O-Line Expert Sends Strong Message on Jason Kelce, Eagles: ‘It Isn’t Close’

Jalen Hurts Jason Kelce

Getty Philadelphia Eagles QB Jalen Hurts (left) and center Jason Kelce (right).

The brothers Kelce, Jason and Travis, seem destined to wind up in Canton someday, and never has that been more evident than Sunday when Travis made history and Jason once again paved the way for Philadelphia.

In the early window of Week 14’s action, Jason Kelce was a driving force behind the Philadelphia Eagles‘ 48-22 victory over the New York Giants.

Kelce anchored an offensive line that paved the way for Philadelphia to gash the Giants for 253 rushing yards, including throwing a key block escorting quarterback Jalen Hurts into the end zone for a 10-yard touchdown run.

“Kelce is special on the move,” venerable offensive line coach Duke Manyweather told Heavy on Sunday. “You could make an entire career highlight with just his blocks in space.”

Some believe this may be Jason’s swan song. Travis Kelce even flew into Philadelphia over the Chiefs’ Week 8 bye to witness the Eagles’ win over the Steelers first-hand. And, this has been among the veteran center’s most dominant.

Kelce entered Sunday as Pro Football Focus’ No. 1 rated center, with an 89.4 overall mark.

“I think the last few years with drafting Landon Dickerson and then Cam Jurgens, many, prematurely wrote Kelce’s obituary so to speak,” Manyweather said. “And he’s come out, and has seemed to elevate his game, hell, in the offseason many suspected he would retire. I think the last few seasons he has really solidified himself as a Hall of Famer. Kelce and Lane Johnson are fun to watch. They are literally the best in the league right now at center and right tackle respectively, and it isn’t close.”

In East Rutherford, Jason Kelce had one of his finest performances of the season, amid rainy and miserable conditions. Kelce is really showing no signs of slowing down, as a postseason run toward a possible second Super Bowl ring looms.

Even before the 2022 campaign began, Kelce had already collected four First-Team All-Pro honors, five Pro Bowl selections, and is widely viewed by smart folks inside the league and out as one of the premier centers of his generation.

“Beyond the larger-than-life personality and being a leader, it’s important to remember Kelce is an exception to the ‘size’ rule,” Manyweather said. “Jason is 6-foot-3 and maybe 290 pounds, he really is a guy that transcends the eras of football.

“He’s a throwback, so to speak, with just his stature, temperament and play style. He plays with power, yet is crafty and finds ways to consistently beat bigger and stronger defenders”

If Jason Kelce hangs up his cleats for good following the 2022 season, he’ll likely give an acceptance speech for the ages in 2027.

Meanwhile, in Denver, Jason’s brother Travis cemented his legacy as the most dominant tight end in the sport.

The younger Kelce made history against the Broncos, surpassing Hall of Famer Shannon Sharpe as the fastest tight end in league history to 10,000 receiving yards in Kansas City’s 34-28 victory.

At age 33, Travis Kelce has set the standard for tight end play in the NFL, ranking as PFF’s top-rated player at the position with a 91.3 overall mark. Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes has a 130.5 passer rating on Kelce’s 106 targets through 13 games this season.

There might not be a more prolific duo in the NFL than Mahomes and Kelce.

“Travis is a total beast,” an NFL tight ends coach told Heavy on Sunday. “He has all the swag and athleticism you could ask for, backed up by talent and confidence.”

This season, Travis has caught 77 passes for 968 yards and 12 touchdowns through 13 games, already having been named a First-Team All-Pro three times, making seven Pro Bowls, and owning a Super Bowl ring in the Chiefs’ 2019 victory over the 49ers.

The way this season is playing out, with the 12-1 Eagles atop the NFC and the 10-3 Chiefs in the hunt for the AFC’s top seed, there’s a viable possibility the Kelces will meet in Arizona with the Lombardi on the line in February.

Both Kelces have become larger-than-life figures in their respective markets and in their value to their teams. Sunday, with both playing vital roles in the Eagles and Chiefs’ offensive success, it isn’t difficult to envision their bronze busts residing alongside each other in the Hall of Fame’s Bust Gallery.

Here are 10 other takeaways from Sunday’s Week 14 action across the NFL.

Eagles Offense Keeps Finding Ways to Win

There has been an ongoing narrative, especially since the Eagles fell to Washington in Week 10, suffering the first loss of the season, that this would be the game Jalen Hurts and company falter, that Philly is bound to be exposed.

