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Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Bud Dupree believed to have torn left ACL, source says

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PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Steelers are feared to have lost another key piece of their vaunted defense.

Outside linebacker Bud Dupree, who appeared to injure his left knee on a non-contact play in the second half of Wednesday’s 19-14 win over the Baltimore Ravens, is believed to have sustained a torn ACL, a source told ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, confirming an NFL Network report. The severity of the injury is expected to be confirmed with further testing Thursday.

Dupree limped off the field following the injury and did not return to the game.

“I think it was very quiet, very sad, very low, just because having our fellow teammate going down, Bud, and not knowing what’s going on over there,” wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster said, describing the Steelers locker room after the game. “But that’s something that, you always pray for everybody to be safe and have a healthy game.”

Playing on the one-year franchise tag, Dupree will be a free agent after this season. He followed up his breakout 2019 campaign with another strong effort this season, recording eight sacks and two forced fumbles along with 26 tackles. Along with TJ Watt, Dupree was a foundational piece of the Steelers’ pass rush.

Replacing Dupree won’t be easy. Rookie Alex Highsmith, the Steelers’ third-round draft pick, is the top candidate to fill his role.

If the injury to his ACL is confirmed, Dupree would be the second Steelers defensive starter to go down with such an injury, after middle linebacker Devin Bush tore his against the Cleveland Browns.

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Kansas City Chiefs (-3) open as favorites over Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Super Bowl LV

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The GOAT is a ‘dog in the Super Bowl.

The Kansas City Chiefs opened as consensus 3-point favorites over Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Super Bowl LV. The line was trending up Sunday night, with some sportsbooks moving to Kansas City -3.5.

Barring significant line movement, it will be only the second time Brady has been an underdog in his 10 Super Bowl appearances. In his Super Bowl debut, Brady and the Patriots were 14-point underdogs against the St. Louis Rams in 2002, a game New England won outright.

The Chiefs were 3.5-point favorites over the Buccaneers when the teams met in Tampa, Florida, during Week 12 of the regular season. Kansas City won 27-24. The rematch in the Super Bowl also will take place at Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium, but oddsmakers don’t expect there to be any home-field advantage for the Bucs.

Brady led Tampa Bay to the franchise’s second Super Bowl appearance by holding off the Green Bay Packers 31-26 on Sunday in the NFC Championship Game. At 43, he will be the oldest player ever to play in a Super Bowl. And he has some bookmakers in an expensive spot.

The Buccaneers winning the Super Bowl is the worst-case scenario for several sportsbooks. Early last year, Tampa Bay could be found at 50-1 to win the Super Bowl. Bets on the Bucs started increasing in March, when buzz about Brady leaving New England for Tampa Bay picked up. After Brady’s signing was official, the Bucs’ Super Bowl odds improved to around 16-1, and money continued to pour in on Tampa Bay at sportsbooks.

Entering the season, more money had been bet on the Buccaneers to win the Super Bowl than was bet on any other team at multiple sportsbooks. FanDuel’s liability on Tampa Bay, at that point, was four times greater than any other team.

The Chiefs eventually overtook the Bucs at the betting windows, attracting more bets and more money, but the sportsbooks’ liability on Tampa Bay didn’t dwindle much.

DraftKings’ Johnny Avello said his book is staring at a seven-figure loss on the futures market if the Buccaneers win the Super Bowl on Feb. 7.

“[The Bucs] are our worst result and have been all year,” Jason Scott, vice president of trading for BetMGM, told ESPN on Sunday.

The Chiefs, the defending champions, opened at 7-1 to win the Super Bowl last February at Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill and remained Super Bowl favorites throughout the season.

The favored team is 35-19 straight up in the 54 Super Bowls.

The Super Bowl over/under total opened at 57 at Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill.

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Patrick Mahomes leads defending champion Kansas City Chiefs back to Super Bowl

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Two days after being cleared from the NFL’s concussion protocol, Patrick Mahomes guided the Kansas City Chiefs to another Super Bowl.

Mahomes led the Chiefs back from an early 9-0 deficit to a 38-24 win over the Buffalo Bills on Sunday night at Arrowhead Stadium in the AFC Championship Game. The Chiefs will try to win their second straight NFL championship, against Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, in two weeks in Super Bowl LV in Tampa, Florida.

