Super Bowl pressing questions: Will Chris Godwin cash in behind a big performance?

Matt Harmon
·11 min read

Will Chris Godwin end his contract year with a bang?

One of the biggest talking points of the upcoming NFL offseason will be how an already stacked wide receiver position is set to shuffle. The free-agent market is full of high-end options.

And one of the players at the center of this upcoming movement is Buccaneers wide receiver Chris Godwin.

Let’s be clear: If I had to bet on it, I’d expect the Buccaneers to exhaust all options to retain Godwin, including the franchise tag. Godwin is a unique wide receiver with dominant play on his resume who won’t turn 25 until later this month. Teams don’t let players like that walk. However, it’s no lock the Bucs slap the tag on their young wide receiver or are able to re-sign him if they don’t franchise him.

Tampa Bay’s slate of upcoming free agents includes Shaquil Barrett, Lavonte David, Ndamukong Suh, Rob Gronkowski, Antonio Brown and Leonard Fournette. Only the first two are reasonable franchise options over Godwin but if either gets the tag, Tampa Bay then has to start making tough decisions.

If Godwin found his way out of Tampa Bay’s grasp, basically every team in the NFL should line up to acquire his services. He’d instantly make any wide receivers room better the moment he stepped into the facility. We’ve seen him line up anywhere. While Tampa Bay uses him a ton as a power slot receiver, he has the technical chops to release from press outside. He has been a strong separator and dominant asset in the contested catch game dating back to his collegiate days at Penn State.

Seriously, how many other wide receivers in the league can you ask to shoot a gap in their route:

And before any of you think about hitting me with “But his drops!” please check back into reality. Godwin has dropped a ton of passes in the playoffs but do recall he came back early from a broken finger this season (that seems important for catching).

Also, who cares?

Those drops, like most drops, have not kept Tampa Bay from winning games and Godwin has also made several huge plays that have swung the outcome of drives. Most important, in the last three regular seasons combined he has dropped a grand total of four passes. He has some of the best hands in the league. This should not be a talking point.

Godwin has an excellent chance to finish his contract year off with a bang regardless of whether his team takes home the Lombardi Trophy or not. With the Cover 0 blitz looks Steve Spagnuolo loves to mix in, Godwin’s presence as an outlet, over-the-middle receiver will be huge for Tom Brady.

The Chiefs allowed nine touchdowns and over 12 yards per catch to slot receivers during the regular season. They also ceded the fifth-highest yards after the catch in 2020. Kansas City has been content to tempt teams into picking their spots over the middle but that’s a dicey game with a guy like Chris Godwin.

Odds are we see Godwin back in a Tampa Bay uniform next season. If for whatever reason he hits the open market, this already star player will be doing so coming off a huge game on the biggest stage.

Will Tyreek Hill or Travis Kelce be more productive?

Tyreek Hill was the story of the game the last time these two teams faced each other. He stacked up over 200 yards and three scores — most of the damage coming early. Carlton Davis is probably still kicking himself after allowing a ton of big plays to Hill in single coverage during a historic first quarter.

One would think Tampa Bay is going to do all it can to make sure there isn’t an encore Sunday.

There’s no locked-in way to limit Hill. He’s one of the most difficult players to cover in the NFL. Not only can he sting the opposition deep but he can get off press in a flash — as we saw against the Bills — and then go wild in the open field. If you play off him, he’s too good of a route runner and will quickly snap back on curls and comebacks to create miles of separation.

During their late-season and playoff surge, the Buccaneers have been playing more two-high safety looks, as shown by ESPN’s Seth Walder below. Having extra safety help on the back end can help the Bucs limit (keyword, limit) the amount of times Hill burns them deep.

We know the Chiefs are the ultimate pick-your-poison team. If a defense dedicates extra resources down the field, it’s conceding space to the best underneath receiver in the NFL: Travis Kelce.

The Buccaneers have two athletic linebackers in veteran Lavonte David and emerging youngster Devin White who are getting a ton of media attention heading into Sunday, but their presence has not necessarily given the Bucs an edge at covering tight ends. Tampa Bay allowed 86 catches and nine touchdowns to the position in the regular season, both top-seven marks in the league. David is a solid coverage asset, but White, despite several big plays in the postseason, allowed a problematic 112.6 passer rating in 2020.

Kelce looks like he’s set up to be the Chiefs’ most productive player in the receiving game again this weekend. It’s no surprise; he’s coming off a historic season for a player at his position and the Super Bowl will only be the cherry on top.

How much will either defense move the needle?

Starting on Tampa Bay’s side, Todd Bowles deserves more credit for being a key figure for this team. The Bucs don’t have a perfect stop unit — pretty much nobody in the modern NFL does — but he’s designed and coached up a good system.

One of the backbones of Bowles’ defense is their blitz-happy ways. The Bucs sported the fifth-highest blitz rate in the regular season. That would be a terrible approach against Patrick Mahomes, the owner of an NFL-best 135.9 passer rating against the blitz.

