Week four is here and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers find themselves going against a familiar foe. This week the Kansas City Chiefs come to town for a Super Bowl 55 rematch. The last time these two met was in Raymond James stadium in a championship smack down by the Bucs.
Despite both these teams still appearing to be contenders, this time around things feel different. The Bucs offense sputters in having only scored three touchdowns all season. While the Chiefs are fresh off a loss and are trying to answer questions of their own.
While many will talk about the fresh faces in this game, like a pair of young offensive lines, I will be watching the elder statesmen on the field. That brings me to this week’s X-Factor matchup.
Chiefs’ TEs & RBs vs. Buccaneers’ LBs
Travis Kelce is one of the best tight ends to ever play the game. He’s a great pass catcher and has always been one of Patrick Mahomes favorite targets. This will likely prove to be as true as ever now that star wide receiver Tyreek Hill is in Miami.
We saw Kelce matched up against Lavonte David regularly in the Super Bowl. It was a back and fourth battle and both men showed well. I expect more of the same time on Sunday.
However, defending Kelce might not be the best way to stop him. If the Bucs can pressure Mahomes then that will make things difficult for all the pass catchers. Enter Shaq Barrett and Joe Tryon-Shoyinka.
The Buccaneers outside linebacker duo is a formidable one. Barrett has been one of the better pass rushers in the league since joining Tampa Bay and Tryon-Shoyinka is a great athlete who has all the physical gifts to be a pro bowler. These two getting pressure will be key this week.
When pressured, Mahomes will likely be forced to check down to a running back. It might encourage the Chiefs to run the ball more than they hope. This should play right into the Bucs hand.
Devin White has always had excellent range as a run defender. He is very strong and a big part of the Bucs great run defenses over the last few years. This year he looks to be improved in coverage as well.
There’s every reason to believe that White and the rest of this linebacking group can erase the Chiefs running backs in this game. Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Jerick McKinnon are both good, versatile ball carriers, but they just aren’t the same talent level as these Buccaneers linebackers.
Limiting Kelce has to be the top priority. Whether that be with good coverage or good pass rush, it doesn’t matter. The Bucs should be able to do both with some success.
Stopping the running backs should be almost an afterthought. Todd Bowles won’t have to do anything special, just let his talented players make plays against less talented players.
If the Bucs can win this matchup, they way I think they can and probably should, then I see it being a long day for the Chiefs offense. If not, then Mahomes will have a chance to remind the world why he’s the best quarterback in the game today.
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