Sunday in rainy East Rutherford, the only thing that was exposed by the Giants, is another way the Eagles are capable of pounding opponents into submission.

Sure, Hurts cemented his status as a runaway MVP candidate, but it was running back Miles Sanders who had the type of performance that underscores the dominant yet under-the-radar season he’s had in 2022.

Sanders rushed for 144 yards and 2 touchdowns while adding 1 reception for 11 yards.

Sunday, Sanders surpassed 1,000 yards for the first time in his career, he scored his 10th touchdown, eclipsing double-digit rushing scores for the first time, yet somehow hasn’t garnered the notoriety that receivers A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith and Hurts have. Sanders becomes the first Eagles 1,000-yard rusher since LeSean McCoy in 2014.

Beyond Sanders’ career-high 144 rushing yards, the Eagles once again proved they are more than a prolific passing attack, as Philadelphia gashed the Giants for 254 rushing yards.

Sanders just steadily has had the most dominant season of his career, and Sunday displayed why it’s so dangerous to let him get lost in the Eagles’ prolific offensive shuffle.

Bengals Cement Status as AFC North’s Best

Joe Burrow and the Cincinnati Bengals continue to manufacture new ways to manufacture wins.

Against the Cleveland Browns, Burrow was forced to overcome the adversity of losing wide receivers Tyler Boyd (finger), and Tee Higgins (hamstring), in the first half, against a menacing and swarming Cleveland pass rush.

Yet, once again, Burrow led the charge in a 23-10 victory, passing for 239 yards with 2 touchdowns to 1 interception. Meanwhile, Cincinnati’s defense held the Browns to just 27 percent on 3rd down and just 71 rushing yards, despite Cleveland boasting one of the NFL’s most potent two-headed rushing attack.

Adversity doesn’t shake Burrow.

Even as Ja’Marr Chase caught 10 passes for 119 yards and a score, the Bengals shortened the game with a steady dose of backs Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine, who combined for 118 yards and a score, on 18 carries.

After dispatching the division rival Browns 23-10, and despite the Ravens surviving 16-14 over the Pittsburgh Steelers with Tyler Huntley at quarterback, it is becoming obvious that Burrow and Cincinnati are the most complete team in the AFC North. And peaking.

The Bengals have now won five straight games, and seven of eight, including victories over the Titans and Chiefs over that span. Cincinnati has won those games by playing the kind of complementary football that powered last season’s Super Bowl run, and with Burrow surviving the adversity of star contributors seemingly dropping each week.

Trevor Lawrence Shows What Makes Him ‘Special’

Making it look effortless, Trevor Lawrence made the kind of throw against the Tennessee Titans that made NFL evaluators make comparisons to some of the biggest stars at the quarterback position, leading into the 2021 NFL draft.

With 3:11 remaining in the 3rd quarter, Lawrence sent a perfectly-placed high-point pass Evan Engram’s way along the sideline, where only the veteran tight end could make a leaping catch amid blanket-tight coverage from Titans defensive back Andrew Adams for a 21-yard score to extend Jacksonville’s lead to 34-14.

Sunday in Tennessee, Lawrence passed for a career-high 368 yards with 3 touchdowns, en-route to a 121.9 passer rating, leading a 36-22 NFC South win.

Following a chaotic rookie season, and first half of 2022 marred by growing pains, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 draft has now passed for 1,362 yards with 10 touchdowns over the past five weeks, having not thrown an interception over that span. During that stretch, Lawrence also led his fourth-career 4th quarter comeback over the Baltimore Ravens.

“He is special,” an AFC scouting director told Heavy. “Urban Meyer just delayed Trevor’s development. If they go out and get a real GM, the Jaguars could be really, really good.”

Lawrence already looks like the biggest missing piece to Jacksonville’s puzzle.

Next Sunday’s showdown against Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys presents an opportunity to build on this hot stretch, and cement his status as the NFL’s next elite quarterback he was unanimously expected to be, coming out of Clemson.

John Lynch Has Built a Juggernaut

Few teams could withstand the adversity of losing their top-two quarterbacks through the course of a season. Let alone having a star as dynamic as Deebo Samuel knocked from a game they wind up winning going away 35-7, but that’s exactly what the San Francisco 49ers have survived.

With Brock Purdy behind center, the 49ers produced 404 yards of total offense, led in large part by trade deadline acquisition Christian McCaffrey’s 153 yards from scrimmage and two total touchdowns. Despite Samuel suffering an ankle injury in the contest against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Even without Trey Lance, or Jimmy Garoppolo, the 49ers seem to have all the elements of a true Super Bowl contender.

