NFL Mismatches: Week 8

Updated: October 25, 2002, 11:32 AM ET
By by Ryan Early
Each week we preview one matchup per game that is such a mismatch that it should make an impact on the game, either through its exploitation or by changing a team's plans to try to compensate. With four high-profile teams having byes, Green Bay, Miami, St. Louis and San Diego, the league has the closest thing to a mid-season lull this weekend. But a couple teams with a surprising challenge for their division lead have a make-or-break game. The 4-2 Cardinals play the 49ers for first place in the NFC West while the Ravens and Steelers duke it out in Baltimore for sole possession of the AFC North.

Saints WR Joe Horn and RB Deuce McAllister vs.
Falcons CB Ashley Ambrose and LB Matt Stewart

Saints offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey uses a lot of three-WR formations and misdirection to create mismatches on the field, and QB Aaron Brooks is doing an excellent job of distributing the ball to exploit those mismatches. The Saints have frequently used a spread formation to give McAllister fewer defenders in the box to run against, or they will motion him out into the flat and force coverage in the open field by a linebacker. Only the best cover linebackers in the league could handle that responsibility, and Stewart isn't ready for that in his first year starting. Horn is Brooks' favorite target and has been able to get behind defenders deep as well as shake off coverage to find holes between defenders. Ambrose can position himself on the field where he rarely gets beat, thanks to his experience, but he isn't as fast as he used to be and will need plenty of deep help from his safeties when he's matched up with Horn.