Barnwell predicts Super Bowl LV: The mismatches, flaws, plays and storylines to watch

    Bill Barnwell is a staff writer for ESPN.com.

After the weirdest season in NFL history, the Super Bowl is as comforting and familiar as any matchup we could have imagined. It’s the Buccaneers and the Chiefs, but from the quarterback perspective, it’s the defending champ against the most successful player in league history. It shouldn’t be a surprise that Patrick Mahomes and Tom Brady are in Tampa for the 269th and final game of this remarkable campaign.

Most of the pregame hype has focused on the two quarterbacks, and given their track records, you can understand why. When these two teams met in Week 12, Mahomes and Brady combined to throw for 807 yards and six touchdowns. Each team’s star wide receiver had a multi-touchdown game, as Tampa Bay’s Mike Evans scored twice late after Kansas City’s Tyreek Hill racked up an unreal 269 receiving yards and three touchdowns on the way to a 27-24 Chiefs win. It’s tough to imagine this rematch turning into a defensive battle.

At the same time, as I’ve thought more and more about this game, I’ve been focused more on the defensive coordinators. Tampa’s Todd Bowles and Kansas City’s Steve Spagnuolo are two of the most creative, fertile minds in the business, and they’ve had two weeks to piece together creative game plans. They’ve both had to shape-shift their respective defenses from week to week this season to deal with different quarterbacks and offensive styles, and they’ll have to do it again for Super Bowl LV.

More than anything, I’ve thought about how Bowles might try to accomplish what has seemingly been impossible. How on earth do you try to stop the Chiefs? I’m not sure there’s any way to shut down Mahomes & Co., but I have a few ideas for how Bowles could try. Let’s start there and work through all the different angles for a mouthwatering matchup:

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