Kansas City Chiefs TE Travis Kelce

Week 14 Quick Reads

If you're reading this website, you already know who Travis Kelce is. You know about the five Pro Bowls, the two All-Pro honors, the Super Bowl championship, and the spot on the Hall of Fame's All-Decade team for the 2010s. You know he's a fantasy star -- including this season, he has led all tight ends in fantasy scoring four times in the last five years; the other year, he was second. You know about his stellar advanced stats -- here at Football Outsiders, he has finished among the top 10 at his position in receiving DYAR every year since 2014, including a first-place ranking in 2016. In short, you know that Kelce has been the NFL's best tight end over the last half-decade or so. What you may not know is that Kelce may be better in 2020 than any tight end has ever been before -- and that he's getting even better as we approach the playoffs.

The first half of Kelce's 2020 campaign was right in line with his track record of excellence -- in seven games, he had 40 catches for 501 yards and five touchdowns, first or tied for first in all three categories among tight ends. When the calendar flipped to November, though, he somehow reached an even higher level. He had only topped 100 yards in a game once before Halloween; he has done it five times in six games since. He caught exactly eight passes in five of those games; in the other, he had 10. His totals over that stretch: 50 catches for 749 yards and four touchdowns. That includes this week's outing, an eight-catch, 136-yard, one-touchdown performance against Miami that made Kelce our top receiver of the week.

Kelce's receiving totals with three weeks left to play: 90 catches for 1,250 yards and nine touchdowns. It's that middle number that is most impressive. It's more than 400 yards better than the next-highest tight end (Las Vegas' Darren Waller, 817). That yardage already places Kelce among the top 10 tight end seasons of all time. He only needs 128 yards in his last three games to break George Kittle's record of 1,377 set in 2018 (a record Kelce himself had set with 1,336 yards just a few hours earlier). It's doubtful that he'll need all three games to do it -- he has hit 127 yards or more four times in his last five games.

It's one thing to lead all tight ends in receiving yards -- by definition, somebody is going to do that every year. Kelce's yardage total, on the other hand, is best among all players, be they tight end, wide receiver, running back, H-back, eligible lineman, or Taysom Hill. He's got a decent lead over the rest of the pack, too; Seattle's DK Metcalf is 70 yards back with 1,180 yards. Four other players -- Buffalo's Stefon Diggs, Arizona's DeAndre Hopkins, Green Bay's Davante Adams, and Kelce's teammate Tyreek Hill -- have all cleared 1,100 yards too, so there is a crowded field chasing Kelce down the stretch.

If he can maintain his lead, Kelce will achieve an unprecedented accomplishment: no player specifically listed as a tight end has ever led the NFL in receiving yards. Kellen Winslow Sr. came closest; he finished second in 1980, when his 1,290 yards in San Diego were only 50 yards shy of teammate John Jefferson's 1,340. (Their teammate, Charlie Joiner, was fourth at 1,132. If fantasy football had been a thing in 1980, the Air Coryell Chargers would have swept the first round in every draft.) No other tight end since the AFL merger in 1970 has come within 100 yards of the top wide receiver in a given season. It did happen a few times in the 1960s, with Mike Ditka in 1961 and Jackie Smith in 1967 both finishing within shouting distance of the top wideout. Earlier than that, things get murky. Stathead only lists seven players as tight ends pre-1960, in an era when what we now call wide receivers were known as "split ends" and "flankers," and when tight ends were simply called "ends."

Not surprisingly, the advanced stats love Kelce too. His game against Miami was nearly the best by a tight end this year. Only two games have been better … and one of those was also by Kelce, against Las Vegas in Week 11. (Kittle is still in first place with his 15-183-1 statline against the Eagles in Week 4.) For the season, Kelce is now up to 369 DYAR. That number is so high that Kelce could take the rest of the year off and still finish with the second-best tight end season we have ever measured.

Top Tight End Seasons, Receiving DYAR, 1985-2020
Year Name Team DYAR Rk DVOA Tgt Rec Yards TD Catch % Y/C
2011 Rob Gronkowski NE 461 1 46.2% 125 91 1,329 18 73% 14.6
2020 Travis Kelce* KC 369 1 38.5% 123 90 1,250 9 75% 13.9
2000 Tony Gonzalez KC 362 1 28.1% 150 93 1,203 9 62% 12.9
2010 Antonio Gates SD 361 1 77.1% 65 50 782 10 77% 15.6
1993 Shannon Sharpe DEN 360 1 40.5% 110 81 995 9 74% 12.3
1987 Mark Bavaro NYG 343 1 65.9% 73 55 865 8 75% 15.7
2017 Rob Gronkowski NE 339 1 40.4% 105 69 1,084 8 66% 15.7
2009 Antonio Gates SD 339 1 35.9% 114 79 1,157 8 69% 14.6
2004 Tony Gonzalez KC 330 1 25.6% 148 102 1,258 7 69% 12.3
2004 Antonio Gates SD 312 2 30.9% 114 81 964 13 71% 11.9
1996 Shannon Sharpe DEN 305 1 31.7% 117 80 1,062 10 68% 13.3
* Numbers as of Week 14

Will Kelce be able to catch Rob Gronkowski at the top of this table? He's averaging about 28 DYAR per game, which projects to 454 DYAR by season's end -- just short of Gronk's record. It's possible, but it will still be awfully hard to do better than a guy who caught 18 touchdowns.

Regardless, Kelce has about 150 more DYAR than the next-highest ranked tight end (Green Bay's Robert Tonyan), so he's going to finish first at the position barring something historic. The question then becomes whether Kelce can lead all players in receiving DYAR? No tight end has ever done that either, but Kelce is still ahead of Metcalf (340 DYAR) and Hill (320) in that category. (Houston's Will Fuller has 332 DYAR, but he is suspended for the rest of the season.) The Giants' Mark Bavaro came closest with 343 DYAR in 1987 when Jerry Rice led wideouts with 389. That was an even weirder year than 2020, however, at least in the NFL -- due to a player's strike, one game was canceled, and three others were played by replacement players. Those replacement games do not count in our DYAR stats, but the whole year was so bizarre that it's fair to be skeptical of the results. In a full season, the closest we have come to a tight end leading all players in DYAR was in 2017, when Gronk had 339 DYAR and Pittsburgh's Antonio Brown led all wideouts with 430 DYAR.

