Divisional Playoff Mismatches

Updated: January 9, 2004, 2:48 PM ET
By By Ryan Early | NFL Insider
The game of pro football is predicated on individual match-ups. Coaches seek out a match-up in their favor and devise a game plan to take advantage. Each week we preview one lopsided match-up that should make an impact on the game, either through its exploitation or in changing a team's plans to try to compensate. For the postseason, we highlight three mismatches in each game to give you a more well-rounded view of the entire game.

Panthers at Rams
FS Aeneas Williams vs. QB Jake Delhomme
This season, Aeneas Williams moved from cornerback to free safety and played at a Pro Bowl level. The Rams rely on his quarterbacking the secondary, never being out of position, and being able to break on the ball after reading the quarterback's eyes. Last week against the Cowboys, Jake Delhomme had a fantastic game, but it was thanks to his offensive line buying him time against the Dallas blitz and being able to exploit single coverage on his wide receivers. The Rams won't have to blitz as often to put pressure on the Panthers quarterback, and Williams will be able to make plays on the ball. The Rams defensive philosophy is geared almost entirely on the pass. They rank 20th in the league in rushing yards allowed, giving up 123.8 per game, but their run defense has gotten worse as the season has progressed, allowing 141 over the last nine games. The Panthers will try to exploit this with plenty of running plays for Stephen Davis, but if the Rams figure they can give up four yards on first down and another four on second down if they force the incompletion on third.

DT Kris Jenkins vs. LG Andy McCollum

While the entire front four of the Panthers got a lot of hype this year, no one lived up to it more than Kris Jenkins. He can collapse the pocket, tie up multiple blockers, and knife through to create penetration. The scariest thing about him is that he is only 24 years old, and has not yet reached the top of his game. He'll be going up against the weakest part of the Rams offensive line in left guard Andy McCollum. The Rams line as a unit has tons of talent, but has not done a good job coming together. They don't have a feel for each other and have a rough time picking up blitzes. Rams quarterback Marc Bulger has a tendency to hold onto the ball too long, making their job that much tougher. McCollum has good leg strength and can hold Jenkins up if he gets directly in front of him, but Jenkins plays with better leverage and will be able to angle away from the guard and get into the pocket.