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Travis Kelce: The Cadillac of Tight Ends on the hunt for a second Super Bowl ring

By Stuart Dick

Published: 10:33, 23 December 2021

The Kansas City Chiefs, predictably, have found their way back to the top of the AFC standings as the 2021 regular season heads into the final three weeks.

The two-time defending AFC champion Chiefs looked in trouble earlier in the season when they sat at the bottom of the AFC West with a 3-4 record.

They’ve since won seven straight, with wins over the NFC-leading Green Bay Packers and the NFC’s #2 seeded Dallas Cowboys. If the Chiefs can battle through the playoffs and capture a third straight AFC crown, these triumphs would provide an added boost, should they meet either side in a Super Bowl rematch.

All-Pro tight end Travis Kelce, as he’s been for years, has been a key factor in K.C.’s success. On Thursday night in Los Angeles, Kelce produced yet another incredible performance, as the Chiefs down the Chargers in overtime, to all but lock up the AFC West and assume the top spot in the AFC. Let’s take a look at Kelce’s awesome influence throughout his nine-year career, his Hall of Fame resumé and his role in the Chiefs’ hunt for a second Super Bowl title in three years.

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Kelce dominates AFC West rivals

The future Hall of Famer was positively sensational in the Chiefs’ 34-28 victory over the AFC West rival Chargers on Thursday Night Football. He recorded 10 receptions for 191 yards and a pair of touchdowns – including the game winner in overtime.

With the Chiefs down 21-13 with 8:48 remaining in the fourth quarter, Kelce got open on a scramble drill down the right sideline as quarterback Patrick Mahomes rolled to his right. Mahomes found his 6”5, 255-pounder tight end, who then rumbled for a season-high 69 yards to the Chargers’ one-yard line. the big play set up a one-yard touchdown reception for Tyreek Hill, after which K.C. leveled proceedings with a two-point conversion.

Later, with 1:16 left in regulation and the Chiefs down again – this time 28-21 – and inside the Chargers’ 10-yard-line, Mahomes stepped up in the pocket  to escape the rush, and once again escaped to the right. Once again, he found Kelce, this time for a nine-yard score on a diving grab.

In overtime, the former Cincinnati Bearcat was at it again. This time, while sidestepping three L.A. defenders, Kelce hauled in a Mahomes pass at the 30-yard-line, before proceeding to outrun another two defensive backs to the end zone, for the game-winning touchdown.

What they said about Travis Kelce…

NFL Network’s James Palmer lauded the Kelce resumé by pointing out: “Travis Kelce has now reached 1,000 receiving yards for the 6th consecutive season… To put that into perspective, no other TE has more than 3 consecutive seasons w/ 1,000+ rec yards. Actually, no other TE has ever had more than 4 seasons in their career with 1,000+ rec yards.”

New Orleans Saints’ wide receiver Michael Thomas, responding to the final play of the Chiefs-Chargers game, simply said: “That was cold @tkelce.”

Meanwhile, NBA superstar LeBron James described the all-pro tight ends as “A BEAST MY BROTHER!!!! WOW. Game blouses.”

2021 season so far

  • 14 Games Played
  • 83 receptions
  • 1,066 yards
  • 7 touchdowns

Kelce enjoyed a spectacular start to the 2021 season with 13 receptions for 185 yards and three touchdowns in the opening two games, against the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens. He followed these up with a 104-yard performance in Week 3 against the Chargers.

In the six weeks that followed – not coincidentally a stretch during which the Chief were far from their best – Kelce endured a run of six games without 100 yards receiving and, between Weeks 3 and 14, caught just two touchdown passes. This culminated in Kelce’s worst two-game stretch of the season: consecutive three-reception, 27-yard outings against the Denver Broncos and the Las Vegas Raiders. Of course, Kelce not only returned emphatically to his unstoppable best against the Chargers, he set season highs in receptions, yards and touchdowns.

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Player Profile

College: University of Cincinnati

Drafted: #63 overall in the 2013 NFL Draft by the Kansas City Chiefs

Career Stats (Inc. playoffs)

  • 137 Games Played (inc. 12 playoff appearances)
  • 778 receptions
  • 9,939 yards
  • 89 touchdowns

Kelce is one of the game-changing playmakers who have altered the perception of what a tight end should be in the NFL. Kelce’s influence has helped to transform  the tight end from essentially an extra blocker who catches the ball to a nightmare matchup capable of catching 100 balls a season.

Born in Westlake, Ohio, Travis and his brother – All-Pro NFL center Jason – attended Cleveland Heights High School. Travis played basketball, baseball and, of course, football in high school. Interestingly, in high school, Travis played quarterback – and racked up 2,539 yards (1,016 rushing and 1,523 passing) and 31 touchdowns as a senior.

Just a two-star recruit coming out of high school, Travis followed his brother to the University of Cincinnati. After redshirting his freshman year, Travis moved to tight end, where he had a solid, if rather modest college career. In just 35 college games (he was suspended for a year due to a positive marijuana test), he caught 59 receptions for 875 yards, with 10 touchdowns, eight of which came in his senior season.

However, he’s followed up that unspectacular college career with an absolutely incredible pro career. In nine NFL seasons, Kelce has recorded six 1,000-yard seasons, including the most prolific in NFL history by a tight end (1,416). He’s also required fewer games (113) to reach 8,000 receiving yards than anyone who’s ever played the position.

Under the tutelage of head coach Andy Reid, and with Patrick Mahomes at quarterback, the future Hall of Famer could not be in a more ideal situation. And, at age 32, he shows no signs of slowing down!

Award prospects

Offensive Player of the Year – 12/1 (+1200) – Betway

Kelce is currently seventh in the NFL in receiving yards (1,066), 11th in receptions (83) and 14th in touchdowns (7). He’s having an excellent season, to be sure.

However, the likes of Cooper Kupp – who leads the NFL in all three of the above categories – Kelce’s teammate, Tyreek Hill, and Green Bay’s Davante Adams all have stronger claims to the award. And every one of these pass-catchers is chasing Indianapolis Colts running back Jonathan Taylor, who’s a virtual lock for the OPOTY award – provided he doesn’t take home the league’s MVP award.

Kelce must be considered an outside bet for the Offensive Player of the Year, given the volume and quality of the players ahead of him – and his recent addition to the COVID-19 reserve list.

Kansas City Chiefs Super Bowl odds – 4/1 (+400) – Betfair

With that victory over the Chargers in Week 15, Kansas City now holds the #1 seed in the AFC playoff race. This provides a massive advantage in the NFL’s new seven-team play-off system, in which only one team per conference is awarded a bye in the playoffs’ opening weekend.

The Chiefs have won seven consecutive games since falling to 3-4. Their defense has rebounded impressively since its early season struggles, and their high-powered offense seems to rediscovered its rhythm. All of a sudden, the Chief look like an extremely well-rounded and dangerous team.

Though Kansas City’s remaining three games are against .500 or better opposition – Pittsburgh Steelers (7-6-1), Cincinnati Bengals (8-6) and Denver Broncos (7-7) – their current form, combined with the talent on the roster, makes it difficult to bet against them. It is thus no surprise that the Chiefs are currently favoured to win a second Super Bowl in three years.

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