“I’m the old guy who has seen a couple of quarterbacks, and this guy seems to amaze me a little bit more every game,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said of Mahomes. “I’m proud of the way that he handles it most of all. … He’s about the team. He works his tail off and he does it the right way. Which is important for the longevity of his career and success for the Kansas City Chiefs and obviously now for the Super Bowl.”

Mahomes, who was knocked out of last week’s divisional-round win over the Cleveland Browns with symptoms of a concussion, wasn’t cleared to play against the Bills until Friday. He also entered the game with a toe injury. He showed no effects of either, going 29-of-38 for 325 yards and three touchdowns.

“He stayed positive. Whether it was his toe, whether it was his head. … He worked his way through it,” Reid said.

The Chiefs, after their early deficit, ran off 21 straight points to take a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. It was their fourth straight postseason game with a run of at least 21 consecutive points, including their Super Bowl LIV win over the San Francisco 49ers last year.

This comeback was among the most impressive. The Bills had won eight straight games, including seven by at least 10 points.

But the Chiefs’ response included two of their longest plays of the season, one being a 71-yard pass from Mahomes to Tyreek Hill.

The Chiefs in the fourth quarter lost starting left tackle Eric Fisher due to an Achilles injury and nickelback L’Jarius Sneed, who entered the concussion protocol.

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Super Bowl predictions, picks, odds, preview and big questions for Chiefs-Buccaneers

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The most unusual season in NFL history will end with something (else) that has never happened: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will become the first team to compete for a Super Bowl title in its home stadium. Super Bowl LV will be played on Feb. 7 at the Buccaneers’ Raymond James Stadium, a date the NFL awarded years before quarterback Tom Brady decided to leave the New England Patriots and make a couple more runs at a championship in Tampa.

After winning the first NFC Championship Game he has ever played in, a 31-26 victory over the Green Bay Packers, Brady will face the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs. After a 38-24 victory over the Buffalo Bills in the AFC Championship Game, the Chiefs are seeking their second title of the Patrick Mahomes era. Let’s take a closer look at this exciting Super Bowl matchup.

Here’s what we have to get you ready: Kevin Seifert looks at each team and how each can win the Super Bowl; Seth Walder crunches the numbers to give you some key stats to know; Matt Bowen dives into the game plan with a key matchup and an X factor; Dan Graziano answers big questions surrounding the final game of the season; and finally, we have early, gut-reaction predictions from our experts. Let’s dive in.

Note: Odds and game lines are via Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill. Predictions are from ESPN’s Football Power Index (FPI).

Jump to:
Chiefs | Buccaneers
Key stats
| X factors
Big questions
| Early picks

When: Sunday, Feb. 7 at 6:30 p.m. ET on CBS
Where: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa Bay, Florida
Vegas line: Chiefs -3 (O/U 57)

The Super Bowl will be preceded by almost none of the usual pregame hype. To ensure compliance with COVID-19 protocols, the NFL is requiring the Chiefs to remain at their home facility until no earlier than two days before the game. (The Buccaneers will already be at home, of course.) That means there will be no Media Day, no daily swarming of team hotels and no conventional parties.

Regardless, this will be a super-sized game featuring the quarterback who has won more Super Bowls than any other player in history (Brady, six) and his possible successor (Mahomes, seeking his second at age 25). — Seifert

Seifert’s first look at the matchup

Regular season: 14-2 | No. 1 seed in AFC

Reason for hope: To put it bluntly, the Chiefs are rolling. They beat the Cleveland Browns in the divisional round, even after Mahomes was put into the concussion protocol. And on Sunday, they snapped the Bills’ eight-game winning streak. Watching them go up and down the field on Buffalo’s defense, and then largely stifle an MVP candidate in Bills quarterback Josh Allen, you know they have pulled it together at just the right moment.

Reason for concern: Do you trust the Chiefs’ secondary to stay with Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Rob Gronkowski, Scotty Miller and perhaps Antonio Brown? Brady will bring those weapons, along with an offensive line that kept him mostly clean against the Packers, to Raymond James Stadium. The Chiefs’ two losses during the regular season were by scores of 40-32 and 38-21, the two highest-scoring games against them this season. The Buccaneers are one team that brings the kind of offense that could outscore them in a shootout.

