The Post’s NFL expert predicts how Super Bowl 2021 will unfold

The Serby Crystal Ball is still going strong, at an age when crystal balls are supposed to be retired.

You guessed it, the Serby Crystal Ball is 43 years old.

CB 12, we like to call it.

Rhymes with TB 12, ironically.

Maybe Tom Brady called himself TB 12 in 2001, I don’t know, but the rest of the world knew him as Tom Brady. Actually, the rest of the world — including Gisele — hardly knew him at all when he relieved a wounded Drew Bledsoe just as I was about to head downstairs hoping there was enough in the tray for a third or fifth cup of New England clam chowder.

Next thing we all knew, he was at the center of the Tuck Rule game in the Foxborough, Mass., snow, directing the game-winning field goal drive that shocked the world and The Greatest Team on Turf, and deliriously hoisting the Lombardi Trophy for the first time. And then five more times.

No one — not even Bill Belichick … hell, not even CB 12 — ever saw it coming. Super Bowl LV presents a forecasting nightmare:

It is folly to bet against Tom Brady. It is folly to bet against Patrick Mahomes. This is why CB 12 has been flickering and off and straining not to lose focus.

No excuses. As Bill Parcells used to say: “Don’t tell me about the pain, show me the baby.”

How defensive coordinators Steve Spagnuolo and Todd Bowles will be able to sleep Saturday night is beyond me. Spagnuolo won the Super Bowl XLII championship against Brady and Bowles survived four years coaching the Jets, so there’s that.

But this is a more cerebral Brady, who has more weapons than he had with the Patriots, and Spagnuolo won’t have Michael Strahan, Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora with him his time. The Bucs’ point totals in their last six games: 31, 47, 44, 31, 30, 31.

Spagnuolo blitzed Brady in Week 12 on 45.2 percent of his dropbacks. Brady was 11-of-19 with one touchdown and two interceptions, and 16-for-22 with two TDs and no INTs when Spagnuolo opted for coverage.

Super Bowl
Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes
Getty Images (2)

There will unfold a fascinating on-field chess game between Brady and the infectious, instinctive Tyrann “Honey Badger” Mathieu, who is a good bet to pick off his eighth pass (BREAKING: Brady is human).

Brady should also beware rookie cornerback L’Jarius Sneed, who has been doing a nice Jamal Adams imitation (one sack in each of the past four games). Brady has peerless pocket presence, but he remains an anachronism in a mobile quarterback world. Coach Bruce Arians and general manager Jason Licht have made sure to build a wall around him (will have to check on whether Mexico is paying for it) to deal with Chris Jones (sackless in these playoffs) and Frank Clark, who are clear and present dangers.

Spagnuolo deployed a 4-1-6 a package with his four talented safeties often to frustrate Josh Allen in the AFC Championship game, and it worked well enough for him to give Brady pause. But Brady won’t be looking on every down for Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown, Scotty Miller, Tyler Johnson, Rob Gronkowski and Cameron Brate, because running back Leonard Fournette is peaking at the right time and a factor out of the backfield (14 catches on 17 targets for 102 yards and 1 TD in three playoff games).

Brady will manage the game and attempt to eat clock and keep Mahomes on the sideline for as long as he can, and hope to win it at the end. His deep ball has recovered from an alarming slump, but these aren’t the Falcons, he won’t be coming back from any 28-3 deficit.

New Jets head coach Robert Saleh may as well have been talking about Mahomes and the Chiefs offense when he unveiled his ALL GAS, NO BRAKE mantra. Mahomes has an uncanny telepathy with tight end Travis Kelce, and oftentimes the best strategy is to get the ball in Tyreek Hill’s hands every way imaginable — jet sweep, deep shot, quick hitch — and let his electric legs leave a scorched earth of flailing defenders behind him. Hill is a touchdown waiting to happen, and expect a touchdown to happen. Bowles would probably sign up for only one right now. This much he vows: he won’t let Hill wreak havoc again against Carlton Davis. No man is an island, except for maybe Darrelle Revis, and Bowles will give his No. 1 corner help this time.

But all is not lost for Super Bowles. He will have a trump card in the trenches. The loss of LT Eric Fisher, added to the absence of RT Mitchell Schwartz, provides a clear path to Mahomes for disruptive Jason Pierre-Paul and Shaq Barrett. The LT will be journeyman Mike Remmers, who was a living, breathing turnstile against Von Miller in Super Bowl 50.

This is key, because a source close to the NFL Network informs that Mahomes has 18 TDs against one INT this season versus the blitz, with four sacks. Expect more coverage from Bowles.

You can only hope to contain Kelce, and when Lavonte David and young stud Devin White are not doing their darndest to blanking him, savvy rookie Antoine Winfield Jr. will embrace the challenge. White is an emotional firebrand who will need to play in control — don’t be shocked if he draws a personal foul.

Bowles’ best play is to let someone other than Kelce and Hill — Sammy Watkins, Demarcus Robinson, Byron Pringle, you get the idea — try to beat him.

Rookie RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire can be a problem with his quickness, and Darrel Williams has a nose for the end zone, and Le’Veon Bell is a promising rapper, but the Bucs can’t be run on, especially with NT Vita Vea back alongside Ndamukong Suh.

No matter, Mahomes enjoys slinging it around the stadium more anyway, whether he looks at his target or doesn’t.

The Bucs won’t have much of a home-field advantage since the Chiefs have been sleeping in their own beds too, and Raymond James Stadium will be two-thirds empty thanks to the pandemic.

CB 12 is flashing TRICK PLAY. Arians lives by NO RISK IT, NO BISCUIT, but a wide-open Brady once dropped a pass in the Philly Special Super Bowl, too much risk there. But if Andy Reid — more of a NO RISK IT, NO CHEESEBURGER guy — could resurrect a doozy in Supe LIV from the 1948 Rose Bowl, expect another one.

Last QB with the ball wins. If it’s a tie game, Harrison Butker wins it. It’s not a tie game. Brady hits Brown with the go-ahead TD. A Hardman jet sweep sets up Mahomes in the last minute. Mahomes, flushed to his left, throws across his body for the TD to Kelce. Second Lombardi Trophy for Mahomes. Four behind Brady.

Chiefs 27, Bucs 24

New York Post

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