The NFL is a changing league. The days of the ground and pound are behind us and the air raid is in full force. However, an elite offense can’t only be able to pass the ball. There are five components to an elite offense: quarterbacks, coaching, offensive line, running backs, and wide receivers. Which teams will light up the scoreboard in 2018?
10. Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons’ offense had a down year in 2017 as compared to its explosive 2016 campaign. In 2016, the Falcons had the highest scoring offense in the NFL by five points (34.1). That number plummetted. to only 21.6 points per game in 2017, ranked 15th in the NFL. Former offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan’s departure to San Francisco clearly took a toll on Atlanta’s offense.
Still, this is a highly talented unit with the potential to explode on any given night. Matt Ryan is one of the best system quarterbacks in the NFL; he’s fairly consistent, has a solid arm and can run the offense effectively. Devonta Freeman is one of the best dual-threat backs in the NFL and Tevin Coleman helps form an excellent 1-2 punch in the backfield.
Julio Jones is still a top-five receiver in the NFL despite his “down year” last season where he ranked second in the NFL in receiving yards (1,444). Mohamed Sanu, Calvin Ridley, and Austin Hooper form a very solid cast of weapons for Matt Ryan. Combined with a very solid offensive line, the Falcons’ offense has a good chance to bounce back in 2018.
9. Houston Texans
In 2017, DeShaun Watson was in the midst of a historic rookie campaign before tearing his ACL in November. At the time of his injury, through seven games, Watson threw for 1,699 yards and 19 touchdowns, which was tied for the NFL lead. Before Watson’s injury, the Texans sat at 3-4. Over the rest of the season, the Texans only won one more game, finishing 4-12. This Houston team crippled by injury was unable to function without its leader Watson. A healthy DeShaun Watson in 2018 should make Houston’s offense one of the best in the NFL.
Lamar Miller and D’Onta Foreman form a very solid duo in the backfield. Foreman is highly talented and could see himself having a breakout season in 2018. DeAndre Hopkins is a clear-cut top-five receiver in the NFL, racking up 1,378 yards through the air, good for fourth in the NFL. He also led the NFL in touchdowns with 13, playing half of the season without his star quarterback. Houston’s other targets are solid, with Will Fuller V being the second fiddle to Hopkins.
The main aspect holding Houston’s offense back is their offensive line, which Pro Football Focus ranked last in the NFL for 2018. This offensive line will force DeShaun Watson to play like Russell Wilson, running for his life every single night and being forced to do everything on his own. As we saw with the Eagles, building your offensive line is vital for success and the Texans’ line is built for failure.
8. Los Angeles Chargers
Many people, myself included, believe that the Chargers have a real shot at making the Super Bowl in this weak AFC. Most will point out their stalwart defense but the Bolts’ offense is nothing to scoff at. Phillip Rivers can’t play forever but still should continue to be one of the most consistent quarterbacks in the NFL in 2018.
Melvin Gordon is one of the league’s top running backs, with a great combination of speed, burst, and power. The Chargers’ offensive line is much improved, especially in the run blocking department. Look for second-year guards Forrest Lamp and Dan Feeney to take a step forward in 2018, making this offensive line better in all areas.
The Chargers’ receiving corps is one of the best in the NFL, even following the devastating injury to tight end Hunter Henry, which prematurely ended his season. Virgil Green looks to take over the primary tight end duties. Keenan Allen is still one of the best receivers in the NFL; an elite separator with rock-solid hands. Allen caught 102 balls for 1,393 yards and six touchdowns last year. As long as Allen can stay healthy, he should be in for another stellar campaign. A player to watch out is the 2017 seventh overall pick, Mike Williams. His rookie season was marred with injuries but he is immensely talented and could be in for a breakout season in 2018.
7. Kansas City Chiefs
Going from one AFC West team to another, the Chiefs have one of the most intriguing offensive units in the NFL. The success of their offense will revolve around the success of second-year quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who the Chiefs passed the torch to when they traded veteran Alex Smith. He has a gifted, huge arm that can make any throw on the field. His mobility will also be a big asset for him. Mahomes will need to show that he has improved his processor and is able to adequately read the play pre and post snap.
The Chiefs stole Kareem Hunt in last year’s draft, who ended up leading the NFL in rushing yards last season with 1,327, adding eight touchdowns. Kansas City will have Spencer Ware back as well, who is one of the most underrated halfbacks in the NFL. He is tough, has a good burst and is a receiving threat as well. Tyreek Hill is an explosive, big-play threat but his development into an all-around receiver will be key. Sammy Watkins looks to bounce back in 2018 and Travis Kelce is one of the NFL’s top three tight ends when healthy.
The Chiefs offensive line is solid but nothing overly spectacular. Mitchell Schwartz is a Pro Bowl right tackle and the rest of the offensive line is solid. Patrick Mahomes has the supporting cast to make a huge jump in 2018. If his development goes along quicker than expected, the Chiefs will be far higher on this list later in the season.
6. Philadelphia Eagles
“Your team is only as good as your backup quarterback.” this is an adage that all winning teams need to follow and one that the Eagles championed in 2017. Winning the Super Bowl with their backup quarterback, Nick Foles was an impressive feat. Taking nothing away from Foles, the Eagles have done a masterful job with their roster building and coaching to make up for the lack of their starting quarterback. When he is healthy, Carson Wentz is really, really good. His arm is incredible and he has the mobility to extend plays. He still makes mental mistakes but he is still very young and has plenty of room to grow.