Kelce's DYAR totals don't necessarily mean that he has been a "better" receiver than anyone else. He gets the advantage of being compared to the average tight end (7.3 yards per target in 2020) while Metcalf, Hill, etc. are being compared to the average wide receiver (8.4). The fine details in Kelce's numbers, though, shine through any positional adjustment. Though he is "only" fifth in the league with 90 receptions, 83 of those catches have met FO's standards for success; only Buffalo's Stefon Diggs (87) has more. And 65 of them have produced first downs; only Arizona' DeAndre Hopkins (68) has more. And nobody has been better at picking up chunks of real estate. Kelce leads all players with:

  • 61 catches of 10-plus yards (Hopkins is in second with 52);
  • 37 catches of 15-plus yards (Atlanta's Calvin Ridley, 34);
  • and 21 catches of 20 yards or more (Minnesota's Justin Jefferson, 20).

Patrick Mahomes may win the MVP, and Tyreek Hill may be the game's most dangerous wideout. But of all the great players on the league's best offense, none of them are doing their jobs this season any better than Travis Kelce is doing his.

 


 

Quarterbacks
Rk
Player
Team
CP/AT
Yds
TD
INT
Sacks
Total
DYAR
Pass
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Opp
1.
Aaron Rodgers GB
26/33
290
3
0
0
133
126
8
DET
If 133 DYAR seems like a low total for a league leader, it is -- the last time our top quarterback had less DYAR than this was in Week 15 of 2018, when Nick Mullens finished in first with only 107 DYAR ... which is still the lowest total for the top quarterback in a given week. Rodgers is now second on that list, in part because he loses a league-high 52 DYAR due to opponent adjustments. He also hit a bad cold streak over the second and third quarters where he picked up just one first down in 14 dropbacks. Before and after that cold snap, he went 16-of-19 for 207 yards and three touchdowns.
2.
Tom Brady TB
15/22
196
2
0
0
130
130
0
MIN
Brady's average pass traveled 11.7 yards beyond the line of scrimmage, most in the league. He was the league's best passer in the second quarter (8-of-11 for 122 yards and a touchdown, plus two DPIs for 52 more yards)
3.
Lamar Jackson BAL
11/16
163
1
0
4
114
59
55
CLE
Jackson's rushing numbers: nine carries for 124 yards and two touchdowns. Only two of those runs failed to move the chains. Per Stathead, this is just the fifth time a player ran for at least 120 yards while being sacked at least four times. The last player to do it was ... Lamar Jackson, in the postseason loss to Tennessee last season. The others: Donovan McNabb against Washington in 2000, Randall Cunningham against Minnesota in 1992, and Bobby Douglass against Oakland in 1972.
4.
Russell Wilson SEA
21/27
206
4
1
0
110
110
0
NYJ
Wilson's success rate of 74% was the best of the week ... but then his average pass came with a league-low 6.9 yards to go for a first down, so he should have ranked high in that category. He was also tops in the red zone, where he completed all six of his passes for 49 yards and four touchdowns.
5.
Philip Rivers IND
19/28
244
2
0
0
109
109
0
LV
Rivers was the league's best passer in the first quarter, when he went 8-of-10 for 102 yards and a touchdown, plus a 4-yard DPI.
6.
Drew Lock DEN
21/27
280
4
0
1
105
118
-13
CAR
Lock was outstanding in the second half, completing nine of 11 passes for 195 yards and three touchdowns; only one of those completions failed to move the chains. He was the league's best passer on deep balls (4-of-5 for 149 yards ) and from under center (10-of-11 for 122 yards and two touchdowns).
7.
Baker Mayfield CLE
29/47
343
2
1
0
100
93
7
BAL
Mayfield ran five times against Baltimore, all of them on third down. Only two of them converted; one of those was a 5-yard touchdown. He was tremendous on short-yardage throws. WIth 4 yards or less to go for a first down, he went 8-of-11 for 111 yards. All eight of those completions picked up first downs, including a touchdown.
8.
Josh Allen BUF
24/43
238
2
1
1
95
80
15
PIT
Allen gains a league-high 73 DYAR due to opponent adjustments. He was the league's best passer inside the opponents' 40-yard line (5-of-10 for 70 yards and two touchdowns, plus a 35-yard DPI) and in the third quarter (completing all 10 of his passes for 116 yards and two touchdowns, including six first downs in a row at one point).
9.
Mitchell Trubisky CHI
24/33
267
3
0
3
83
83
1
HOU
The good news is that Trubisky was the week's best passer on throws to receivers at or behind the line of scrimmage (9-of-11 for 93 yards and a touchdown). The bad news is he was the week's worst passer on third downs (3-of-7 for 35 yards with two conversions and two sacks).
10.
Derek Carr LV
31/45
316
2
2
0
80
63
16
IND
Red zone passing: 4-of-9 for 17 yards with no touchdowns and one interception.
11.
Ryan Tannehill TEN
19/24
212
2
0
1
77
77
0
JAX
Tannehill's average pass came with 9.8 yards to go for a first down, most in the league. With less than 10 yards to go, he went 6-of-9 for 73 yards and a touchdown; with more than 10 yards to go, he went 6-of-7 for 44 yards and only one first down.
12.
Jalen Hurts PHI
17/29
167
1
0
0
75
44
31
NO
Hurts gains 49 DYAR due to opponent adjustments. He only threw two deep passes against New Orleans; both were incomplete. Hurts' rushing numbers: 15 carries for 110 yards. He is only the second player to run for 100 yards against New Orleans this year. The first was his teammate, Miles Sanders, who got there in the third quarter.
Rk
Player
Team
CP/AT
Yds
TD
INT
Sacks
Total
DYAR
Pass
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Opp
13.
Matthew Stafford DET
24/33
244
1
0
4
58
56
2
GB
Stafford was the league's best passer on throws to running backs, completing all five of his passes for 58 yards; three of those completions picked up first downs.
14.
Patrick Mahomes KC
24/34
393
2
3
3
56
70
-13
MIA
Mahomes' average completion gained 8.3 yards after the catch, most of any qualifying passer. Despite all that help, he was still the league's worst passer in a few categories, including first-quarter DYAR (5-of-7 for 78 yards with two interceptions and a 30-yard sack) and inside the opponents' 40 (3-of-7 for 26 yards with three interceptions).
15.
Teddy Bridgewater CAR
30/40
283
0
0
4
55
39
15
DEN
Bridgewater led the league with 14 failed completions this week. Two of those failed completions came in the red zone, where he went 2-of-7 for 5 yards and no touchdowns.
16.
Kyler Murray ARI
24/35
244
1
0
1
54
51
3
NYG
Most of Murray's best throws came as he was digging the Cardinals out of bad field position. He completed all eight of his throws within his own 35 for a total of 117 yards.
17.
Tua Tagovailoa MIA
28/47
316
2
1
4
51
53
-2
KC
