WR Matthew Willis - Denver Broncos
|6-0, 195||Born: 5-13-1984||College: UCLA||Drafted: ---|
Week 21: vs Carolina Panthers
Mark and Joe say: Tough matchup. According to Bucky Brooks at NFL.com, Peyton Manning targeted 62% of his passes within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage during the regular season, and he connected on 69.9% of those throws with four touchdowns and nine interceptions. During the playoffs, 63% of his throws are of the short variety, with 35% of his throws between 10 and 19 yards, which was up from 24% during the regular season. Manning has thrown 20 of his 24 pass attempts at intermediate range to the right or middle of the field during the playoffs. The takeaway here is that Manning has thrown 98% of his passes to short or intermediate range during the two full playoff games that he has played since returning to the starting role in Week 17 of regular season. Here's what he's done in the playoffs - vs. Pittsburgh, Manning compiled 21/37 for 222 yards passing, zero TDs or interceptions thrown, with one successful two point conversion thrown to Demaryius Thomas (eight for 4/40/0). Emmanuel Sanders led the team in receiving with eight targets for 5/85/0 receiving - nobody else on the Broncos had over 40 yards receiving in the Divisional Round. During the Conference Championship showdown with New England, Manning threw a 21-yard and 12-yard TD pass to Owen Daniels - 2/33/2 receiving total for Daniels - Daniels added several yards-after-catch to the actual tosses from Manning, and Manning wound up with 17/32 for 176 yards, two TDs and zero interceptions thrown. Demaryius Thomas was awful with seven targets for 2/12/0 receiving, while Emmanuel Sanders led the team with eight targets for 5/62/0 receiving. Nobody other than Daniels or Sanders went over 20 yards receiving during the contest. The Denver passing attack is anemic entering the Super Bowl, friends. As Manning himself noted on February 2: 'My arm is what it is. Honestly, my having a little time off to heal my foot helped some of the other parts... My arm feels OK. My arm has not been the same since I was injured four years ago... If I could throw left-handed it would be a lot easier... It's just different than it was... It's got a few yards on it, miles on it, however you want to say it.' The good news for Broncos' fans is that Manning has reined in the interceptions thrown (he hasn't thrown an interception since getting back in the game Week 17). The bad news is that, as Carolina showed against Arizona two weeks ago, the Panthers are a ball-hawking secondary and they have compiled six interceptions (most among playoff teams) and eight sacks (second-most among playoff teams) over their two playoff games, to go with their 24 interceptions (first in the NFL in this category during the season) and 44 sacks generated during regular season. Manning threw nine TDs and 17 interceptions during his time on the field during regular season. Carolina comes into this game with injuries to some key defensive players - defensive end Jared Allen is working hard to overcome his fractured foot and play in Super Bowl 50, but he simply may not be healthy enough to play on Sunday - outside linebacker Thomas Davis broke his arm in the NFC Championship game, had surgery to put a plate to strengthen the fracture, and will have to wear some combination of cast/soft-cast/brace if he is well enough to play in the contest against Denver. Davis said on Monday, February 1 that he could be limited in Super Bowl 50 against the Denver Broncos, but he has every intention of playing in the game. He returned to practice and used a cast Monday. The practice status of each defender warrants attention during the late-week practices leading up to the Super Bowl. The Panthers finished regular season ranked 11th in the NFL averaging 234.5 net passing yards allowed per game, but they had less TDs allowed (21) than interceptions generated (24) - in fact, the Panthers turnover ratio of +20 was first in the NFL by far, and they led the NFL in interceptions as noted above. Over the final four weeks of regular season, Carolina wound up averaging 19.6 fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks (in the middle of the NFL range at 17th); averaged 22.4 fantasy points per game allowed to opposing wide receivers (18th); but were seventh-least in fantasy points allowed to opposing tight ends (5.7 per game on average). So far during the playoffs the Panthers have averaged 276 yards passing allowed per game (but they have won by jumping out to big leads, winning 49-15 vs. Arizona and 31-24 vs. Seattle - both teams had to throw the ball a lot to try and compete with the Panthers), with four passing scores given out vs. six interceptions generated. Carson Palmer looked dreadful in Charlotte two weeks ago (23/40 for 227 net yards passing, one TD and four interceptions thrown, with three sacks taken for -8 yards). In the Divisional round, Russell Wilson finished with 31/48 for 325 net yards passing, three TDs and two interceptions, with five sacks taken for -41 yards. The Panthers have been hard on both quarterbacks they've seen during the playoffs. This looks like a very tough matchup for the aging Manning and his receiving corps.