The consequences are serious now that we are in the playoff stretch of the fantasy season. Matchups can come down to the minutia of which defensive lineman has the better matchup against turnstile offensive tackles or which defensive back has the greatest potential to pick off a pass facing a sloppy signal-caller. While we discussed at length some talents to target for the playoffs last week, it could certainly help to discuss some of the more favorable matchups heading into Week 14 that could see some players be true difference-makers for this crucial first week of the fantasy postseason. Consider the players below -- most of whom are widely available in ESPN leagues -- as potential acquisitions for these crucial upcoming playoff weekends.
Front Four: The weekly word on the world of defenders
Playoff Payoffs: Let's discuss some notable names to consider for the fantasy playoffs. Seattle Seahawks defensive end Chris Clemons has been a bit quiet of late but should be around the pocket with regularity this Sunday as he faces an Arizona Cardinals offense that has surrendered the most sacks in the league by a wide margin. Sticking with the Seahawks, our favorite fantasy rookie so far, middle man Bobby Wagner, could feast on the Cardinals as well this weekend. Wagner had a sack taken off his stat sheet from this past weekend after a scoring change switched it to an aborted play. The good news is that there is great potential for Wagner to earn that sack back this Sunday. While he's not as famous or nearly as jacked as his younger brother LaRon Landry of the Jets, the Jacksonville Jaguars' Dawan Landry has been undeniably consistent this season for his few fantasy investors. With at least seven tackles in each of his past four games and an awesome finishing schedule, the safety (available in more than 84 percent of ESPN leagues) makes for an ideal playoff play starting this weekend versus baby bro's team. The Atlanta Falcons' William Moore endured a quiet stretch of statistical production in the middle weeks of the season but has come on strong of late, earning the NFC Defensive Player of the Week for Week 13 in what was likely the best game of his career to date. Available in more than 70 percent of ESPN leagues,this future free agent has great upside for a strong finish.
Hawk Rising: With several serious injuries decimating the Green Bay Packers' linebacker depth this season, it's been nice to see A.J. Hawk remain healthy and productive. In these past three weeks, he's really turned up the statistical output with 10 tackles in each outing. While big plays are somewhat rare with Hawk, a steady diet of tackles is always welcome. Available in more than 64 percent of ESPN leagues, Hawk makes for a sound and steady addition for the fantasy playoffs.
Super Mario: Much how his career arc played out in Houston, Mario Williams started slow in Buffalo but is now producing at the elite level his pay grade and talent would suggest. With at least one sack in his past three games and six sacks since the Buffalo Bills' Week 8 bye, Williams has a shot at besting his career high in sacks as he seeks to redeem a quiet first half of the season with a torrid finish. A key factor seems to have been the surgery he had during the bye. A top fantasy lineman once again, Williams is available in nearly 30 percent of ESPN leagues and has an inviting finishing schedule as he seeks to set a new career high in the sack department and build momentum toward the 2013 campaign. Another worthy lineman to consider is the New England Patriots' Rob Ninkovich, who has played a hybrid role with snaps spent both on the line and standing up as a linebacker this season. The past few weeks have been a bit quiet, but with his potential to tally tackles and get to the quarterback, there is distinct value in owning this versatile defender who has eligibility in ESPN leagues at both DE and LB.
Bargain bin: Defenders available in more than half of ESPN leagues
In deeper formats, it's worth considering St. Louis Rams rookie corner Janoris Jenkins for the stretch run. While the touchdown binge -- three in the past two games -- is clearly unsustainable, meetings with sloppy passing games in the next two weeks (Bills and Minnesota Vikings) could help boost an already strong second half for Jenkins. With meetings versus elite passing teams (Falcons and New Orleans Saints) in the next two weeks, New York Giants safety Antrel Rolle has the potential to tally tons of tackles. Cincinnati Bengals lineman Carlos Dunlap is the definitive boom-or-bust option given that it's sack-or-sorry in most weeks, but a meeting with a porous Dallas Cowboys line could help the sack side surface this Sunday. A healthy tackle clip and weekly potential to get to the quarterback help make Carolina Panthers end Greg Hardy one of the best buys for the finishing stretch. A current pace for 144 total tackles and some elite side-to-side speed somehow hasn't convinced more fantasy managers to invest in Tampa Bay Buccaneers rookie Lavonte David. We warned you last week, and it continues to ring true; Pittsburgh Steelers 'backer James Harrison is back and looking like the menacing predator that made him famous and feared.
IDP Rankings Week 14: Top 30 linebackers, lineman and defensive backs
So that we're working from agreed parameters, we'll use what many consider traditional scoring modifiers for an IDP league: Tackle - Solo (1), Tackle - Assist (0.50), Sack (3), Interception (3), Forced fumble (3), Fumble recovery (3), Touchdown (6), Safety (2), Pass defended (1), Blocked kick (3).