In what is one of the most highly-anticipated games of the entire season, let alone Week 12, Tom Brady and the 7-4 Tampa Bay Buccaneers will host Patrick Mahomes and the 9-1 Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs have won five in a row in their quest for the top seed in the AFC, while the Bucs dropped a game on Monday night, and hope to stay alive in the NFC South race.
Here is a preview of Sunday afternoon's thriller between the Chiefs and Bucs, complete with a free pick. As it stands, Kansas City is a 3.5-point favorite on the road.
It has been smooth sailing for the defending Super Bowl champs, who enter Sunday's game with just one loss on the entire season. Mahomes has been exceptional once again, throwing for more than 3,000 yards and 27 touchdowns and putting himself in the MVP conversation. Additionally, prominent offensive standouts like running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire, wide receiver Tyreek Hill, and tight end Travis Kelce make the Chiefs just as big of a threat as they were last year.
As a whole, Kansas City is averaging a league-high 32.1 points per game, along with the second-highest total yards average at 422. While their average rushing yards is only average, the 300 passing yards they get per game are the most in football, and their 50.4 percent success rate on third down is second to only the Raiders, who they defeated last Sunday night.
On the other side, the Chiefs are only allowing 21.4 points per game, the seventh-fewest in the NFL. The 365.5 yards allowed also rank 13th, thanks in large part to a pass defense that sits within the Top 10. And while Kansas City only has 19 sacks as a team, they have 10 interceptions and the league's third-best turnover differential.
There was no team talked about more this offseason than the Buccaneers, thanks to Brady's arrival. The six-time Super Bowl champ has thrown for nearly 3,000 yards and 25 touchdowns, but nine interceptions and a couple of bad performances in his first season with his new team., especially in the four losses they have this season. But the Bucs have plenty of weapons for him to work with, namely wide receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, and running back Ronald Jones.
Tampa Bay is still finding a way to score points, ranking sixth with an average of 29 points on the year. But they're pretty average across the board as far as other offensive statistics go, sitting 19th in total yards with 367 per game. There is a big gap between passing and running, though, as the Bucs are putting up less than 100 rushing yards per game.
With all the talk about Brady and the offense heading into the season, Tampa Bay's defense has been one of the better units in football this season. The Bucs are giving up 23 points per game, 10th in the league, on the fifth-best yards allowed a total of 332. They have been okay against the pass, but boast the league's best run defense, with only 73 average rushing yards allowed per game. Tampa Bay also has the fourth-most sacks with 32, the second-most interceptions with 14, and the fourth-highest turnover differential.
Starting with the Chiefs, the reigning champs are 6-4 this year against the spread but 15-4 over their last 19 games dating back to last year. They're also 7-0 straight up in their previous seven road games, but they haven't beaten Tampa Bay in their last five tries, their last win against the Bucs coming all the way back in 1993.
The Buccaneers are just 5-6 ATS this season, including 2-3 at home. However, they've still managed to win seven of their last 10, and are an impressive 5-1 straight up in their last six games against a team in the AFC.
The Chiefs are about as healthy as it gets, with every player initially mentioned on the injury report this week practicing in full and not carrying a designation heading into the weekend. However, the Bucs will be without a couple of players, namely starting cornerback Jamel Dean. Also, a pair of starting offensive linemen find themselves questionable; tackle Donovan Smith, who practiced all week, and guard Ali Marpet, who practiced in full.
This prediction has less to do with the Bucs struggling and more with the Chiefs playing at a very high level. I'm expecting Tampa Bay to improve after a bad Monday night performance and play well, but Kansas City just looks too dominant, and Mahomes is playing too well. Expect the Chiefs to move their offense across the field, Mahomes to make plays and not turn the ball over, and win their 10th game of the season.
Pick: Kansas City Chiefs (-3.5).