Super Bowl 2021: A casual fan’s guide to Super Bowl LV if you don’t know Tom Brady from Greg Brady


If you’re a huge football fan, I don’t have to tell you that the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers are about to battle it out in Super Bowl LV for the right to call themselves champions of the 2020 NFL season. But what if you aren’t really that into the NFL? Even if that’s the case, you’re probably watching the Super Bowl. Why wouldn’t you be? We can’t really leave our houses, anyway. 

Perhaps you’re a huge football fan and already know everything there is to know about the game, the teams and the players involved. But perhaps you’re not. Perhaps you’re attending a (virtual) Super Bowl party because it’s the only social thing to do at the moment. Maybe you don’t know all that much about anything related to the Super Bowl and need to show off some knowledge over Zoom.

In this case, we’ve got you covered. This is the fourth annual casual fan’s guide to the Super Bowl.

Who’s playing in Super Bowl LV? And why is it called Super Bowl LV?

First and foremost, it’s important to know everything about the participants in the NFL’s title game. Representing the AFC, we have the Kansas City Chiefs. They’re favored by 3 points as of this writing. That means betting experts generally think this is going to be a close game, but that the Chiefs are the slightly better team. The Chiefs are the defending champions, having defeated the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl LIV last year. 

Representing the NFC, meanwhile, are the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The teams have the same color scheme (shade of red, shade of gold, and white), but you’ll probably be able to tell them apart by the logos on the sides of their helmets. The Buccaneers’ helmet, helpfully, is gold and features a red flag with a pirate on it, while the Chiefs’ helmet is red, with a white arrowhead featuring the letters “KC” inside of it. 

It’s called Super Bowl LV because it’s the 55th Super Bowl, and 55 in Roman numerals is LV. The NFL has been using Roman numerals for every Super Bowl (except Super Bowl 50) since Super Bowl V (five). According to the NFL’s media guide, “The Roman numerals were adopted to clarify any confusion that may occur because the NFL Championship Game — the Super Bowl — is played in the year following a chronologically recorded season. Numerals I through IV were added later for the first four Super Bowls.”

What time is the Super Bowl? Where is it?

The Super Bowl starts at 6:30 p.m. Eastern on Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021. The game will be broadcast on CBS and can be streamed for free on CBSSports.com, with play-by-play from Jim Nantz, analysis by Tony Romo, and sideline reporting by Tracy Wolfson, Evan Washburn and Jay Feely. Inaugural poet Amanda Gorman will be reciting an original poem during the pregame festivities

The game will be played in the home stadium of the Buccaneers, Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla. The NFL rotates the location of the Super Bowl every year because it generally wants to provide a neutral site so no team has home-field advantage. That had previously worked every year, as no team had ever played a Super Bowl in its home stadium, but the Bucs will end that streak this season. 

Of course, the stadium will not be as full as it usually is for the Super Bowl. The NFL is expected to host around 22,000 fans (Raymond James Stadium seats 65,890), of which 7,500 of which will be vaccinated healthcare workers on all-expenses paid trips.

And how long is it going to last?

As our Cody Benjamin noted a few years back, the average Super Bowl broadcast over the past 20 years or so has been about three-and-a-half hours. It’s pretty long. That includes a halftime show that generally lasts 20 to 30 minutes

Who’s performing at halftime?

The Weeknd! Based on previous games, the halftime show figures to begin shortly after 8 p.m. Eastern.

“We all grow up watching the world’s biggest acts playing the Super Bowl and one can only dream of being in that position. I’m humbled, honored and ecstatic to be the center of that infamous stage this year,” The Weeknd said when the announcement was made back in November 2020.

Who are the quarterbacks of the Chiefs and Buccaneers? 

It’s always a good bet that the quarterbacks will play a big role in the Super Bowl. A quarterback usually wins MVP of the game, after all. A quarterback has won 30 of the previous 54 Super Bowl MVP trophies, and 13 of the last 20 since 2000.  

The quarterback of the Chiefs is Patrick Mahomes. He is listed as the odds-on favorite to win Super Bowl MVP, just as he was last year. Mahomes (No. 15) was drafted in 2017 but spent a year as the backup to former Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith. In his first year as the starter, Mahomes threw for over 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns, and was named the league’s MVP. He then led the Chiefs to the title last season, winning Super Bowl MVP. This season, Mahomes was strongly in the league MVP mix throughout the year, though at this point it is expected that Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers will ultimately win the award. 