Ah, the rollercoaster ride that comes along with a rookie quarterback. Tagovailoa was the week's worst passer in the third quarter (5-of-12 for 41 yards with two sacks, one for a safety), but then he was the best passer in the fourth quarter (12-of-16 for 150 yards and a touchdown, plus three DPIs for 22 total yards). On the whole it was effective -- he threw for 20 first downs, most in the league.
18.
Gardner Minshew JAX
18/31
178
1
0
0
38
27
11
TEN
All of Minshew's action came with Jacksonville down by at least 21 points in the second half. He threw 10 passes that traveled more than 13 yards beyond the line of scrimmage but only completed one, a gain of 22.
19.
Brandon Allen CIN
27/36
217
1
0
0
35
43
-8
DAL
You won't believe me when I say this, but I swear it's true: Allen led all quarterbacks in DYAR on third/fourth downs. Swear to god! Brandon Allen! And it's not due to opponent adjustments -- he actually lost 41 DYAR for playing the Cowboys. But on the money downs he went 9-of-11 for 98 yards and seven conversions, including a touchdown. His average pass traveled 3.6 yards beyond the line of scrimmage, least in the league.
20.
Andy Dalton DAL
17/23
185
2
0
2
30
30
0
CIN
Dalton threw for 10 first downs in this game; seven of them came in eight straight dropbacks over the second and third quarters. In that stretch, he went 7-of-8 for 95 yards and a touchdown.
21.
Deshaun Watson HOU
21/30
219
1
0
6
20
6
14
CHI
Watson spent a lot of time trying and failing to dig the Texans out of bad field position. Inside his own 25, he went 8-of-11 for only 53 yards with just one first down while taking a trio of sacks.
22.
Justin Herbert LAC
36/44
243
2
1
1
13
13
0
ATL
Herbert had the worst DYAR on throws down the middle, going 4-of-7 for 31 yards with an interception.
Rk
Player
Team
CP/AT
Yds
TD
INT
Sacks
Total
DYAR
Pass
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Opp
23.
Kirk Cousins MIN
24/37
225
1
0
6
-5
-26
22
TB
Cousins gains 56 DYAR due to opponent adjustments. His rushing numbers: five carries for 41 yards. He was the week's best passer on throws to tight ends. He completed all nine of his passes to Irv Smith and Tyler Conklin for a total of 103 yards; seven of those completions moved the sticks, including a touchdown.
24.
Dwayne Haskins WAS
7/12
51
0
0
1
-30
-30
0
SF
Haskins came into the game with Washington up 13-7 in the third quarter. He did not throw a deep pass; his biggest play of the game was a 13-yard completion to J.D. McKissic that gained zero yards through the air and 13 after the catch.
25.
Jared Goff LAR
17/25
137
1
1
1
-43
-54
11
NE
Now here's an example of when completion percentage can be misleading. Goff completed nine of 11 passes on third down, which sounds great ... but those 11 plays totaled just 57 yards, only two of them moved the chains, and one was intercepted.
26.
Sam Darnold NYJ
14/26
132
0
0
3
-46
-46
-1
SEA
OK, here's the good news: Darnold was literally perfect between the 40s, where all four of his passes were completed for first downs, for a total of 48 yards. But inside his own 40, he went 8-of-15 for 74 yards with as many sacks (three) as first downs. And inside the Seattle 40, he went 2-of-7 for 10 yards and no touchdowns.
27.
Nick Mullens SF
25/45
260
1
1
4
-47
-47
0
WAS
It's not just that two of Mullens' turnovers turned into Washington touchdowns, it's where and when on the field those plays happened: first-and-10 at his own 49 and second-and-2 at the Washington 24. The 49ers also badly miss George Kittle -- Mullens only completed four of eight passes to his tight ends for a total of 33 yards, and none of those completions picked up first downs. On the plus side, Mullens gains 51 DYAR due to opponent adjustments.
28.
Taysom Hill NO
28/38
291
2
1
5
-50
-58
8
PHI
Hill was the week's worst quarterback on throws to running backs, going 8-of-11 for 38 yards and an interception. One of those throws was completed to Latavius Murray for a 6-yard loss; the others were all thrown to Alvin Kamara. Hill was also worst in the second quarter, when he went 6-of-9 for 40 yards with an interception and two sacks.
29.
Ben Roethlisberger PIT
21/37
187
2
2
1
-53
-53
0
BUF
Roethlisberger was last on throws to the left, going 5-of-12 for 58 yards with a pick-six.
30.
Matt Ryan ATL
22/32
224
1
3
2
-85
-87
2
LAC
All three of Ryan's interceptions came in the second half: one with Atlanta up 17-10, and two with the score tied 17-17. He was the week's worst passer on throws to tight ends, going 2-of-4 for 14 yards with an interception.
31.
Alex Smith WAS
8/19
57
0
1
1
-98
-98
0
SF
Smith didn't play in the second half, but in only 30 minutes of action, he managed to accumulate the league's worst DYAR on deep balls (0-for-4 with an interception).
32.
Mike Glennon JAX
14/23
85
0
1
0
-101
-101
0
TEN
Glennon was pulled from this game after his first pass of the third quarter was intercepted; none of his last 10 dropbacks resulted in a first down. In barely over a half, he managed to accumulate the league's worst DYAR on throws to wide receivers. I'd give you those stats, but it's simpler to tell you what he did on throws to everyone else: three completions in three attempts for 17 yards.
33.
Cam Newton NE
9/16
119
0
1
4
-110
-84
-26
LAR
Newton's rushing numbers: seven carries for 11 yards. Only one of those runs picked up a first down or counted as a successful play, and he fumbled on one of them. His passing success rate of 25% was lowest for any starter this week. He had the league's worst passing DYAR in the red zone (one pick-six, one 6-yard gain on third-and-8) and from under center (2-of-4 for 56 yards with a pick-six and three sacks). Newton was pulled for Jarrett Stidham in the fourth quarter, but Stidham struggled too (5-of-7 for 27 yards, no first downs, two sacks, 22% success rate, -31 DYAR).
34.
Daniel Jones NYG
11/21
127
0
0
6
-160
-160
0
ARI
Jones' DYAR is so bad because he fumbled on three of his sacks. Those three plays on their own cost him more than 120 DYAR. His other three sacks cost him about 45 DYAR. Jones now has eight fumbles on sacks this year, tied with Derek Carr for most in the league. That's partly because Jones has been sacked a lot (37 times, tied for fifth-most in the NFL), but the other players in the top five haven't fumbled so often. Carson Wentz, the league leader with 50 sacks, has fumbled on six of them. Russell Wilson, Deshaun Watson, and Matthew Stafford, have fumbled only twice each despite being sacked a total of 116 times. In other words, three of the most-sacked quarterbacks in the league each has fewer fumbles on sacks all year than Jones had in this game. Oh, and Jones' average completion only gained 1.5 yards after the catch, least in the league.

