Fantasy football: Matt Ryan is a risky play

This week in Higher/Lower/Over/Under we're focused. I mean focused like the U.S. Government in finding Abu Nazir. (Farewell, Jamey Sheridan. You would have been a horrible President.) So we're changing it up this week and going in depth on a few huge questions that are out there for the first round of the playoffs. And just to cover all your bases, if you are in a 'Homeland'-only fantasy league, it's time to waive Brody's son, Carrie's sister and her dad, because they're not producing. Instead, pick up the agent who got shot in Gettysburg, Flynn and Ben Kingsley. I know, you want to waive Brody's daughter too - who doesn't groan every time she's on the screen - but she still gets the ball a ton.

1: The number of players the Jets quarterback situation will affect in fantasy. Under. Regardless of who plays quarterback for the majority of the Jaguars game, there's two great starts on the Jets. Who knew, right? But the Jets defense has some terrific matchups coming up. Jacksonville, Tennessee and San Diego are their next three games. It'll be tough to find a better three-week stretch for any defense in that period. Also, mark my words - here comes Shonn Greene back into fantasy relevance. 104 yards on Sunday (and would have had a touchdown had he not taken a knee), he's even more valuable than the Jets 'D because of the soft opposition ahead of him. As the season goes on, the Jets will continue to try to run their opponents into submission. Greene doubled the carries of Bilal Powell last week, so it's clearly his job for the stretch run, as New York also wants to evaluate him for next season. Don't play him at your peril.

Week 14 Start 'Em, Sit 'Em

Young quarterbacks highlight Michael Fabiano's list of starts and sits heading into the first week of the fantasy playoffs. More ...

2: Number of leagues I'm benching Matt Ryan in for the first round of my fantasy playoffs. Push. This is not to say I'm closing the door on him entirely. I called him the Matthew Stafford Breakout Quarterback of 2012, and so far, he's followed Stafford's 2011 timeline almost exactly: Great the first ten weeks, struggled the next three, then finished strongly. Ryan was terrific through Week 9, but the last three he's been fantasy brutal. He nearly cost me a playoff spot in both leagues I have him (and I don't forget things like that!). I think he'll rebound at some point, but man, he's hard to go right back to this week. On the road at Carolina, where the Panthers are a Top 10 defensive team in most passing categories. Who are my backups? Colin Kaepernick, who hosts Miami, and Russell Wilson, who has 11 touchdown passes in the last five games and is at home against Arizona. I know it's a tough decision to bench a stud but Kaepernick and Wilson are the real things.

3: The number of tight ends you can likely pick up this week off the waiver wire and start. Over. Let's see. Brandon Myers, Greg Olsen, Kyle Rudolph, Jacob Tamme, Jared Cook, and Dallas Clark are all owned in less than 50% of all nfl.com leagues. And you know what? They're all worthy of starting unless you have Jimmy Graham, Tony Gonzalez, Jason Witten or Aaron Hernandez. Those guys are in your lineup no matter what. Everyone else is fair game. Seriously, even Owen Daniels, Heath Miller and Jermaine Gresham are on an even setting with the free agents I mentioned. Myers is a monster and is a must-start. Olsen the same. Rudolph is terrific (as long as Percy Harvin is still out). Tamme is taking away red zone targets from Eric Decker (who you should also bench this week - he's been invisible the last month). Cook has heated up in December in each of the last two years and looks to be doing so again. This season at tight end, you have to play the hot hand, and stop waiting for players like Vernon Davis, Antonio Gates and JerMichael Finley to snap out of it. If they haven't by now, it ain't gonna happen.

5: Number of fantasy points for Larry Fitzgerald this week. Under. I could have set this at three and still gone under. He's got five receptions for 65 yards - in the last three games. That used to be a good half for him. It's naïve to think suddenly that John Skelton's suddenly going to make Fitzgerald a star again. So what do you do? At BEST for you, he's a flex. And even then I'm not sold on him. I can't start him even as a No. 2, he's got the worst possible matchup this week playing at Seattle. The Cardinals have the worst offensive line in football and this isn't getting better any time soon. And here's a tip a week ahead of time - if the Lions defense is available pick them up because they play at Arizona next week.

50: The number of 'What's your one piece of advice for the playoffs?' tweets I'll get this week. Over. I've heard a lot of different philosophies when owners get to the post-season. "I'm sticking with my team, no free agents." Or, "I'm panicking and picking up every guy looking for a spark." To everyone, I'll say this: Treat each week like it's the regular season. Pick up the free agents you'd normally pick up, and start them accordingly. Don't reach, but don't be too beholden to who you've been playing. Pretend it's Week 4. What would you do then? Do that now. An underachieving running back the first three weeks of the season? He'd sit on your bench. An underachieving running back the last three weeks? He should sit this week as well. Play the matchups like you normally would. Sitting Justin Blackmon this week doesn't mean you won't go back to him at some point.

Jason Smith hosts NFL Fantasy Live on the NFL Network and writes fantasy and other pith for NFL.com. Talk to him on Twitter @howaboutafresca, and listen to his Fantasy Podcast with Michael Fabiano and Elliot Harrison every week on nfl.com. He only asks you never bring up when the Jets play poorly.

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