The fantasy regular season has ended for most leagues. This is when it gets real. But it's also the time to start building your roster for the postseason. As we move into the fantasy postseason, Reading the Defense will take a look at some of the guys who could go boom or bust in the playoffs. Let's get to it.
Jurrell Casey, DL, Tennessee Titans: Casey's sack totals aren't as high as they were last season, but the fourth-year pro is still having one of the best all-around seasons of his career from his interior line spot. Considering the list of questionable passing games that the Titans will face over the final month of the season, there's a chance that the USC product could still add to his total of quarterback takedowns.
Playoff schedule: vs NYG, vs NYJ, at JAX
Curtis Lofton, LB, New Orleans Saints: There isn't a lot to be excited about when it comes to the NFC South ... but it's been a boon for a few IDP options. Lofton is one of those. Without the benefit of either a sack or an interception, Lofton is still a top 10 fantasy linebacker in 2014. Considering the Saints get a couple of their division rivals in their final few games, there's a chance for Lofton to add something to those columns as well.
Playoff schedule: vs CAR, at CHI, vs ATL
Morgan Burnett, DB, Green Bay Packers: After a down season in 2013, Burnett has returned to his perch as one of the top defensive backs in fantasy football. Things are looking up even more for Burnett as the temperatures dip and Lambeau Field's tundra starts to freeze. And oh yeah ... there are a slew of shaky aerial attacks on tap for Burnett to take advantage of.
Playoff schedule: vs ATL, at BUF, at TB
Jared Allen, DL, Chicago Bears: Allen had a pretty slow start to the season, but has started to return to form in recent weeks. However, a schedule that includes games against high-powered passing games and tough offensive lines over the next three weeks of the season doesn't bode well for Allen to continue his resurgence.
Playoff schedule: vs DAL, vs NO, vs DET
Nigel Bradham, LB, Buffalo Bills: The Bills defense has been among the best in the NFL all season long and at times has been greater than the sum of its parts. For the final weeks of the 2014 campaign those parts -- including Bradham -- could have a tough time succeeding against a handful of offensive juggernauts ... and the Raiders.
Playoff schedule: at DEN, vs GB, at OAK
Barry Church, DB, Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys defense in the second half of the season hasn't been quite as productive as it was early in the year. Instead, it's looked a little bit like the unit that was historically bad in 2013. Church has been part of those struggles and it won't get any easier with a pretty fearsome group of opponents in the season's final few weeks.
Playoff schedule: at CHI, at PHI, vs IND
» While the rest of the fantasy world opines about not being able to use J.J. Watt as a tight end, IDP owners have rejoiced at the defensive end's touchdown scoring prowess. Some people might call his usage on offense gimmicky, but head coach Bill O'Briendisagrees. If the Texans want to keep throwing end zone fades to Watt, we're all for it. However there's always the fear that Houston begins to use him as a decoy. Good thing he's still a beast on the defensive side of the ball.
» Meanwhile, it's been a lost season for Watt's presumed defensive bookend Jadeveon Clowney. The No. 1 overall pick has been besieged by injury all season long and has played just four games for the Texans. It's been a disappointment for the players, team and fans alike, but O'Brien is still behind Clowney, calling him "unlucky." That very well might be the case, but it won't help any IDP owners that took a chance on the rookie hoping for big things. It's not fair to completely judge Clowney on one season. Let's hope for better in 2015.
» Things continue to go wrong for the Arizona Cardinals. The team will be without safety Tyrann Mathieu for "a couple weeks" after a fractured thumb will force the second-year player to have surgery. That's a big loss for a defense that has lost Darnell Dockett and John Abraham, among others. Tony Jefferson will attempt to fill Mathieu's shoes in the secondary but will be hard-pressed to replicate the Honey Badger's production.
» Giants defensive lineman Robert Ayers is done for the remainder of the season with a torn pectoral muscle. Ayers led Big Blue with five sacks this season with three of them coming in his past five games. New York hasn't offered much on defense this season -- either in standard or IDP formats -- and now they have even less.