Many storylines are going into Super Bowl 58 between the San Francisco 49ers and the Kansas City Chiefs. One of the more intriguing ones is that the top two tight ends in football, George Kittle and Travis Kelce, are facing off against each other.
Which one will have a better game?
For years, Kittle and Kelce have been the standard when it comes to NFL tight ends. While Kelce often puts up gaudy stats since he is the favorite target of quarterback Patrick Mahomes, Kittle is likely the more complete tight end for his abilities as a receiver and as a blocker. Kelce even admitted that Kittle was the best tight end in football this season.
When you look at the statistics, it is easy to understand why. This season, Kittle had 1,020 receiving yards, six touchdowns, and 15.7 yards per reception. Compare that to Kelce's 984 receiving yards, five touchdowns, and 10.6 yards per reception and it is easy to understand why Kittle is the best tight end in the game right now.
However, Kelce has probably had the superior postseason up to this point. In three games, he has 23 catches for 262 yards and three touchdowns. In two games, Kittle has had six catches for 108 yards and one touchdown.
The main reason why Kelce seems likely to have a bigger game than Kittle is because he is unquestionably the No. 1 target for Mahomes. The Chiefs have had trouble with their receivers being able to reliably catch the football at points this season, so Kelce has been leaned upon as his most reliable pass catcher.
With the 49ers, there are so many offensive weapons that quarterback Brock Purdy trusts that there are times when Kittle can almost be an afterthought. With offensive stars like Christian McCaffrey, Brandon Aiyuk, and Deebo Samuel, there are just so many mouths to feed that you likely won't see Kittle get 10-plus targets the way you'd expect Kelce to get.
That does not mean Kittle will not have a big game. Depending on Kyle Shanahan's game plan, he may have some plays drawn up for Kittle downfield like we have seen in the past. I would just expect the potential for most of Kittle's yardage to come on a few big chunk plays whereas Kelce may get his yards 5 to 10 at a time but could easily add up to over 100.
The last time these teams faced each other in the Super Bowl four years ago, Kelce only had six receptions for 43 yards and one touchdown. Kittle had four catches for 36 yards and no touchdowns.
This could be misleading since both offenses are different than they were four years ago. With no Tyreek Hill on the Chiefs, Kelce is now the undoubted top target. And now, with the 49ers having more weapons than they did four years ago, Kittle may have more chances to get open as the Chiefs defense is forced to account for all of San Francisco's weapons.
In sum, I would predict Kelce to have more targets, catches, and yardage, but I would not be surprised if we see at least one or two explosive plays to Kittle. No matter what, both players would likely tell you that they don't care about their stats so long as their team wins the game.
We will see which tight end will be happier come Sunday evening.