Meanwhile, the Puppy Bowl was broadcast earlier today and we have today’s sporting hero already. The mental tenacity and physical toughness to overcome injury and compete in the sport Jett loves is why he’s the best in the game:
Patrick Mahomes’ arm is looking decent in the pre-game warm-up.
How good is Mahomes? Our NFL columnist Oliver Connolly thinks the Chiefs quarterback is chasing Jordan rather than Brady:
“Mahomes is chasing that rare space that puts an athlete at the center of pop culture; that makes them both indivisible from the sport they play but allows them to exist a step removed, the same way that Jordan still hovers over everything in the NBA. Jordan hasn’t played in the NBA for 17 years. But the NBA economy – from debate show culture to documentaries to shoe deals to marketing to ownership groups – still runs on Michael Jordan.
“To put Mahomes near that class so early in his career may sound hyperbolic or blasphemous but consider this: no quarterback in NFL history has gotten off to the same sort of start to a career as Mahomes. And no single position holds such a spot in the US sports landscape as that of a starting NFL quarterback.”
Sidenote, his teammate Travis Kelce has thought hard about his wardrobe today:
“Evening, Tom,” emails Matt Dony. “I don’t tend to follow American Football, but I love watching almost any sport when it’s played well. Most years, I stay up and watch the Super Bowl (or, most of it, anyway) because it’s such an ‘Event’. This year, though, it’s awkwardly coinciding with an England cricket match that’s being broadcast on terrestrial tv from the early hours of the morning in the UK. So, my quandary is, do I stay up late and watch this? Or go to bed, and get up early to watch the cricket? I’m genuinely stumped…”
Hmmmm. I’d probably watch both and sleep through tomorrow.
The Raymond James Stadium will be at a third of its capacity today, with a third of the tickets given to health workers to acknowledge their tireless and vital work during the pandemic.
Unlike the stadium, the bars of Tampa will be crowded today, despite the pandemic. They’ll be allowed to operate at 100% capacity, as long as customers are seated and masked. You can read more about the city’s preparations for the game here:
The Buccaneers have homefield advantage today and the most successful quarterback of all time, but they are up against a terrifyingly dangerous offense, led by arguably the most talented NFL player of all time. How do they win? Our writers give their thoughts:
Shorten the game. The Bucs have proven they can swap between a number of styles this season. They can win with their exceptional defense. They can rely on Tom Brady to hang in a shootout. Against the Chiefs, though it won’t be as entertaining, they will have to rely on the run-game to extend drives against a weak-ish Chiefs front in order to contain the scoreline. Get Brady to the final drive with a chance to win the game, that should be the plan. Oliver Connolly
Sic Jason Pierre-Paul, William Gholston and Ndamukong Suh on the Chiefs’ backup tackles. Mix it up a little on first down. (The handoffs to Leonard Fournette & Co are so predictable.) And capitalize on every opportunity to connect with receivers downfield, a point of emphasis for Bruce Arians all season. If Antonio Brown is looking for a time to shine, this is it. Andrew Lawrence
Brady’s doesn’t want to get into a throwing contest with Mahomes at this point of his career. His edge will lie in his experience. He doesn’t want to be a pure game-manager here, he’s going to have to connect on a few long-balls to win, but if he focuses on making the right play over trying for the big play, his team have a solid chance. Hunter Felt
Tampa must play to their strengths and blitz early and often. They have the pedigree – nine sacks and two wins against Rodgers this season – and can slow down Mahomes by attacking an offensive line missing both its starting tackles. You run the risk of death by a thousand Tyreek and Travis-shaped cuts but Todd Bowles must be brave to limit Kansas City’s scoring. Graham Searles
You can read more game predictions here:
Little-known 576 year-old quarterback Tom Brady is starting for the Buccaneers today, so we asked another hall of famer, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to write about playing into your 40s (OK, Brady is 43). These are the fantastic results:
“I was 42 when I retired from the Lakers. After 20 seasons, I had a lot of NBA records and very little hair. Some of those records have since been broken, some remain to be broken at a time to be decided. I did learn some lessons about being a middle-aged athlete in a league where the average age is 26, which is also the age of the average NFL player. Some of those lessons were about playing, some were about being a player – two very different things.
“Playing on a professional level against well-trained athletes 20 years younger is a challenge. The court seems much longer, the legs seems heavier, the hoop seems smaller. That’s when you come face-to-face with what philosophers call the mind-body problem: the relationship between the consciousness of the mind and the stubborn bag of meat that is your body.”
