Inactives analysis vs. Broncos

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Offering some analysis of Patriots inactives for tonight's AFC Divisional playoff tilt with the Broncos:

Chung will suit up. Safety Patrick Chung, who returned to action in the regular season finale after missing seven games to a foot injury, will play again tonight. Chung's status had been in focus this week, as he was removed from the injury report on Thursday, but returned to the report on Friday with a knee injury. The attention then turns to who will start alongside Chung. Against the Bills in Week 17, it was James Ihedigbo in the base defense, and Devin McCourty in the sub defense.

Vollmer makes progress, but not ready. Offensive tackle Sebastian Vollmer made his return to the practice field this week, and after missing over a month with back and foot ailments, was listed as questionable for tonight's game. However, he is inactive tonight. Veteran Matt Light and rookie Nate Solder remain as the starting tackles, with rookie Marcus Cannon the backup option.

Mankins makes his return. After going down with a knee injury against the Dolphins on Christmas Eve, guard Logan Mankins is active for tonight's game. Backup guard Donald Thomas, who replaced Mankins in that Week 16 game, is inactive. This means that Ryan Wendell and Nick McDonald are the reserve options along the interior offensive line.

Nate Jones a surprise inactive. Defensive back Nate Jones, who has played in five games since being signed on Nov. 30, is inactive tonight. This leaves Devin McCourty (if he does not shift to safety), Kyle Arrington, and Antwaun Molden the top options at cornerback, while Chung, Ihedigbo, Sergio Brown, and Sterling Moore are active at safety. Cornerback Malcolm Williams, whose role is expected to be limited to special teams, is also active.

Guyton falls off radar. Linebacker Gary Guyton has started 32 games since being joining the Patriots four years ago, but he is a healthy scratch tonight. Guyton has seen his playing time drop off sharply in 2011, playing virtually no role in the defense and a minimal role on special teams by the end of the regular season. An impending free agent, Guyton's time in New England may be coming to an end.

Faulk gets nod over Vereen. Rookie Shane Vereen is inactive tonight, despite being removed from the injury report on Thursday. Veteran Kevin Faulk is active and will most likely see a role in pass protection. The Patriots also have BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Stevan Ridley, Danny Woodhead, and fullback Lousaka Polite active in the backfield.