Naturally, because Bowles is a good coach with years of experience, he’s not one of these “We just run what we run” type of guys. And when these two teams last faced each other in Week 12, the Bucs registered one of their lowest blitz-frequency games of 2020.

Expect Bowles and company to employ a similar approach in the Super Bowl. Not only have we seen that game plan in effect before but with the Chiefs set to play without their starting tackles, Jason Pierre-Paul and Shaq Barrett will go hunting against a pair of fringe NFL talents. That’s definitely a mismatch. Also, don’t discount the importance of bigger bodies on the inside like Vita Vea and Ndamukong Suh as gap-occupiers when the Bucs try to create even more advantages up front.

When the Bucs have the ball, Tom Brady will look at a familiar foe in Steve Spagnuolo.

There’s unfavorable history on Brady’s end between these two, dating back to Spags’ Giants days. And you can argue he’s having more fun than ever calling plays for a unit with Mahomes on the other side of the ball.

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12)
Then-Patriots quarterback Tom Brady did not have the best performance against Steve Spagnuolo's Giants' defense in the Super Bowl. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Being the defensive coordinator for this version of the Chiefs just gives you so much wiggle room. A coach like Spags who isn’t afraid to call high-wire plays that include Cover 0 looks and aggressive blitz concepts has to adore this kind of wide margin for error.

Who cares if you give up a few big rushing plays or let the opponent mount a couple of drives? You have Mahomes and company on your side. The Chiefs can hold their own lead or erase the other team’s lead better than anyone.

That reckless abandon was on full display when these two teams last faced each other. Spags sent extra heat at Brady consistently in that game and the Chiefs forced him into two interceptions. If anything, this Chiefs pass rush has gotten only hotter since the postseason began.

While the two scoring units, quarterbacks and long-time offensive-minded head coaches will draw all the attention going into the game, the Super Bowl may well be decided by which defense mucks things up in one or two crucial moments.

Can Clyde Edwards-Helaire give us a 2021 sneak peek?

The selection of Clyde Edwards-Helaire with the 32nd overall pick in last year’s draft was met with excitement, especially from fantasy football fans.

These days, his presence on this Super Bowl-bound team feels like an afterthought.

A lack of playing time intersected with a brutal injury when Edwards-Helaire went down in Week 15 against the Saints. He would not play again until the AFC championship when he totaled just 7 total yards on seven touches (with one touchdown). We didn’t see much of the rookie after he took a hard hit in that Buffalo game.

Without much positive momentum coming into the Super Bowl, I’ll be betting against Edwards-Helaire playing a big role that gets us juiced for his 2021 outlook.

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The Chiefs seem more than content with Darrel Williams in the backfield. Following up on his strong effort in the divisional round, Williams played 30 snaps to Edwards-Helaire’s 32 and touched the ball 14 times. Williams has averaged over 3 yards gained after contact per rush attempt throughout the postseason. He has been good on the ground and in protection, which will matter a ton on Sunday with the Chiefs down both their starting tackles.

You should be projecting Williams to top both Edwards-Helaire and Le’Veon Bell in backfield touches against Tampa Bay. In the end, it probably doesn’t matter. The Buccaneers were the best defense against the run in Football Outsiders’ DVOA metrics all season. Nothing about Andy Reid, or the Chiefs as currently constructed, should lead us to think he’s going to try and establish the run.

Will there be any random Super Bowl heroes?

Whenever we’re in the “random heroes” discussion, we always have to keep in mind exactly how we’d define random. The general public probably isn’t as aware of some of the players lower down the depth chart than all the diehard fantasy sickos out there.

For example, some folks would have considered Damien Williams in that discussion during last year’s Chiefs’ win, despite his being the subject of many fantasy football debates heading into the 2019 season.

Scotty Miller is on the fringes of this discussion as well. Thanks to his big play against the Packers, he’s on many more folks’ radar. His head coach says he still deserves more respect.

Miller is a guy Bruce Arians compared to his old speed receiver from Arizona, John Brown, when he saw him during his rookie offseason. Keep that in mind when someone tries to paint him with the Wes Welker/Julian Edelman brush.

For the Chiefs, the aforementioned Darrel Williams makes plenty of sense for this honor with the way he’s playing. Be ready to shoot all your friends a text saying, “No this is a different Williams,” to show them you’re the smartest one in the group chat.

With so many front-line offensive stars taking the field in this game, the sharp bet may be that the “random hero” comes from the defense.

My personal favorite is actually on Kansas City. Rookie cornerback L'Jarius Sneed has come seemingly from nowhere to be one of the better cover players in the league. Snead gave up a team-best 53.4 passer rating in coverage during the regular season and held firm against Stefon Diggs in the AFC championship. With how many receivers the Bucs can throw at you, Snead will need to come up big again.

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