George Kittle and Travis Kelce are two of the very best tight ends in the National Football League, but can one of them play a starring role in a Super Bowl victory for their team when the San Francisco 49ers face the Kansas City Chiefs in Miami?
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Kittle can do it all. Need a reliable pair of hands to catch the football and help San Francisco move down the field? No problem. Need him to make a huge receiving play at a key moment? He did just that as the 49ers raced into field goal position to win a wild game against the Saints in New Orleans. Need him to run block to keep that pounding run game going? He will do it well and, by his own admission, he will enjoy doing it too.
And here is the thing, Kittle is not just ‘passable’ in both of those aspects of his game. He excels. I tend to take what Pro Football Focus say with a (sizeable) pinch of salt, but I cannot argue their decision to declare Kittle the best player in the NFL this season. Yes, you could make arguments for several players, but that should not take away from how important the 26-year-old tight end has been in helping the 49ers go from 4-12 in 2018 to a Super Bowl trip just over 12 months later. If they win it all then you can expect Kittle’s name to pop up in postgame analysis frequently.
If Kittle is the best tight end in the game, the man he has replaced at the summit is Kansas City counterpart Kelce. While the Chiefs veteran is not the run blocker that Kittle is, his numbers as a receiver are more impressive. Granted the 49ers do not throw the football around as much as Kansas City do, but on the flip side Kelce has to contend with the fact he is teamed up with play-making receivers and running backs who are competing for catches. When he is called upon he simply has to deliver – and he does. That’s why his stats are still high.
Kelce has been targeted at least eight times in all but four of his appearances this season and more often than not his completion percentage has been 70% or higher. This resulted in him finishing fourth in the league for receiving yardage at the end of the regular season – ahead of all of his team-mates and 11 places ahead of the next tight end. And if that was not impressive, how about those three touchdown catches he made in an eight-minute spell during that sensational comeback against Houston in the Divisional Round? Kelce has waited a long time to feature in the biggest game of them all and it would not shock me to see him make up for lost time with a big display here.
So can Kittle once again play a major role as San Francisco complete their turnaround in the best possible fashion, or will Kelce come up big for Kansas City for the second time in this postseason? Whatever the outcome, these two tight ends are almost certainly going to make an impression on Super Bowl LIV before all is said and done.
George Kittle – Calling Kittle’s performance is a tough one. Could he become a popular target for Jimmy Garoppolo as the Chiefs force San Francisco to mix up their gameplan a little more? Yes. Could the Niners successful run the football heavily and lean of Kittle for his run blocking? Yes. That makes yardage and scoring difficult to predict, but he has averaged 5.56 receptions per game over the course of the season and that is a trend that could continue in Super Bowl LIV.
Travis Kelce – Kelce has had some big games this season, but his over/under for receiving yards has been set at 76.5 and he has passed that mark in only two of his last six appearances. So while he has had an excellent season it is difficult to know what to expect here, especially against this tough 49ers defense. I am confident that he will see plenty of looks though and he has had six receptions or more in 16 of his 18 appearances this season, so going +5.5 receptions screams ‘banker’ bet.
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