Being the defending Super Bowl Champions doesn’t guarantee a post-season appearance in the following season. A fact not lost on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers franchise. The Kansas City Chiefs are looking to avoid a letdown following their title run in 2019 however, and will match their star quarterback against Tampa’s as Patrick Mahomes and Tom Brady prepare to face-off in Week 12 of the 2020 NFL Season.
Fans of the Bucs are hoping to have plenty to be thankful for Thanksgiving weekend this year, and one thing they should be looking forward to is watching their team host the Super Bowl Champs just days after gobbling down all the turkey and stuffing they can handle. If all goes well, it’ll be a match-up of top teams heading into the final quarter of the year.
As much as each team wants to beat the other, it’ll take a strong knowledge of themselves and their opponent to get the win. For fans of the teams, knowing more about each other will help make smarter fan bases when talking about the upcoming season. Getting smarter about each other was the exact aim when Ryan Tracy of the Locked On Chiefs Podcast joined me on the Locked On Bucs Podcast, to share some insight about each team and how they stack up in the off-season.
Starting the conversation about the Chiefs, I turned immediately to the defense. Throughout the rise of Mahomes as one of the best players in the NFL, the Chiefs defense has commonly been looked at as the weaker unit on the team. However, they took a flyer on former Dallas Cowboys first-rounder turned Miami Dolphins off-season release, Taco Charlton. Charlton had a ton of upside and potential coming out of Michigan, but questions about work ethic and dedication have not simmered since he arrived to the league, leading to his joining his third team in as many years. About the addition of the troubled defender, Tracy said,
“Brett Veach (Kansas City Chiefs General Manager) likes to do this quite often to tell you the truth. Take a guy that he had a first or second round grade on that hasn’t worked out somewhere else and give him a new lease on life - see if he can make it work. They did it with Cam Erving, they did with Emmanuel Ogbah and he got himself quite a contract. They’re doing the same thing here, and I think specifically for Taco it really helps that he played with Frank Clark at Michigan so there’s a connection there, Frank was a leader for him in that role. He played with Anthony Hitchens in Dallas and Anthony was a leader on that defense. So, he’s got kind of a stepping stone of everywhere that he’s been, something that’s familiar and somebody to help keep him on track.”
Of course, another addition to the team who is expected to have a bigger impact is first-round draft pick, Clyde Edwards-Helaire. Many media members surrounding the Buccaneers connected the LSU running back to a need in the backfield for Tampa. I told Tracy, it almost seems unfair to match such a high upside offensive player with an already high-powered offensive unit featuring Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce along with Mahomes.
On the addition of Edwards-Helaire, Tracy said, “At the end of the day, Damien Williams probably could’ve been considered the runner up to the MVP in this Super Bowl, but there are still a couple of hiccups. There are times where he’s not aware in routes, there are times when Pat needs to go to him in an ad-lib situation like he can, and you don’t want to be the limitation on Patrick Mahomes....there’s not a whole lot more room for improvement. You get Sammy Watkins back, you have (Mecole) Hardman - a young guy - you have your top three, with Travis Kelce your top four targets in shape. The other guy that’s on the field all the time is the running back...the fit is what it comes down to. And Edwards-Helaire is literally the prototypical running back for Andy’s system.”
If the fit between the team and their rookie running back is what Tracy believes it could be, then the league is in trouble. Even with arguably the best run defense in the league returning from 2019, Tampa Bay’s unit figures to have their hands full with all the Cheifs offense can do when all parts of the unit are on the field.
So where will the Bucs beat the Chiefs? It won’t be a surprise, but it figures to take a strong offensive performance from Brady, Mike Evans and Chris Godwin against the Kansas City defense who lost some key components during the off-season. I asked Tracy if the Chiefs defense got better or worse.
“In the front-seven, they got better for what they want to do,” Tracy said. “I do feel that what they’ve done with Willie Gay Jr. in the draft has really solidified their ability to have athleticism at the second level.”
Last off-season, the Kansas City Chiefs added cornerback Bashaud Breeland, and then did little to improve their cornerback room this off-season. Just days after the NFL Draft concluded, Breeland was arrested in South Carolina and now faces legal troubles along with a potential suspension from the league depending on how the case progresses.
Tracy talked about how the Chiefs have sort of minimized their focus on the cornerback group because of how the safeties and front-seven impact pass coverage in their scheme, but with the potential loss of Breeland, this strategy now concerns him moving forward.
“They feel very good about their safety group,” Tracy said. “But it’s the corners that they have really de-emphasized because of scheme and because of the way that they’re using the safeties, and think that might bite them because of the Breeland thing here.”
Of course, this is just a small portion of what Tracy and I discussed pertaining to the 2020 Week 12 match-up between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Kansas City Chiefs. To catch the entire conversation, check out this episode of the Locked On Bucs Podcast!