It seems like it just started, but in actuality the fantasy football season is nearing its conclusion, as Week 14 brings with it the beginning of the postseason in many fantasy football leagues.
The playoffs mean that not only is there no margin for error when setting lineups, but the matchups get a lot harder because only the best teams in each league are still playing.
That means that savvy fantasy owners will do everything in their power to acquire an edge at any position at which they can get one, and that search for an advantage should absolutely extend to team defenses as well.
When selecting a team defense it's as much about the matchup as the defense itself, and for this group of defenses the table is set for a very successful showing in Week 14.
Seattle Seahawks (vs. ARI)
At 7-5 the Seattle Seahawks are in the thick of the wild-card hunt in the NFC, and while the play of running back Marshawn Lynch and quarterback Russell Wilson has garnered most of the publicity, Seattle's fourth-ranked defense deserves a lot of the credit as well.
That defense, much like the offense, has had a surprising leader in rookie Bobby Wagner. The middle linebacker leads the team with 100 tackles, and Wagner has already earned the respect of teammates such as Heath Farwell, according to Clare Farnsworth of the team's website.
“Bobby’s had an exceptional year,” Farwell said. “To step in and start at that position right away as a rookie is pretty impressive, but to play as exceptionally well as he has is a sign that every week he has continued to learn and get better.”
Seattle's defensive success hasn't really translated to fantasy football, where the team ranks in the middle of the pack, but that should change this week at home against a reeling Arizona Cardinals team allowing both the most sacks and fantasy points to opposing defenses in 2012.
Cleveland Browns (vs. KC)
It's been another long year for fans of the Cleveland Browns, but at least as this season has progressed there have been glimmers of hope, including on the defensive side of the ball.
After battling injuries for much of the early part of the season the Browns defense is finally more-or-less intact, and after allowing fewer than 65 rushing yards to consecutive opponents for the first time in over 20 years middle linebacker D'Qwell Jackson recently said that's only a taste of things to come, according to Tom Reed of The Cleveland Plain Dealer.
"Guys are taking ownership of the defense," said Jackson. "Once you taste success it's like a drug, and you want to do anything you can to get it again. Guys are developing good habits and gaining confidence because they are starting to see that success."
The Cleveland defense has posted excellent fantasy production in two of its last three games, and the odds are good that the Browns make it three out of four this week against a Kansas City Chiefs team giving up the fourth-most fantasy points to defenses this year.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (vs. PHI)
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have made significant strides as a football team in their first season under new head coach Greg Schiano, and while some of those strides have come on the defensive side of the ball, it's been something of a mixed bag.
Granted, no team in the National Football League has allowed fewer yards on the ground than the Buccaneers, who surrender less than 85 yards a game. However, as stingy as the Bucs are on the ground they're equally as porous through the air, ranking 31st in the NFL in pass defense.
That makes the Buccaneers something of a risky fantasy play in Week 14, but as matchups go it doesn't get a whole lot better than facing a Philadelphia Eagles team that leads the NFC in giveaways, is starting a rookie quarterback and has allowed the third-most fantasy points to opposing defenses this season.