 

Five Best Running Backs by DYAR (Total)
Rk
Player
Team
Runs
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
Opp
1.
Derrick Henry TEN
26
215
2
2/2
7
0
66
72
-6
JAX
Henry loses 19 DYAR for playing the Jaguars. Only eight of his runs went for first downs, but that includes runs of 20, 22, 36, and 47 yards, and he was stuffed just once even though all but one of his carries came with a lead.
2.
Kareem Hunt CLE
6
33
1
6/7
77
1
63
23
39
BAL
Each of Hunt's six runs gained at least 2 yards, and three went for first downs. Four of his catches also produced first downs, including a 22-yard touchdown and a 26-yard gain on third-and-1.
3.
Dalvin Cook MIN
22
102
1
2/4
8
0
61
72
-10
TB
Cook gains 29 DYAR due to opponent adjustments. He ran for eight first downs against Tampa Bay while being stuffed twice.
4.
Nick Chubb CLE
17
82
2
2/2
21
0
54
39
15
BAL
Chubb was stuffed just once while running for five first downs, including gains of 11, 13, and 14 yards. His two catches: 12-yard gain on first-and-10; 9-yard gain on second-and-10.
5.
Miles Sanders PHI
14
115
2
4/5
21
0
52
52
0
NO
Sanders gains 28 yards due to opponent adjustments. He had one 82-yard touchdown but only averaged 2.5 yards on his other 13 runs. Two of them, however, picked up first downs, while he was stuffed only twice.

 

Five Best Running Backs by DYAR (Rushing)
Rk
Player
Team
Runs
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
Opp
1.
Dalvin Cook MIN
22
102
1
2/4
8
0
61
72
-10
TB
2.
Derrick Henry TEN
26
215
2
2/2
7
0
66
72
-6
JAX
3.
Miles Sanders PHI
14
115
2
4/5
21
0
52
52
0
NO
4.
Nick Chubb CLE
17
82
2
2/2
21
0
54
39
15
BAL
5.
Chris Carson SEA
12
76
1
3/5
22
0
42
38
5
NYJ
Carson only ran for three first downs against the Jets, but he was stuffed just once and he had gains of 10 and 28 yards.

 

Worst Running Back by DYAR (Total)
Rk
Player
Team
Runs
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
Opp
1.
Jeremy McNichols TEN
11
9
0
1/1
0
0
-40
-40
0
JAX
None of McNichols' carries gained more than 6 yards or moved the chains, only one counted as a successful play, and he was stuffed five times.

 

Worst Running Back by DYAR (Rushing)
Rk
Player
Team
Runs
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
Opp
1.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire KC
16
32
0
5/6
59
0
-24
-40
16
MIA
Edwards-Helaire loses 17 DYAR due to opponent adjustments. He only ran for one first down against the Dolphins while being stuffed eight times. The last runner to get stuffed more often in a game this year was Las Vegas' Josh Jacobs, who was stuffed nine times in 27 carries against the Saints in Week 2. Jacobs was stuffed on exactly one-third of his carries against New Orleans; Edwards-Helaire was stuffed on exactly half of his carries against Miami.

 

Five Best Wide Receivers and Tight Ends by DYAR
Rk
Player
Team
Rec
Att
Yds
Avg
TD
Total
DYAR
Opp
1.
Travis Kelce KC
8
10
136
17.0
1
60
MIA
Six of Kelce's catches produced first downs, and five of those gained 16 yards or more.
2.
KJ Hamler DEN
2
3
86
43.0
2
49
CAR
Hamler's two catches: 37-yard touchdown in the third quarter, 49-yard touchdown in the fourth.
3.
DeAndre Hopkins ARI
9
11
136
15.1
0
49
NYG
Seven of Hopkins' catches moved the chains, the longest a gain of 41. He also had an 11-yard gain on second-and-13.
4.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling GB
6
6
85
14.2
1
48
DET
All six of Valdes-Scantling's catches produced first downs, the longest a gain of 21 on third-and-14.
5.
Stefon Diggs BUF
10
14
130
13.0
1
47
PIT
Diggs' totals include -3 DYAR rushing for his one carry for 1 yard. He had seven first downs through the air, the longest a gain of 23.

