FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- There will be more clarity on two of the New England Patriots' more pressing roster-related questions entering Sunday's AFC Championship Game: Will receiver Malcolm Mitchell be activated to the 53-man roster, and is the injury that top special-teams player Jonathan Jones (No. 4 cornerback) suffered serious enough to knock him out for the rest of the season?
Wednesday is the deadline for the Patriots' decision on Mitchell, and here are a few of the dynamics in play:
Mitchell, Jones could be tied together: If the injury to Jones lands him on injured reserve, that could open a spot for Mitchell that wouldn't have otherwise been there. Then the majority of Jones' special-teams duties -- and his role as No. 4 corner -- could be filled by Johnson Bademosi, who was a healthy scratch in the AFC divisional round.
Is it worth activating Mitchell even if he doesn't play? At this point, without having played all season (knee), Mitchell wouldn't be cracking the top-3 of the receiver rotation that is made up of Brandin Cooks, Chris Hogan and Danny Amendola. The No. 4 spot is Phillip Dorsett's, and while he dressed for the AFC divisional round, he didn't play a single snap. So Mitchell would really be insurance in the event of injury to any of those players, which sparks this question: Would the Patriots really activate Mitchell for the possibility that he could play in one game, the Super Bowl? That seems like a tough spot to put him in, although insurance can still be valuable to have. As head coach Bill Belichick has said in the past, "Nobody needs insurance until you need insurance."
Lot of ground to make up: Belichick hasn't struck the most optimistic tone when asked about Mitchell in recent weeks. The general theme is that Mitchell has a lot of ground to make up after missing all season and returning to practice for the first time in late December. That's why the odds have seemed longer for him to be activated. Wednesday should clear up the picture, as it is learned if Jones' injury has any impact on those odds.