Spike-tacular

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Spike-tacular

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (0-11) at NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (8-3)Gillette Stadium

The facts and figures for today's game:

KICKOFF: 1 p.m.

WEATHER: Partly cloudy, temperature in the low 50s. Winds out of the south southwest between 4-8 mph. Click here for NECN's complete weather forecast.

NETWORK TELEVISION COVERAGE: CBS

TV ANNOUNCERS: Marv Albert and Rich Gannon.

RADIO COVERAGE: 98.5 The Sports Hub, the flagship for the 37-station Patriots Radio Network.

RADIO ANNOUNCERS: Gil Santos, Gino Cappelletti and Scott Zolak.

COMCAST SPORTSNET COVERAGE

CSNNE.com STAFF: Tom E. Curran, Mary Paoletti, Art Martone and Danny Picard.

CSN TELEVISION: Mike Giardi and Kevin Walsh.

SPORTS SUNDAY (7:30 P.M.): Michael Felger, Troy Brown and Ty Law in Burlington; Tom E. Curran, Mike Giardi and Ron Borges in Foxboro.

DAYS OF BUCKNER: The Colts are 0-11 for the first time since 1986, when they started 0-13 before winning the final three games of that season.

SMOOTH ROAD AHEAD: The Patriots overcame an early 10-0 deficit to defeat the Eagles, 38-20 last week, moving to 8-3 on the season. New England has the easiest remaining strength of schedule in the NFL (18-37, .327).

HOW MUCH YOU WANT TO BET THIS STREAK ENDS TODAY? Including the playoffs, each of the last six games between these clubs has been decided by seven points or less, with the Colts winning four of these six contests.

DAYS OF CHANGE: The Colts fired their defensive coordinator Larry Coyer and benched starting quarterback Curtis Painter on Tuesday. Coyer will be replaced by linebackers coach Mike Murphy, while Dan Orlovsky becomes Indianapolis' third starting QB this season. Like Painter, Orlovsky is 0-7 as a NFL starter -- his only career starts coming with the 2008 Detroit Lions, who finished that season 0-16.
ACCURATE AGAIN: Tom Brady had not thrown an interception in his last 166 pass attempts in the month of December. That is the longest active streak in the NFL.

EIGHT IS GREAT: Wes Welker has eight touchdown catches this season, tying his career high, which was set back in the 2007 season. Welker had two touchdown catches in last week's win over the Eagles, his third multi-TD game on the season.

When it comes to Gronkowski's restructured deal, 15 is the magic number

When it comes to Gronkowski's restructured deal, 15 is the magic number

Rob Gronkowski's contract looked like one of the NFL's best bargains not too long ago. Now, after agreeing to a contract restructure, he could be paid as the top tight end in the league if he stays healthy.

Granted, it's a gargantuan "if."

According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Gronkowski's restructured deal will bump his salary for this upcoming season from $5.25 million to $10.75 million should he hit certain statistical thresholds or be named an All-Pro.

Per Schefter, Gronkowski earns $10.75 million if he plays 90 percent of the offensive snaps (which he's done once before in his career), or makes 80 catches (which he's done twice), or gains 1,200 yards receiving (once), or is named an All-Pro (three times). 

Those seem like lofty goals for the 28-year-old who's entering his eighth year as a pro. But history shows that if he stays on the field for a full season or thereabouts -- 15 games to be specific -- he'll get to where he wants to be. 

If you take out his rookie year, before he had established himself as a go-to option in the Patriots offense, Gronkowski has played in three seasons during which he's reached at least 15 games. In each of those three seasons, he's been named an All-Pro. In 2011, he hit all three statistical markers. In 2014, he hit one. In 2015, he hit none. 

The lesson? When Gronkowski stays relatively healthy throughout a given season, even if he doesn't reach the astronomical statistical heights he reached in his second year, there's a very good chance he's considered the best tight end in the NFL. 

And if that's the case again in 2017, he'll be paid like the best tight end in the NFL.

To hit the second tier of his restructured deal -- which would pay him $8.75 million, per Schefter -- Gronkowski needs to play 80 percent of the offensive snaps (which he's done twice), or make 70 catches (three times), or gain 1,000 receiving yards (three times), or catch 12 touchdowns (twice). 

To hit the third tier of his new deal and get $6.75 million, Gronkowski needs to play 70 percent of the snaps (which he's done four times), or make 60 catches (three times), or gain 800 receiving yards (three times), or score 10 touchdowns (five times). 

According to Spotrac, Jimmy Graham of the Seahawks is currently scheduled to be the tight end position's top earner next season at $10 million. Odds are that if Gronkowski avoids disaster and stays on the field, he'll eclipse that.

But the odds of him staying on the field are what they are: He's played in 15 games in four of seven pro seasons. 

The restructured deal seems to be the ultimate incentive for Gronkowski to get healthy and stay that way following last year's season-ending back surgery. If he can, the Patriots will reap the benefits of having the game's most dynamic offensive weapon on the field, and the player will be paid a far cry from what he was scheduled to make when the week began.

Report: Patriots, Gronkowski restructure contract for 2017 season

Report: Patriots, Gronkowski restructure contract for 2017 season

The Patriots and Rob Gronkowski have restructured the tight end’s contract for the coming season, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. 

The reworked deal can bump Gronkowski’s salary for the 2017 season from $5.25 million to $10.75 million, according to Schefter. 

Gronkowski was limited by injury to just eight games last season. He had 25 receptions for 540 yards and three touchdowns, all of which were career lows. 

The 28-year-old is entering his eighth NFL season since being selected by the Pats in the second round of the 2010 draft. He has played played in at least 15 regular-season games in four of his first seven season, though he’s twice played fewer than 10.