 

Worst Wide Receiver or Tight End by DYAR
Rk
Player
Team
Rec
Att
Yds
Avg
TD
Total
DYAR
Opp
1.
DJ Chark JAX
2
9
16
8.0
0
-46
TEN
Chark only had one first down, an 11-yard gain on second-and-6. His other catch was a 5-yard gain on second-and-10.

Comments

43 comments, Last at 19 Dec 2020, 2:22pm

1 I enjoy watching Kelce

It's pretty crazy that he has a shot at having the best TE season in the DVOA database. I remember the articles this summer about best seasons and careers and just how outstanding that Gronk season was. Thinking that I've been watching a potentially better season is cool, though as pointed out, 18 TD is tough to compete with, even with the higher volume he is seeing as he is only 2 targets behind the season.

I've been darn impressed with Tonyan and his distant second in DYAR (though possibly still tops in DVOA).  Kelce has more volume because he is a better player and creates more opportunities for himself. But the way Tonyan has progressed and been playing is a huge reason for how good Rodgers looks. Dude catches everything (46 rec on 52 targets, 88.5%) and gets open in critical situations. While passer rating is deeply flawed, Rodgers may have a perfect rating on throws to him. 

It's a different kind of incredible from what Kelce is doing. It's amazing efficiency and moderate volume vs great efficiency with high volume. Though it's not just him hanging around the markers, he's had a decent amount of mid and deep air yard throws.

Just been a very fun TE year for a guy who mostly gets to watch Packers and Chiefs games.

14 In an offense that schemes…

In an offense that schemes all sorts of opportunities for the TEs, Tonyan is just ultra-reliable. It's a slow development curve for a lot of TEs - I think this is his 4th year as a pro - but he's gotten to a level this season where he should still have a ton of great years ahead of him. I love that he's also made some great plays this year on extended plays where rather than look back at the QB and just kind of drift with him, he looks for space to run into and Rodgers has gotten him the ball down the field.

26 Yep he is 4th year. He's a…

Yep he is 4th year. He's a converted WR from Indiana State. So the TE learning curve is even bigger for him. He's embraced it obviously since he isn't just a receiving TE, he's become an above average blocker too. As you said, he still has room for more improvement. It wasn't until the end of this abbreviated training camp where he said he was comfortable at his new weight after multiple years of weight room work to add additional mass.

I agree that the scheme helps him, and that likely helped him and Rodgers get comfortable. Rodgers need rapport with his receivers and he clearly has it with Tonyan. I also agree with his development on extended plays. 

So he can still get better. Which is awesome as through 13 games this year he's already climbed into a tie for 3rd on the Packers all time list for TD by a TE in a season behind Paul Coffman's 11 in 83 and Keith Jacksons 10 in 96, tied with Bubba Frank's 9 in 2001. He's 19th on yards with 533; Carrol Dale has the record at 876 in 1966. He's 15th on the rec list with 46, the record is 61 by Jermichael Finley in 2012. If he continues the pace he's been on for his last 5 games he'll finish with 59 rec for 664 yards and 11 TD. So he really only has a shot at the TD and reception records, that yardage project only moves him from 19th to 10th.

Though it is a crazy thing I'm not sure a lot Packers fan realize. He is quietly having one of the best TE seasons in franchise history.

2 Glad for MVS

He has taken a lot of guff online from Packer fans.  .  Complaints that he is soft or doesn't run hard all the time. The fumble late against the Colts apparently he received a slew of nasty social messages.  

 

Despite all this nonsense the young man has continued to show flashes.  He is very good blocking wide receiver.  Personally I have rarely seen a lack of effort which frankly in the NFL is not the standard.  I see a lot of guys taking plays off down to down.  

 

Hope he can continue to advance his skillset.  The physical skills are certainly there.  Fun player to watch.

9 MVS hands

have to date been the primary issue.  If he has found a solution the guy will make SERIOUS money as a player

13 It was nice to see MVS make…

In reply to by big10freak

It was nice to see MVS make plays on different types of passes this week: the back shoulder for the TD, the dig to convert what I think was a 3rd and 14, and an intermediate crosser for another big gain all come to mind. If he can keep making plays like that, it would be fantastic for the offense.

And the effort the entire WR room puts into blocking is phenomenal, loved watching the way everyone (including Bakhtiari!) ran with the play and kept looking for someone to block downfield on the Jones TD run vs the Eagles last week. It's a lot of fun to watch.

30 It was nice to see MVS make…

It was nice to see MVS make plays on different types of passes this week: the back shoulder for the TD, the dig to convert what I think was a 3rd and 14, and an intermediate crosser for another big gain all come to mind. If he can keep making plays like that, it would be fantastic for the offense.

I loved seeing him getting opportunities and taking advantage of them on those routes. I've seen him run intermediate crossers a fair bit, but I don't recall him getting targeted on many short or mid dig routes. It felt like he was being used in different route combos than I've seen in previous games. I have hypothesis on that I'll touch on later, but his usage seemed to help him on Sunday.

I've criticized the man on these boards several times. My go to is that he has a bug in his code. It currently reads run crisp route OR catch ball, when it should be run crisp route AND catch ball. Which is where most of my frustration comes from with him. I've seen him make awesome cuts and run precise routes. I've seen him make amazing catches. It was rare to see both on the same play. His amazing catches seemed to come when he made a sloppy cut and wasn't where Rodgers thought he should be, or he got tangled up and was out of position, or Rodgers really wasn't quite on target because even he can't be perfect with deep balls. He would run a great route and get himself open only to have a perfect pass fall to the ground. Occasionally he looked like he dropped it because he was starting to make a move before securing the catch. 

