How Julius Thomas could be the difference this time out

Ron Chenoy/USA Today Sports

Julius Thomas did not play against New England in Week 12 when the Patriots came from behind to beat Denver, but he'll be ready to go when the Patriots face off against Denver on Sunday. He was one of Peyton Manning's top weapons during the regular season behind Wes Welker, Demaryius Thomas, and Eric Decker. The Patriots had some trouble with his replacement, Jacob Tamme, who had 47 yards on 5 catches with a TD in the loss. So that begs the question: Can the Patriots defense cope with an even better tight end?

It will be difficult for sure - Thomas caught 6 passes for 76 yards, including several key 3rd down conversions, including 3 & 18 late in the 4th quarter against San Diego this past Sunday. If the Patriots expect to win this game, they have to minimize all of Peyton's weapons, including Julius Thomas. Stopping Julius Thomas on 3rd down will be key for the Patriots defense if they want to get off the field.

Julius Thomas could be an X factor in the game and whether the defense contain him, especially on 3rd down, is crucial to success. The answer to that question could well determine who is playing in the Super Bowl in New York in a couple of weeks.

Twitter - @ConorJF1016