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8 Top Players That Could Decide Super Bowl 55

| January 27, 2021 9:47 am PDT
Key Players That Will Decide Super Bowl 2021

The NFL got the Super Bowl it lusted after, as Tom Brady is back in the title game for a mind-boggling 10th time, and Patrick Mahomes aims for a repeat.

It’s a wild time for pro football, but the best teams got to the final game and belong there.

Both Brady and Mahomes played huge hands in punching their respective team’s Super Bowl 55 ticket, and if they’re to win, they’ll need to play well again on Super Bowl Sunday.

They’re part of an elite crop of players that will have a say in the Super Bowl 55 outcome, of course.

That list undeniably has to start with the two most important players (and biggest stars) in this game, but there are several key players that will decide Super Bowl 2021.

Planning on betting on Super Bowl 55, or just here for the two-week marathon of Super Bowl saturation?

Both are fine answers. Either way, let’s dive into the top players that will play a major hand in deciding Super Bowl 55.

Tom Brady, QB, Buccaneers

It all starts with Tom Terrific for the Bucs. The living legend is 6-3 in the big game and made waves this past weekend by making his 10th Super Bowl of his career.

Brady’s legacy is intact no matter what transpires on Super Bowl Sunday, but he has a chance to claim a 7th title, and he can do it with a second team.

The debate between Brady and Bill Belichick is over.

Even if football is more of a team game, and even if you still think Belichick was thanks for most of New England’s success, Brady accomplishing what he did this year ends the conversation.

Brady’s play hasn’t been perfect to this point, of course.

Not only did Brady toss three horrendous interceptions and nearly give the NFC title game away, but his accuracy, in general, has been in decline throughout the postseason.

Brady still needs to execute and perform at a high level for the Bucs to win. The early Super Bowl 55 betting odds list Tampa Bay as an underdog for a reason, after all.

If Brady struggles against a high-powered Chiefs squad, Tampa Bay’s amazing run could quickly come to a disappointing end.

Patrick Mahomes, QB, Chiefs

Brady arguably needs to play a near-perfect game to escape Super Bowl 55 with his 7th championship ring. That doesn’t necessarily mean the guy on the other side of this game has a cakewalk in front of him, however.

Mahomes has been overlooked all season long, in a year where guys like Brady and Aaron Rodgers tossed 40+ passing touchdowns. He probably shouldn’t have been, as he still put up 38 scores through the air, along with over 4,700 passing yards.

Oh, and he did that in just 15 games.

With Mahomes under center, Kansas City owned the league’s 5th best offense and the top-ranked passing attack. Nobody can turn a game around quicker than Mahomes, who also has the talent and offensive weapons to effortlessly dominate an entire game.

Just look at the AFC title game, where Mahomes dropped 38 points on a seemingly solid Bills defense while completing 76% of his passes.

His career to this point has been obscene, in general.

There are concerns for Mahomes, of course. He’s had issues with his toe, he suffered a concussion two weeks ago, and his offensive line has been shredded due to injury.

Mahomes is the best quarterback in the NFL, the Chiefs went 14-2, and they have a shot at repeating. But if Tampa Bay’s wild pass rush gets to him – and he can’t handle the pressure – he could leave the door cracked open for the Bucs to steal Super Bowl 55.

Shaq Barrett, DE, Buccaneers

I don’t really see a world where Patrick Mahomes has a terrible outing in Super Bowl 55. He already did that last year, and I’d bet in his second go-around in the big game, he might opt for simply being dominant.

Of course, he found a way to rebound from a terrible outing to win last year’s championship, anyway, so the Buccaneers understandably have their work cut out for them.

If the Bucs have serious hopes of dominating or even slowing Mahomes down, though, it all starts with their pass rush.

Shaq Barrett is probably the most vital cog of that unit, and he reminded everyone of that with a whopping three sacks against Aaron Rodgers in the NFC Championship game.

Will Barrett for sure make that type of impact again in Super Bowl 2021? No, but Kansas City’s aforementioned o-line woes certainly keep that possibility in play.

