Someone will make history Sunday night in a Super Bowl so filled with storylines it would fill a season of TV programming.
Tom Brady, already the true "Game of Thrones" ruler, going for a record-breaking seventh ring, this time with a new kingdom in Tampa Bay. Patrick Mahomes, the heir apparent to the quarterbacking summit, trying to lead the Kansas City Chiefs to back-to-back championships — something no NFL team has done since Brady led the New England Patriots to the double in the 2003 and 2004 seasons.
The 43-year-old Brady is in his 10th NFL title game, this time with the Buccaneers — who happen to call Raymond James Stadium and Tampa, Florida, home. Yes, the very place where Super Bowl LV is set to kick off between AFC champion Kansas City (16-2) and NFC champion Tampa Bay (14-5) at 6:30 p.m. on CBS.
Pirates of the Caribbean make port: No host team has ever played in the big one in its home stadium, but as so often happens with Brady, here comes another first.
"There's a lot that comes along with the Super Bowl," said tight end Rob Gronkowski, who came out of retirement to reunite with Brady, the former New England teammate with whom he won three championships. "There's a lot that comes along with this week. I've been there before. I've experienced it all before. But just having it at home, cutting out the travel, knowing where you can stay, where your friends can stay, where you family can stay, it just makes it a lot easier to have it at your home stadium, big time."
Now add in two 60-something head coaches, Kansas City's Andy Reid and Tampa Bay's Bruce Arians, both offensive masterminds as comfortable with today's high-scoring, creative NFL attacks as every one of those kid coaches who are all the rage.
"There's nobody that would ever say a bad thing about B.A. He's just so endearing to everybody, and I think everyone wants to win for him," Brady said of Arians, the kind of praise the quarterback rarely used about his previous head coach during 20 seasons with the Patriots.
Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, a unanimous All-Pro pick this season, said Reid has "almost like a father figure kind of role in the building, and it's because everyone loves him so much. He's got an unbelievable way of getting the best out of everybody that is relating to all different aspects and all different forms of life."
Don't forget the defenses, which could easily be ignored with all the dynamism of both offenses. Tampa has probably the best set of linebackers in the NFL with Shaq Barrett, Lavonte David and Devin White, studs up front in Jason Pierre-Paul and Ndamukong Suh, and an ever-improving secondary.
Kansas City has All-Pro safety Tyrann Mathieu, linemen Frank Clark and Chris Jones — and a coordinator, Steve Spagnuolo, who doesn't back off.
"I've played for a lot of coaches in high school and college," Clark noted, "and I'm not saying they were bad, but I'm not saying their intentions were to bring out the best in players. I can say that for sure with coach Spags. His intentions are not negative or anything like that. His intentions are solely to have the best defense on that field."
It's also a rare Super Bowl rematching opponents who met in the regular season: The Chiefs won 27-24 at Tampa Bay in late November.
All of this at the end of a season played during a pandemic, yet not delayed, with no games canceled and each of the Super Bowl participants experiencing relatively few COVID-19 setbacks.
"I think with the pandemic and the sacrifices they have all made for each other, they go to work and go home," Arians said. "They don't get to sit and eat together, don't get to have conversations — it is amazing to me how close they are. It is the commitment they made to each other to beat the virus."
The NFL and Florida health officials have approved about 22,000 fans, and all will be required to wear masks. Raymond James Stadium normally has a capacity of 75,000 fans.
Playing before real people rather than just cardboard cutouts — oh, there will be plenty of those, too, with proceeds donated to local charities — has been rare in the NFL all season. But both the Chiefs and Bucs were among the few teams to have fans on hand for some games.
Their paths to the championship game have been divergent, though. The Bucs finished second in the NFC South to the New Orleans Saints, sending them on the wild-card route as their conference's No. 5 seed. That meant trips to Washington, New Orleans and Green Bay. And now, staying home.
The Chiefs had the top seed and lone bye in the AFC, then outlasted the Cleveland Browns with Mahomes sidelined for nearly half the game before returning a week later to lead a rout of the Buffalo Bills.
Of course, with two full weeks between the conference title games and the Super Bowl, each contender should be well rested. The only perceivable edge might be the Chiefs needing a flight to the game site; the Bucs could drive over to the stadium.
By Sunday night, they will be as eager as possible to get back on the field and write the final chapter to an unfathomably atypical season.
"You don't get these opportunities every year in the NFL to be in the Super Bowl and to be in these games," Mahomes said, though it sure seems as if Brady has a Super Bowl habit and his Kansas City counterpart — the 2018 season's MVP and the MVP of last year's Super Bowl comeback against the San Francisco 49ers in the Miami area — is developing one.
"So you don't want to look back and have regrets on how you played or how you went about the week before preparing to go out there to play your best football. When the end of your career is done, then you can kind of look and see where those moments were in your career where you could've had something or that you executed and you did go out there and achieve your dreams."