The increase in the rate of passing in the NFL has led to more teams implementing packages with more defensive backs to counter the pass-catching capabilities of offenses. Every team in Madden 22 has at least one formation to combat the pass, but not every team has a Nickel defense.
This piece will identify the teams with the best Nickel playbooks. Below, you’ll find these best playbooks as well as their top plays.
Baltimore Ravens (AFC North)
- Cover 1 LB Spy (Nickel 2-4-5)
- Tampa 2 (Nickel, 3-3-5 Wide)
- Nickel Blitz 3 (Nickel, Triple)
Baltimore, once again, has what many expect to be a top defense, and the secondary is a big reason why.
Cover 1 LB Spy makes use of a Cover 1 over top with the free safety, with a middle linebacker acting as quarterback spy. The two down linemen and two outside linebackers rush the passer, with the latter doing their best to contain the QB. This is a good play for keeping running QBs inside the pocket.
Tampa 2 works particularly well because of the wide set. The spacing allows nearly all spaces to be covered by the zone as the flat, middle, sideline, and deep passes are manned. The wide line will make this more susceptible to runs up the middle, so this is probably best suited for an obvious passing situation.
Nickel Blitz 3 brings a corner on a blitz from the blind side of most QBs, while dropping a defensive end on the opposite side into zone coverage along the outer third of the field. The flat will be open, but the middle, sideline, and deep passes should be covered.
Buffalo Bills (AFC East)
- Sam Mike 3 Press (Nickel, 2-4-5 Odd)
- Nickel Dog 3 (Nickel, Double A Gap)
- Cover 2 Press (Nickel, Wide 9)
A strong defensive team, Buffalo packs a wallop with skilled players across the defense.
Nickel Dog 3 is unique in that two down linemen drop back into coverage while the two MLBs, between the defensive linemen in the Double A Gap set, blitz. A corner also rushes from the blind side. Depending on the speed of the linemen, the pass over the middle could be a menace, but only the flat really remains open.
Sam Mike 3 Press sends both the Sam and Mike on blitzes, overloading that side of the line. The remaining defenders drop into a zone, leaving the flat and medium sideline throw as the safest options for the quarterback. This could be good on 3rd-and-long.
Cover 2 Press is another play for a passing situation as it covers nearly every part of the field in a zone. The sideline through might be there, but it would need to be a perfect pass. The drawback is sending only four rushers, but Buffalo has a great line where four men are usually enough to affect the QB.
Denver Broncos (AFC West)
- Cov 2 Man Contain (Nickel, 2-4-5)
- LB Blitz 2 (Nickel, 2-4-5)
- 3 Sam Will Blitz (Nickel, 3-3-5 Wide)
Although the team has not had much success since the retirement of Peyton Manning, that is not necessarily due to the defense. Headed by Von Miller, the Denver defense is still to be feared.
3 Sam Will Blitz sends the Sam and Will on contain blitzes with the three down linemen: the remaining LB drops into zone with the secondary. The sideline throws are covered well here, and the most susceptible spots are the flat and short over the middle. This should be a good play to minimize the yardage gained.
Cov 2 Man Contain sends one tackle, and both ends on a contain blitz while keeping the other tackle and one MLB in a semi-QB spy situation. The safeties are in deep zones over top, so if the man defense holds, you should be able to keep the offense to a medium gain.
LB Blitz 2 sends the Mike on a blitz through the gap to add a fifth rusher to the attack. The flat, middle, and deep passes are covered, but be wary of the sideline pass. The placement of the defenders in the zone over the middle should allow them to react quick enough to stop any big plays along the sideline.
Miami Dolphins (AFC East)
- Cover 2 Contain (Big Nickel, Over G)
- Overload 3 Sky Press (Nickel, 3-3-5 Odd)
- Buck Zone Blitz (Nickel, 2-4-5 Dbl A Gap)
Miami is a team that has seen its defense grow into a formidable force over the past few seasons.
Buck Zone Blitz takes one MLB in the A gap and drops them into zone over the middle, while the rest of the defenders along the line rush. With the middle, sideline, and deep passes all covered well, this is good for a long yardage situation to keep the offense and first down marker in front of you.
