Groupings: Usage of TE, FB increasing

One of the things that will be charted on a weekly basis is the positional groupings used by the New England Patriots' offense, as they reveal player value and take us deeper into the X's and O's of how coordinator Josh McDaniels is attempting to attack the opposition.

For the second week in a row, the Patriots strayed away from their most prevalent grouping, the 3 WR/1 TE/1 RB, with just 18 of 72 snaps (not including kneel-downs) against the Bills. In the Week 16 win against Baltimore, the Patriots ran just 19 of their 69 snaps out of that grouping.

The season average, entering the regular-season finale, was 56.7 percent of the snaps with three or more receivers.

The change-up coincides with the Patriots' best performances running the ball, with fullback James Develin and tight ends Michael Hoomanawanui and Matthew Mulligan now logging more snaps. When the Patriots run the ball as well as they have, it opens up opportunities in the play-action passing game as well. This is a positive sign for the team in the playoffs, as bad weather often adds to the importance of being able to successfully run the ball.

For the season, here is a simplified breakdown of the team's 1,199 offensive snaps (including penalties, not kneel-downs):

3 or more WRs: 662 of 1,199 (55.2 percent)

2 backs (mostly RB/FB combo): 312 of 1,199 (26.0 percent)

2 or more TEs: 305 of 1,199 (25.4 percent)

There is an 80-play overlap, which accounts for snaps in which there was a combination of 3 WRs/2 backs and 2-3 TEs/2 backs.