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Kelce, Gronk battle for tight end throne

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Posted at 10:56 AM, Jan 18, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-18 11:56:42-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Obviously, the marquee match-up and possible "torch passing" this weekend in the AFC Championship Game will be between quarterbacks Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes.

After all, Brady is 41 and can't play forever (Can he?) and Patrick Mahomes is 23 and lit the NFL world on fire in his first season as a starter.

But an under card to the QB torch passing could be happening at the tight end position.

"I cherish every game I get to go up against the elite tight ends," said Travis Kelce Wednesday at Arrowhead.

That's right, the Chiefs sport the sleek, match-up nightmare Kelce who's coming off a career year. The Patriots run out the rugged, match-up nightmare Rob Gronkowski who's delivering his lowest per-game production since his rookie season.

They're arguably the sport's most "glamorous" stars in a less-than-glamorous position.

"He's a very excellent player," said Gronkowski about Kelce. "The way he can move, the savyness that he has is second to none."

Gronkowski is the five-time Pro Bowler and four-time All-Pro at the position and has been the "face" of tight ends since 2011 when he led the NFL in touchdown catches.

"I cherish every chance I have to go up against Gronk," said Kelce.

Kelce, who hit the field four years later than Gronk, has made the last four Pro Bowls and has been named All-Pro two of the last three seasons.

Gronkowski wasn't biting when asked if Kelce was coming for his "throne."

"I know he competes. He competes hard. Competes every play, completes every game. And that's what I do too," said Gronk.

One could argue that the torch is already passed.

Availability is the most important kind of ability they say. Kelce has never missed a game due to injury. Meanwhile, Gronk hasn't played a full season since his second season in the NFL. In fact, his 29 games missed in his career borders on two complete missing seasons.

"I hope he (Gronkowski) can play as long as he wants to play," said Kelce.

After torching New England for 93 yards, eight catches, and a touchdown in 2014, Bill Belichick has made sure Kelce has had only modest games since.

On the other hand, Gronkowski has had a couple big games against KC, including this last October when had 97 yards receiving on just three catches.

Also, Kelce has just one double-digit touchdown season while Gronk is sitting on five.

But this year, Kelce's 1336 receiving yards are more than any season Gronkowski has put up. Travis's 103 catches are also more. Gronk has never gotten close to triple digits.

But that doesn't change much in a one-game sample size which is all that matters Sunday.

And, really, there's only one "stat" that Kelce wants to match of Gronk's, his multiple Super Bowl rings.

"I think he's a hell of a player. That's for sure," said Kelce.