This Sunday, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will become the first team to play the Super Bowl at their home stadium, as they welcome the Kansas City Chiefs.
Patrick Mahomes’ Chiefs will be looking to win back-to-back Super Bowl’s, whereas the Bucs have only one Super Bowl to their name – although quarterback Tom Brady has six.
On the biggest stage and with the Vince Lombardi Trophy up for grabs, the big plays could be the ones that turn the game on its head.
But who are the players you should watch out for who can change a game?
P.S. this list won’t include Brady or Mahomes, who are obvious game changers!
1. Shaquil Barrett – Buccaneers OL
In the NFC Championship game, Tampa Bay’s defence knew that if they were to stand a chance, they’d have to apply pressure to Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers – they did just that.
Outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett contributed three of the five total sacks that game, the most Rodgers faced all season.
Barrett got two vital sacks in the fourth quarter, creating two three-and-outs after the Bucs had just turned the ball over twice.
To shut down Mahomes, Barrett and fellow outside linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul need to give him as little time as possible to throw and force him outside of the pocket.
Even though Mahomes is one of the best outside the pocket, making him uncomfortable early on would let him know that they’re to bring him down.
Against the Chiefs backup tackles, Barrett could be one of the stand out players of the Super Bowl.
2. Travis Kelce – Chiefs TE
On the opposing side, Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce is on his way to becoming one of the best tight ends of all time.
He has now passed 1,000 yards in five consecutive seasons, including a record breaking 2020 which saw him set the NFL single-season record yardage for a tight end with 1,416.
Despite the Chief’s powerful receiving corps, Kelce can be regarded as the best of them all.
One thing to look out for is yards after catch (YAC), with someone as powerful as Kelce being so difficult to bring down, he just piles on the yards.
Mahomes can rely on Kelce to pick up the important yards, and first downs, even on a slant route where the best course of action is just dumping it off to him.
Not only this, his height and strength mean that if the Bucs make the mistake of playing man coverage, Kelce could be left with a one-on-one against a cornerback or safety that will have no chance.
If Kelce comes up big again on Sunday, it could be a long evening for Tampa’s defence.
3. Mike Evans – Buccaneers WR
As with Kelce, Mike Evans height and strength make him incredibly difficult to cover.
Despite recurring issues with injury, Evans is health for Sunday’s game and is one of Brady’s top targets in the end zone.
The receiver has topped 1,000 yards in every single season he’s played in, which is not only a record but extraordinary when you realise which QB’s have been throwing to him.
Evans has grabbed 13 touchdowns this season, and Brady will continue to target him, especially in the end zone.
Brady can also throw it long to Evans, whose speed can also get him downfield quickly and then use his physical prowess to turn a 50-50 in his favour.
If the Chiefs can’t shut him down, Evans could be in for big yardage and add more touchdowns to his name.
4. Tristan Wirfs – Buccaneers OT
Drafted in the first round of the 2020 draft, the 6”5’, 320lb offensive tackle has had himself a fantastic rookie season.
Locking down the right side of the Bucs offensive line, Wirfs has especially upped his game in the playoffs.
Wirfs has allowed just one sack all season, including the postseason, and has been on the field for 769 pass-block snaps.
Giving an elite QB time to throw, and carving out spaces for your runnings backs, has proved why he has been such an important addition to Tampa Bay’s team.
Even though he’ll come up against some tough Chiefs linemen, who would’ve dreamt about sacking Brady in a Super Bowl, he can continue doing what he’s doing, knowing that he has the ability to keep them under wraps.
5. Tyrann Mathieu – Chiefs SS
Also known as the “Honey Badger”, due to his reputation of making plays against much larger opponents, Tyrann Mathieu is one of the Chiefs most important players on defense.
Arguably having his best season, Mathieu has forced seven interceptions, returning one for a touchdown.
However, interceptions aren’t the most accurate representation of whether a cornerback or safety is performing well.
When targeted, Mathieu has allowed just two touchdowns and the opponents passer rating is a very low 64.9.
His football brain is also key to his performances – the ability to read a play and even the opposing QB’s eyes is what has stood him out above the rest.
If you’re throwing in Mathieu’s direction, he would have visualised that throw already and will be ready to shut down the play or make an interception.
It will be difficult against Tom Brady, but the Honey Badger has the ability to demolish routes and give the Chiefs the upper hand.