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Defense Could Steal the Show in Chiefs vs. Bucs on Sunday

Mahomes and Brady are the headliners, but the Chiefs and Bucs' defenses could steal the show.

The Kansas City Chiefs will take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on NBC’s Sunday Night Football this weekend. Between the initial uncertainty surrounding the game due to Hurricane Ian, the primetime matchup being high-profile and this being yet another game where the Patrick Mahomes vs. Tom Brady storyline comes into play, there’s a lot of juice heading into this one.

Sure, everyone wants to see a game full of offensive fireworks, just like the first time these two future Hall of Fame quarterbacks played against each other. In that matchup, which was also a primetime game, Brady threw for 340 yards and one touchdown while Mahomes threw for 352 yards and four touchdowns. The game ended on a field goal as time expired, and Brady and the New England Patriots defeated Mahomes and the Chiefs 43-40.

Later that season, in the AFC Championship game at Arrowhead Stadium, Brady threw for 348 yards and a touchdown while Mahomes threw for 295 yards and three touchdowns. Again, it was a Patriots win, with this one coming in overtime.

In Week 14 of the 2019 season, the Chiefs won a close one, 23-16. Mahomes and Brady didn’t have their best games which led to the lack of fireworks. Mahomes had 283 yards and a touchdown while Brady had 169 yards and a touchdown. In Week 12 of the following campaign, Mahomes got the best of Brady again. This time, Mahomes threw for 462 yards and three touchdowns while Brady threw for 345 and three touchdowns. The Chiefs won 27-24. There’s no reason to go into detail about what exactly took place in Super Bowl 55, the last time these two competitors took the field and played against each other.

Should we expect more fireworks this time around? There’s one major factor that most folks don’t seem to be taking into account as this game draws closer: Both teams’ defenses have been outplaying their offenses early in the season.

The Buccaneers' defense is ranked No. 1 in the NFL. It's allowing its opponents to score just nine points per game. Tampa Bay still has playmakers at every level of its defense and it has looked the part early in the 2022 season. The Chiefs' defense, despite all of the turnover in the offseason, has looked very solid early in the season and ranks in the top 10 in Football Outsiders' Defensive DVOA. They’ve made additions at every level of the defense and so far, so good.

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Defensive ends Carlos Dunlap and rookie George Karlaftis have been getting a good amount of pressure on the quarterbacks each week. Rookie Leo Chenal has earned a decent amount of playing time at the linebacker position. Rookie cornerback Trent McDuffie was a starter in Week 1 before getting injured during that game. Another rookie cornerback, Jaylen Watson, won AFC Defensive Player of the Week in Week 2 after getting a pick-six that helped lead the Chiefs to a win over their division rival Los Angeles Chargers.

The Chiefs' offense has struggled at times the past couple of weeks. The Bucs' offense has not looked good at all through the first three weeks of the season. Tampa hasn’t scored more than 20 points in a game this season.

Is this the week both teams break out offensively? There’s always that possibility. The Buccaneers will have Mike Evans, their top wide receiver, back in action this week after he served a one-week suspension due to a Week 2 in-game fight. There’s also a chance that wide receiver Chris Godwin will be ready to roll, as he's a game-time decision as of right now.

The Buccaneers' defense did a good job containing Aaron Rodgers last week, but he’s still getting used to working with a new group of wide receivers. Mahomes has been doing the same, but Travis Kelce is still the best tight end in the NFL and the hope is the other weapons in the offense are primed to find their footing soon.

This shouldn’t be an 11-10 slugfest like last week’s Sunday night game between the Denver Broncos and San Francisco 49ers. With that said, it also shouldn’t be expected to be a fireworks show like the first time Mahomes and Brady met. This game could very well come down to a critical turnover or late stop from one of the defenses.

Despite the bright lights in a primetime game, along with Mahomes and Brady potentially playing their last game against each other, the defenses could be what everyone is talking about on Monday morning.

Read More: The Chiefs’ Need for Sneed Should Lead to a Contract Extension