This isn't his first time in quick reads, but Sunday he had the game I've always hoped to see but have always been disappointed before. His routes were precise. He made solid catches. He secured the ball before making his next move. 

I've never criticized his effort, though I understand why he gets that from some who aren't watching closely. It definitely can seem that way on some of the deep routes where it looks like Rodgers over threw him or he doesn't make the catch in tight coverage and that if he tried harder he would have made it. I didn't see those as effort issues, I saw those more as timing or strength issues. If he didn't put in the effort I would have given up on him instead of being frustrated with him. I do get a little tired of him always looking for a flag when he doesn't make a catch though. But again I think that has more to do with his biggest issue.

His biggest issue, compared to the rest of the Packers WR, is that he isn't as strong or bulky as the other WR. Dude is listed as 6-4 205. I'm not sure he is actually over 200lbs. He's got more of Usain Bolt build than a typical NFL WR build. (Bolt is 6-5 and was in the 195 - 210 range during his peak). Having a similar body type to the fastest human ever recorded isn't a bad thing but it's not necessarily the ideal for playing in the NFL. Legal contact can mess him up more easily than other players, hence why he might actually think he earned a flag. To illustrate a bit, Adams is listed at 6-1 215, Lazard 6-5 227, ESB 6-5 214. Jordy Nelson who was not considered a strong receiver was listed at 6-3 217 in his playing days. MVS has a tougher time with physical corners. He has the height advantage but he can get pushed around. It's also why he is the worst blocker among the receivers, but if you say he doesn't try to block when called upon you aren't watching the games. Also worst blocking WR on the Packers is still probably one of the best blocking WR on most other teams. This team has coached WR blocking well for years even when they didn't have the RB to take advantage of it.

As I touched on earlier I think he's getting some routes he hadn't been earlier in the season or at least getting those routes and having other legit threat receivers running the other routes in the combo. Some of that is the fact that the WR position was never at full strength, until just a few weeks ago because of injuries. ESB started the season on IR and missed all of last year so he's still in the practical learning phase of a new system (remember year 2 of LeFleur). Adams missed 2 games with injury. Lazard missed 6 games with a core injury so he will not be 100% for the rest of the season; having surgery on a muscle in your "core" (I've never seen it specified) even for super humans takes a long ass time to heal because you can never give it full recovery rest and the importance of your core muscles to running and catching is insane. That changes game plans. MVS may actually be getting some of Lazard's routes, and that might help him. He is quick enough and agile enough that he can make shorter routes where contact is expected work, even if he is less likely to beat press coverage than the other guys on the team.

So I think MVS may have been asked to run routes he isn't as comfortable with or isn't as practice at earlier this year. He had his notorious drop issues and I was worried his confidence was shot again, which happened last season. Now I think he may be running a more limited route set, but he's running more of the ones he's good at. He isn't being asked to run the routes that they would have rather had Adams, Lazard, or ESB running on that play, at least not as often. My hope is that we are finally seeing MVS take that next step because he's playing within what the coaches felt they had in the receiving corps the whole time (though with Funchess taking the role that ESB is now filling had he not opted out of the season). I really hope it's not just a blip and that he had a great game because the Lions secondary is so poor and couldn't mess him up the way other teams can. I do have to acknowledge that as a possibility. 

Here's to hoping that a fully available WR corps means LeFleur can continue to use him in what he's best at doing. LeFleur has shown that he is good at minimizing how often he asks players to do things at the edge of, or beyond, their abilities. Another thing I've enjoyed about the last couple of years. McCarthy couldn't or wouldn't adapt his system to the players he had. Capers was even worse about it on D than McCarthy was with the offense. Pettine still has issues with that too, though he's not as bad as Capers. I'm hoping the players taking advantage of Pettine's open door policy and coming together a few weeks back to ask him to simplify the play calls and schemes again helps keep them playing as a league average defense and lets the talent they do have shine a bit. I'm not delusion and I know they don't have the best talent on that side of the ball, despite the draft investments. But I do think they are a bit more talented than the results they've gotten.

3 Fun game last night. Browns…

Fun game last night.

Browns scored the final touchdown way too early.  They were playing hurry-up, snapping the ball from the 22 with 1:04 left and the clock running.

Sure, you have to score the touchdown at some point, but that was rather generous.  Gave Baltimore a chance to win in regulation with the long FG, plus the chance to win in OT.

16 I'm really torn on Baker. He…

I'm really torn on Baker. He doesn't appear to play with any composure, and he makes some rash errors. But he undoubtedly can deliver an accurate pass. And he has a punchy, fighting temperament, which is easy to get behind both for teammates and fans. 

The Browns have got a tough decision when it comes to his contract. I doubt they'll ever get consistent high level play out of him. But for a franchise so weary of QB busts, it's going to be hard to let go. At least with Stefanski in charge they are going to put in positions to succeed. 

17 This game notwithstanding, I…

This game notwithstanding, I am generally pessimistic about Baker as well. He plays too unstructured a fashion for my tastes. In a vacuum, I think he's a more mobile Ryan Fitzpatrick but is that player a net positive in most circumstances? Maybe but he certainly won't be if he gets a big contract which it seems any long term starter gets these days.

I feel bad for the Browns. He's not a bust but he's not a star so you get stuck in this weird middle ground and lord knows its been an eternity since this franchise has had a qb that wasn't a flat out bust or spot starter. 

Ultimately, its a big ugly conundrum. I probably would begin looking for a qb successor like the Chiefs did with Smith but that path has no guarantees to it either. 

19 Baker will get a second…

Baker will get a second contract in Cleveland - I don't think that's even really in question.  It will probably be a standard 4 year deal after his 5th year option and not a QB4Life Mahomes sort of deal, but I doubt the Browns have any interest in going back to QB-hell after next season.