Cover 2 Contain sends three of the four linemen with the Des running a contain blitz. The remaining tackle drops into a short zone over the middle. The remaining defenders cover the flat, middle, and deep passes well, and should be able to react quickly enough to sideline passes to break them up with an extra defender in the middle zone.
Overload 3 Sky Press sends a DB and LB on blitzes from the blindside, overloading that side. The outside LB on the line drops into zone along the outer third, with the rest of the defense covering the medium and deep passes well. Unless the pressure gets there, be wary of short passes to the flat and sideline.
New York Giants (NFC East)
- Mike SS 3 (Big Nickel, Over G)
- Overload 3 (Nickel, 2-4-5)
- Will 3 Buzz (Nickel, 2-4-5 Dbl A Gap)
New York’s offense might not be amazing, but their defense – which has been the team’s signature for decades – gives them a fighting chance in the NFC East.
Overload 3 is another overload blitz on the left side, with a slightly different route than Miami’s set. They burst through the seam between the LB and DT, hopefully forcing the left side of the offensive line to choose one or the other. This is good for a long yardage situation where you want to get pressure without giving up the first down.
Mike SS 3 from the Big Nickel sends the Mike on a blitz around the DE while a corner blitzes from that side, giving an overload on that side. The opposite DE drops into zone along the outer third, and the rest follow suit in their own zones. Watch for the pass to the flat, especially on the overloaded side.
Will 3 Buzz is a set that willingly gives up the short pass to curtail the medium and deep passes. The entire front six are along the line, with only one of the OLBs dropping into zone. Because of this spacing, there isn’t one over the middle; even the strong safety’s zone is a medium-deep zone. Your opponent might hit the flat or sideline for five or eight yards, but you should be able to close the gap and prevent a larger gain with this play.
Pittsburgh Steelers (AFC North)
- Nickel Overload 3 (Nickel, 1-5-5 Dbl A Gap)
- Cover 2 Contain (Nickel, 3-3-5 Will)
- Nickel Blitz 2 (Nickel, Triple)
A team never short on defense, Pittsburgh enters this year with high expectations on the defensive side of the ball.
Cover 2 Contain is another contain blitz that keeps a DT and MLB in a shared QB spy. The contain should force the QB to step up into the pocket and, should he try to escape, your spies should be there to stop him. This set also does a good job of covering most passing options.
Nickel Overload 3 is another play that leaves the middle a bit open until a LB drifts into a zone. A DB from the blind side blitzes along with four of the remaining five men on the line, with another LB dropping into a zone along the outer third. The blind side pressure hopefully gets there before the QB has a chance to hit the flat for a short gain.
Nickel Blitz 2 sends the same corner on a blitz while ensuring the flat and middle are covered in zones. This leaves the sideline throw open, so watch for that. The two zones over the middle are manned by LBs while the safeties man the deep zones.
Seattle Seahawks (NFC West)
- Cover 1 Contain Spy (Nickel, 3-3-5)
- Hot 3 Show 2 (Nickel, 3-3-5 Sam)
- Cover 6 Invert (Nickel, Wide 9)
Even though the days of the Legion of Boom are gone, Pete Carroll still has a defense that swarms the ball and speeds around the field.
Cover 1 Contain Spy keeps an LB as a spy – ideal for chasing the QB should he run – while sending the three down linemen on a contain blitz. The Mike stays in man while the remaining LB blitzes through the gap. The FS maintains a deep zone in the Cover 1, but the rest are in man defense. Seattle’s DBs are fit for man defense, so ensure that your personnel are the same.
Hot 3 Show 2 is a zone blitz that gives up the short pass to the flat and over the middle to prevent passes down the field. A DB blitzes from the blind side along with two LBs while the remaining LB drops into zone over the middle. As the deep pass is ideally covered here, a 3rd-and-long situation would be optimum for this play.
Cover 6 Invert is your play for when you want to minimize the chances of any decent yardage pass from being completed. Only the four down linemen rush the passer, leaving the remaining seven defenders in zone coverage from sideline to sideline across the middle and deep. The receiving corps should have a hard time getting in behind your deep zone or finding the necessary pocket between the middle and deep defenders.
With so many offenses (and gamers) passing the ball more than rushing, you need to find your best sets to counter their offensive game plans. Choosing one of the best Nickel playbooks should help you in this challenge.