You probably already were worried about Matt Ryan. In fact, you probably already despise Matt Ryan with every fiber of your being after you spent on average a third-round pick to acquire his services in August, and he enters December — and the last week of the fantasy football regular season — as the 12th-ranked fantasy quarterback, well behind a number of others who occupied far cheaper draft real estate (Alex Smith, Ben Roethlisberger, and Tony Romo, to name a few).
So what should you do now? Run away, mostly.
In fairness, much of Ryan’s downfall this year has been a product of injuries which have put a heavy burden on his arm. Julio Jones’ 2013 season is now a distant memory, Roddy White has either been out or not at all himself, and we can say the same about Steven Jackson. So what we’re left with then is a quarterback who’s averaging 40.3 pass attempts per game, the first time in his career that volume has exceeded 40. Without Jones and White for most of the year, he’s on pace for 26 touchdowns (down from 32 last year), though with so much garbage time to work with he’s chugging towards his second-highest passing yardage total (4,596 yards).
There’s hope then, just none today. Ryan’s last booming game came in Week 7 when he posted 22 fantasy points on the Buccaneers, and he did that with three touchdowns while completing 76.9 percent of his passes, and with a YPA of 10.5. But in five games since then he’s averaged only 10.4 fantasy points, with a poor TD:INT ratio during that stretch (5:9). With White healthy now — or at least as healthy as he’ll possibly be this season — the problem is protection. Oh, and what a black hole of a problem it is.
Today, that problem is also the reason why going anywhere near Ryan is a good way to ensure you don’t win a crucial matchup that will clinch a fantasy playoff berth. Just down the street from where I currently sit, Ryan’s Falcons will continue their listless season against the Bills (it’s cold and raining, FYI, but that matters little in the closed concrete jungle that is the Rogers Center…homefield advantage!). That Bills team has a defense which couldn’t have a more ideal matchup, and therefore the opposite is true for Ryan.
Ryan is coming off a five-sack hurtful affair against the Saints last week, which now serves as a likely accurate litmus test for what he’ll face today. Both the Saints and Bills enter this week with 37 sacks as a team, putting both on pace for 53. What’s especially daunting about the Bills’ is that 23 of those sacks come from just three members of their front four: Mario Williams, Kyle Williams, and Marcel Dareus. The latter Williams woke up with a wonky back Friday morning and has been listed as questionable for the late start this afternoon, but he still seems likely to play. Meanwhile, the former Williams led the league in sacks at one point this year, and although he’s now gone three games without a quarterback takedown, he’s still logged three two-sack games, including 4.5 against the Panthers in Week 2. That’s pretty alright.
Then there’s a secondary led by a now healthy Stephon Gilmore, and Jairus Byrd while he plays his last games as a Bill. That defensive backfield is giving up only 229.0 passing yards per game, and an opposing passer rating of 80.5. Trying to find the promise there for Ryan is difficult.
Benching Ryan, though, has always been easier written than done because you drafted him so high, and surely waited so very long to draft another quarterback (if you drafted another one at all). To the waiver wire you go then, even at this late hour. To name just a few, Josh McCown is still unowned in nearly 70% of Yahoo leagues and he’ll be chucking against the 29th-ranked Vikings pass defense today, and as painful as it may be to start him, Carson Palmer is legitimately a fine plug and play this week. He’s unowned in over half of Yahoo leagues, he faces the Eagles and their league-worst pass D, and Palmer has passed for 733 yards with four touchdowns and zero picks over the past two weeks.
And you know what’s the most appealing about those two? They’re not Matt Ryan.