I never would have thought I would be musing whether Travis Kelce is a necessity for the Chiefs to continue their early season dominance, but that is exactly what I am doing here. Let me be clear here, I am not saying I want Kelce to sit out this week, nor am I saying I think the Chiefs will have long term success if he were to miss multiple games. I am simply wondering if he were to sit out this weekend against the Steelers, should we as fans be worried about the offense or the outcome of the game.
Travis Kelce has been a large part of the offense over the last three years with both his catches and yardage increasing each season. Depending on who you talk to, he is even regarded as the best tight end in the game right now, while others put him behind Patriots’ Rob Gronkowski who is constantly sidelined, but is a pure beast when he is on the field. Regardless of his ranking at the position, which I think his playing time alone gives him the edge over Gronk, he is certainly the best overall player on the Chiefs offense.
“Travis Kelce only played a half but was utterly dominant. Kelce was targeted 11 times, catching 8 balls for 98 yards. He also caught a pass against five different defenders, as the Texans defense had no match for the problem that a healthy Kelce presents to a defense.” –ProFootball Focus
Not only is he a matchup nightmare with speed to burn linebackers and size to simply out position defensive backs, Kelce is also a great blocker whether at the line of scrimmage or in open space as well as the emotional spark plug of the offense. Granted, some of his actions set the team back 15-yards at a time, but with everything else he provides, I can look past that…for now.
— Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) October 9, 2017
Alex Smith has done a great job spreading the ball around this season with 11 guys catching at least 1 pass, and 6 catching at least 10 passes. Granted, with Conley out for the season, if Kelce were to miss this weekend’s tilt with the Steelers, there would only be 4 players with at least 10 catches; Hill (25), Hunt (16), Wilson (16) and West (10). Demetrius Harris and Ross Travis would be called on to fill the void at the TE position if Kelce were to miss the game, something I am not too keen on. Add in the fact that there will be someone filling in for Conley, who accounts for 11 receptions. Missing Kelce would put a strain on taking advantage of the mismatches provided when he is on the field. So overall, if Kelce were to miss the game, there may be some cause for concern in the passing game.
Then again, because the Steelers rushing defense has already let Jordan Howard and Leonard Fournette run wild with 2 touchdowns a piece and 140 and 181 yards respectfully, Kareem Hunt could be in for a big day and take the strain off Smith and his receivers. Hunt, who enters the week as the NFL’s leading rusher, has only been held under 100 yards rushing once against the Eagles, who are averaging 62 yards allowed per game and the next closest rushing total for a player against them was 35 yards by Austin Ekeler… all on one rush. We’ve all heard of creating the passing through the rushing or vice versa, and the combination of Hunt’s 6.2 yards per rush and the Steelers’ 135 yards allowed per game could create plenty of time for Smith to find his receivers on Sunday.
In case you haven’t seen it, Andy Reid is in the camp of thinking Kelce will play this weekend, but if he doesn’t he feels better about Harris and Travis than I do. Here’s what Reid said after a pause, when asked whether the Chiefs can accomplish what they hope to on offense if Kelce doesn’t play.
“I feel comfortable with it, yes. “The only reason I’m hesitating is that it looked like Kelce was feeling OK after the game. I’m not telling you Kelce is out. I don’t want it to come off that way. He’s got to go through the whole protocol part of it. But if he is out, then I feel very comfortable with those other guys. Demetrius continues to do a nice job at the tight end spot when called on. You saw Ross Travis step up and have a nice couple of catches when (Kelce) was out in the second half.”
So, will the Chief’s offense take a dip without Kelce on the field? Probably so, but I don’t think it Is going to be enough to change the outcome of the game. There is going to be an adjustment of game planning, since game-plan-key #1 would be on the sidelines, but there is enough throughout the rest of the offense to make up the slack. What do you think, can the Chiefs move to 6-0 if Kelce were to sit out? Who would be the central focus if he were to sit out? Hunt? Hill? Can Smith continue to look like an MVP without his top target on the field? Today’s practice should give some insight on his status for this weekend.
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