Each team’s plays are divvied up between up to nine different offensive formations. Most teams use four to six formations, but it varies widely. Teams like the Miami Dolphins only have three formations, and others, like the Cleveland Browns and Minnesota Vikings feature eight. While you can run or pass out of every formation, each one is well suited to specific types of plays. let’s take a look at how each formation sets up at the line of scrimmage.
I Formation: Almost every team has this one. The Quarterback, Fullback, and Half-back (A.K.A. the runningback) line up in the shape of an I, hence the name. Five linemen and the Tight End take position on the line of scrimmage, and typically one receiver stands on each side of the field. Most teams use the I Formation to run the ball, thanks to the blocking provided by the FB when handing it off to your running back.
Strong I: In Strong I formation, the Fullback lines up offset to the right and behind the QB. The right side wide receiver lines up a few yards before the line of scrimmage. The Strong I creates numbers and leading blockers on the right (strong) side of the field to give the running back room to breathe.
Weak I: The Weak I is a reflection of the Strong I, placing the Fullback on the left (weak) side of the QB.
Shotgun: Rather than standing right behind the line of scrimmage, the QB stands seven yards behind the line of scrimmage. When a defense has been getting to your QB quickly, Shotgun gives you a better chance of getting a pass off without pressure. In Shotgun formation, your QB could either be alone in the backfield, or flanked on either or both sides by running backs.
Shotgun formation is typically where you’ll find an excess of deep pass plays that include up to four wideouts. Since everyone looks at the Shotgun and expects a pass, it can be used to mask certain types of running plays, such as a QB Draw.
Singleback: Singleback formation is like the I, but the Fullback is substituted for an additional wide receiver on either side of the field. Most teams have Singleback, and its fairly balanced on most teams in terms of passing and running plays.
Pistol: The Pistol formation is a hybrid between the Singleback and Shotgun. The QB takes the snap a couple yards behind the line of scrimmage, with the runningback positioned directly behind him. Typically, a pair of offset receivers will stand on either the left or right side of the field, and a lone wideout will appear on the opposite side. Pistol formation gives your QB time to throw while also allowing him to hand it off to his running back quickly. Most option plays — in which the QB runs and decides whether to pitch it to the running back — are performed out of the Pistol.
Full House: The Full House, or T formation, is a seldom seen, but interesting setup that features either one or no receivers. Instead, a tight end lines up on both sides of the ball, the QB is under center, and in a horizontal line in the backfield, a running back stands on each side of a fullback. In a subset of the Full House, one of the tight ends is replaced for a receiver on either side of the field.
Wildcat: The Wildcat formation calls for either a Runningback or wide receiver to line up in the position of the QB (The QB may line up as a WR or not be on the field at all). Typically, the Wildcat is a simple direct snap run, with the RB or WR taking the ball on his own, but you can throw and run option plays out of the Wildcat. As the player isn’t typically a great passer, be careful when doing anything but running out of this formation.
Near: Another rarely seen formation, Near sees two running backs (or a running back and fullback) lined up horizontally in the backfield with the QB under center. It can lead to some misdirection plays seeing as the QB hand off to either back without immediately giving away his choice.
Reading the Defense
Picking your play is important, but it’s only part of what you need to do before each play starts. When heading up to the line of scrimmage, successful Madden players pay attention to the opponent’s defensive scheme. Depending on how the defense lines up, you can make a fairly decent prediction as to what your opponent’s plans are.
If your opponent’s linebackers are inching towards the line, chances are a blitz is coming. If multiple safeties are far back from the spot of the ball, and linebackers look comfortable, chances are your opponent thinks you will pass. Pay attention to your opponent’s safeties and corners when lining up for a pass play. Does your number one receiver’s route look to be heading towards a safety? If so, you should probably try to the ball to someone else.
If the defense looks to be set to cover your play well, you should think about changing it at the line.
When you’re under Center, press R3 to pull up the adjust offense menu. From here you can audible to completely change the play you are running to get a more favorable matchup. You can also call Hot Routes, which let you pinpoint a receiver and change his designated route. This can be useful if you want your number primary receiver to still be in play. Say your receiver is on a slant route but the defense looks to have the middle of the field bogged down, change the hot route to an out route, and hit him as he creases towards the sidelines.
One other important feature when adjusting plays is designated for when a run is called. A run play either is set for the left or the right side of the field. A simple way to be more successful on the ground is to count the number of defenders near the line on each side of the ball. If your run play is going left, but there are more defenders on that side of the field, flip the right analog stick to the right to change the side of the field the run goes towards (or vice versa).
Keep in mind that the defense can also audible so pay attention to shifts at the line and adjust accordingly.