The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Kansas City Chiefs garner the prime-time spotlight, not solely for the marquee matchup between two prolific passers and conference contenders, but for the rematch of Super Bowl LV at Raymond James Stadium. The last time the two franchises squared off, the Bucs made NFL history, becoming the first team to hoist the Lombardi Trophy in their home stadium. Over 19 months later, another chess match between Patrick Mahomes and Todd Bowles will commence. Kickoff is set for 8:20 p.m. ET on October 2. There are many matchups and individual performances that could weigh heavily on the outcome of the Bucs-Chiefs showdown in Week Four. Here is a closer look at five Buccaneers to observe on Sunday.
In Super Bowl LV, Bucs' inside linebacker Lavonte David was regularly matched up on Chiefs' tight end Travis Kelce, and Sunday will likely provide more of the aforementioned battle. In the last meeting, David held Kelce – one of the best in the league at picking up yards after catch – to 23 yards on five targets, according to Next Gen Stats. Again in Week Four, David will have the challenging task of trying to neutralize Kelce, a future Hall of Famer. Kelce has a large catch radius and a quick release off the line of scrimmage plus sharp breaks to create separation, culminating in six-straight 1,000-yard seasons. With a high football IQ, Kelce knows how to use size to his advantage in order to dissect defenses, and he understands where the holes are in zone coverage to exploit. Kelce is Mahomes' go-to target and the Chiefs' offensive catalyst. When David is tasked with shadowing Kelce in coverage, he will strive to contain. That is not an easy feat by any means, but David has established himself as one of the best off-ball linebackers in the league with stellar route recognition and change of direction prowess. He possesses the physicality to take down tight ends in the open field, an attribute that will come into play on Sunday.
Against the Packers in Week Three, Joe Tryon-Shoyinka was dominant on third down. Despite the outcome of the game, he forced three Green Bay punts and provided a defensive spark. Whether it was knocking Aaron Rodgers off his spot or immediately dropping a ball carrier in the backfield, Tryon-Shoyinka led an attack. Famously in Super Bowl LV, Todd Bowles' formidable crew delivered a knockout, harassing Mahomes constantly. Bowles devised a masterful scheme that attacked the edges (taking advantage of two missing tackles) and took away the deep pass (Tyreek Hill). After dialing up a blitz-heavy approach against the Chiefs in late November that resulted in a Tampa Bay loss, Bowles adapted his plan for the title and it paid dividends. The result? The Bucs intercepted Mahomes twice, sacked him three times, and kept the Chiefs' offense out of the end zone. That was the first time in Mahomes' career that he was held to singe digits. Tampa Bay found success by utilizing a four-man rush to generate enough pressure and this time around, new faces will make an appearance. The Buccaneers have added key pieces to their front, taking outside linebacker Joe Tryon-Shoyinka with the last pick of the first round in 2021. With superb bend and the ability to win off inside leverage, Tryon-Shoyinka has made his presence felt this season in a full-time role. Against Mahomes, the key is patience. He can carve up defenses with his ability to extend plays outside of the pocket, making jaw-dropping off-platform throws from rare arm angles while scrambling. Setting the edge will be crucial for the Buccaneers' defense on Sunday, along with successful pursuits. If the defense does not get home on pressures, Mahomes can slip by, using the vacated gap as a rushing lane. Tryon-Shoyinka will play a pivotal role on Sunday against Kansas City.
The Bucs' offense had a slow start against the Packers in Week Three, struggling to find their rhythm until late in the 14-12 loss. Tom Brady was operating without Mike Evans – who was serving a one-game suspension – along with Chris Godwin and Julio Jones. This week, Brady will receive reinforcements. Evans is back in the lineup, providing Brady with at least one go-to target, as both Godwin and Jones will be game-time decisions. Evans has become Brady's security blanket when No. 12 is under duress in the pocket. With Evans' consistency and longevity, combined with eight-straight 1,000-yard seasons, the 'why' is evident. Through the first two games of the 2022 season, Evans had been the club's leading receiver with eight catches for 132 yards and a touchdown. The NFL world was mesmerized by Evans' acrobatic catch against Dallas in Week One, as he caught a one-handed back-shoulder fade in the end zone. With his ability to make contested catches over defensive backs, his return will solidify Byron Leftwich's unit. On Sunday, Evans will go up against Rashad Fenton, a fourth-year player who has assumed a full-time gig on the right side with the departure of Charvarius Ward. The Bucs need an offensive resurgence against Kansas City and Evans could be the highly-anticipated catalyst.
A week after facing Kenny Clark – one of the best interior defensive linemen in the league – the interior of the Bucs' offensive line now must face another top-tier defender, Chris Jones. Jones is an elite three-technique, wreaking havoc through the A-gap with power and speed to blow past blockers. With his dominance in one-on-one situations, Jones consistently demands double teams. He lines up on both sides of the center, so come Sunday, Shaq Mason, Robert Hainsey and Luke Goedeke will all receive a heavy dose of Jones. This game could very well hinge on the trenches. The Bucs' interior is comprised of three new starters in 2022, with Mason being the only player with previous NFL experience. Tampa Bay's revamped interior has performed well through three games, drawing praise from the coaching staff, however, the trio faced a setback against the Packers. Jones is the anchor of the Chiefs' defensive line and an attributing factor to the group's success – ranked fifth in yards allowed per carry. Whether providing lanes for Leonard Fournette and Rachaad White or keeping Brady upright in the pocket when he drops back to pass, Mason and the interior linemates need a productive outing against Jones and the Chiefs.
After the Bucs' beatdown of Mahomes in Super Bowl LV, the Chiefs bolstered the offensive line by landing center Creed Humphrey, who proved to be an immediate impact maker, and guard Trey Smith in the sixth round. Both have started every game since and are largely the reason the Chiefs rank second in the NFL in sacks allowed per pass play. In addition, since the last meeting, the Bucs have added to the trenches, including the acquisition of Logan Hall with the first pick of the second round (33 overall) in the 2022 NFL Draft. With Akiem Hicks' absence from the lineup against the Packers, Hall took advantage of increased snaps. He tallied the Bucs' lone sack and hit Rodgers three times during the game. With a lethal swim move and arsenal of counters, Hall collapsed the pocket in Week Three. In clear passing situations, Hall has predominately rushed from the left side, meaning he will routinely be matched up with Smith on Sunday night. With a powerful first punch and relentless motor, Hall could be an X-Factor for Tampa Bay in Week Four.