Mahomes has the widest array of throws in the league, up to and including no-look throws, throws with his off hand, throws across his body while moving backwards, and 50- or even 60-plus yard throws off his back foot that he does so easily that it barely looks like he’s trying. Mahomes is an incredible athlete capable of making plays with his legs — whether simply extending the play to give his receivers time to get open, or actually taking off downfield. If there is one player in this game capable of deciding the result by himself, Mahomes is that player. Wait. Scratch that. The other team’s quarterback can be that player, too.

The quarterback of the Buccaneers is some guy named Tom Brady. Brady (No. 12) is widely considered the best quarterback of all time, though some fans of the Colts and 49ers may quibble with you if you say that out loud. He was the quarterback of the New England Patriots from 2001 through 2019, a time during which he won six Super Bowls, three league MVP awards, and four Super Bowl MVP awards, while also making the Pro Bowl (the NFL’s equivalent of the All-Star Game) 14 times and and being named an All-Pro five times. 

Brady is the only player in NFL history to win six Super Bowls, and has a chance to become only the third person to win seven or more in any NFL role. (Patriots coach Bill Belichick has eight, including his two as defensive coordinator of the New York Giants, while former 49ers and Broncos executive Neal Dahlen has seven.) Brady, incredibly, is 43 years old, and in his 21st NFL season. He is already the oldest quarterback to either start in or win a Super Bowl, and he has a chance to break his own record this year. This is Brady’s first season with the Buccaneers, with whom he signed last offseason. Prior to his arrival, the Bucs had not made the playoffs since the 2007 season and had not been to the Super Bowl since the 2002 campaign, when the beat the then-Oakland Raiders to capture the franchise’s only title. 

Are there any other notable players I should be prepared to talk about? 

Of course! 

Let’s start with the Chiefs: 

  • Tight end Travis Kelce. Kelce (No. 87) is generally considered one of the two best tight ends in the NFL, and that’s actually been the case for a while. He has made the Pro Bowl in six consecutive seasons, and has also caught at least 80 passes for at least 1,000 yards in each of the past five. Those five seasons are already the most 80-1,000 seasons for any tight end in the history of the league. This season, he caught 105 passes for 1,416 yards (the single-season record for a tight end) and 11 touchdowns. He is essentially uncoverable over the middle of the field. 
  • Wide receiver Tyreek Hill. Arguably the fastest player in the NFL, Hill (No. 10) is the best big-play threat in the league. He and Mahomes connect on more deep passes than any other quarterback-receiver combination in football, and Reid utilizes Hill in a variety of ways in order to get the ball in his hands in open space. Once he hits the jets, it’s over for the defense. Hill is also a wildly controversial figure due to disturbing allegations regarding his off-field behavior. Hill previously pleaded guilty to domestic assault and battery charges in 2015 stemming from a December 2014 incident where he punched and choked his then-pregnant girlfriend, Crystal Espinal. He was given a three-year probation sentence and the Chiefs later selected him in the fifth round of the 2016 draft. During the 2019 offseason, an audio tape of Hill’s conversation with Espinal about his treatment of their three-year-old son resulted in a criminal investigation. Charges were not filed because it could not be proven who had abused the couple’s child. Despite it being heavily-rumored, Hill faced no punishment from the league stemming from the allegations. 
  • Running backs Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Darrel Williams. CEH (No. 25) was the Chiefs’ first-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. It was a controversial selection because the league has come to devalue running backs in recent seasons, but his skill set makes him a good fit in Kansas City’s offense. He did not have as strong a season as expected, though, and was injured down the stretch of the regular season. He returned last week and split the snaps with Williams (No. 31), his former teammate at LSU who was an undrafted free-agent signing by Kansas City in 2018. He operated as the team’s third running back for much of last season, then worked behind Edwards-Helaire and Le’Veon Bell (No. 26) for most of this year before taking over a much larger role when Edwards-Helaire went down late in the year. 
  • Offensive tackles Mike Remmers and Andrew Wylie. The Chiefs’ starting tackles, Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz, are very good players — particularly Schwartz, who is among the very best right tackles in the game. However, they are both out for the season with injuries. In their place will be Remmers (left tackle, No. 75) and Wylie (right tackle, No. 77). Remmers was the team’s swing tackle and stepped into the lineup on the right side when Schwartz was injured midseason. Wylie is normally a starting guard, but moved outside to tackle after Fisher was injured last week. These two will have a very tough job against the Buccaneers’ edge rushers, who we’ll cover below. 
  • Defensive lineman Chris Jones. Jones (No. 95) is probably the best player on the Kansas City defense. An interior defensive lineman who excels against both the run and the pass, he has a knack for making big plays. He finished this season with 7.5 sacks and 28 quarterback hits, and plays a valuable role pushing the pocket up the middle, which is extremely valuable against Brady. 
  • Defensive back Tyrann Mathieu. Known as the Honey Badger, Mathieu (No. 32) is one of the best and most versatile defensive backs in the league. He is listed and plays most of his snaps as a safety, but you’ll also see him line up as a cornerback or linebacker on occasion. He’s comparatively small for a safety, but he is a big, strong hitter — he’s excellent in coverage as well.
  • Defensive backs Bashaud Breeland, Charvarius Ward, L’Jarius Sneed and Rashad Fenton. This quarter will have to deal with the Buccaneers’ explosive wide receiver corps, which is among the best in the NFL. Breeland (No. 21) typically lines up at right cornerback (93% of his snaps), while Ward (No. 35) plays on the left side (88%) and Sneed (No. 38) plays the slot (53%). Fenton (No. 27) is the primary backup to the outside corners but also rotates in throughout the game.

