The 4-3 defense is not what many consider “sexy,” but its longevity as a base defense is because it has been effective. The 4-3 is still prevalent in the playbooks in Madden 23, though the 3-4 has arguably overtaken the 4-3 in popularity in the NFL due to the success of those teams over the past two decades.
Below, you will find Outsider Gaming’s list of the best 4-3 playbooks in Madden 23. The tricky thing is that there are very few original defensive plays in the Madden playbook, which makes choosing the playbooks a bit more difficult than on offense. As such, defensive personnel and their Madden ratings play a big part in the selections. All teams will be listed in alphabetical order with corresponding plays showcased.
1. Buffalo Bills (AFC East)
- Sam Blitz 3 (Over Wide)
- 1 Contain Press (Under)
- Sam 1 Sting (Over Solid)
Buffalo once again seeks to contend for a Super Bowl appearance as one of the most complete teams in the NFL. Led by a slew of veteran talent, the defense looks to be a top unit in 2022, led by their base 4-3 defense.
The Madden defense is led by Tre’Davious White (93 OVR), new signee Von Miller (92 OVR), Micah Hyde (91), and Jordan Poyer (90 OVR). Only Miller plays in the front seven of the four, but the other three make completing passes very difficult. Up front, middle linebacker Tremaine Edmunds (84 OVR) leads the way with tackle ED Oliver (81 OVR) and right backer Matt Milano (81 OVR) the other players in the 80s.
Sam Blitz 3 is a zone blitz that sends either outside backer (depending on if it’s flipped) along with the front four, leaving only the flats open for short yardage. 1 Contain Press provides a spy for the quarterback while in a Cover 1 press and with so many signal callers so mobile, it’s a good idea to provide a spy. Sam 1 Sting brings a blitz with the Sam backer, but is more man so try keeping your linebackers on tight ends.
2. Dallas Cowboys (NFC East)
- Will Go Fire 3 (Under)
- Cover 1 Spy (Over Wide)
- OLB Fire Man (Over)
A choice by some to reach and win the Super Bowl, Dallas’ defense should become even better with the further development of Micah Parsons (88 OVR), the second-year player who wowed everyone with his play in 2021. He’s joined in the front seven by DeMarcus Lawrence (90 OVR) and Leighton Vander Esch (80 OVR) to apply pressure on the quarterback. The secondary has Trevon Diggs (84 OVR) and Jayron Kearse (80 OVR), presenting the Dallas defense as a solid group.
Will Go Fire 3 is a zone blitz that sends Parsons (depending on flip) through the gap hopefully created by the right side of the line to blow up plays in the backfield. Cover 1 Spy is another Cover 1 play with a spy against mobile quarterbacks, like Jalen Hurts in the division. OLB Fire Man sends both outside backers on a blitz, leaving the others in man so it’s imperative the pressure makes it to the backfield.
3. Indianapolis Colts (AFC South)
- Cover 2 Man (Over)
- Cover 3 Hard Flat (Over Solid)
- Tampa 2 (Over Wide)
A Darkhorse team to some after acquiring Matt Ryan, Indianapolis has a good offense with Ryan and halfback Jonathan Taylor, but they’re also stout on the defensive side of the ball and that is more likely what will keep them in games.
They’re led by former Buffalo and New England cornerback Stephon Gilmore (91 OVR). he’s joined on the opposite side by Kenny Moore II (87 OVR). Up front, DeForest Bucker (90 OVR), Darius Leonard (90 OVR) and Yannick Ngakoue (82 OVR) form a strong trio of defenders. Add in tackle Grover Stewart (82 OVR) and middle backer Bobby Okereke (81 OVR) and the Colts present one of the more balanced defenses in the game.
Cover 2 Man is your typical Cover 2 play, relying on the coverage abilities of mainly Gilmore and Moore II to cut out the offense’s top two options. Cover 3 Hard Flat gives a Cover 3 zone that also prevents the flat passes from being complete; just watch for the sideline pass. Tampa 2 is your traditional Tampa 2 zone defense, sending just the front four and providing zone defense to cover nearly the entire field.
4. New Orleans Saints (NFC South)
- Strong Slant 3 (Odd)
- 1 Contain Press (Under)
- Tampa 2 (Over)
For much of this century, New Orleans was a team with a high-powered offense and a defense that was more “bend, not break.” Well, the offense should be fine, but New Orleans’ strength may now be its defense.
Tyrann Mathieu (94 OVR) is listed as strong safety, but does a bit of everything. He’s joined by corner Marshon Lattimore (91 OVR) and free safety Marcus Maye in the secondary. Middle linebacker Demario Davis (93 OVR) leads the defense and is joined up front by ends Cameron Jordan (91 OVR) and Marcus Davenport (82 OVR), and tackle (David Onyemata (80 OVR).
Strong Slant 3 is a zone blitz that sends pressure from a linebacker on most quarterbacks’ non-throwing side, hopefully giving them an unimpeded path to to a sack. 1 Contain Press is a Cover 1 with the defensive backs in press coverage and a backer acting as a spy. The Tampa 2 should work wonders with Mathieu and Lattimore flying around the secondary.
5. San Francisco 49ers (NFC West)
- LB Sting 1 (Over)
- Cover 1 Spy (Over Wide)
- Hammer 0 Blast (Over Solid)
After just missing the Super Bowl in 2021, San Francisco has firmly placed the team in inexperienced hands of Trey Lance, and while having Deebo Samuel back should help alleviate the pressure, San Francisco’s best path to the Super Bowl is by relying on their defense.
The 49ers have two stars up front: end Nick Bosa (94 OVR) and middle linebacker Fred Warner (94 OVR). Both should only improve throughout the season and their health and production will be key to San Francisco taking out Los Angeles for both the division crown and a possible playoff rematch. Jimmie Ward (87 OVR), Jason Verrett (81 OVR), and Charvarius Ward (80 OVR) form a strong secondary. Bosa and Warner are joined in the front seven by Arik Armstead (86 OVR), Armstead providing a a nice one-two punch of edge rushers for San Francisco.
LB Sting 1 is a man coverage that sends a backer on a blitz with a safety in zone coverage up top, essentially playing center field. Cover 1 Spy is another Cover 1 with a spy option – look to use Warner as your spy against nimble quarterbacks. Hammer 0 Blast sends both outside backers with the front four to apply pressure, leaving the team in man. The secondary should do well considering the depth at the position.
Those are Outsider Gaming’s best 4-3 playbooks in Madden 23. Which team’s playbook will you choose for your team?
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