DeMeco Ryans’ defense held Tom Brady and the Buccaneers to 322 yards of total offense, intercepting Brady twice, and strangling Byron Leftwich’s offense.

San Francisco can lock up the NFC West crown with a win over the Seahawks on Thursday night, and at 9-4 have a very real path to the No. 2 seed in the NFC, facing a remaining slate of opponents with a winning percentage of just .461.

Purdy’s performance underscores that reports of the 49ers’ impending demise have been greatly exaggerated. Especially given the breadth and depth of talent across San Francisco’s roster, combined with the rookie’s impressive first start.

Jets Bolster Playoff Pedigree, Even in Loss

Every NFL coach and player will tell you there are no such things as moral victories, but even in defeat in Buffalo, the New York Jets look the part of a legitimate playoff team.

In Buffalo, aiming for the season sweep of the high-octane Bills, the Jets’ defense wound up logging a stop to get the offense back the ball with 26 seconds remaining, but New York couldn’t get anything going on the final possession of a 20-12 loss.

Still, the Jets held Josh Allen to just 147 passing yards. Bills running backs managed only 55 rushing yards.

A banged-up Mike White did enough to keep New York in the game — despite a punishing blow that sent him to a local hospital due to a rib injury after the game — after returning to pass for 268 yards.

Sunday won’t count in the win column for the Jets, but it was a big step in establishing the competitive culture Robert Saleh has spent the past two years forging.

Tony Pollard Emerging as the Dallas Cowboys’ Best Running Back

Dallas Cowboys running back Tony Pollard continues to illustrate his value to the offense and might be the most versatile member of quarterback Dak Prescott’s supporting cast.

Pollard didn’t waste any time making an impact against the Houston Texans on Sunday afternoon, sprinting off right tackle for an 11-yard touchdown in the 1st quarter, and later pulling down a pass from Prescott for a 10-yard touchdown by breaking a tackle and tiptoeing down the sideline for his second score of the game.

By the game’s end, Pollard carded 42 rushing yards with a touchdown paired with 2 receptions for 20 yards and another score. According to Pro Football Focus, Pollard entered Sunday with 26 explosive runs of 10 yards or more and forced 32 missed tackles.

There has been a belief among some inside the league that Pollard could be in line for the franchise tag this offseason, to keep him in Dallas, paired with the Cowboys approaching Elliott about restructuring his deal.

“Pollard’s a great change of pace guy,” an AFC scout told Heavy. “So, he’s much flashier than Zeke. You see on the splash with him, and Zeke does all the dirty work.

“Tony’s never been ‘the guy,’ even back at Memphis. But, Dallas has the perfect tandem, in my opinion.”

To that end, Elliott was who the Cowboys turned to in the game’s biggest moment, taking a handoff 1-yard for the game-winning touchdown with just 41 seconds remaining. Elliott paced the Cowboys with 62 rushing yards in Dallas’ comeback win over Houston.

Regardless of what the future holds, Pollard’s role continues to expand, as does his importance to the Cowboys’ offensive attack.

Sam Darnold Authoring Redemption Stories

The Carolina Panthers fired head coach Matt Rhule on October 10, amid a 1-4 start, but are suddenly one of the hottest teams in the NFL.

Sam Darnold led the Panthers into Seattle against a Seahawks team that just three weeks ago looked like a team to beat in the NFC West, and powered Carolina to a 30-24 road victory.

Carolina has now won three-of-four and currently sits just one game back of the division-leading Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Darnold, unceremoniously dispatched by the Jets in April 2021, has won his first two starts of the 2022 season, passing for 284 yards and a pair of touchdowns against the Denver Broncos and Seahawks.

Only three teams face an easier stretch run than the Panthers’ slate of the Saints, Steelers, Lions, and Buccaneers, who boast a meager .404 combined winning percentage. With two of those contests coming against division opponents, the path to the postseason is very much there for Darnold and the Panthers. What a pair of redemption stories that would be.

J.K. Dobbins Back, Better Than Ever

Running back J.K. Dobbins and the Baltimore Ravens exploited the Pittsburgh Steelers’ biggest deficiency and left the Steel City with a 16-14 win.

The Steelers entered Sunday with the league’s 29th-ranked rushing defense, making little progress over last season’s dismal performance, and Sunday the dam broke.

