February is here and we’re less than a week away from one of the biggest games on the planet. Super Bowl LV, the 55th edition of the modern football era, is this Sunday.
The NFL playoffs have been roaring over the past several weeks and the Super Bowl stage is now formally set. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will play the Kansas City Chiefs for all of the glory. The former outlasted the Green Bay Packers while the latter bested the Buffalo Bills during the last round.
After a tumultuous 2020 that saw just about everything stall out due to COVID-19 — including sports, music, restaurants, and so much more — fans and casual viewers alike are looking forward to some normalcy by way of the Super Bowl. Granted, it will be a very different scenario this year amid a raging pandemic, but the game will go on and, as of right now, the aim is to still allow some fans into the stadium.
It all goes down on Sunday, February 7. Kickoff time is set for 6:30 p.m. ET and CBS will be broadcasting. The league is hoping to allow some 16,000 fans into the stadium but everything is touch and go given the nature of the pandemic. Always a production — with loads of highly anticipated commercials, complex halftime performances, and four quarters of action — the Super Bowl tends to march on for hours.
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Tampa Bay hosts this year’s Super Bowl contest, which will unfold at the 65,000-capacity Raymond James Stadium. As mentioned, just a fraction of the stadium will be occupied (if at all) but millions of Americans will catch the game on the big screen at home.
Interestingly, it’s essentially a home game for the Buccaneers. Tom Brady and Co. will play in their own stadium, where the team has fared well (but not overwhelmingly so at just 5-3). Of course, many Chiefs fans will flock to Florida for the game as the Super Bowl is always a big draw, for the two teams involved and fans of the sport — and spectacle — in general.
The half-time show is often as good or better than the game itself. There have been some unforgettable performances at the Super Bowl over the years, from Prince to Beyonce. This year’s headliner is The Weeknd, who is coming off of one of the catchiest records of the year in After Hours. The Canadian R&B and dream pop maestro will undoubtedly put on a fantastic show in the wake of great live sets on iconic shows like Saturday Night Live.
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As the anticipation builds around two of the best quarterbacks in the game going head to head, a lot of the talk during the lead up has been about age. The Bucs vs. the Chiefs is practically a generational battle, with a 43-year-old Tom Brady facing a 25-year-old Patrick Mahomes. It doesn’t seem like much when you watch the seemingly ageless Brady go to work on the field, but it is significant (Mahomes was born while Brady was playing at the University of Michigan).
Two Chiefs players have been sidelined due to the pandemic. Center Daniel Kilgore and wide receiver Demarcus Robinson have been placed on the reserve list due to being in close contact with the virus. Neither player tested positive for COVID but a barber who cut the hair of both players recently has. Both players can still return in time for the game, provided they test negative for the virus after a five-day isolation period.
The odds slightly favor the Chiefs right now. According to ESPN’s matchup predictor, Kansas City has 52.1% chance of winning. Most of the sport books follow suit, favoring the Chiefs by a field goal over the Bucs. It all points to what will likely be a close and entertaining game, one that may come down to the last play. Tampa’s defense has been pretty solid, but the one-two punch of Mahomes and his favored tight end and ever-reliable receiver Travis Kelce (who finished second in the league this season with an outstanding 1,416 receiving yards) will be hard to stop.
An inspiring subplot has featured the Bucs Jason Pierre-Paul. The outside tackle severely injured his hand in 2015 via a fireworks accident but he’s been playing at a high level ever since. He’s among a rare few to reach the Super Bowl with some kind of amputation (his index finger was removed and he continues to play with a significant hand wrap). It’s a moving story about adaptation and perseverance on the biggest stage in the game.
One interesting development is the weather. Presently, thunderstorms and rain are forecasted for Tampa Bay this Sunday. Conditions like that could change the game, making the turf slick and a big passing approach a little riskier. It’ll be intriguing to see if after all the talk about two colossal quarterbacks, it’s the running backs and offensive lines that carry the teams. The turf at Raymond James tends to stay in pretty good shape but it’s possible we’ll have ourselves a good old-fashioned mud bowl.
Last year, a whopping 99.9 million people tuned in to the Super Bowl. This year, the number will likely be even higher with so many people stuck at home and eager for some real-time entertainment. And by this time next week we’ll know which two teams will face off in Super Bowl LIV.
Stay tuned to your favorite sports media outlet as the NFL, like so many pro sports leagues, has been subject to game delays and player disqualifications on account of the virus.
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