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[BN] Blitz newsletter: If this is it for Gronk, next stop is the Hall of Fame

Patriots tight end and Western New York native Rob Gronkowski played it coy all week when asked about potentially retiring after the Super Bowl. But if Sunday is Gronk's final game, a place in Canton will be waiting for him.

Gronkowski ranks among the greatest tight ends in NFL history, Jay Skurski wrote. Gronkowski is third in touchdown receptions by a tight end (79) and seventh in yards (7,861) despite playing significantly fewer games than anyone ahead of him. Gronkowski's 68.4 receiving yards per game are the most in NFL history by a tight end (even including active players like Travis Kelce, who is second).

At this point, Gronkowski's Hall of Fame status is secure. A better debate came up later in Skurski's article: "Gronkowski might go down as the greatest athlete ever from Western New York," Skurski wrote.

Gronk ranked as Western New York's fourth-best male athlete of all-time in The News' 2016 series. He trailed Patrick Kane, Bob Lanier and Warren Spahn. Given the names ahead of him, another Super Bowl title doesn't feel like it would vault Gronkowski to No. 1, though we could at least listen to arguments for bumping him up to third.

(If you're curious, the rest of the top 10 in that poll were: 5, Duke star and NBAer Christian Laettner; 6, legendary boxer Jimmy Slattery; 7, Hall-of-Fame third basemen Jimmy Collins; 8, longtime NBAer Cliff Robinson; 9, NFL quarterback Ron Jaworski; 10, Olympic bobsledder Steve Mesler.)



Super Bowl picks: How about that? A straight sweep for the Patriots in our staff picks.

Bettors guide: Milt Northrop guides you through the game lines and prop bets for Super Bowl LIII.

X's and O's: Check this out: Mark Gaughan wrote that the Patriots have used "21 personnel" (two running backs, one tight end, two receivers) on 44 percent on plays since Josh Gordon was suspended; the league average is under 10 percent. Gaughan wrote that the Rams typically stay in their regular defense vs. 21 personnel, meaning three linebackers are on the field. That sounds like a mismatch for running back James White in the passing game, or potentially even Gronkowski if the Rams choose to cover him with a linebacker instead of a safety. The Play to Watch for the Rams is their screen pass game – a concept Bills fans would like to see more of, too.

10 pending free agents to watch in Super Bowl LIII through a Bills lens: If you will be watching Sunday's game with your Bills glasses on, these players might be available in the offseason.


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Gronkowski sets Patriots record with 69th touchdown during blowout of Bills

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