 

 

23 Taylor

I was a little surprised to see him on the outside looking in, but I read somewhere that without the giant TD run, his day was pretty ordinary and included a fair amount of unsuccessful runs, which also hurt in an advanced stats world.

I always go to the absurd extremes to try to figure this stuff out (in my head) and 4 runs of 0 yards, plus one run of 25 give you a great 5.0 YPC but an 80% failure rate.  If that's just the first quarter output and he does it exactly the same all game, it's a 100 game with 5 YPC, but 16 runs of zero (and probably a lot of punts as a result).  damn.  NOt saying Taylor was that bad, but a few stuffs add up.

And although it sounds mighty flexy to cause the other team to fire their DC (I know I'd put it on my resume), it also indicates you might suffer from opponent adjustments. 

37 He did not make the top 20…

He did not make the top 20 RBs. He had 37 rushing YAR, but only 8 rushing DYAR after opponent adjustments. He was stuffed and only ran for six first downs in 20 carries. 

Mind you, those six first downs included gains of 13, 13, 15, 18, and 62 yards. 

His receiving numbers were also hit-or miss. His first catch was a 20-yard gain on second-and-12. His other catch was a 5-yard loss on second-and-10. That's 2 DYAR (up from 1 YAR without opponent adjustments).

38 5 yard losses on a reception

At a minimum, three people are possibly to blame for this.  The OC:  did you really design a pass wherein your back catches the ball five yards deep?  Is there an engine block chained to his ankle as well?  Were there supposed to be blockers helping him, maybe?

The QB:  Is this really your best option?  The WRs all busy in an in-play Zoom meeting?  Are there tacklers nearby?  Is your RB in the process of falling down already, when you throw it?   Just throw it away, for Pete's sake, or (if you're younger than Methusaleh) run it! (note: if you are personally ten yards behind the LOS, throw it away. Do NOT run it.)

The RB:  Quick quiz--you're five yards behind the LOS, Aaron Donald and his ten best friends are bearing down on you with malice aforethought, and a pass is gently wafting in your direction from the drug-addled QB. Do you catch it or bat it down? And either way, how hard to you punch the QB on the team bus afterwards?

Other potential culprits:  blockers whiffing on a bubble screen, Satan, Donny Osmond. Not in that order.  

I wish I saw that play to determine who was at fault.  I guess a defender might have made a great play. But a five yard loss on a pass reception sounds almost intentional, like a 25 yard loss on a sack (looking at you, Mr. Mahomes).  I guess you have to stick it to the receiver, but man, that sounds like a bad situation all around.  A bubble screen losing 1-2 yards, yeah, happens and it's often a blocking scheme issue or a defender who sees right through it (or both!).  But losing five yards, the length of my Subaru Outback, sheesh!

10 Last night's game was fun…

Last night's game was fun and all(and it was!), but...

it was also emblematic of the kind of issue I have with the league right now. Lamar Jackson scores a td with 1:30 sec left in a game. It takes the Browns around 30 seconds to drive down the field and score a game tying td. It takes the Ravens 1 minute to drive into field goal range with one time out ( and they were actually a lot sloppier about it than they needed to be) to win the game.

Yes everyone loves back and forth games; however, do we really want the NFL to descend into the depths of arena league where points are so cheap that no lead is effectively safe? The minute Kareem Hunt scored on his td, I knew he made an enormous mistake. That I think is the sad state of affairs in todays NFL.

15 Both defenses were…

Both defenses were incredibly gassed after 4 quarters of dealing with a brutal multi-headed power run game and lots of east-west play action confusion. I don't know how you fix that. More defensive roster spots maybe?

18 I agree. Two minute offenses…

I agree. Two minute offenses are so overpowered in today's NFL that it's more of a surprise when teams don't convert GWD opportunities. It also doesn't help that kickers can easily hit from 50+ and many have a decent shot from 60.

I really hope the NFL doesn't turn into college football, where games end 62-57 and defenses seem utterly helpless against a spread offense.

22 I second that opinion (or…

I second that opinion (or fourth, I suppose, given the replies above). I hate when scoring feels like holding serve in tennis a lot more than scoring a goal in soccer. Just a personal preference, of course, but it's nice to know I'm not the only curmudgeon out there!

36 That's a good analogy…

That's a good analogy. Sports moments are exciting / meaningful when they aren't expected to happen. A tennis match only gets interesting when someone has a chance to break serve. Some of the recent NFL shootouts feel like a Wimbledon match where most games are won 40-love by the server and every set is destined for a tiebreak.

Though I'm not a big fan of baseball, IMO the likelihood of a batter succeeding is ideally balanced for competitive purposes. A roughly 30% chance of success for the offense is just right - not so high that it's expected but not so low that it feels like an exercise in futility.

24 two minute drill, one minute drill, 30 second drill?

Heh, my wife and I said the same thing.  Oooh, he left too much time, that was a mistake.  

It's one thing to say it about Rodgers or Mahomes, Wilson (and the gold standard of Tom Brady in his prime), but Mayfield and Jackson?  Jackson who was 3 of 6 passing late in the first half and before one long hookup to Andrews, had -8 passing yards with about 1 minute left in the half?  That guy?

Yup.

28 "The minute Kareem Hunt…

"The minute Kareem Hunt scored on his td, I knew he made an enormous mistake. That I think is the sad state of affairs in todays NFL."

On the flipside, you can look at the Falcons-Chargers game where the team whose defense produced the last turnover was going to be the winner.  Or the Seahawks-Giants game last week, where the Seahawks got the ball back with plenty of time to score the game-winning touchdown (with Russell Wilson at quarterback) and it felt like a foregone conclusion that they wouldn't do so to everybody watching.  It just depends on the game.

Personally, I don't have a problem with games like this, as long as offenses aren't bailed out by ticky-tack defensive penalties in crucial moments (like Rams-Bills earlier this year).  But that wasn't the case in this game.  It was two offenses slinging it -- making plays -- and it was awesome!

