NFL Mismatches: Week 14

Updated: December 6, 2002, 1:42 PM ET
By by Ryan Early
Each week we preview the biggest mismatch in each game, one that should make an impact either through its exploitation or in changing a team's plans to try to compensate.

Falcons at Buccaneers
CBs Ronde Barber and Brian Kelly vs. WRs Brian Finneran and Shawn Jefferson
The last time the Falcons lost was in Week 5 to the Bucs. They have since gone 7-0-1 and been carried by the running of Michael Vick. His 173 yards rushing against the Vikings last week overcame yet another disappointing outing throwing the ball ase he completed less than 50 percent of his passes for the second time in three weeks. The only times Vick has been bottled up this year have been when he faced defenses that played a lot of zone, where multiple defenders were looking back into the pocket to see where Vick was. That prevents Vick from scrambling for big yardage and forces him to try to win the game with his arm. His arm is impressive, capable of launching a 60-yard strike with a flick of his wrist, but his receivers are one of the five worst starting duos in the league. Finneran and Jefferson have combined for 67 receptions for 1,027 yards. Six receivers have better stats by themselves. They face the league's best pass defense, allowing just 155 yards per game and led by CBs Ronde Barber and Brian Kelly. Barber is a seasoned vet who quarterbacks try to avoid throwing to, who knows the Bucs' version of the cover-2 defense inside and out. Kelly has been one of the league's most improved players this year. He took over the starting job late last season and is currently leading the league with six interceptions.

Bills at Patriots
RB Travis Henry vs. LB Ted Johnson
Once upon a time, Ted Johnson was one of the most feared run stuffing linebackers in the league. A number of neck injuries have hurt Johnson and turned him into a part-time player, but an injury last week to starting linebacker Tedy Bruschi will force the Patriots to use Johnson the entire game. Johnson is effective in a small area, but he can't turn and run to the sides of the field. The Patriots have struggled against the run this year mostly because they aren't strong enough to match up against most teams. The Bills had over 150 yards rushing from Travis Henry last week and will give him a lot of carries again. In their first game, Patriots coaches took their knowledge of Drew Bledsoe and forced him to move from the pocket. This time, the Bills will counter that with extra blockers, good for both picking up the blitz and helping Henry through the line.

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