Despite the constant threat of the pandemic and dozens of players testing positive for COVID-19, the NFL has reached Super Bowl LV, as the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs will go up against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who become the first team ever to reach a Super Bowl being hosted in their home stadium.
The Buccaneers have dramatically turned their fortunes around after going 7-9 last season, thanks in large part to the arrival of six-time champion and longtime New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. While the 43-year-old future hall-of-famer has had moments of struggle in his first season outside of Massachusetts, he and head coach Bruce Arians led the Bucs to three road playoff victories, including against Super Bowl-winning QBs Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints and Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers. When Brady takes the field at the Super Bowl for a record tenth time, he will become the oldest player at any position to do so.
The Chiefs, meanwhile, have looked nearly unstoppable since winning the Super Bowl last year, only losing two games this season as league MVP Patrick Mahomes drove the high-powered Kansas City offense to the top seed in the AFC and playoff victories over the resurgent Cleveland Browns and Buffalo Bills. The Chiefs look to become the eighth team in NFL history — and the first since the 2004 Patriots — to win back-to-back Super Bowls. Overall the Chiefs have won two NFL championships — 1969 and 2019 — while the Buccaneers have won one previous championship in 2002. The two teams have faced each other this season, with the Chiefs narrowly winning the late November matchup 27-24.
While the pandemic has kept the vast majority of games played this season in empty stadiums, the league plans to host 22,000 fans for Super Bowl LV at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, including 7,500 vaccinated healthcare workers from the local area who are receiving free tickets from the NFL. Due to COVID-19 safety protocols, many of the public events surrounding the Super Bowl have been canceled this year, including the annual media day, as the Chiefs will not arrive in Tampa until two days before the game. The Weeknd, who released last year’s highest-selling single “Blinding Lights,” will be the game’s halftime show performer.