How the Chiefs win: One of the defining characteristics of the Chiefs under Mahomes is that they have never been out of a game, no matter how poorly they might start. So even if the Buccaneers open an early lead, the Chiefs will be just a few strikes away from getting back in the game. But the key will be whether they can hold off the Buccaneers’ defensive front. If they can give Mahomes enough time, he’ll carve up their secondary and just pour too many points on the fire.


Regular season: 11-5 | No. 5 seed in NFC

Reason for hope: The Buccaneers have scored at least 30 points in each of their past six games, averaging 35.7 over that span. If nothing else, that puts them in position to compete with the Chiefs if the game turns into a shootout. (The Chiefs are actually averaging about 25 points pre game over that span.) It’s reasonable to expect a good plan for the Chiefs’ offense from defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, who once worked for Chiefs coach Andy Reid when both were with the Philadelphia Eagles. And while home field was not much of an advantage in 2020, it’s always preferable to avoid travel whenever possible.

Reason for concern: Brady threw three interceptions against the Packers and a total of 12 in the regular season, the most for him in a season since 2011. Obviously the Buccaneers overcame those mistakes on Sunday, but giving the Chiefs extra possessions doesn’t seem like a good idea. As crazy as it sounds, the Buccaneers will need Brady to tighten it up for the Super Bowl.

How the Bucs win: The Buccaneers have two paths to victory. Along one, they’ll execute a heroic game plan from Bowles and slow down Mahomes in a way that almost no other opponent has in the past three seasons. Along the other, they’ll win a shootout of massive proportions. We’re talking about a 45-40 type of game. They can do it, and the Chiefs’ defense is capable of allowing it.

Walder’s big stats to know

Mahomes led the league in QBR against the blitz (96.8). That’s probably part of the reason why he was blitzed just 21% of the time in the regular season, the third-lowest rate. The problem for the Bucs? Bringing extra pass rushers is part of their defense’s identity (38% of dropbacks, fifth-most), which means they’ll either have to change what they do best or play into one of Mahomes’ strengths.

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0:23

Patrick Mahomes completes a pass to Mecole Hardman, who makes his way into the end zone to score a 3-yard Chiefs touchdown and cut the Bills lead to 9-7.

Brady ranked 30th in QBR when under pressure this season. That’s in stark contrast to his No. 5 ranking when not under pressure. An obvious reason why: He has no scrambling ability. So just get a rid of the ball quickly, right? Brady hasn’t fared that well on quick throws, either. Instead, in Bruce Arians’ vertical passing offense, the pressure will be on the Tampa Bay offensive line in the Super Bowl to give Brady the time and space he needs to work. The Bucs only lost one game when their pass block win rate was above the 57% league average.

Bowen goes inside the matchup

Key matchup: Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu vs. Brady

I want to see the post-snap matchup here with Mathieu and Brady. Look for the Chiefs to use late movement to spin Mathieu to the middle of the field as a robber defender. You need that versus Brady to close the second-level windows on crossers and in-breakers. And when Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo schemes pressure, Brady has to identify Mathieu when he gets loose on edge blitz schemes.

X factor: Buccaneers defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul

I look at Pierre-Paul here because of his ability to win one-on-one pass-rush matchups versus the Chiefs’ offensive tackles, who could be down starter Eric Fisher on the left side. You’ll see speed to power, counters and juice off the ball. If Tampa Bay defensive coordinator Todd Bowles can get pressure from Pierre-Paul and fellow edge rusher Shaquil Barrett — as we saw in the NFC Championship Game win over the Packers — then the Bucs can play more coverage in the Super Bowl. That means Quarters and 2-man (two-deep, man-under), with the edge rushers squeezing the pocket to limit Mahomes’ ability to throw verticals down the field.

Graziano answers big questions

Does Spagnuolo have another championship game plan in him?

The Chiefs are not known for their defense. This is partly because of how exceedingly well known they are for their offense, but it’s also because their defense isn’t always very special. Kansas City’s D ranked 20th in the NFL this year in defensive efficiency. It was 13th last year, and it’s 21st over the last three years (since Mahomes became the starter). But Spagnuolo, the Chiefs’ defensive coordinator, has shown an ability to get his side of the ball tuned up for the biggest of games. They stymied Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry in last year’s AFC Championship Game, pitched a fourth-quarter shutout against the San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl, held the run-happy Browns to 112 rushing yards in this year’s divisional round and confused Allen and the Bills on Sunday to advance to their second straight Super Bowl.

