Matt Ryan :: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Chances are when the Falcons and Saints step onto the field at the Georgia Dome this Sunday, a bad ankle and a shortage of offensive linemen will mean Matt Ryan will be watching from the sideline, leaving Chris Redman at the helm of Atlanta's offense. To Ryan's fantasy owners this might not be the worst development.
Following a stellar rookie campaign during which he threw for 215 yards per game with 16 touchdowns and 11 interceptions, Ryan hasn't experienced the natural bounce that second year starters usually enjoy. His yards per game have fallen to 208.2, and while he's equaled his 16-game TD total in just 11 games, he's already surpassed his interception total for all of last season.
That brings us back to this week. With Ryan -- who has a season high of just 29 fantasy points -- out, that gives you a chance to catch lightning in a bottle, whether it's with Oakland's suddenly scorching-hot Bruce Gradkowsi against the Redskins or the shotgun-wielding Alex Smith facing the Cardinals.
And as for the impact on the rest of the Falcons, with Michael Turner's ankle sidelining him again,and Jerious Norwood not yet back up to speed, Jason Snelling should see an uptick in carries again, but the offense will fall squarely on the shoulders of Redman, who has been adequate the last two weeks filling in. Most important to fantasy owners, there hasn't been a drop-off in production for Roddy White, who has scores in two straight games, with a 104-yard showing against Asante Samuel and the Eagles, or Tony Gonzalez, who has a combined 17 catches and 155 yards.
At the very start of the season I proclaimed in this space that after years of participating in too many leagues, I would be concentrating my efforts on just two; the long-running Sports Illustrated Football Association (SIFA) that can trace its beginnings to the Frenchy Fuqua Appreciation Society (FF), a league that once counted a young actor named Vince Vaughn as a member of the team "Two Sweet Kids"; and the NFL.com Experts League that would be played out for all the world to see. Well, that strategy paid off as neither of my teams take to the field this week, since both have qualified for first-round playoff byes.
In SIFA, a 14-team league comprised of many of your favorite current and former SI and SI.com personalities (including Ben Reiter, Joe Lemire, Richard Deitsch, Pete McEntegart, Lars Anderson, Pablo Torre, Albert Chen), my squad experienced a very odd season, placing first overall in points scored AND first overall in points against. What makes it even more odd was that I started Byron Leftwich two games and Seneca Wallace in another and won all three. What I love most about this team is that I completely followed my mantra that I share every draft season. Only draft players who you like. As a 'Canes and Orange alum, I was very happy to feature Reggie Wayne, Frank Gore and Donovan McNabb. Every week, no matter how many points my team scored, my opponent made it a contest.
In the NFL.com league, a classic 12-team setup, I scuffled to a 3-4 start but rattled off a half-dozen straight wins to the top record in the league and my current first-round bye. Looking back at that draft I can't believe that I had the success that I ended up enjoying having drafted Greg Jennings, Matt Ryan, Julius Jones, Anthony Fasano, the Cowboys defense, Ramses Barden, etc. Each week it seemed like I was able to pick up another great player off of waivers or through free agency, eventually adding Vernon Davis, Heath Miller, Eli Manning, Mike Wallace, Pierre Garcon, and the Cardinals defense, all which led me on my late-season surge.
This proves once again that in order to be a successful fantasy owner you have to be constantly improving your team by being a firm believer in the old Branch Rickey adage: "Luck is the residue of design."
SI.com is running a series of the top players, events, teams, etc. of the decade the next couple of weeks, and while I contributed in a couple of non-fantasy ways (best new stadiums and biggest trades regardless of sports), and having researched the Team of the 2000s for the Sports illustrated Football Book, a beautiful coffee table tome ideal for holiday gift-giving, I thought it would be fun to deem the best fantasy lineup of the decade, both by totals and by single seasons. Of course, Drew Brees, Chris Johnson and Vernon Davis have a chance to jump into the single season squad at the last minute, but for now, here goes.
QB Tom Brady, Patriots 2007 4,806 pass. Yds., 50 TDs, 8 ints.
RB LaDainian Tomlinson, Chargers 2006 1,815 rush yds., 508 rec. yards, 31 TDs
RB Shaun Alexander, Seahawks 2005 1,880 rush yds, 78 rec. yds., 28 TDs
WR Randy Moss, Patriots 2007 98 catches, 1,493 rec. yds., 23 TDs
WR Randy Moss, Vikings 2003 111 catches, 1,632 rec. yds., 17 TDs
WR Marin Harrison, Colts 2002 143 catches, 1,722 rec. yds., 11 TDs
TE Antonio Gates, Chargers 2004 81 rec., 964 rec. yds., 13 TDs
Flex Priest Holmes, Chiefs 2003 1,420 rush yds., 690 rec. yds., 27 TDs
K Jeff Wilkins, Rams 2003 39-42 FG, 46-46 XP, 163 points
Defense 2000 Ravens, 10.3 ppg allowed, 35 sacks, 22 forced fum., 23 int., 3 ret. TD
2000-2009 OverallQB Peyton Manning, Colts 265 pass yds./g, 1.96 pass TD/g
RB LaDainian Tomlinson, Chargers 118.2 scrim. yds./g, 1.09 TD/g
RB Clinton Portis, Redskins 108.0 scrim. yds./g 0.72 TD/g
WR Randy Moss, Vikings, Raiders, Patriots 77.6 scrim. yds./g, 0.77 TD/g
WR Terrell Owens, 49ers, Eagles, Cowboys, Bills 84.2 scrim. yds./g, 0.82 TD/g
WR Marvin Harrison, Colts 80.4 scrim. yds./g, 0.73 TD/G
TE Tony Gonzalez, Chiefs, Falcons 63.6 scrim. yds./g, 0.43 TD/g
Flex Priest Holmes, Ravens, Chiefs 114.3 scrim. yds./g, 1.05 TD/g
K David Akers, Eagles 1.6 FG/g, 2.5 XP/g, 7.5 ppg
Defense Ravens 51 return TDs, 17.2 ppg allowed, 301.5 yds. allowed/g
Send your fantasy football questions to me on Twitter at SI_DavidSabino. As usual I'll be taking questions all week, but especially on Sunday AM, leading up to the kickoffs of the early kickoffs.