Do the Buccaneers or Chiefs have the easier path back to the Super Bowl?
With the NFL's official schedule now released, it's a fun time to look ahead – and whose schedule is better to analyze than the two favorites to make it to the Super Bowl?
Both teams enter as the favorites to make it back to the big game in 2022, with the Chiefs actually standing as the odds-on favorite to get out of the AFC at +275 (via FOX Bet). Meanwhile, the Buccaneers are favored at +333 to emerge from the NFC.
The interesting question to ask, though, is which of these two teams has the easier path back? Let's analyze the five toughest non-divisional matchups for each team for the upcoming 2021 season.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
Based strictly on this past season, the Cowboys might not appear to be much of a threat to the Buccaneers – but this one has a chance to be a shootout because of the quarterback not named Tom Brady.
Don't forget, before Prescott missed the final 11 games of the season due to a devastating ankle injury, he threw for 1,856 yards and nine scores in five games, completing 68% of his passes. He also rushed for three scores.
This game has the potential to deliver some fireworks.
The Rams boasted one of the NFL's premier defenses last season, and now they believe they have the right quarterback in Matthew Stafford to help get them back to the Super Bowl.
This matchup will also feature All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey going up against Tampa's loaded wide receiver corps that includes Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown. And, of course, Aaron Donald will attempt to make life uncomfortable for Tom Brady.
The Rams earned a 27-24 victory over the Buccaneers last season, forcing Brady into two interceptions.
The Patriots had the most players opt-out in 2020 due to COVID-19, which impacted their roster greatly. They also had starting quarterback Cam Newton test positive for the virus during the season.
With a full year under his belt in New England – and hopefully good health – Newton figures to be a bounce-back candidate after a disappointing first season with the Pats.
But the real story here is Tom Brady making his return back to the place he won six Super Bowls and cemented himself as one of the greatest players the NFL has seen.
All the Dolphins did after going 10-6 a season ago was use their top 10 pick to add wide receiver Jaylen Waddle to what was already one of the most complete rosters in the NFL.
Entering his second season in the NFL, Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa will look to prove he is the quarterback of the future in Miami, and there's no better opportunity than a matchup against the defending Super Bowl champions.
The dominance of that duo carried the Bills all the way to their first divisional title in 25 years, which makes them by far the biggest threat on the Buccaneers' regular-season schedule in 2021.
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
The Browns' rebuild might finally be complete, and the franchise will enter 2021 with legitimate Super Bowl aspirations.
Baker Mayfield appears to have solidified himself as the Browns' quarterback of the future, and the roster features studs on both sides of the ball.
The Chiefs eliminated the Browns from the playoffs with a 22-17 win in the AFC Divisional Round, which means the Browns will be out for revenge this time around.
This marks the fourth-straight season that the Ravens and Chiefs will square off, with the Chiefs having won the previous three matchups.
That doesn't mean this game will be any less exciting.
Week 5: Kansas City vs. Buffalo Bills (+575 to win AFC)
2020 record: 13-3, lost in AFC Championship Game
Who doesn't love an AFC Championship Game rematch?
The Chiefs took down the Bills twice last season by a combined score of 64-41, and now the Bills will try to get on the board.
This matchup will feature two high-powered passing attacks with quarterbacks who figure to be in the MVP conversation and multiple All-Pro receiving options on both sidelines.
Don't be surprised if the winner of this tilt claims the top overall seed in the AFC playoff standings.
This game might be the biggest wild card on the Chiefs' schedule, mainly because it remains to be seen who will be under center for the Packers.
If the answer is reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers, then this contest automatically becomes one of the marquee matchups of the NFL season and a potential Super Bowl preview.
But if Rodgers is traded, there is a chance that the Packers could walk into Arrowhead Stadium with a new starting quarterback in Jordan Love going up against arguably the most talented quarterback in the league in Mahomes.
The Steelers may have ended their 2020 campaign with a whimper in a 48-37 loss to the Browns in the Wild Card Round, but that doesn't mean they will be an easy out this coming season.
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