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Super Bowl Matchup: Kansas City Chiefs To Play Tampa Bay Buccaneers

SARAH MCCAMMON, HOST:

There were times during this NFL season it seemed possible the league might not make it through the pandemic. There were postponements and teams shutting facilities down because of coronavirus outbreaks. But the NFL will finish this year. The Super Bowl is now set after yesterday's conference championship games. The defending champion, Kansas City Chiefs, will play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Tampa, the first time in history one of the Super Bowl contestants has a home game. Joining me now to talk about it is NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman. Morning, Tom.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Good morning.

MCCAMMON: So before we look ahead to the Super Bowl itself, let's talk about what happened yesterday. I take it my hometown team, Kansas City, looked every bit like the defending champions that they were.

GOLDMAN: Sure did. The Chiefs did their usual postseason thing. They spot opponents a lead - Buffalo went up 9-0 - and then they come back and win. Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes looked like he was fully recovered from last weekend's concussion. And the Chiefs were just better than a very good Bills team. They won 38-24.

MCCAMMON: No doubt due to my niece's bedtime prayers for Mahomes.

GOLDMAN: (Laughter).

MCCAMMON: And then I guess there was an upset in the NFC game, although, is it ever a good idea to bet against Tom Brady in a playoff game?

GOLDMAN: It is not. Green Bay was the No. 1 seed with a great quarterback of its own, Aaron Rodgers. But apparently you do not bet against Tom Brady even when he's an ancient 43. You know, when he came to Tampa Bay this season from New England, he struggled at times. But right now, things are clicking. They kept it going yesterday in a 31-26 win over the Packers. Brady threw three interceptions, but he also threw three touchdowns and qualified for his 10th Super Bowl. He's won six, most of any quarterback.

MCCAMMON: Not too shabby.

GOLDMAN: Uh-uh.

MCCAMMON: And as we mentioned, Tom, the reward for Tampa Bay is the home field advantage in the Super Bowl. How unusual is that, and what does it mean for both teams?

GOLDMAN: Well, very unusual - it's never happened before. And, you know, it's not necessarily great for Tampa Bay because all of the Buccaneers' playoff wins so far this playoff season have been on the road. But Tampa Bay head coach Bruce Arians said yesterday he will gladly take it instead of traveling and having, you know, the extra COVID-19 precautions they have on the road. Here he is.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BRUCE ARIANS: But to be able to come home to play Super Bowl at our place and not have to get on a plane and do all the things that this crazy year has us doing, it will be weird. It won't even feel like the Super Bowl. We won't have all those damn press conferences.

GOLDMAN: Now, Sarah, those damn press conferences he's talking about the week before the Super Bowl, when the hype machine traditionally cranks up, there will be minimal cranking this year - a lot fewer media members and they will be doing remote interviews, not as many parties. The chiefs reportedly won't show up in Tampa Bay until the day before the game; usually, teams are on site for the entire week. And then game day, Raymond James Stadium will have fans, but it'll only be about a third full.

MCCAMMON: And finally, about that game, Tom, give us some early things to be looking out for.

GOLDMAN: You have to look at this quarterback matchup. As much as I hate distilling it all down to two people, Tom Brady is considered the greatest of all time. Patrick Mahomes is 25 and considered the greatest of all time in waiting. He's the most creative player on a football field. Brady performs so well in high-stress situations. Both teams' defenses are playing well. I'm hoping it'll be close and exciting. You want a prediction?

MCCAMMON: Yeah.

GOLDMAN: I was afraid of that. I'm going to go with the oddsmakers who have made Kansas City a slight favorite to win and become the first team to win back-to-back Super Bowls since Tom Brady's New England Patriots in 2005.

MCCAMMON: Well, I'm going to irritate at least half of our audience by saying, go Chiefs.

GOLDMAN: (Laughter).

MCCAMMON: Hey - thanks, Tom.

GOLDMAN: You're welcome.

MCCAMMON: That's NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman.

(SOUNDBITE OF SAM SPENCE'S "CLASSIC BATTLE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.