NFC South Player Analysis
Matt Wilson, FantasySharks.com, Staff Writer

Carolina Panthers (vs Denver Broncos)

QB Cam Newton: On paper this is the toughest matchup of Newton's 2015-2016 campaign. The Denver Broncos defense allowed the fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks during the regular season and topped the NFL with 52 sacks. So far in the AFC playoffs, Denver ceded a 339-0-0 passing line to Ben Roethlisberger (sacked him three times) and a 310-1-2 passing line to Tom Brady (sacked him four times). The Broncos also have been tough against the run all season, so the Panthers offense will live and die with Newton's arm and his legs. The Carolina gunslinger is playing the best football of his career while leading an offense that's clicking on all cylinders. The Broncos defense is not the same animal away from Mile High Stadium, so don't bet against Newton. ( 241 yds pass with 2 TDs and 1 Int; 38 yds rush and 1 TD )

QB Derek Anderson: On the off chance that Cam Newton is cut down by an injury, Anderson is good enough to save the day. Although the 32-year-old pocket passer lacks Newton's scrambling ability, Anderson has a very strong arm and a rock-solid command of the Carolina offense. During two injury relief starts last season, Anderson went 2-0 and completed 67 percent of his throws. ( 5 yds pass )

RB Jonathan Stewart: Even though Stewart (ankle) didn't find the end zone in either of the Panthers' two playoff victories, he ran well overall, averaging a very healthy 4.9 yards per carry. The workhorse also logged 20.5 combo touches and 99.5 combo yards per game. He's going to receive a heavy workload in the Super Bowl, but Stewart's matchup is a toughie. During the regular season, the Denver Broncos defense gave up the 11th-fewest fantasy points to the running back position, and Denver ceded only 76 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns to enemy running backs in two playoff contests. The Broncos, however, allowed the eighth-most receptions to the running back position during the regular season, so maybe...just maybe...Stewart, who rarely catches more than a few passes per game, will do some damage as a receiver if he can't get on track as a runner. ( 55 yds rush; 1 catch for 7 yds )

RB Mike Tolbert: Tolbert (knee) left the NFC Championship game early due to a knee injury, but, according to media reports, he's expected to be a full go for the Super Bowl. Operating as the backup to workhorse Jonathan Stewart during the Panthers' playoff run, Tolbert has amassed a paltry 35 combo yards on 11 combo touches. The Denver Broncos defense gave up the 11th-fewest fantasy points to the running back position during the regular season, and Denver ceded only 76 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns to enemy running backs in two playoff outings. Facing a tough matchup with a predictably small workload, there's no reason to get excited about Tolbert's fantasy prospects. Denver, however, allowed the eighth-most receptions to enemy running backs during the regular season, so maybe...just maybe...Tolbert, who is a very capable receiver, can do a little damage that way. ( 13 yds rush; 1 catch for 9 yds )

RB Fozzy Whittaker: Whittaker (ankle) tweaked his ankle during the NFC Championship game, but he should be ready for the Super Bowl thanks to an extra week of rest. However, don't expect Whittaker to be a fantasy factor since he's operating as the Panthers' third-string tailback behind workhorse Jonathan Stewart and Mike Tolbert. In one playoff outing, Whittaker amassed minus-two rushing yards on two carries and failed to catch his only target. ( 7 yds rush; 1 catch for 3 yds )

RB Cameron Artis-Payne: The rookie was a healthy scratch for the NFC Championship game likely because of his fumble in the Panthers' Divisional Round contest and the return of veteran Fozzy Whittaker (ankle). Unless either Whittaker or Mike Tolbert (knee) is unable to suit up for the Super Bowl, don't expect Artis-Payne to see much action - assuming he's not a healthy scratch again. ( 17 yds rush; 1 catch for 5 yds )

WR Ted Ginn Jr.: Thanks to facing Richard Sherman (Seahawks) and Patrick Peterson (Cardinals), respectively, in consecutive weeks, Ginn has amassed a tiny 2-52-0 receiving line on three targets and a 1-22-1 rushing line so far in the postseason. Cam Newton's speedy deep threat draws yet another challenging matchup versus a Denver Broncos defense that yielded the fewest fantasy points to the wideout position during the regular season. Bradley Roby likely will shadow Ginn for a good portion of the game. It's worth pointing out that the Broncos had problems containing the speedy Martavis Bryant (Steelers), who racked up a 9-154-0 receiving line against them in the Wild Card Round. Maybe Ginn will do more damage than expected, but he's a boom-or-bust option as usual. ( 3 yds rush; 4 catches for 64 yds and 1 TD )

WR Devin Funchess: Even though the rookie started both of Carolina's playoff contests and scored in one of them, Funchess averaged just two targets per game. The Denver Broncos defense allowed the fewest fantasy points to enemy wideouts during the regular season. Since the Broncos likely will focus on containing Ted Ginn and Corey Brown, Funchess could receive some extra targets, but the touchdown-dependent and rarely targeted wideout is a hit-or-miss option as usual. ( 3 catches for 41 yds )

WR Corey Brown: Speedy Brown's 4-113-1 receiving line on seven targets against the Arizona Cardinals was a huge surprise and a major fluke, because he hadn't caught more than three passes or amassed more than 59 receiving yards in a game all year. The Denver Broncos defense yielded the fewest fantasy points to the wideout position during the regular season, and Brown's big game against the Cardinals likely will earn him some extra attention from Aqib Talib. While Brown is a boom-or-bust option as usual, there is one thing to keep in mind: Broncos defensive backs have struggled on occasion against speedy receivers. ( 1 yd rush; 2 catches for 33 yds )

WR Jerricho Cotchery: The 33-year-old possession wideout has been quiet during the Panthers' two-game playoff run, compiling receiving lines of 3-22-0 on four targets and 2-17-0 on two targets, respectively. While Cotchery will make at least a couple of his trademark chain-moving grabs in this contest, the Panthers' No. 4 wideout won't be a fantasy factor with Chris Harris likely shadowing him. ( 1 yd rush; 3 catches for 36 yds )

TE Greg Olsen: With 12 catches for 190 yards and one touchdown in two postseason games played, Olsen has been far and away the Panthers' most productive receiver. He draws yet another favorable matchup versus a Denver Broncos defense that coughed up the 11th-most fantasy points to enemy tight ends. Since the Broncos likely will have success containing Carolina's wideouts, Cam Newton will be looking for his top target early and often. ( 5 catches for 68 yds )

TE Ed Dickson: Greg Olsen's backup has averaged two targets per game in two postseason contests played. Even though the Denver Broncos defense allowed the 11th-most fantasy points to the tight end position during the regular season, Dickson won't receive enough targets to be fantasy relevant. ( 1 catch for 9 yds )

PK Graham Gano: Gano is kicking for an offense that's clicking on all cylinders, and his matchup against the Denver Broncos looks much better than expected on paper. During the regular season, the Broncos defense ranked just 15th in fantasy points allowed to enemy kickers, and Denver has ceded eight points per game to opposing kickers in two postseason contests. ( 3 XPs, 2 FGs )

Def Carolina Panthers: The Carolina Panthers defense has been absolutely dominant in the postseason. In two contests played, this unit racked up 7.0 sacks and 9.0 takeaways while allowing an average of 19.5 points per game. The aggressive Panthers will get the best of a plodding, conservative Denver Broncos offense that has made few mistakes (4.0 sacks allowed, 1.0 turnover) but has scored just 21.5 points per game and has hit pay dirt just three times in two contests played. ( 3 sacks, 2 INTs, 1 Fumble )



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