Football is the undisputed champion of U.S.-based sports betting and fandom in general. Quarterbacks drive that popularity more than any other position by far. That’s often most evident in the year’s biggest game.
Quarterbacks leave players at all other positions in the dust when it comes to Super Bowl MVP award winners. Signal-callers having garnered 30 of the 54 trophies awarded in recognition of the NFL title game’s best individual performance.
With this year’s February 7 clash between the Chiefs and Buccaneers featuring two of the biggest names at the position in the Super Bowl era, it’s no surprise Patrick Mahomes and Tom Brady are the clear 1-2 favorites, respectively, to garner the award. In fact, nine days out from the game, Mahomes is actually at minus money at FanDuel Sportsbook to successfully defend his 2019 MVP award.
Naturally, there could well be an upset if another player on the winning side is able to muster a spectacular enough performance. With as many explosive skill players involved in this year’s contest, there’s arguably an even better chance of that happening than usual. However, a closer look reveals any non-QB winner this year is more likely to come about in a Buccaneers victory.
Brady is certainly capable of racking up the necessary passing yardage/TD passes to secure what would be his fifth Super Bowl MVP overall. Yet, nearly all of his relevant production will have to come via his right arm, save for perhaps for one of his trademark sneaks into the end zone. The Chiefs were also an easier team to attack on the ground than through the air, which enhances the chances that perhaps Leonard Fournette or even Ronald Jones shocks the world with some long runs and/or multiple touchdowns and keys a Tampa Bay victory.
In contrast, Mahomes is not only capable of delivering a spectacular effort through the air, but he can make plenty happen on the ground and elevate his cumulative numbers to an MVP-caliber level in the process. Such was the case in last February’s win over the 49ers. Mahomes helped offset two interceptions and a sub-300-yard passing tally (286) with 29 rushing yards and a touchdown. Moreover, he faces a Buccaneers run defense that was the best in the NFL all season (81.4 RYPG allowed) and forces teams to pass against them at a league-high 65.4 percent. That seemingly makes any Kansas City running back a fairly hefty long shot to swipe this award.
The likeliest scenario for another offensive skill position player on either team to walk away with this year’s MVP hardware involves the pass catchers, although there’s a chance for a Bucs running back to surprise, as alluded to earlier.
Here’s a closer look at four other candidates that could secure the highest Super Bowl recognition for individual performance:
- Tyreek Hill, Chiefs: Arguably a co-runner-up with RB Damien Williams for the Super Bowl LIV MVP thanks to his 9-105 line through the air, Hill will be the most explosive player on the field as usual. The fact he eviscerated the Buccaneers secondary for 13 receptions, 269 yards and three touchdowns back in Week 12 certainly doesn’t hurt his outlook. Moreover, given he’s occasionally given a chance to make big plays as a runner, Hill has the type of profile and skill set to have a big enough game as Mahomes’ primary target without the quarterback putting up splashy enough numbers independent of him.
- Travis Kelce, Chiefs: Like Hill, Kelce also has the talent to warrant the majority of Mahomes’ attention in any given game. However, he’s somewhat less likely than his speedy teammate to take over to the extent he outshines everyone else. Tellingly, even in his biggest games this season and postseason, Kelce shared the statistical spotlight with Hill in more than half of them – the Pro Bowl receiver had over 100 yards on four of the eight occasions Kelce eclipsed the mark, and he compiled three total receiving TDs in two of the games in which he didn’t hit eclipse the century mark and the star tight end did. Nevertheless, the Buccaneers did give up eight receptions to Kelce in their regular-season meeting and an 86-832-9 line to tight ends during the regular season, so the matchup is favorable.
- Leonard Fournette, Buccaneers: Fournette was thrust into the lead-back role minutes before Tampa Bay’s Wild Card Game win over Washington after Ronald Jones suffered a quadriceps contusion in pregame warmups. The fourth-year back proceeded to accumulate 132 total yards and a rushing TD in that game, added 107 and a receiving TD versus the Saints in the divisional round and finished with a tally of 74 and another rushing score against the Packers in conference title clash. Fournette’s stellar work as a receiver could really serve to put his numbers over the top, especially considering his skills as a runner and his matchup against a Chiefs defense that gave up 4.5 yards per carry and 93 receptions to RBs this season.
- Chris Godwin, Buccaneers: Brady has done an excellent job spreading the wealth in the passing game this season and postseason. That said, it’s not out of the question for one Buccaneers pass catcher to potentially step to the forefront under the right circumstances and provide MVP-caliber numbers. While Godwin’s position mate Mike Evans is certainly talented enough, he’ll face a Chiefs secondary that allowed a top-10-ranked 6.5 yards per attempt on the road and held wideouts to a relatively modest 12.8 yards per reception on an NFL-low 169 catches. Godwin’s 12.9 YPC, strong 77.4 percent catch rate and shallower aDOT of 9.6 yards make him a good match for what KC is often willing to give up through the air. That’s in contrast to Evans, who was targeted an average of 12.2 yards downfield and unsurprisingly turned in a much lower catch rate of 64.2 percent during the campaign, and who could still be somewhat hampered by a Week 17 knee injury.