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Super Bowl Player Projections: Bucs vs. Chiefs

Travis Kelce

Travis Kelce

Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Doing player projections forces someone to make multiple micro-decisions on how each game will be played out and how each player will do within their matchup. For that reason, I really value the opinion of people around the industry who do the dirty work of building these out player by player. I’ve done player projections for season-long drafting for years, but I’ve rarely bothered with doing them on a weekly basis. That changes for the 2020-21 NFL Playoffs. If it goes well, I’ll do more research to clean up my process during the offseason and could come back with weekly player projections next year. We’ll see.

If you’re using these to bet player props, I’d be extra careful betting overs for a few reasons. One, these are mean projections, not median projections. That minor difference can incorrectly skew towards betting overs. Secondly, it’s very easy to overlook in-game injury risk. Unless otherwise noted in the comments below, I’m projecting players as if they’re going to play 95-98% of their normal number of snaps. Lastly, the betting market loves to bet overs because they’re more fun to sweat, but that also can inflate their lines. This doesn’t mean we can never bet overs on player props. We just have to pick our spots.

Updated: Friday afternoon, the week of the Super Bowl. [[ad:athena]]

QB Projections

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Team Player PPR Att. Comp. PaYDs PaTDs INTs Carries RuYDs RuTDs
KC Patrick Mahomes 26.1 43.0 28.9 333 2.41 0.43 5.0 26 0.23
TB Tom Brady 19.6 40.8 26.8 313 1.93 0.61 1.7 0.5 0.08

Chiefs QBs: Patrick Mahomes’ projection looks crazy -- nobody ever projects for 333 yards -- but the Chiefs are very likely to throw 35-50 times against the Bucs. As outlined in my “Notes from the Chiefs vs. Bucs Week 12 Game column, the Chiefs’ highest neutral pass rate of the season came against the Bucs, which means coach Andy Reid opted to pass the ball at an 83% rate in situations when teams are typically more balanced (1st and 2nd downs when the game is close outside of the two-minute warning). The reason for that is because the Bucs are the league’s best run defense and are just okay in pass coverage, hence the 41.4-attempt projection here and the 49-attempt game against the Bucs in Week 12. It also helps that the Chiefs are only three-point favorites compared to their usual eight-point spread, so there’s a lower chance the team is just running out the clock instead of passing in the fourth quarter. As for Mahomes’ rushing projection, I lowered it just a touch compared to his playoff averages because of the toe injury, but I may move it up as we get closer if reports continue to be positive. ... Updated Friday: Mahomes’ toe injury doesn’t seem like an actual issue, so I bumped his rushing yardage up. The Bucs’ increased two-man coverage recently adds to the likelihood that Mahomes picks up a few first downs as a scrambler.

Bucs QBs: Tom Brady also projects well. The Bucs may run the ball early -- Kansas City’s defense faced the 28th-highest neutral pass rate this season because the Chiefs are typically light in the box -- but Tampa’s projected game script favors a pass-heavy game as three-point dogs. In losses this season, Brady has pass attempt totals of 36, 41, 38, 48, and 41 (vs. KC in Week 12). Brady should be reasonably efficient, too, if only because his offensive line is playing elite football and he has the weapons to take advantage of an average defense.

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RB Projections

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Team Player PPR Carries RuYDs RuTDs Tar. Rec. ReYDs ReTDs
TB Leonard Fournette 14.0 10.5 42 0.49 4.6 3.5 20 0.22
KC Clyde Edwards-Helaire 10.6 7.3 28 0.32 4.0 2.7 19 0.22
KC Darrel Williams 6.6 5.5 20 0.22 2.2 1.6 9 0.12
TB Ronald Jones 6.4 6.7 33 0.31 0.8 0.6 4 0.04

Bucs RBs: Unless Tampa was lying on their injury report, Ronald Jones was at near full health in the NFC Championship, and he clearly operated as the 1B (18 snaps) behind Leonard Fournette (44 snaps). Jones’ role seems tied to positive game scripts. He only ran six routes to Fournette’s 25 last week, and he was out-targeted by Playoff Lenny, 7-0. If the Chiefs jump out to a first-half lead, Fournette is likely to dominate touches, particularly as a receiver out of the backfield. Early in the game, the Bucs may try to take a balanced approach because the Chiefs invite teams to run against them, but it’s unlikely either running back handles more than a dozen or so carries as underdogs. The two combined for 12 carries in the Week 12 matchup against the Chiefs.

Chiefs RBs: This is a fragile projection -- feel free to disagree -- because injuries, performance, and game script are all factors. In the AFC Championship, Darrel Williams was more productive (13-52-1) than Clyde Edwards-Helaire (6-7-1), who didn’t look dynamic coming off ankle and hip injuries. And that led to more snaps for Williams in the second half of the game. CEH was the starter and finished with more snaps (32 to 30), but he didn’t receive a touch in the final 25 minutes of the game when the Chiefs were running out the clock according to Adam Levitan. Perhaps they wanted to avoid a CEH setback with the game in the bag. Perhaps they just trust Williams more. I’m unsure. For the Super Bowl, I projected CEH for a slightly larger split of the carries just because he has two weeks to rest, and I left his receiving projection higher than Williams because he out-routed Williams (19 to 12) last week. With that said, the Chiefs are unlikely to run much against the Bucs who rank first in rushing EPA defense and just got elite NT Vita Vea back from injury. I don’t think the Chiefs’ talent-deficient offensive line will provide rushing lanes.

