FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Analysis from the Patriots' inactive players today:
Ridley the biggest surprise. Rookie running back Stevan Ridley, who fumbled in each of the last two games but has looked like the team's most explosive rusher, is the surprise player on the inactive list. This looks like a case where the coaching staff couldn't fully trust Ridley's ball security in a game where there could be a razor-thin margin for error. The Patriots have BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Danny Woodhead and Kevin Faulk at running back, with Lousaka Polite at fullback. Ridley isn't a big contributor on special teams, so that might also be a small factor in the decision-making process. Fellow rookie running back Shane Vereen is also inactive for the seventh straight week.
Ochocinco not part of the plan. Receiver Chad Ochocinco, who traveled to Florida on Friday night to attend his father's funeral, is inactive for the second time this season. The first time came in late November, against the Eagles, when he showed up on the injury report late in the week (hamstring) and didn't make the trip. Ochocinco played one snap last week and hasn't been a bit part of the team's attack this season (15 receptions).
Vollmer not yet ready. With third-year offensive tackle Sebastian Vollmer missing his seventh straight game (back/foot injuries), rookie Nate Solder will once again step in. Solder was on the injury report this week (concussion), but he's been cleared and that helps open up the team's "big" tight end package, when Solder is an eligible receiver and rookie Marcus Cannon enters at right tackle. Elsewhere along the offensive line, Donald Thomas is inactive; he's been used as a power fullback this season but the club is turning to pure fullback Lousaka Polite in that role of late.
Brace gets the call; beefing up along the line. Third-year defensive lineman Ron Brace is active for the first time since Dec. 18, and his presence highlights how the Patriots are going big in this game. They are expecting a physical clash and by having all of their linemen dressed, they have plenty of reinforcements.
Guyton has fallen out of favor. Fourth-year linebacker Gary Guyton has slipped all the way down the depth chart. With Brandon Spikes, Jerod Mayo and Rob Ninkovich starting at linebacker, and with backups Tracy White, Dane Fletcher and Niko Koutouvides contributing more on special teams, Guyton has been edged out for a spot on the 46-man roster.