, an African-American, might not get another chance to be a head coach in the NFL, but he sure can build defenses. In the postseason, he held Washington to 86 rushing yards and New Orleans to 294 yards of total offense as the Saints’ eventual Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees completed only 19 of 34 passes for 134 yards and three interceptions.

A week later, the Bucs beat Green Bay, 31-26, in the NFC championship game as the Packers were held to only 67 rushing yards on 16 carries.

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Tampa Bay is on a nice roll. The Bucs have enough talent in their front seven, especially nose guard Vita Vea and linebacker Devin White, to make Kansas City one-dimensional. The Bucs don’t have a cornerback who can cover Hill, but they should get enough help to slow him from safety Jordan Whitehead if he has completely recovered from a shoulder injury.

Kelce is a bigger problem, especially in the middle of the field. The Bucs have already made plans to bracket him with safety Antoine Winfield Jr. (questionable because of an ankle injury) and cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting.

Tampa Bay also has a strong running game, which will help slow Kansas City’s offense. Unlike the Ravens, who panicked and got away from the running the ball too early in the past two games against the Chiefs, the Bucs will pound the ball with running backs Leonard Fournette and Ronald Jones II. They rushed for 142 yards against Washington followed by 123 versus New Orleans.

This is the perfect formula for beating Kansas City, which allowed an average of 122.1 yards rushing per game during the regular season. Now, mix in Brady. He won’t allow the Bucs to get out of their offense, gets rid of the ball quickly and still has good accuracy. Tampa Bay will also be the first team playing a Super Bowl in its home stadium, so it is pointing in a positive direction.

But Mahomes is a gunslinger, having thrown for 4,740 yards and 38 touchdowns in 16 regular-season games. He reminds me of Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry. He’ll fire and score from anywhere. The Kansas City speed is unbelievable, especially with Hill and Hardman, who can flat out fly. And then there is the Andy Reid factor. The Kansas City head coach is fearless and adjusts quickly. NFL defenses still haven’t caught up with his offense, which averaged 415 total yards.

He’ll come out in strange formations and attack the entire field. He’ll use misdirections and trick plays, but will play with power when necessary. That’s why I like Kansas City.

Tampa Bay is more balanced and a lot of things work in the Bucs’ favor.

Mahomes, though, will win his second title in a row because he is the biggest difference-maker in the NFL.

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