You can read Kareem’s full column here:
Joe Biden has been interviewed by CBS about the Super Bowl. The president is asked if he thinks we will be able to watch next year’s game in front of a full stadium.
“It’s my hope and expectation … that we will be able to watch the Super Bowl with a full stadium [in 2022]. He also advises people not to pack into Super Bowl watching parties this year: “If you’re watching, be careful,” he says.
He is also asked if he’d prefer to be thrown to by Mahomes or Brady (Biden was a receiver back in the day). He opts for Mahomes who, he notes, has some “potential”, a mild understatement. Then Biden remembers he is a politician and says they are “both great quarterbacks”. A change from his predecessor who probably would have nominated himself as the greatest player of all time.
The build-up to this game has been overshadowed by a horrible car crash involving Chiefs linebackers coach Britt Reid that left a child in serious condition. And the latest news is not good:
Britt Reid is the son of Chiefs head coach Andy Reid, so who knows how he must be feeling right now (and that’s before we get into the parents of the injured child).
Britt Reid is also in hospital with unspecified injuries and, according to a police report, said he had had two or three drinks on the evening of the accident.
Miss the day when players could smoke on the sidelines? (LEGAL NOTE: The Guardian does not endorse smoking – even the low tar ones.) Then take a stroll through our gallery of Super Bowls past (also featuring the Giants dressed as Shirley Temple, which is as terrifying as it sounds):
Kansas City tight end Travis Kelce has appeared on CBS and talked about his offensive coordinator, Eric Bieniemy.
“I think it’s disrespectful that he hasn’t found a head coaching job yet,” said Kelce. “But I’ll reap the benefit of him being here every single year and we’ll just keep making the Super Bowl as long as we’ve got him.”
Bieniemy has been one of the masterminds of one of the most explosive offenses in NFL history. And, yet, despite the dearth of coaches of a colour in a league where the majority of players are black, Bieniemy has been unable to find a head coaching job while LOTS of guys who look like Sean McVay are put in charge of teams.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is asked about the NFL’s lack of black coaches. He says he takes the issue “very seriously” and admits the league “didn’t do as well as we wanted”. It’s easy to put the blame on Goodell and the league office – and there’s plenty to blame the commissioner for! – but the fact is that the white billionaires who own NFL teams are the ones choosing not to employ black coaches.
Andrew Lawrence has more on the coaching situation in the NFL below:
Hello and welcome to coverage of [checks Roman numerals] Super Bowl 55, between the reigning champion Kansas City Chiefs and the hometown Tampa Bay Buccaneers (the first team to play in their own stadium in Super Bowl history). Usually the Guardian would be in the stadium, but with the pandemic this year the NFL could only promise us a desk in the media center in the stadium carpark, so we’ll be in front of the TV too. No matter, let’s face it, NFL is better on TV than live anyway.
The most obvious question is: who is going to win? Four of our writers had their say, and their thoughts are below:
Chiefs 31-24 Buccaneers. The combination of Brady and Bowles is about as good as you can hope for in trying to knock the Chiefs off their perch. No one is capable of stopping the Chiefs, but all the Bucs require is a defense that slows Mahomes-Andy Reid machine down, even for a possession or two. Tampa have the talent and staff to be able to pull off such a plan. I have the Bucs giving Brady a chance on the final possession but coming up just short. The Chiefs’ offensive power, even with all the Bowles goodness, is just too overwhelming. And even when plays break down, nobody is better off-script than Mahomes. The Chiefs go back-to-back and Mahomes takes home a second successive MVP. Oliver Connolly
Chiefs 30-29 Buccaneers. As exposed as Mahomes figures to be on the edge, one could easily see the Bucs defense forgetting about the QB’s wheels until it’s too late. Whether it’s by picking up chunk yardage or buying time to fire darts to Cheetah & Co, eventually, Mahomes will take their heart. Andrew Lawrence
Chiefs 34-17 Buccaneers. Look for the teams to keep it close for a while but by the fourth quarter, the Chiefs will have the lead and salt it way with one of those Mahomes bursts where he rattles off two touchdowns in the blink of an eye. Hunter Felt
Chiefs 30-33 Buccaneers. I said it mid-season and I will say it again, Tom Brady and the Bucs will win the Super Bowl. Picking against Brady is a fool’s errand especially now he is an underdog. Six titles and your team not being favourite is testament to how good the Chiefs are but Brady will have the last word in the game with a last-minute drive and possibly on which QB is truly the greatest. Same time next year, Tom. Graham Searles
You can read the predictions in full below: