While offensive playbooks continue to become more intricate and creative, defensive playbooks in the modern NFL have had to respond in kind. As the most recent Super Bowl showed (or reminded) everyone, a dominant defensive lineman (and defense overall) can shatter the championship hopes of other teams.
Below, you’ll find Outsider Gaming’s ranking of best defensive playbooks in Madden 23. If you decide to employ any of these playbooks in Madden Ultimate Team (MUT), then it’s assumed you’ll acquire the team-specific players or similar players to maximize the playbook.
There are three notes. First, real-life play and opinions based off of them are not always accurately represented in video games. Second, because of the overlap of plays across defensive playbooks in Madden 23, defensive personnel plays an even bigger role than with offensive playbooks. Third, the teams will be listed in alphabetical order.
1. Buffalo Bills (AFC East)
Best Defensive Players: Tre’Davious White (CB, 93 OVR), Von Miller (RE, 92 OVR), Micah Hyde (FS, 91 OVR)
Best Plays: Will Go Fire 3 (4-3 Under), LB Blitz (Dime Normal), Cover 4 Quarters (Nickel 3-3 Will)
Buffalo is a team many have picked to be the best defense in the NFL for the 2022 season. Led by cornerback Tre’Davious White (93 OVR) and end Von Miller (92 OVR), Buffalo will look to shut down passing games by locking down receivers and wreaking havoc in the backfield.
White is joined by Taron Johnson (82 OVR) on the other side, with Micah Hyde (91 OVR) and Jordan Poyer (90 OVR) behind them as safeties. Miller has Ed Oliver (81 OVR) up front with him, and Tremaine Edwards (84 OVR) at middle linebacker.
Will Go Fire 3 is a zone blitz that takes advantage of the speed of the front seven and the coverage capabilities of the back four. Although the flats will be open, a few yards is better than a chunk of yards. LB Blitz is exactly that, a linebacker blitz, that will help apply more pressure as the line seeks to disrupt the offensive side. Cover 4 Quarters is your deep yardage coverage play, and opposing quarterbacks will find it difficult to make any medium and deep passes.
2. Los Angeles Chargers (AFC West)
Best Defensive Players: Derwin James, Jr. (SS .93 OVR), Khalil Mack (ROLB, 92 OVR), Joey Bosa (LOLB, 91 OVR)
Best Plays: MLB Cross Fire 3 (3-4 Under), Cover 1 QB Contain (Dime 2-3-6), Cover 6 (Nickel 2-4)
The Chargers are formidable on both sides of the football, yet their defense arguably has the bigger names. Led by strong safety Derwin James, Jr. (93 OVR) – he of the newly-signed historic extension – the Chargers have a bonafide triumvirate of defensive stars.
Add Khalil Mack (92 OVR) and Joey Bosa (91 OVR) to James’ superiority on the back end, and the Chargers should present all sorts of problems for opposing defenses. J.C. Jackson (90 OVR) leads the corners while Sebastian Joseph-Day (81 OVR) helms the line.
MLB Cross Fire 3 is a zone blitz that covers everything but the flats and sends an extra defender with both middle backers in the 3-4. Cover 1 QB Contain has both ends contain to try and prevent a quarterback sprint while also providing a spy in case he does. Cover 6 gives you zone coverage that leaves very few openings for completions (watch the sideline throw).
3. Los Angeles Rams (NFC West)
Best Defensive Players: Aaron Donald (RE, 99 OVR), Jalen Ramsey (CB, 98 OVR), Bobby Wagner (MLB, 91 OVR)
Best Plays: Crash 3 (4-4 Split), Trio Sky Zone (3-4 Bear), Cover 1 Robber (Dime 1-4-6)
The defending Super Bowl champions have the best overall defensive playbook and 99 club record breaker in Aaron Donald (99 OVR), who was once again inducted into the prestigious 99 Club for the sixth year in a row. It was his play that sealed the title for Los Angeles against Cincinnati in February 2022.
Jalen Ramsey (98 OVR) leads the secondary, just missing the 99 Club. Add the newly-acquired Bobby Wagner (91 OVR) from division foe Seattle and the Rams have playmakers at each level of the defense. Leonard Floyd (80 OVR) joins Wagner at backer, Jordan Fuller (78 OVR) mans the strong safety position, and Greg Gaines (77 OVR) joins Donald up front.
Crash 3 from the 4-4 Split is a zone blitz that sends an extra rusher from most quarterback’s throwing side. The medium and deep routes should be well covered. Trio Sky Zone looks similar to Crash 3, but has slightly different zone coverage. Cover 1 Robber sends only four, but leaves the two safeties in a cover 1 zone with remaining defenders in man coverage (Ramsey should be able to cut off WR1 with ease).
4. Pittsburgh Steelers (AFC North)
Best Defensive Players: T.J. Watt (LOLB, 96 OVR), Cameron Heyward (RE, 93 OVR), Minkah Fitzpatrick (FS, 89 OVR)
Best Plays: Str Eagle Slant 3 (Dime 1-4-6), Mike Scrape 3 Press (3-4 Even), 1 Hole Press (Nickel 2-4)
Pittsburgh, as has been the case for literally decades, once again boasts a stout defense. This is another defense that is led by stars at each level of the defense with outside linebacker T.J. Watt (96 OVR), end Cameron Heyward (93 OVR), and safety Mikah Fitzpatrick (89 OVR).
However, they’re not the only strong defenders in Pittsburgh. Myles Jack (82 OVR) mans the middle with Tyson Alualu (82 OVR) helping Heyward up front. Akhello Witherspoon (79 OVR) helms the cornerback crew with Levi Wallace (77 OVR) on the other side.
Str Eagle Slant 3 is a zone blitz that sends an extra attacker to the opposite side of most quarterback’s throwing arm, giving you a huge shot should you get free. It covers each area well, and even short completions to the flat should be sniffed out quickly. Mike Scrape 3 Press is a similar zone blitz, but the zones are tweaked and the attacker is sent from the other side. 1 Hole Press is a man defense with a cover 1, though the middle zone is covered by a backer.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (NFC South)
Best Defensive Players: Vita Vea (DT, 93 OVR), Lavonte David (MLB, 92 OVR), Shaquil Barrett (LOLB, 88 OVR)
Best Plays: Boca Blitz 2 (Nickel 3-3 Cub), 2 Invert Hard Flat (3-4 Bear), Tampa 2 (Dime 1-4-6)
Tampa Bay will look to win another Super Bowl title, maybe this time relying more on the defense than the offense. At least they have three strong players leading the defense in Madden 23.
Vita Vea (93 OVR) should create chaos on the line. Lavonte David (92 OVR) is a great middle linebacker with good coverage abilities. Shaquil Barrett on the outside of David presents a formidable foe for any backer who makes it past the line of scrimmage. Antoine Winfield, Jr. (87 OVR) and Logan Ryan (80 OVR) occupy the safety spots with Jamel Dean (82 OVR) and Carlton Davis III (82 OVR) the top two corners.
Boca Blitz 2 is a zone blitz that sends a corner from the quarterback’s throwing side and covers the sideline passes well. 2 Invert Hard Flat is a zone coverage that sends four, but leaves a good chunk of the medium pass over the middle susceptible. Tampa 2 is not just ideal because this is Tampa Bay, but because the personnel are well-suited to the zone coverage and the backers should be quick enough to cover the sideline passes.
Now you know which teams have the best defensive playbooks in Madden 23. Which playbooks will you choose?
Looking for more Madden 23 guides?
Madden 23 Best Playbooks: Top Offensive & Defensive Plays to Win on Franchise Mode, MUT, and Online
Madden 23: Best Offensive Playbooks
Madden 23: Best Playbooks for Running QBs
Madden 23: Best Playbooks for 3-4 Defenses
Madden 23: Best Playbooks for 4-3 Defenses
Madden 23 Sliders: Realistic Gameplay Settings for Injuries and All-Pro Franchise Mode
Madden 23 Relocation Guide: All Team Uniforms, Teams, Logos, Cities and Stadiums
Madden 23: Best (and Worst) Teams to Rebuild
Madden 23 Defense: Interceptions, Controls, and Tips and Tricks to Crush Opposing Offenses
Madden 23 Running Tips: How to Hurdle, Jurdle, Juke, Spin, Truck, Sprint, Slide, Dead Leg and Tips
Madden 23 Stiff Arm Controls, Tips, Tricks, and Top Stiff Arm Players
Madden 23 Controls Guide (360 Cut Controls, Pass Rush, Free Form Pass, Offense, Defense, Running, Catching, and Intercept) for PS4, PS5, Xbox Series X & Xbox One