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Unlucky Seven: Who will end up sitting against the Broncos?

11.23.13 at 5:03 pm ET
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In accordance with league protocol, the Patriots will release their inactives 90 minutes before kickoff on Sunday evening. But based on what’s happened this week and what the game plan might entail, here’s a guess and who will be sidelined for the contest against the Broncos:

Linebacker Steve Beauharnais: The rookie out of Rutgers has provided depth at linebacker and on special teams over the course of the season, but could be looking at another healthy scratch against the Broncos as the Patriots are looking to beef up the secondary and will likely play a ton of nickel and dime against pass-happy Denver.

Defensive end Jake Bequette: The second-year lineman out of Arkansas has been passed on the depth chart by Andre Carter and Michael Buchanan. Like Beauharnais, he’s already taken several healthy scratches to this point in the season, and the need for more defensive backs against the Broncos supersedes needs in the front seven.

Offensive lineman Chris Barker: The rookie is essentially going to take a redshirt year — if he does sit against the Broncos, it would be his seventh healthy scratch to this point in the season.

Tight end Michael Hoomanawanui: The dependable tight end suffered a knee injury in last week’s loss to the Panthers, and did not practice all week. Look for Matthew Mulligan will see an uptick in snaps as a result of Hoomananwanui’s absence.

Wide receiver Josh Boyce: The one we feel the least sure about. The rookie receiver out of TCU was active for the first time in several weeks against the Panthers in a limited role, but if the Patriots decide that newly promoted defensive back Justin Green is more vital to their success against the Broncos, Boyce could end up taking a seat. If he does, expect more opportunities for fellow rookie Kenbrell Thompkins on offense and LeGarrette Blount in the return game.

Cornerback Alfonzo Dennard: Remarkably, the defensive back was on the practice field this week only days after getting his knee checked out. At the same time, he was moving gingerly, and as a result, it wouldn’t be a surprise if he couldn’t go. But at this point, he’s the least likely of the four hobbled defensive backs (a group that includes Steve Gregory, Aqib Talib and Kyle Arrington) to play against the Broncos. With Dennard on the shelf, do you move Arrington from the slot to the outside, and then put rookie Logan Ryan in the slot against Wes Welker? Or do you keep Arrington inside and put Ryan on the outside against (presumably) Eric Decker? The answers could ultimately tell the tale of this game.

Defensive tackle Marcus Forston: Like Bequette and Beauharnais, a need for more defensive backs against the high-powered Denver passing game necessitates Forston getting bumped in favor of someone like a Green, Marquice Cole, Tavon Wilson or Nate Ebner.

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