Also, in general, working the clock to leave your opponent as little time as possible for a counterstrike has long been an underutilized tactic by NFL coaches.  Last night's game shows why it's important. 

11 Tight Ends

I have been wondering why the best tight ends don't accrue the same raw yardage total that wide receivers do.

My best guesses:

1) Tight ends spend fewer snaps out at receiver and more as blockers

2) Tight ends typically work the middle of the field on middle running routes and thus miss out on the deep shots

3) Tight ends being less speedy are less likely to accrue heavy yac totals especially from screens and quick passes

4) Tight ends are still not quite appreciated as hybrid receivers and thus Qbs are still coached to run progressions first with receivers and then everyone else.

 

 

35 It may be less true in 2020,…

In reply to by theslothook

It may be less true in 2020, but in Tony G's day in KC, a defense that was committed to holding (physically, not metaphorically) the TE could generally get away with it, especially when he was in-line.  The refs wouldn't call it.  Lining the TE up wider, either on the line or in the slot, putting him in motion, etc. could negate this tactic to some extent - all things Reid does with Kelce.  (related to your Guess #1).

Also, in this game https://www.pro-football-reference.com/boxscores/200209290kan.htm

According to the radio announcers (I heard but didn't see the game) Miami tried to play a mostly Cover-2 defense and Green-to-Gonzalez split it multiple times (completions of 42, 32, and 30 yards, three of Gonzalez' five longest completions of the season).  Allegedly teams stopped playing Cover-2 extensively against the Chiefs after that (Miami learned that Guess #2 might work against most TEs but not Tony G).

Denver in particular used to put a big corner on Gonzalez and had some success with that.  He was speedier (in his youth) than most LBs and even strong safeties and stronger than most corners so he could beat most of them.  But big corners could give him trouble. (related to Guess #3)

Of note:  Kelce is 3rd in total YAC behind Kamara and Adams (just a single yard behind Adams).  Kamara of course has an ADOT of 0.7 but Kelce's ADOT of 8.7 isn't far behind Adams at 9.3.  PFR credits Adams with one broken tackle on 91 catches vs. Kelce's 9 on 90 receptions so my guess (also related to your #3) is Kelce is getting a lot of his YAC from his strength while Adams is probably getting his more from speed, route-running, and location relative to defenders (Rodgers probably is a factor too). 

 

20 Chuckle

Kelce's yardage total, on the other hand, is best among all players, be they tight end, wide receiver, running back, H-back, eligible lineman, or Taysom Hill. 

Brilliant.   Speaking of Mr. Hill,  I really don't get why Payton is sticking with him, and not giving Winston a shot.  Any Saints fans here have any insight on that?

21 Going back to Quick Reads,…

In reply to by serutan

Going back to Quick Reads, the anti-Hill commenters were all chastising him for sacks and INTs, with the curiously omitted observation that Winston is worse in both of those areas.

That Payton did not omit that observation may well be your answer.

25 Phil Rivers is apparently not dead

Man, that guy is spending a lot more time in the upper third of these charts than I expected just a couple months ago.  I still cringe when I see Reich quoted as saying he has "multiple years left in him" but I have to admit he is getting the job done, especially the last 5-6 games.

I'd still vastly prefer Dak on a long term contract in '21, even at $10M more per year (after all, Brissett is hoovering up $20 M this season).  And please no Foles!  But if Phil was to return to Indy next year, it might not be the disaster that I feared.  Plus, 100% less neck beard than Luck! (though I truly miss that guy)

39 LMFAO

you guys are awesome.  

Hey, if I get to hear Gridiron Heights make fun of his non-profane cursing for a couple more years I'd be gol-darn fluffing content.

41 Gridiron Heights at Bleacher Report

In reply to by Bobman

OMG, they outdid themselves with Phil Rivers this week. Throwing around the f-bombs ("fluffin') and telling Gruden to "get outta my turkey hole" whatever that is, then he gets a 7th seed Christmas toy for one of his 62 kids.  TY Hilton, Jacoby Brissett, and Darius Leonard sightings as well.  Add in Quentin Nelson earlier this year and I suspect there's a Colts fan at Gridiron Heights. That's a lot of fluffin' guys from one team in one season.

34 Yeah I mean he's been top…

Yeah I mean he's been top half basically all season and in the top third a lot. He's not a top 5 QB any more, and it's possible his limitations affect the running game (which has been surprisingly down this year), but he's been overall very good since the Jags game (still can't believe they lost that one and that's the only win the Jags have).

40 1 win seasons

I've written this on this site before in the past 15+ years, but one night leaving my NYC office late in 1991 or so wearing my blue Colts hat.  Probably a Friday night around 7 pm, so nobody was around but me and the CEO who was like 20 feet behind me.  "Hey, is that a Giants hat?"

I turn around, say noting but with a poop-eating grin, just point at the logo. Pah, the G-men are beneath me. I am a mighty COLTS FAN!  That's how I saw it, anyway.

"Jeez, the Colts?  Did they even win a game last  year?"

I held up one finger.  "Just one, the Jets. I woulda liked more, but if they're gonna just win one, they're the team to beat."

He got a decent laugh out of that. Probably thought I was deranged.

So if the Jags go 1-15, you can rest assured they will secretly revel in the fact that they beat a playoff team, a division rival, etc.  Now if they beat the Jets or Bengals or maybe the Falcons, who cares?  I've been there and know how sad and petty it is to grasp to that one pathetic win and celebrate it.  But when it's all you have, you cling to it.

Now if they beat Indy twice and knock them out of the playoffs... I may take up electric eel wrestling just to cope with my anger. 

 

42 tbh, I'd rather have had…

In reply to by Bobman

tbh, I'd rather have had Trevor Lawrence;  crazy thing is, Colts never punted in that game and Jags (who despite one of the worst 10 year stretches in NFL history have never had the #1 pick in the draft) are one of the best 1-12 teams I've ever seen (damning with faint praise, I know)