It has been 13 years since Spagnuolo’s New York Giants defense beat Brady and the Patriots in Super Bowl 42. This will be brought up, surely, over the next couple of weeks, but the truth is that experience isn’t going to be a factor this much later. What will matter is whether the Chiefs’ defense can find a way to get pressure on Brady, whose offensive line has been one of the big stories of this postseason, and whether they can get all of his great receivers covered.

The Chiefs will score. This we know. The Bucs’ defense is plenty respectable, but no one really slows down Mahomes and the Kansas City offense for long. Just ask the 49ers, or any other team they’ve played in the playoffs in the past three years. The question is whether the Chiefs can do enough to keep Brady and the Bucs from scoring — to keep the game in reach long enough for Mahomes to still win it if they start slow, or to head off any legendary comeback attempts Tampa Bay’s legendary QB may have in mind. The Super Bowl will be thrilling to watch when the ball is in Kansas City’s hands. But what happens when it’s in Tampa Bay’s hands will decide who wins it.

Can the Bucs’ defense keep forcing turnovers at this rate?

Tampa Bay actually lost the turnover battle on Sunday in Green Bay, 3-2. But the Buccaneers’ offense scored touchdowns off both of the Packers’ turnovers, after scoring touchdowns off of three of the Saints’ four turnovers in the divisional round the week before, as well as a touchdown off of Washington’s lone turnover in the wild-card round the week before that. Tampa Bay’s 41 points off turnovers are tied for the third-most by a team in a single postseason in the past 20 years, and it has a game left to catch the 2010 Packers, who had 48.

Now, that means 45% of the Buccaneers’ points this postseason have come off of turnovers, and they’ve won their games by an average of 7.8 points. So if you think they have to get turnovers in order to win, this postseason backs up that conclusion.

This isn’t new for Tampa Bay, though. Its 101 points off turnovers in the regular season were the third most in the league, behind only Baltimore (106) and Pittsburgh (105). But that’s still only 21% of the total points the Bucs scored this year. So 45% is a monster number. If it keeps up, you have to like their chances. If it doesn’t, they’ll have to stop the Chiefs with a defense that ranked a solid-but-unspectacular ninth in defensive efficiency in the regular season.

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0:19

Cameron Brate sneaks past the Packers’ defense into the end zone, and Tom Brady finds him for an 8-yard touchdown.

Kansas City’s 16 regular-season turnovers were tied for the fourth-fewest in the league, and so far this postseason it has turned the ball over once in two games. Whether the Bucs can take the ball away from Kansas City in the Super Bowl could determine which team wins it.

Gut-reaction predictions

Our experts lean with the Chiefs in early picks, 9-2.

Matt Bowen, NFL analyst: Chiefs. Their explosive play ability on offense will create matchup issues for the Tampa Bay defense.

Mike Clay, fantasy writer: Buccaneers. It feels gross picking against Mahomes, but the Buccaneers have been red-hot over the past two months and — records aside — arguably have the overall better body of work this season.

Jeremy Fowler, national NFL writer: Chiefs. They have an answer for everything you do on defense — blitz, try to stop the run, switch up coverages — and they are wide awake after appearing bored for much of the regular season.

Dan Graziano, national NFL writer: Chiefs. Reid is money with two weeks to plan, and the Bucs’ defense has been living off turnovers all month.

Jenna Laine, Buccaneers reporter: Buccaneers. They’ve won seven in a row to get here, and assuming they’ll have both starting safeties Antoine Winfield Jr. and Jordan Whitehead back, they’ll be at full strength defensively.

Jason Reid, The Undefeated writer: Chiefs. Reason: Mahomes. Any questions?

Kevin Seifert, national NFL writer: Chiefs. It’s time for Mahomes to take the championship torch from Brady.

Mike Tannenbaum, NFL analyst: Chiefs. They are 44-11 over the last three years, best in the league. There’s too much talent on K.C.’s side.

Seth Walder, analytics writer: Chiefs. While the Bucs scuffle around with 3-yard Leonard Fournette runs on first down, Mahomes and the Chiefs will pass their way to an early lead they won’t surrender.

Seth Wickersham, senior writer: Chiefs. I hate to underestimate Brady again, but the Chiefs are just too good.

Field Yates, NFL analyst: Chiefs. The explosive offensive attack simply cannot be stopped.

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