Receiver Chad Ochocinco was inactive for the AFC Championship Game and played one snap in the divisional-round win over the Broncos. Will he be active for the Super Bowl?
Let's explore the different layers of this question:
1. Receiver depth chart: The Patriots have Wes Welker and Deion Branch 1-2 at the position. They play the majority of snaps, with Julian Edelman serving as the No. 3 option of late. Tiquan Underwood (3rd year), Ochocinco and Matthew Slater (4th year) round out the depth chart, with Slater's primary contributions coming as a Pro Bowl special teams performer. The Patriots have usually dressed either five or six receivers this year.
2. Offensive structure: The Patriots run the majority of their snaps with two receivers, two tight ends and one running back. Because tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez are versatile, it gives the Patriots flexibility to do a lot of different things within that package, and lessens the importance a No. 3, 4 and 5 receiver.
3. Gronkowski's health: Gronkowski's injured left ankle could be tied to Ochocinco's chances of landing on the 46-man game-day roster. Because the Patriots don't have a backup tight end, when Gronkowski left Sunday's game with injury, they subbed in receiver Julian Edelman to take his place. If there is some question about Gronkowski's ability to play at a high level from wire to wire -- which he usually does -- Bill Belichick might want to add insurance at receiver on the game-day roster.
4. Ochocinco's limitations: With no contributions on special teams, Ochocinco is limited in what he brings to the table. Those limitations are magnified when considering he's not a part of the team's up-tempo, no-huddle attack, which has proven to be a lethal weapon for the offense. Ochocinco totaled 15 receptions in the regular season and has played in the more deliberate, no-huddle package (e.g. Oakland, Oct. 2), some two-receiver sets in place of Deion Branch, and the three-receiver package as the third option at different times this season.
As is the case with any roster decision, a look at the complete picture helps give important context.
Click on "read full post" below for one view of each position on the Patriots' roster, and which players are locks to be active for the Super Bowl, which players are on the bubble, and which players are likely to be inactive.
Locks: Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer
Inactive: Ryan Mallett
Locks: BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Danny Woodhead
Bubble: Kevin Faulk, Lousaka Polite (FB), Stevan Ridley
Inactive: Shane Vereen
Locks: Deion Branch, Julian Edelman (also CB), Matthew Slater*, Wes Welker
Bubble: Chad Ochocinco, Tiquan Underwood
Locks: Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez
Locks: LT Matt Light, LG Logan Mankins, C Dan Connolly, RG Brian Waters, RT Nate Solder, C/G Ryan Wendell
Bubble: RT Marcus Cannon, C/G Nick McDonald, RT Sebastian Vollmer (health)
Inactive: RG Donald Thomas
Locks: Mark Anderson, Brandon Deaderick, Shaun Ellis, Kyle Love, Gerard Warren, Vince Wilfork
Bubble: Ron Brace
Locks: Dane Fletcher*, Niko Koutouvides*, Jerod Mayo, Rob Ninkovich, Brandon Spikes, Tracy White*
Inactive: Gary Guyton
Locks: CB Kyle Arrington, S Sergio Brown*, S Patrick Chung, S James Ihedigbo, CB/S Devin McCourty, CB Antwaun Molden, CB/S Sterling Moore, CB Malcolm Williams*
Bubble: CB/S Nate Jones
Locks: K Stephen Gostkowski, P Zoltan Mesko, LS Danny Aiken
* Core special teams player