The fantasy football playoffs are almost here, and those who still have skin in the game can’t afford to slack on their defenses.

Your studs — the Patrick Mahomes, Michael Thomas and Travis Kelces of the world — obviously are your bread and butter. But a good or bad day from your defense can mean the difference between winning and losing on a weekly basis.

That said, identifying which matchups to exploit is no easy task. Thankfully, we’re here to help.

Let’s look at the five defenses you should start in Week 12:

Chicago Bears (vs. New York Giants)
Listen, it’s been an up-and-down season for the Bears defense. Much of the struggles can be attributed to the offense failing to sustain long drives, but Chicago’s once-vaunted defense nevertheless has been a disappointment. However, a matchup with the Giants’ weak offensive line and mistake-prone quarterback Daniel Jones is just what Chicago needs.

Pittsburgh Steelers (at Cincinnati Bengals)
The Steelers have been one of the best fantasy defenses for over a month and are set to face one of the worst offenses in football, if not the worst. Start with confidence.

New Orleans Saints (vs. Carolina Panthers)
The Kyle Allen love affair finally appears over, as the Panthers quarterback has thrown nine interceptions over his last four games, including four last week. He also takes a ton of sacks. Both of those trends should continue this weekend.

Buffalo Bills (vs. Denver Broncos)
We don’t love this matchup, but we like it enough to recommend the stingy Bills defense against Brandon Allen and the underwhelming Broncos offense. Just don’t expect anything crazy.

Cleveland Browns (vs. Miami Dolphins)
Obviously, the Browns’ best defender, Myles Garrett, won’t play in this game. But this unit still has enough playmakers to make life miserable for Ryan Fitzpatrick, who has played well but still is an interception waiting to happen.

Click for our Week 12 waiver wire pickups at each position >>

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