Super Bowl 57 just so happens to also be the “Kelce Bowl.” Two of the best players in the NFL are going to face off with their respective teams in the biggest game there is, marking the first time a pair of brothers have met in the Super Bowl.
Every layer of this is fascinating, from their individual dominance to their unusual playing backgrounds being obvious in the style with which each plays the game.
The Philadelpia Eagles‘ Jason Kelce is an undersized center who moves in space like a linebacker, in part because he was once a walk-on college linebacker at the University of Cincinnati.
The Kansas City Chiefs‘ Travis Kelce has a telepathic connection with quarterback Patrick Mahomes, able to adjust mid-play and attack whatever space a defense presents to the duo. For that to happen, Kelce needs to read and see the game the same way Mahomes does — like a quarterback. As it would happen, that’s exactly what he once was when he was recruited to the University of Cincinnati.
Each player ended up changing positions, but their background remains in evidence every time they step foot on the field.
C Jason Kelce, Philadelphia Eagles
Jason Kelce has led the league in overall PFF grade multiple times and finished in the top five in five of the past six years.
He has been arguably the best run-blocking center of his generation, and that's despite a sub-300-pound listed weight. Kelce has incredible mobility, and it allows him to both maneuver himself around defensive linemen into position for blocks as well as get into open space and locate linebackers and defensive backs.
The last time the Eagles were in the Super Bowl, Kelce was enjoying the best season of his NFL career. He earned a 94.8 PFF run-blocking grade and allowed 22 pressures across 19 games before becoming a Philadelphia legend in the celebration parade.
This season, Kelce has been vying with his opposite number, Creed Humphrey, for the top spot in the PFF rankings. His PFF run-blocking grade hasn’t been quite where it was in 2017, but he has allowed just 11 pressures in 19 games this year as the entire Eagles' offensive line has dominated.
Offensive linemen don’t often build legacies that endure, but Jason Kelce is already an Eagles legend playing as well as ever in the middle of an offensive line that is arguably the best single unit in the Super Bowl.
TE Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs have returned to the Super Bowl despite trading away arguably the most electric receiver in the football over the offseason.
They were happy to move on from Tyreek Hill in part because Travis Kelce has always been the team’s No. 1 receiver, despite being a tight end. The gap between Kelce and the rest of the tight ends in the league is now as wide as it has ever been.
He finished the regular season with 1,338 yards, over 400 more than the next tight end in the league. He was one of only two tight ends to average more than 2.0 yards per route run and the only one with more than 50 targets to do so.
He led all tight ends and wideouts in yards after the catch (664) and is consistently able to find space and move the chains despite defenses knowing that he is the first and most important threat to take away.
There is no weakness to Kelce’s game, but his greatest strength is unquestionably his connection with Mahomes. It’s possible to take away the play that the Chiefs' offense has drawn up, but it’s exponentially harder to stop the mid-play adjustments they are able to pull off with staggering regularity.
Kelce and Mahomes are able to be on the same page at almost all times despite split-second adjustments mid-play because they both read the game the same way. Kelce’s background as a quarterback allows him to anticipate where the space will open up and how to attack it, enabling Mahomes to go back against the grain and find a player looking to exploit the same space for successful plays.
Somehow, Travis Kelce is playing his best football deep into his career. A player who is only 10 months younger than the retired Rob Gronkowski is showing no signs of slowing down and is steadily climbing all-time rankings in the process.
The Kelce Bowl features two incredible players with fascinating backstories that play into the unique way each sees the game, and it should be a great battle for sibling bragging rights.