In his fifth game back since returning from a knee injury, Dobbins logged 15 carries for 120 yards and a touchdown. With Lamar Jackson essentially week-to-week, Dobbins could be asked to shoulder a significant portion of the workload in the Ravens’ offense.

“Still not me all the way yet. … Hopefully, those 100-yard games turn to 200-yard games,” Dobbins told reporters postgame.

If Sunday is any indication, he looks healthy and explosive enough to be the focal point.

Clock Strikes Midnight for Cinderella Vikings

The Minnesota Vikings entered Detroit having won all 10 of their victories by one score, largely on the back of timely defensive stops and six Kirk Cousins 4th quarter comebacks. Against the division rival Lions, the clock finally struck midnight on the Vikings.

Despite Cousins passing for 425 yards with 2 touchdowns, and Justin Jefferson producing a career-high 223 yards, it was the Lions’ defense that slammed the door shot on Minnesota flying home with an 11th victory on the season.

Rookie EDGE rusher Aidan Hutchinson stunted a promising Vikings drive, sacking Cousins in the 4th quarter, and applying 3rd down pressure forcing a throwaway. The Lions’ offense spent Sunday firing on all cylinders as Jared Goff passed for 330 yards with 3 touchdowns and a 120.7 passer rating.

Minnesota had been walking a razor’s edge this season. But, Sunday in Detroit, the Vikings ran into a buzzsaw in head coach Dan Campbell’s Lions, who are a Josh Allen 20-second game-winning field goal drive on Thanksgiving away from a six-game winning streak.

The NFL Needs Postseason Reform, Desperately

College Football is finally correcting the misstep of limiting the postseason to just 4 teams, expanding to 12 following the 2024 regular season, and the NFL urgently needs to follow suit and fix its postseason tournament.

If the regular season ended today, the 6-7 Tampa Bay Buccaneers would host the 10-3 Dallas Cowboys who currently trail the Philadelphia Eagles by two games for the NFC East lead and the top seed in the conference.

There is certainly an argument to be made for a division champion earning home-field advantage, but that case isn’t nearly as strong as rewarding the teams that perform the strongest during the regular season without having to hit the road on Wild Card weekend.

Tom Brady and the Buccaneers, despite being boat-raced by the 49ers on Sunday, still have a chance to avoid the fate of becoming the NFL’s fifth team to make the postseason despite a sub-.500 record.

Regardless, though, the far more equitable system would be for the NFL to set the playoff standings by final regard, regardless of division championship status, to avoid sending a double-digit win team away to kick off the postseason.

Week 14 MVP: 49ers QB Brock Purdy

As far as first NFL starts go, they don’t get more daunting than looking across the sideline at Tom Brady and across the line of scrimmage at a loaded and menacing Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense designed by Todd Bowles.

That’s what Brock Purdy, Mr. Irrelevant in the 2022 NFL draft, was up against. And, Purdy left Levi’s Stadium with one of the most impressive victories in recent memory, a 35-7 shellacking of the NFC South leaders.

Purdy completed 16-of-21 passes for 185 yards and a pair of touchdowns, rushing for 1 touchdown, as well, before departing for the bench with just under 10 minutes remaining, because the game was out of hand.

Former NFL quarterback Sage Rosenfels wasn’t surprised to see Purdy’s immediate success.

“[Purdy]’s extremely accurate on short to mid-range throws,” Rosenfels told Heavy, leading into Week 14. “He’s gutsy and can create off-schedule plays. Very quick release and is used to throwing under pressure.”

Perhaps more impressive than Purdy’s 134 passer rating is head coach Kyle Shanahan appeared to make no alterations or simplifications to the scheme with a seventh-round quarterback at the helm of the offense.

If Sunday is any indication, Purdy’s shoulders seem plenty capable of carrying the 49ers as far as McCaffrey, the offensive supporting cast, and coordinator DeMeco Ryans’ defense can take them. And maybe even be a catalyst for San Francisco’s success.

Week 14 Breakout Star: Lions WR Jameson Williams

Hollywood couldn’t script a more storybook debut for the Detroit Lions’ No. 12 overall pick in the 2022 NFL draft than Jameson Williams authored Sunday afternoon.

On the Lions’ first possession against the Vikings, Williams got behind the entire secondary to haul in a 41-yard touchdown pass from Jared Goff.

“He probably would have been the first wide receiver chosen in the draft, if he were healthy last season,” an NFL pro personnel director told Heavy.

At least in 2022, the Lions are ascending, certainly turning a corner. But, Williams has shown the potential to dramatically hasten Detroit’s upward trajectory.

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