It’s official – Tom Brady is the greatest of all time. For a man who has won seven Super Bowl rings, there was a lot of conjecture about whether the former New England Patriot would survive without Bill Belichick. Last Sunday night, the GOAT quarterback put those doubts to bed with a display for the ages, throwing for three touchdowns and a total of 201 yards. Also, to put the icing on the cake, Brady completed 21 out of 29 attempts.
In comparison, Patrick Mahomes was a shadow of the young QB that most fans expect to see when the Kansas City Chiefs take the field. Mahomes was picked off twice for his 270 yards, throwing for zero TDs, while the Chief’s quarterback was also awarded the dubious honour of being the most pressured QB in Super Bowl history. Chiefs Wire says he was pressured on 29 of his 56 dropbacks, which accounted for 52% of his total dropbacks.
However, the 2022 odds are already out and it appears that the Bucs aren’t regarded as the favourites for back-to-back crowns. After such a dominant display, why is that the case?
Kansas City’s Offensive Line
Patrick Mahomes rightly gets the plaudits. As the youngest quarterback to be named Super Bowl champion and league MVP, he is worthy of his ten-year contract valued at $450,000,000, or $45,000,000 for every year. Still, Mahomes can’t roll out of the pocket and make the type of back-breaking plays without a stellar front line.
Most pundits and supporters wouldn’t say they have the best offensive linemen in the NFL, yet they do a good enough job to give Mahomes the time he requires to pick out Travis Kelce and Co. Previous to the injuries to star left tackle Eric Fisher (Achilles) and Mitchell Schwartz (back), the Chief’s main man had a 66.3% completion rate for the season, with only six interceptions and an incredible 38 touchdown passes. Against Tampa Bay, his completion rating was barely above 50%, and he was sacked three times.
These figures highlight the importance of the Chief’s offensive line, which is something the bookmakers seem to have taken into account for 2022. According to CBS Sports, Kansas City are clear favourites for Super Bowl LVI, while Tampa Bay and Green Bay are joint-second favourites. As of 8th February, the Kansas City Chiefs are at odds of 5/1 with Betway to take the title in 2022, with the Bucs and Packers 13/2 and 8/1, respectively. The New York Post goes further by stating five franchises, including the Miami Dolphins and Dallas Cowboys could be title contenders. Still, everyone is confident that Kansas will be the team to beat when Fisher and Schwartz are back providing extra protection.
The Rise of the NFC
Despite the AFC dominating the Super Bowl for the past couple of seasons with the Patriots and the Chiefs, the NFC is widely regarded as the most competitive division in the NFL. For example, the Buccaneers didn’t even win the NFC South – they finished second behind the New Orleans Saints (12-4). The Seattle Seahawks also had a record of 12-4 last season, while Green Bay finished 13-3.
In many respects, this is one of the weakest the NFC has been for a while. After all, some of the main contenders were nowhere to be seen, such as last year’s Super Bowl finalists, the San Fransisco 49s. A record of 6-10 saw the franchise finish last in the West, no doubt in part due to the injuries to Jimmy Garoppolo and George Kittle. But Niner Noise points out that the 49s should be back next season, mainly due to fewer injuries and more wage cap space for recruits.
The knock-on effect for Tampa Bay will be huge as they will have another massive franchise to compete against with a history of making it to the post-season and winning Super Bowl trophies. That’s why they’re 12/1 after a pretty dismal campaign, the equivalent to the eighth-best team in the league.
Tom Brady’s Goodbye?
The records keep tumbling. At the tender age of 43, Tom Brady now has more Super Bowl rings than any single NFL franchise. He has two more rings than any other QB has appearances. And he has 79,204 passing yards in his career. Brady is the greatest, by a long way.
Of course, it’s hard to see the highlight reel continuing for much longer considering the man’s age. At 43, this season has been his most impressive, more so than those of his 20s and 30s. Brady is like the American football equivalent of Jaromir Jagr, the Czech ice hockey pro who never looked like stopping. Yet, like Jagr, the body will have to give in at some point, with signs it is already happening. The NFL reports he threw 12 interceptions this year, four more than in 2019. Add Rob Gronkowski into the retirement mix and the Bucs could be considerably weaker.
Tampa Bay are still highly thought of by the NFL fraternity, particularly as they are slight second-favourites for the 2022 Super Bowl. However, the signs seem to suggest that back-to-back rings are even outside of Brady’s reach. Only time will tell if Kansas City and Patrick Mahomes can regain footballing supremacy.