And what about the Buccaneers? 

  • Wide receivers Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown and Scotty Miller. Evans (No. 13) was the Buccaneers’ first-round pick in 2014. This season, he became the first player in NFL history to begin his career with seven consecutive 1,000-plus-yard receiving seasons. He also caught a career-high 13 touchdown passes. Godwin (No. 14) is the team’s slot receiver and often Brady’s favorite target. He missed several games with injury issues this year and of late has struggled with drops due to a broken finger that required the insertion of pins. Miller (No. 10) is the team’s fourth wide receiver. Sometimes mislabeled as a slot guy, he is a deep burner who often connects with Brady on throws downfield, such as last week’s touchdown just prior to halftime against the Packers. Brown (No. 81) was one of the best receivers in football for years, recording at least 100 catches, 1,284 yards and 8 eight touchdowns in six consecutive seasons from 2013 through 2018 with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Brown then had a very public falling-out with Pittsburgh and was traded to the Oakland Raiders. He never ended up playing a game with Oakland, though, as he was released following a series of bizarre incidents, including one where he threatened to retire if he was not allowed to wear a certain kind of helmet. He then signed with the Patriots in 2019, but was released after only one game amid sexual assault allegations that were ultimately not prosecuted due to a lapsed statute of limitations. Brown was later accused of sexual misconduct by a second woman, was barred from being involved with a youth (PAL) league, and pleaded no contest to felony burglary and battery in connection with an incident where Brown and his trainer attacked a moving truck driver outside his home. Brown received probation and was ordered to undergo community service, anger management and psychological counseling. 
  • Tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Cameron Brate. Gronk (No. 87) is the best tight end in NFL history. Brady’s longtime teammate in New England, he returned this season after a one-year hiatus, reuniting with his QB in Tampa. He was not as involved in the Bucs’ offense as he was with that of the Patriots, but he still made plenty of big plays and caught seven touchdown passes. Brate (No. 84) works alongside Gronk in two-tight end sets, and is at times more heavily involved in the passing game than his counterpart. He’s a particularly good threat in the red zone, with more than 10% of his career catches going for touchdowns. 
  • Running backs Leonard Fournette and Ronald Jones. Fournette (No. 28) is a former fourth overall pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars who was released just prior to the start of the offseason and then signed with Tampa. He worked behind Jones (No. 27) for most of the season, but has taken over a larger role as Jones struggled with injuries. Fournette generally gets more pass-catching opportunities than Jones, which is valuable because Brady loves to target his running backs. 
  • Edge rushers Jason Pierre-Paul and Shaq Barrett. Two of the very best pass rushers in football, Pierre-Paul (No. 90) and Barrett (No. 58) combined for 17.5 sacks during the regular season and absolutely dominated the NFC title game. With the injuries to Kansas City’s starting tackles, the potential is there for them to dominate the Super Bowl as well. If the Chiefs can’t figure out a way to keep them away from Mahomes, the Bucs will have a much better shot of doing to the K.C. offense what they just did to Green Bay’s. 
  • Linebackers Lavonte David and Devin White. David (No. 54) has been long considered one of the NFL’s most underrated players. He was a star playing on a subpar defense for a long time, but he has been elite long enough to stick around and be part of one of the NFL’s best units. He is a tackle machine and plays very well in space, which will be valuable against Kansas City’s backs and especially against Kelce. White (No. 45) was Tampa’s 2019 first-round pick, and he is an extremely versatile playmaker that flows sideline-to-sideline against the run (140 tackles), works well as a blitzer (nine sacks) and handles himself well in coverage. He is one of the keys to the game for Tampa. 
  • Cornerbacks Carlton Davis, Jamel Dean and Sean Murphy-Bunting. Davis (No. 24) is often used to shadow the opposing team’s No. 1 wideout, though that may be difficult to do with the Chiefs because of how often Hill lines up in the slot and/or goes in motion. Dean (No. 35) is the other outside corner and — while he’s not quite as good as Davis — he is a solid player. He is susceptible to double-moves, though, and if the Chiefs try to hit a deep shot, it’s likely that he will be their target. Murphy-Bunting (No. 23) is Tampa’s slot corner. He struggled a bit during the regular season but has been fantastic in the playoffs, with an interception in each of the Bucs’ three games.  

