A lot of talk going into the AFC Championship game this weekend is whats going to be different from the last time these two teams met back in week 11. A lot of that talk centered on players that might have missed the last game or role players that will have to step up.
But a key stat that is going under the radar is how one of the best Patriots players was playing hurt in that game but is healthy now.
Interesting to note that Julian Edelman played <50% of the snaps against the Colts in week 11. His return changes play call complexion.
— Rich Hill (@PP_Rich_Hill) January 15, 2015
Julian Edelman was dealing with a thigh injury in that game which limited his snaps. While he did manage to catch 5 passes for 50 yards he wasn't used in the return game at all. All three Colts punts were fielded by Danny Amendola for a net of 6 return yards.
That's not to knock Amendola but it does go to show how good of a punt returner Julian Edelman really is. In fact he has to be considered as one of the top two punt returners in the NFL with the Steelers Antonio Brown the other. With Edelman back there, he could dramatically change the offense's starting position or even take one back for a score.
With a healthy Edelman on offense, the Colts will have to devote considerable attention to him. That won't allow them to move their top corner Vontae Davis down to cover Gronk without leaving a Greg Toler or a Darius Butler on the hard to cover Edelman. Even if they leave Davis on Edelman, Davis has been limited with a groin injury all week that could slow him down in coverage.
So if you're looking for an X-factor in this game, look no further than Julian Edelman. Who knows, maybe he'll even get to throw another touchdown pass.
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