Mahomes is perhaps at his best when flushed out of the pocket, so even if Barrett does his job well, it might not be enough. But the Bucs do have the tools on defense to exploit one of the Chiefs’ glaring weaknesses.

If Barrett comes up big like he did this past weekend, he could be a key factor in what decides Super Bowl 55.

Tyreek Hill, WR, Chiefs

If you’re looking for key players that will decide Super Bowl 2021 and you’re not touching on Tyreek Hill, you’re doing it wrong.

Hill remains perhaps the most explosive wide receiver in the NFL, and he left zero doubt about that after a stellar regular season that saw him haul in 87 catches for 1,276 yards and 15 scores.

He did that in just 15 games and continued to slay in the playoffs. He particularly was impressive last week against a good Bills defense, racking up 172 yards off of nine catches.

The man known as Cheetah is, in a word, good.

Hill is just impossible to track in the open field, while his short-area elusiveness and explosiveness allow him to make cuts that opposing corners can’t possibly be ready for.

While Hill isn’t necessarily the most polished route-runner, he doesn’t really have to be due to his insane athletic traits.

He will still have some issues going up against an aggressive corner in Carlton Davis, but this is a battle Hill absolutely dominated back in week 12.


Tampa Bay’s secondary has long been their weakness, and the Buccaneers ended the regular season giving up the 5th most catches to wide receivers.

Against a speed demon like Hill who can turn even the shortest reception into a score, that’s potentially a big problem.

Leonard Fournette, RB, Buccaneers

You can lump Ronald Jones II in with Fournette, too, as the Buccaneers have an advantage in the Super Bowl that nobody else has been able to exploit.

Cleveland had their chances two games ago, but a pretty one-dimensional Bills offense couldn’t properly attack a Chiefs defense that has had some issues against the run.

That’s where Fournette – and possibly Jones – come in.

Both were largely bottled up against a surprisingly strong Packers run defense last week, but they still team up to give Tampa Bay a healthy and capable ground game.

Fournette is presently the lead back, and he’s been quite good for the majority of the 2021 NFL playoffs.

Just check out his stats.

Opponent Rush Attempts Rushing Yards Touchdowns
Packers 12 55 1
Saints 17 63 1
Washington 19 93 1

This came against two very good defenses in the Washington Football Team and New Orleans Saints, mind you, while Green Bay had also shown improvement down the stretch.

A former first-round pick, Fournette flamed out with the Jaguars but quickly found a new home and has flashed elite ability with the Bucs. It’s unclear who will get more touches in the big game, but if Tampa Bay is smart, they’ll use both of these backs in a balanced attack.

Kansas City has an underrated defense, but they allowed the 10th most rushing yards to running backs this year. Had their elite offense not bailed them out so often in games they led the majority of, those numbers could potentially have been even worse.

The point isn’t necessarily that Fournette (or Jones) is amazing or that KC is awful. It’s that Fournette is a talented and explosive runner that could feast in this spot. And what he does just might have a lot to say about the Super Bowl 55 outcome.

Tyrann Mathieu, S, Chiefs

There are a few Kansas City Chiefs defenders I’d have my eye on in Super Bowl 55, as they also have some terrific pass rushers.

But nobody beats the Honey Badger.

Mathieu is small in stature, but he’s perhaps among the best defensive players in the league, pound for pound. He’s remained a vicious hitter and disruptive cover man in the back of KC’s secondary, but he’s also kept his elite ballhawk skills on display.

Against an aging Tom Brady that wilted under pressure with three consecutive picks in the NFC title game, it’s not crazy at all to imagine Mathieu making some splash plays.

Mathieu recorded six interceptions during the regular season, and he added another big one in Kansas City’s first playoff game. He’s been all over the field in general, too, racking up 13 tackles through the Chiefs’ first two postseason outings.

Let’s also not forget that Mathieu has experience against Tom Brady and knows Bruce Arians’ system. I’d be more concerned about the latter, seeing as he was with Arians five years in Arizona.