WR Projections

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Team Player PPR Tar. Rec. ReYDs ReTDs
KC Tyreek Hill 23.2 11.5 7.6 100 0.70
TB Mike Evans 16.8 9.2 5.6 79 0.56
TB Chris Godwin 16.3 8.4 6.4 78 0.34
TB Antonio Brown 10.6 6.7 4.5 48 0.22
KC Sammy Watkins 10.0 5.8 3.9 40 0.35
KC Mecole Hardman 7.4 3.5 2.4 29 0.20
KC Demarcus Robinson 5.5 3.1 2.4 22 0.15
TB Scotty Miller 4.4 2.9 1.7 23 0.08
KC Byron Pringle 1.6 0.9 0.7 8 0.02
TB Tyler Johnson 1.6 0.8 0.5 8 0.04

Bucs WRs: Before the NFC Championship, Antonio Brown was reportedly “day-to-day”. It’s unknown if he’ll play in the Super Bowl, but I left him for now. Even at full health, Brown is not an every-down player. He lines up wide only in three-receiver sets and could even be pushed by Scotty Miller, who scored a long touchdown last game. As for the studs, I closed the gap between Chris Godwin and Mike Evans considerably compared to the first two playoff games when Evans was being defended by arguably the two best coverage corners in the NFL, Jalen Ramsey and Jaire Alexander. Chiefs top corner Bashaud Breeland is physical, but he’s nowhere near as gifted as the other two corners. Evans is in line for a good Super Bowl. As is Godwin, who is averaging 72 yards in the seven games since the Bucs’ bye. He’ll catch breakout rookie slot CB L’Jarius Snead in coverage. Snead has been a playmaker but isn’t a lockdown coverage corner.

Chiefs WRs: Tyreek Hill went so nuclear against the Bucs in Week 12 (12-263-3) that I spent the 30 minutes it took to clip all of his touches from that game (video). The Bucs switched up their coverages then, but Hill kept getting open. I don’t think the Bucs have a single corner capable of hanging with Hill when they go to Cover 3 or Cover 1 man. If the Bucs play more Cover 2, then Kelce will go off and Hill will still get his certainly. I simply don’t see how they slow Hill down even with speedy CB Jamel Dean active (he missed Week 12). The rest of the Chiefs receivers will have smaller roles, but someone could pop for a big game against the league’s biggest pass funnel defense. I’m projecting Sammy Watkins in for now, but he’s a mystery. If healthy, he’s likely to be a near every-down player as the No. 2 with Demarcus Robinson and Mecole Hardman being the next two in line. Here were the routes in the last game Watkins played in Week 15: Hill (51-of-60), Kelce (51), Watkins (50), Robinson (35), Hardman (27), and Pringle (3). If Watkins is unavailable, I’m expecting a similar route distribution from last week where Robinson was the No. 2 and Pringle was the slot receiver ahead of Hardman, who remained in a gadget role. ... Updated Friday: Sammy Watkins practiced in limited fashion all week. He’s listed as questionable but is “optimistic” he’ll play. I bet he does and have a receiving prop over on him for matchup reasons. Watkins could see a lot of one-on-one this Sunday. Demarcus Robinson was cleared to practice on Friday and shouldn’t be affected by missing a few practices.

TE Projections

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Team Player PPR Tar. Rec. ReYDs ReTDs
KC Travis Kelce 24.4 12.4 9.1 109 0.72
TB Rob Gronkowski 9.4 5.9 3.4 43 0.34
TB Cameron Brate 5.2 2.9 1.9 22 0.18
KC Nick Keizer 0.4 0.2 0.1 1 0.01
KC Ricky Seals-Jones 0.4 0.2 0.1 1 0.01

Chiefs TEs: Since the Week 11 bye, Travis Kelce is averaging 109 yards and one touchdown across eight games, and he has at least 10 targets in nine of his last 10 games. The Bucs linebackers are decent, but their safeties are injured and inexperienced. And even if they were good, would that even be enough to slow down Kelce right now? His projection is admittedly insane, but I think it’s justified given how much we can expect the Chiefs to pass against the pass funnel. For the absolute degenerates out there, Nick Keizer ran two routes last week. Ricky Seals-Jones, one.

Bucs TEs: Rob Gronkowski finally separated from Cameron Brate in terms of routes run last week (23 to 13), but both remain low-volume tertiary targets for Brady. Their damage is most likely to be felt in short yardage and in the red zone, although negative game script could force them into garbage-time check-downs. It’s worth noting that Gronk had his best game of the season (6-106-0) against Kansas City’s two-high defense in Week 12 while Brate had 4-34-0. ... Updated Friday: Cameron Brate suffered a back injury in practice, going from full to limited to DNP this week. Brate is truly questionable and has a higher re-injury risk even if active. I gave some of Brate’s target share to Gronk and Antonio Brown in the latest update. As you can see in the clip below, there are coverage reasons why Gronk is in line for a bigger than normal game. I’m on a lot of his player props.