- Eric Karabell, ESPN.com Senior Writer
I can't think of many cases in which I call an injury a "good thing" in fantasy football, but the fact is, those who have been relying on Matt Ryan shouldn't be too upset about the Atlanta Falcons' quarterback already being ruled out for the team's Week 13 game against the Philadelphia Eagles because of turf toe. If you noticed the trend in our rankings, we weren't counting on Ryan for much anyway, as he's been struggling for much of this season and rarely approaching his draft-day value. Now you have no choice but to sit him, which you should have been doing anyway.
Ryan will be replaced by Chris Redman, who looked pretty good in relief Sunday, throwing for 243 yards and two touchdowns for a nice 17 fantasy points. But since it was against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, it's foolish to overrate the performance and expect that against the Eagles. Is Redman as good as Ryan? Of course not. But does this quarterback change, obviously forced because of injury, hurt other members of the Falcons? I don't think it hurts one bit.
On the contrary, the way Ryan had been playing, and with health question marks at running back, I wonder if I might actually bump up Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez in my rankings this week. White hasn't had a bad season by any means, despite Ryan's inconsistent play, and one of fantasy's top wide receivers the previous two seasons was targeted 13 times Sunday. What do we always infer when a backup quarterback -- young and raw, or old but rusty -- enters a game and must start the following week? That he'll lean heavily on his star players, and certainly White and Gonzalez are of that caliber. The Eagles can prepare for Redman, a career backup who has started just 10 times in a 10-year career, and there's little chance I would expect Redman to deliver another 17 fantasy points, but he's going to be throwing the ball plenty, and as such, his targets retain their value.
White is on pace for 81 receptions, 1,120 yards and 10 touchdowns, so I wouldn't call that any kind of a bust season, even though he produced a few more catches and yards than that the previous two seasons. Some of those 2007 numbers even came with Redman slingin' the pigskin. In fact, that Falcons team, caught off-guard late in the summer by the Michael Vick saga, watched White emerge with Redman, Joey Harrington and Byron Leftwich throwing the ball. That speaks volumes. White's numbers were somewhat better with Ryan at quarterback in 2008, but not all that much. Redman threw 10 touchdown passes in four 2007 starts, and White caught three of them. This doesn't prove Redman and White will perform better statistically, but I think White has proven quarterback play isn't critical to his performance, as he and Redman hooked up for the game-winning touchdown in the final minute Sunday. As for Gonzalez, he was on the Kansas City Chiefs last season ... and still caught 96 passes and scored 10 touchdowns. 'Nuff said. He's the No. 4 tight end in fantasy this season. I have no concerns no matter who the quarterback is.
I can't say why Ryan took a step back this season, but after opening with five touchdowns and one interception -- a total of 35 fantasy points -- against the Miami Dolphins and Carolina Panthers, he managed to top 11 fantasy points only twice in eight full games. Only 11 fantasy points against the Chicago Bears? Seven against the Washington Redskins? Maybe expectations were too high. Certainly the terrific play of Michael Turner altered the team's game plan a bit, but that doesn't explain how Ryan turned the ball over 12 times in a five-game span from Weeks 6 to 10. At this time, we don't know if Turner will play this week, or if Jason Snelling and/or Jerious Norwood will carry the load.
Ryan was drafted as a fantasy starting quarterback, eighth at the position, and his owners were still using him that way in Week 12. Ryan was the ninth-most-active quarterback in ESPN leagues for Week 12! Yes, it was a fortuitous matchup against the awful Buccaneers, but he was active in more leagues than Brett Favre was. That shouldn't be happening. For the season, Ryan is 18th among quarterbacks in fantasy points, behind such names as Jay Cutler, David Garrard and Kyle Orton. This injury isn't a good thing, of course, but if it forces fantasy owners to look at better options, then it served a valuable purpose.
Eric Karabell discusses the Atlanta Falcons' fantasy prospects without Matt Ryan at quarterback.