The fantasy regular season is approaching its end. This is when it gets real. But it's also the time to start building your roster for the postseason. As we move closer to the fantasy postseason, Reading the Defense will start taking a look at some of the guys who could go boom or bust in the playoffs. Let's get to it.
Cameron Jordan, DL, New Orleans Saints: Jordan has turned things up in the past month, registering four sacks in his past four contests. That's erasing the unpleasant taste of the slow start Jordan experienced this season. With the Saints somehow still very much in the mix for a division title, his presence along the defensive line will still have meaning -- and with games against the equally moribund NFC South offenses, there's a chance for Jordan to make some IDP hay down the stretch.
Playoff schedule: vs CAR, at CHI, vs ATL
Alec Ogletree, LB, St. Louis Rams: Ogletree is another player who has started to come alive recently. In the past two games he notched his first two interceptions of the season as well as posting his second double-digit tackle game of the year. The Rams defense found new life in the surprising upset of the Broncos in Week 11 and now gets to face three consecutive struggling offensive units. If the players along St. Louis' defensive line can contine to create pressure up front, Ogletree could be a menace in the middle of the field.
Playoff schedule: at WAS, vs ARI, vs NYG
Antrel Rolle, DB, New York Giants: This hasn't been Rolle's strongest IDP season, but he's also been trying to help hold together a Giants' secondary that has been racked with injuries. The good news is that Rolle and Big Blue end the season against a trio of teams with questionable passing games. If there's a chance for Rolle to come alive for IDP managers, you couldn't think of a better time than the postseason.
Playoff schedule: at TEN, vs WAS, at STL
Marcell Dareus, DL, Buffalo Bills: Dareus' value has been built heavily on his sack totals, but the sacks have tended to come in bunches this year. That's bad news when you look at the opponents on the roster for the remainder of Buffalo's season. Games against the Broncos and Packers don't offer much opportunity to get to the quarterback and even a matchup with the Raiders and the mobile Derek Carr isn't a recipe for sacks.
Playoff schedule: at DEN, vs GB, at OAK
Donald Butler, LB, San Diego Chargers: The Chargers have quietly boasted one of the NFL's best defenses this season even if the fantasy totals haven't backed it up. However, the end to San Diego's season isn't likely to inspire any confidence. That's bad news for Butler who has been one of the Bolts best IDP options. Thankfully there should be plenty of other credible options at the linebacker position to help guide you through the playoffs.
Playoff schedule: vs NE, vs DEN, at SF
Reggie Nelson, DB, Cincinnati Bengals: The Bengals secondary has not been as formidable as in season's past, which is having an impact on Nelson's production. In addition, Cincinnati faces a trio of teams that have been fairly efficient in the passing game, including a Browns team that will have Josh Gordon back in action.
Playoff schedule: vs PIT, at CLE, vs DEN
» Josh Gordon is returning this week for the Cleveland Browns, which puts plenty of eyes on the Atlanta Falcons secondary. Browns offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan has suggested that Gordon could ease back into his role at the team's No. 1 receiver, but the Falconsaren't buying it. Instead Atlanta plans to have Desmond Trufant shadow Gordon all game long. That could mean plenty of opportunities for Trufant to make plays if Cleveland does indeed showcase Gordon. It could also mean a long and frustrating day if Gordon picks up where he left off last season.
» The Browns have their own defensive issues to deal with. Linebacker Karlos Dansby is dealing with a knee injury that could keep him out "upwards of a month," according to Mike Pettine. Meanwhile Jabaal Sheard might be finished for the season with a foot injury. That leaves a void that is likely to be filled by Tank Carder who has appeared in just two games this season. That's not encouraging.
» It hasn't been a great season for Ahmad Brooks. The 49ers linebacker has just 20 tackles in 2014 and was last seen removing himself from San Francisco's win over the Giants due to unhappiness with his role. But coach Jim Harbaugh says all is well with Brooks and that the linebacker plans to play this week against Washington. Maybe his role increases and helps boost his production, but I'd prefer to actually see that happen before taking a chance on Brooks -- especially with the recent emergence of rookie Chris Borland.
» After an extended absence, Jadeveon Clowney returned to the field for the Texans in Week 11. While there was very little that was remarkable about his individual performance but Clowney sounded encouraged about how he felt about his balky knee. The future remains bright for Clowney, especially playing as the bookend to J.J. Watt, but it might be asking too much to consider him a top IDP option for 2014.