There are obviously more notable players, but this list is a good start.  

Who are the coaches of the Chiefs and Buccaneers? 

The head coach of the Chiefs is Andy Reid. This is his third Super Bowl appearance as a head coach, as he took the Philadelphia Eagles to Super Bowl XXXIX back in 2005 before taking the Chiefs there last season. He’s been a head coach for 22 seasons and has posted a winning record in 19 of them, making the playoffs 16 times overall. He has the fourth-most playoff wins in NFL history, with 17. Reid has not posted a losing regular-season record since 2012, his final year in Philadelphia. Until last year, Reid was the NFL’s all-time winningest coach among coaches who had never won a Super Bowl.

Reid is widely considered one of the best coaches in modern NFL history. Specifically, he has been an incredibly innovative offensive coach, pushing schemes forward by always staying ahead of the curve and implementing ideas from college and even high school before any other coaches catch on. There’s a reason why he has one of the most extensive coaching trees in the league, and why his offensive coordinators and quarterbacks coaches routinely go on to get head coaching jobs elsewhere. (Former Eagles coach Doug Pederson and Bears coach Matt Nagy being the two most recent examples, but also Ravens coach John Harbaugh and Bills coach Sean McDermott, among others.) 

The head coach of the Buccaneers is Bruce Arians. Formerly the head coach of the Arizona Cardinals and offensive coordinator of the Cleveland Browns, Pittsburgh Steelers and Indianapolis Colts, Arians is in his second year with Tampa. (Arians spent the 2018 season broadcasting games for CBS.) Arians actually won Coach of the Year in 2012 with Indianapolis despite not being the team’s head coach. He filled in for former Colts coach Chuck Pagano, who was battling cancer at the time. Arians then got the top job in Arizona, where he again won Coach of the Year in 2014. Arians is known for his “no risk-it, no biscuit” offensive philosophy favoring throws deep down the field. 

Arians was also a play-caller in his previous head coaching stops, but did not take on that role in Tampa. He made a point of hiring Black coaches as his offensive and defensive coordinators, and of allowing OC Byron Leftwich (more on him in a minute) to call plays, because of how often that specific qualification is brought up in head-coaching searches. Arians wanted to be sure that neither of his coordinators could have a lack of play-calling experience held against them if the situation were to arise. 

The Chiefs and Buccaneers also each have several well-known assistant coaches. 

The Chiefs’ offensive coordinator is Eric Bieniemy. A former NFL running back, Bieniemy played his final season in the league with the 1999 Eagles — Reid’s first year in Philadelphia. He began his coaching career as the running backs coach at his alma mater, the University of Colorado, where he stayed for two years before moving onto UCLA and then making the jump to the NFL as the Minnesota Vikings‘ running backs coach. Bieniemy held that role from 2006 to 2010, then went back to Colorado as the team’s offensive coordinator for two seasons before Reid hired him to be the Chiefs’ running backs coach in 2013. He held that role until 2017, when he was promoted to offensive coordinator to replace the departed Matt Nagy. 

Bieniemy was a candidate for several head coach openings last offseason, and the fact that he did not get hired was widely seen as the latest in a string of examples of the league’s issues when it comes to hiring minorities to positions of power. Bieniemy was again a candidate for several open jobs this offseason, when the NFL filled only one of its seven head-coaching vacancies with a Black candidate. 

As of Wednesday afternoon there was only one job that remained open — that of the Houston Texans. Quarterback Deshaun Watson reportedly told the organization that he’d prefer Bieniemy get the job (based on the recommendation of Mahomes, with whom Watson is close friends); but at first, the team declined to even interview him, causing a rift between Watson and the team that has still yet to be repaired. The team did eventually interview Bieniemy, but on Wednesday night, news broke that the Texans will hire Ravens passing-game coordinator David Culley instead. That means Bieniemy has now gone three consecutive offseasons without getting a head-coaching opportunity despite A. being the coordinator of the best offense in the NFL during that time; B. seeing both of his predecessors hired away on the strength of coordinating inferior offenses to the one he has led; and C. seeing several offensive-minded coaches who do not call plays and/or have less experience (or zero experience) as coordinators get hired for jobs that he competed for.

