NFL Base Defenses By Team

Check out all the NFL base defenses by team to get the leg up on your competition so you can win your next daily fantasy football contest.

NFC North

  • Chicago Bears – 3-4
  • Detroit Lions – 4-3
  • Green Bay Packers – 3-4
  • Minnesota Vikings – 4-3

NFC East

  • Dallas Cowboys – 4-3
  • Philadelphia Eagles – 4-3
  • New York Giants – 4-3
  • Washington Redskins- 3-4

NFC South

  • Atlanta Falcons – 3-4
  • Carolina Panthers – 4-3
  • New Orleans Saints – 3-4
  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 4-3

NFC West

  • Arizona Cardinals -3-4
  • Los Angeles Rams – 4-3
  • San Francisco 49’ers – 4-3
  • Seattle Seahawks – 4-3

AFC North

  • Baltimore Ravens- Multiple Formations
  • Cincinnati Bengals – 4-3
  • Cleveland Indians – Multiple Formations
  • Pittsburgh Steelers – 3-4

AFC South

  • Indianapolis Colts – 3-4
  • Houston Texans – 3-4
  • Jacksonville Jaguars – 4-3
  • Tennessee Titans – 3-4

AFC East

  • Buffalo Bills – Multiple Formations
  • New England Patriots – Multiple Formations
  • Miami Dolphins – 4-3
  • New York Jets – 3-4

AFC West

  • Denver Broncos – 3-4
  • Oakland Raiders – 4-3
  • Kansas City Chiefs  – 3-4
  • San Diego Chargers – 3-4

4-3 Defense

  • The 4-3 defense has 4 down defensive lineman with 3 linebackers.  The great Tom Laundry was the first to use this defense in 1956 for the New York Giants.  They went on to win the championship, and the 4-3 defense is now the most popular defense in the NFL.  The 4-3 defense is primarily used as a run stopping defense.  There are usually 4 defensive backs that can play multiple coverage’s out of this formation.

3-4 Defense

The 3-4 defense has 3 down lineman, usually a nose tackle and two defensive ends, and 4 linebackers.  This defense is the second most used base defense in the today’s NFL and was the most utilized defensive scheme in the 1970’s and 1980’s.  The lineman’s main job is to engage the offensive line allowing space for the linebackers.  This creates a scheme that allows for the use of multiple different blitz packages.  The 3-4 Defense was created in the 1940’s by University of Oklahoma’s head coach Bud Wilkerson.  Its big splash in the NFL was in 1972 when the undefeated Miami Dolphins were the first to win a super bowl using this scheme.

Nickel Defense

The nickel defense is any defense that uses 5 defensive backs.  The popularity of using this defense has grown exponentially due how pass happy the offenses have become.  According to since 2008 the use of the nickel defense has increased every year.  In 2008 NFL defenses used the nickel defense in 43.4% of defensive snaps.  Compare that to in 2015 NFL defenses used the nickel in 63.4%.  The Nickel defense was first used by the Philadelphia Eagles in the 1960’s to stop then Chicago Bears tight end Mike Ditka.

Dime Defense

The dime defense is any defense that has 6 defensive backs.  It is mainly utilized in obvious passing situations when a defense believes they are going to split out their running back.  If the defense were to be in a traditional 4-3 defense it would create a mismatch between a quicker running back and a linebacker.

Quarter Defense

The quarter defense also known as prevent defense utilizes 7 defensive backs.  This is used in situations where the opposing team needs to gain a large number a yards.

    • Defensive Coverages
    • Cover 0-
    • All defensive backs are in a man-to-man coverage.  There is essentially no free safety.  This coverage is one in which many blitzes are ran out of
  • Defensive vulnerability: With a Cover 0 package every defensive player is put on a one on one island.  You can expect a quick throw from the QB who will be pressured.  Quick slants and quick jump ball/fades will be the vulnerability of this defensive package.
    • Cover 1-
    • All cornerbacks, LBs, and the strong safety play in a man-to-man coverage.  The Free safety plays a zone in the deep part of the field.  This is also an aggressive defense frees up an extra man on defense most often a linebacker to roam and or rush the QB to breakdown the pocket.
  • Defensive vulnerability: The main weakness for this coverage is due to the free safety needing to cover a large area.  Efficient passing teams with multiple vertical threats should exploit this defensive coverage if faced.  Cornerbacks are put on man to man islands with little to no help over the top.  Deep outside balls are expected in this scenario to take advantage of match ups.  Tight Ends with speed will also be able to put this defensive coverage in a tough spot.  Pushing vertical of the TE spot or slot forces the middle of the field to open.  With blitzing teams in this package you can expect hot routes and quick check downs for lots of YAC yards if offenses execute correctly.
    • Cover 2-
    • In cover 2 shell the two safeties each cover a deep half of the field.  The cornerback’s responsibility is to cover the flats, and to cover the wide receiver vertically until another receiver comes into their zone.  The Sam and Will (outside linebackers) responsibility is to cover the middle (curl to hook areas of the field) near each hash mark lines.  The Mike linebacker is responsible for the direct middle of the field.  Essentially this coverage is a way to make your defensive back more underneath and involved with run stoppage support on the edges.  This package shows with 2 high safety blanket with underneath coverage responsibility for the LB’s and CB’s.

  • Defensive vulnerability: There are a couple weak points in this defensive scheme.  Dropping your strong safety player deep weakens your run support game since this player is normally the best tackler of all the defensive backs. Solid running teams will benefits from the coverage. The second area that can be exploited would be to press vertical in the seam to put one of the two safeties on an island.  Teams with athletic tight ends or 2 premiere deep threat receivers will benefits in these situations.
    • Tampa 2-
    • The Tampa 2 is very similar to the cover 2 except the middle linebacker drops further into coverage.  This provides an increase support in the deep middle third of the field to help alleviate some pressure on the safeties.
  • Defensive vulnerability: This defensive package will more than likely feature an elite and athletic middle linebacker, one that can support stopping the run and also drop deep to the middle of the field for pass coverage.  Yet again, this defensive coverage can be exposed with athletic tight ends and teams with multiple receivers that can stretch the field.
    • Cover 3-
    • The cover 3 defense breaks the field into thirds.  The two corner backs and the free safety each have a deep third to cover as their responsibility.  Cornerbacks will start with more of a cushion at the line of scrimmage due to the deep third responsibility with in this coverage.  Some teams such as Seattle may tweak this coverage into a 3-man, with this adjustment you will see the cornerbacks play bump and run tight coverage.  The cover 3 package will have the strong safety playing in the box for more run support.  
  • Defensive vulnerability: The one major opening in this kind of defensive coverage will be found in the “flats”, to the sidelines and under 10 yards.  With the cornerbacks bailing and covering the deep outside thirds of the field, responsibility of coverage to the “flats” will be for the outside linebackers and or in some situations the strong safety. This coverage will give advantages to the offense for short outside throws and running backs who are good with catching out of the back field.
  • Cover 4-
  • The cover 4 defense is often mistaken strictly as a “prevent” coverage.  In reality the defense is broken down into 4 equal quarters between the 2 safeties and the 2 cornerbacks.  The defensive lineman job is to primarily stop the run and rush the passer second.  The linebackers can either drop back into coverage or rush the passer.
  • Defensive vulnerability: This coverage is one that can I adapt into many different formations at the snap of the ball. The weakness of this coverage will be found in the flats and cornerbacks put on islands.  Flood routes, double posts, and WR screens are all great concepts to take of advantage of this coverage.  Cover 4 also puts the safeties in a tough spot on whether to cover run or pass.