If there is a Chiefs defender who can really blow up Tampa Bay’s game plan and help decide Super Bowl 55, Mathieu is it.

Chris Godwin, WR, Buccaneers

I’m sure you can vote for Mike Evans, Rob Gronkowski, or a potentially healthy Antonio Brown as a difference-maker in Super Bowl 55.

The Buccaneers really are that loaded, after all.

But logic suggests the Chiefs will work hard to prevent the big Mike Evans from dominating them, much like the Packers did. Green Bay largely held the massive target in check but failed to corral the shiftier Chris Godwin.

Kansas City was able to stifle Jarvis Landry in their first playoff game, and they also limited Stefon Diggs in the AFC title game. Blessed with the league’s #2 pass defense against wide receivers, it stands to reason they’ll have a good amount of success in this spot.

The Chiefs, like most teams, will have to pick their poison.

That could very well mean Mike Evans is the one that succeeds against them, but my guess is they try to take him out of the game, and that’d put a lot of pressure on Godwin to step up and deliver.

Godwin obliged last week when he turned five catches into 110 receiving yards.

In the face of a tough matchup – but likely facing a better matchup than his teammate – Godwin will need to come up big for the underdog Bucs to succeed through the air in this one.

Travis Kelce, TE, Chiefs

Lastly, let’s not overlook the massive impact the best tight end in football can have in Super Bowl 55.

I mean, when hasn’t Travis Kelce made his presence known this year?

Kelce was obviously a big factor for the Chiefs during last year’s Super Bowl run, and he’s been one of the NFL’s top tight ends for some time now.

Just look at the damage he’s done since he teamed up full-time with Mahomes.

Year Catches Yards Touchdowns
2020 105 1,416 11
2019 97 1,229 5
2018 103 1,336 10

He’d obviously been great with Mahomes in 2018 and 2019, but Kelce took it to a whole new level in 2020.

Kelce racked up 105 catches and 11 touchdowns while breaking the record for receiving yards in a season (1,416) by a tight end.

The dominance extended into the playoffs, too. Kelce dropped an 8-109-1 line on Cleveland two weeks ago, and in the AFC title game, he was unstoppable with a 13-118-2 line.

I find it unlikely Kelce will suddenly slow down in the biggest game of the year. Yes, the Buccaneers do have athletic linebackers who can potentially keep up with him, but they didn’t exactly stifle him when he had eight catches for 82 yards back in week 12.

Covering tight ends hasn’t been a major strength for Tampa Bay this year as a whole, either. The Buccaneers ended the regular season having allowed the 8th most catches to the position, as well as the fifth most touchdowns.

Kelce finds a way to be a major factor in almost every game. I doubt he’ll come up short in Super Bowl 55.


The cool thing about the Super Bowl is that it’s incredibly unpredictable. As much as bettors, writers, and fans put such an onus on the star players, it’s often someone you least expect that changes the game.

For Super Bowl 55, however, I don’t think it’s a stretch that one of the key players above has a say in how this game unfolds.

To some degree, they all will, but if you’re looking for one difference-maker for Super Bowl 2021, I would imagine you find him in the list above.

Of course, there’s room for players beneath these guys to impress and leave their mark.

That’s the thing about loaded teams like these; the superstars overshadow the supporting players, but that doesn’t mean they can’t rise up and make an impact.

If you plan on betting on Super Bowl 55, I’d pay attention to the players above, but also keep an eye on fringe players that could have a say in this game. It also might be a good idea to use the best Super Bowl 55 betting sites.

Noah Davis
Noah Davis

Noah Davis is one of the more diverse writers at GamblingSites.com. Like many of his colleagues, he's a huge fan of both football and basketball. But he also writes about box office records, TV show prop bets, DFS, and all kinds of other subjects.

When it comes to the NFL, Noah's favorite team is the Cleveland Browns. He enjoys cheering them on with his wife and daughter.

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