Kansas City’s defensive coordinator is Steve Spagnuolo. He’s most notable as the defensive coordinator of the 2007 New York Giants team that upset the the 18-0 New England Patriots (quarterbacked by Tom Brady) in the Super Bowl. Spagnuolo coached under Reid in Philadelphia from 1999 to 2006.

The Chiefs’ special teams coach is Dave Toub. Toub has been coaching special teams in the NFL since 2001, and he is arguably the best special teams coach in NFL history. (He was the longtime special teams coordinator for the Chicago Bears when they had Devin Hester.) His teams routinely rank among the best in the league on special teams, and that was true this year as well. 

The Buccaneers’ defensive coordinator is Todd Bowles. A former NFL safety, Bowles has been coaching in the NFL since 2011. He worked as the defensive coordinator for the Miami Dolphins and Philadelphia Eagles before joining Arians in Arizona in 2013. After two seasons as DC, he was hired as head coach of the New York Jets, a role he held for four years. He re-joined Arians in Tampa last season and his defense was among the best in the league in both 2019 and 2020. The Bucs tend to stack the box and play extremely aggressively, sending multiple rushers after the quarterback from different angles and playing press coverage against receivers on the perimeter. The Bucs are an elite run defense and an above-average pass defense, making them incredibly tough to score on.

Tampa’s offensive coordinator is Byron Leftwich. Leftwich is a former NFL quarterback who was the No. 7 overall pick in the 2003 NFL Draft. He became most notable for playing a college game on a broken tibia and being carried down the field by his offensive linemen. He lasted a decade in the NFL but ultimately did not live up to lofty expectations. Still, Leftwich has carved out a nice career in coaching. He joined Arians as an intern and then quarterbacks coach with the Cardinals, and was promoted to offensive coordinator for the 2018 season under Arians’ successor, Steve Wilks. When the Cardinals hired Kliff Kingsbury, Arians brought Leftwich to Tampa as his offensive coordinator. 

What’s an interesting talking point to bring up with fans of each team? 

  • Chiefs fans: We’re building a dynasty! 
  • Buccaneers fans: The Bucs are back! 

Before I start watching, are there any important rules I should know about?

Sure! It’s difficult to know which rules will be important and why before the game actually starts, but it’s a pretty safe bet that you’ll hear at least something about some or all of these: 

  • Pass interference. (This rule is exactly what it sounds like. It’s when one player interfere’s with another’s ability to catch a pass.) When pass interference is committed by the defense, the offense gets a first down at the spot of the foul. When it’s committed by the offense, they lose 10 yards and have to replay the down. It’s the most likely penalty to be argued about during the game. Illegal contact is a less serious version of pass interference because it generally occurs before the ball is thrown and interferes with a player’s ability to run his route, not catch the ball. It’s a five-yard penalty that also results in a first down. 
  • False start and offside. These are pre-snap calls that result in five-yard penalties for the offense (false start) and defense (offside). A false start requires that the play be blown dead immediately, but there are several version of offside penalties, one of which does not require that the play be blown dead and instead results in a free play for the offense. 
  • Holding, illegal block in the back, illegal blind side block and illegal hands to the face. Each of these penalties are exactly what they sound like. It’s illegal for players to grab hold of each other’s jerseys and impede the opposition’s ability to make a play. Offensive holding is a 10-yard penalty that necessitates a replay of the down, while defensive holding is a five-yard penalty that results in a first down for the offense. An illegal block in the back will most often be called during a kick or punt return, and it’s a 10-yard penalty from the spot of the foul. An illegal blind-side block occurs when a play is facing backwards toward his own end zone and forcefully blocks a defensive player. Illegal hands to the face penalties are usually called either on offensive or defensive linemen when they are trying to either block or get off a block, or on a cornerback trying to jam a wide receiver at the line of scrimmage. When called against the offense, it results in a 10-yard penalty and replay of the down, and when called against the defense, it’s a five-yard penalty and automatic first down for the offense. 
  • Roughing the passer. Again, this penalty is exactly what it sounds like. It’s when a defensive player engages in a rough or dangerous play against the quarterback. Hitting him too low or too high or too late or too hard or in too strange a way can and usually will result in this penalty being called. Enforcement of the penalty is extremely inconsistent across the league. It’s a 15-yard penalty and results in an automatic first down.
  • Targeting. When a player lowers his helmet and hits another player in the head or neck area, he gets flagged for targeting. This can happen with an offensive player or a defensive player, though it’s worth noting that defensive players are flagged for it much more often. This is also a 15-yard penalty. 

When will people start caring about next year’s Super Bowl? 

Literally the exact second this game ends. Get ready. 





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