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The Tight End Bowl: Kelce vs. Kittle is more fun than you think
We don’t talk enough about George Kittle.
Super Bowl week officially begins today and, while we will all analyze how San Francisco’s defense will handle Patrick Mahomes or, in a broader sense, where Mahomes stacks up in the GOAT quarterback debate after Sunday, another matchup could stir discussion.
In this game, we have arguably football’s best two tight ends:
- Travis Kelce is, well, Travis Kelce. You see him on every screen imaginable, whether it’s a commercial or a paparazzi photo of him and a very famous singer. It’s easy to forget Kelce is arguably the best tight end of his generation, if not all time. He came 16 yards shy of his eighth straight 1,000-yard receiving season, only because he sat out Kansas City’s final regular season game.
- And then you have Kittle, the genial guy you might see in some funny mic’d up clips who has nowhere near the mass exposure of Kelce. He does not have the longevity of Kelce either (and he’s four years younger), but he is just as much of a game-breaking presence.
But, as Dan Pompei writes today, those comparisons go deeper. Farther back. Two notes that jumped out at me:
- The duo represent a stylistic difference that has quite literally changed football. Kittle is a throwback, akin to a Mike Ditka or even a Rob Gronkowski. A bruiser who loves to block.
- Meanwhile, Kelce represents the peak in a line of finesse tight ends, guys like Tony Gonzalez or Antonio Gates who possessed an unnatural athletic ability at their size. Footwork and speed got them open. A size advantage helped make tough catches — and break down a defense. Too fast for a linebacker to cover, too big for a corner.
Read the rest of Dan’s story for more on the interesting evolution of the tight end, along with some added historical perspective. There’s an argument that, no matter the stylistic difference, Kelce and Kittle will probably be among the top five tight ends in NFL history after their careers close.
News to Know
Embiid opts for surgery
Joel Embiid will have a corrective procedure on his torn meniscus in his left knee, the team announced yesterday, meaning Embiid will be out for an extended period of time. It’s a brutal turn for both the player and team. For the reigning MVP who’s leading the league in scoring, the entire focus is on whether he can return this season. For the East’s current fifth seed, it means holding on for that long — and taking a new look at the trade market before Thursday’s deadline.
Pebble Beach called early
Wyndham Clark is the winner of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am after just three rounds, officials determined, due to inclement weather in the area. On one hand, it feels cheap to give Clark a win with multiple players in close contention, including rising star Ludvig Åberg. On the other, Clark shot a 60 on Saturday, a course record. Brody Miller’s glimpse into the round (and the man) was great.
The OC two-step
Remember yesterday, how Kliff Kingsbury and the Raiders didn’t end up together? Kingsbury is now the offensive coordinator in Washington under new coach Dan Quinn, forming what should be one of the most interesting coaching duos in the NFL. Is Kingsbury actually a good coach? Who knows! Something to watch for: Kingsbury spent last season on USC’s staff, working with projected No. 1 pick Caleb Williams. Does Washington trade up?
Also: Former Bears OC Luke Getsy will actually take the Raiders job. Vegas must’ve seen something in Chicago’s offense the rest of us didn’t.
- A Buckeye coup: Ohio State went into Alabama and plucked a commitment from a five-star cornerback.
- The NFC edged the AFC in the Pro Bowl Games yesterday. With a 2-0 “coaching” record in this event, seems like Eli is better than Peyton at this.
- Watch out for North Carolina: Armando Bacot and the Tar Heels topped Duke in a huge ACC men’s basketball matchup yesterday. The brackets inch closer.
Big Deals: The World Cup heads to … Jersey
Few things are better than when a massive event’s hype graduates from hypothetical to tangible. Before yesterday, the 2026 World Cup was a shimmering mirage in the distance, a sign of things to come. Now, we know when and where games will take place.
You can see a breakdown of the locations and number of matches above. Two big takeaways:
- New Jersey is the winner here. We had known for weeks it was down to Dallas and New Jersey to host the World Cup final, and yesterday’s announcement officially picked the latter. MetLife Stadium has already hosted big soccer matches, including the 2016 Copa America final, but not on this scale.
- While Dallas missed the final, AT&T Stadium will host the most matches: five group-stage matches, two in the round of 32, a last 16 and a semifinal. A horde of tourists with money will soothe the pain.
You have a little more than two years to plan a trip to see one of these matches. Get to it.
Watch This Game
Soccer: Manchester City at Brentford
2 p.m. ET on USA
Sure, we still have a ways to go in the Premier League season, but Arsenal’s massive win over Liverpool yesterday puts this match under particular scrutiny, as a Man City win can even the defending champs with Arsenal for second in the table … two points behind Liverpool.
NHL: Avalanche at Rangers
7 p.m. ET on ESPN+
Hockey is back this week, and this one is a doozy: Both teams are top-three in their respective conferences, and you get to watch Nathan MacKinnon play.
Hot off the press: Keith Law’s 2024 Top 100 Prospects list, which is less an article and more a bible for any baseball fan. Hard to find a better resource, and it’s something I go back to all year as new prospects make their major league debuts. We’ll have more with Keith tomorrow.
Always insightful is Mike Sando’s Pick Six column, which focuses this week on how both the 49ers and Chiefs built their teams. One is a blueprint, the other an outlier.
Mike Jones has a wish list of things Roger Goodell should address at the Super Bowl’s media event tonight. No. 1 on the list: officiating.
Man, the Bulls are a mess. Darnell Mayberry takes stock of the glum situation.
Give a hearty welcome to Andrew Marchand, our new sports media writer. Expect plenty from him in Pulse pages going forward.
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(Photo: Kevin Terrell/Associated Press)