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Inactive analysis for Patriots

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Analysis from the Patriots' inactive players today:

Chung, Spikes active for 1st time in months the big story. Both safety Patrick Chung (foot) and linebacker Brandon Spikes (knee) are active for the first time after each missed the last seven games. There were two different lines of thinking with both players -- save them for the playoffs, or give them a regular-season tune-up so their first action isn't in the postseason. The Patriots went for the second line of thinking and it makes sense.

Mallett inactive shows confidence in Brady. Rookie quarterback Ryan Mallett is inactive for the 13th straight week. If the Patriots had any doubts about Tom Brady's left shoulder, they might have had Mallett active. This is a sign that Brady is ready and should go wire to wire with a No. 1 seed on the line.

Trickle-down effect of White absence. In the past, Bill Belichick has mentioned that sometimes it's harder to replace a core special teams player than an offensive or defensive starter, because there often isn't one player who can fill the role of a core special teamer (kickoff coverage, kickoff return, punt coverage, punt return) -- and this is the dynamic in play with linebacker Tracy White (abdomen) out today. The Patriots promoted cornerback Malcolm Williams as part of the solution, but the team will likely have to piece it together to replace White on those four units.

Matt Light active. After he was a surprising game-time decision last week with an ankle injury, starting left tackle Matt Light is active today. That should help the team in multiple areas, starting with pass protection and power packages when Nate Solder is used as a big tight end.

Polite's presence affects Faulk. The Patriots have both Kevin Faulk and Shane Vereen inactive today, meaning that they are one man down in terms of pure runners with BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Danny Woodhead and Stevan Ridley. Fullback Lousaka Polite adds a different dynamic in the group, and could be more of a factor on special teams than Faulk would be.