The Eagles should still take on a running back by committee approach in 2018. Jay Ajayi will lead the way but Corey Clement, Darren Sproles, and maybe another back will take on a significant role as well. This receiving corps is led by Alshon Jeffery and Zach Ertz, two of the most solid, consistent targets in the NFL. Mike Wallace, Nelson Agholor, and Mack Hollins make up a solid wide receiver room. Philadelphia loves to use two tight ends and they replaced Trey Burton with rookie Dallas Goedert, who should see a significant amount of snaps in his rookie year.
The true secret sauce for this offense is their line, which is the best in the NFL. Jason Peters, if healthy, is an All-Pro left tackle and Lane Johnson may be the best right tackle in the NFL. Brandon Brooks and Jason Kelce are both Pro-Bowl caliber offensive linemen as well. Beating up their opponents in the trenches will give the Eagles’ quarterback ample time to throw and should give the backs gaping holes to run through.
5. Pittsburgh Steelers
The Pittsburgh Steelers are the embodiment of a high-powered offense. They boast one of the best trios in the NFL, all starting with the quarterback position. The 36-year-old Ben Roethlisberger is still one of the top NFL quarterbacks. However, he has had some injury problems over his career and could face some regression in 2018. The Steelers drafted Mason Rudolph out of Oklahoma State, who may have to step in for Roethlisberger at some point this year.
Le’Veon Bell may be the best running back in the NFL; he uses his elite patience and vision to break down defenses. However, there is always a caveat with Bell. Whether it be with his contract details, drug use, or injuries, there always seems to be a black cloud over his stellar on-field play. Antonio Brown, likewise, may be the best wide receiver in the NFL but has faced some injury issues in the past. Juju Smith-Schuster emerged last year as a reliable threat and second-round rookie James Washington has excellent hands and route-running ability. Behind a very solid offensive line, this Pittsburgh offense is deadly on paper. If this group could just stay on the field and out of trouble, it could well be the best unit in the NFL.
4. Minnesota Vikings
Adding Kirk Cousins in free agency should deliver a big boost to the Vikings’ offense, especially come playoff time. He has big-play ability and can be a gamer at times but his wildly inconsistent play hurts the offense. He will be an upgrade over Case Keenum, Sam Bradford, and Teddy Bridgewater.
Dalvin Cook was in the midst of a mind-boggling rookie season, earning 354 yards and two scores through four games. An unfortunate ACL injury ended his season early but Cook showed elite quickness, burst, and speed in the open field. Fully healthy in 2018, he should emerge as a top back in the NFL. Minnesota boasts one of the best receiver duos in the NFL in Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen. This is the best receiving corps Kirk Cousins has had and both should put up big numbers. Kyle Rudolph is a steady and solid tight end.
Minnesota’s offensive line isn’t the best but it should be good enough to buy time for Cousins. Combined with some great coaching in Mike Zimmer and new offensive coordinator John DeFilippo, the Vikings should be in for another excellent offensive season in 2018.
3. New England Patriots
Will the Patriots ever not be a top offensive team in the NFL? Will Tom Brady ever retire? Until he does, he alone makes the Pats an offensive juggernaut. He is one of the two best quarterbacks in the NFL and uses his elite processor to make up for his declining arm strength. The Patriots will utilize multiple running backs, including Rex Burkhead, James White, Jeremy Hill, and talented rookie Sony Michel.
The Patriots’ receiving core isn’t as flashy as it usually looks. Julian Edelman is suspended for the first four NFL games and is coming off of an injury. Who knows how he will play. Rob Gronkowski is still the best tight end in the NFL but he can’t ever seem to stay healthy. The rest of the corps is filled by a rag-tag bunch of youth and journeymen, including Chris Hogan, Jordan Matthews, and Cordarelle Patterson. Watch out for Braxton Berrios, the Pats’ sixth-round pick who is a Danny Amendola clone.
This offensive line isn’t anything special but should be able to do enough to keep Tom Brady upright. Rookie guard/tackle Isaiah Wynn should slot right in and make a big impact wherever he plays. No matter the supporting cast, Tom Brady and Bill Belichick will make it work and dominate defenses like they always have.
2. Los Angeles Rams
Everyone has keyed on to the Rams’ defensive upgrades this offseason but seem to neglect the potency of this offense. Remember, this offense was putting up Greatest Show On Turf esk numbers through 10 weeks. Jared Goff has really come into his own as a young quarterback. He’s smart, has a solid arm, and doesn’t make too many mistakes. Todd Gurley may be the best running back in the NFL and should be in for another dominant season with virtually no competition behind him.
The Rams’ receiving corps isn’t elite by any means but has talent. Cooper Kupp is a very solid slot receiver, with excellent hands and route running ability. They traded for Brandin Cooks; his elite speed should be a game-changing asset for Goff. Robert Woods is a very solid number three receiver. The Rams have two very solid young tight ends in Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett, as well.
The Rams’ offensive line isn’t anything special but Andrew Whitworth, Rodger Saffold, and John Sullivan are all solid pieces. Sean McVay is one of the best young coaches in the NFL and his west coast, zone running scheme that thrives on play action should have this offense being as prolific as ever.
1. New Orleans Saints
The Saints’ offense is absolutely stacked. Even at age 39, Drew Brees is still a top-five quarterback in the NFL and has the accuracy to make almost every throw on the field. Mark Ingram will serve a four-game suspension but is one of the most solid running backs in the NFL when on the field. The Saints still have the dynamic second-year player Alvin Kamara, who won the offensive rookie of the year last season. He is a home run waiting to happen and should hold down the fort well until Ingram can return.
Michael Thomas is a top 10 receiver in the NFL and is due for another breakout season. He’s strong, fast, and great in the air. The Saints’ receiving corps is incredibly deep as well, featuring Tedd Ginn Jr., Brandon Coleman, Cameron Meredith, and rookie Tre’Quan Smith. Their offensive line was one of the best in the NFL last season, led by stalwart tackle Ryan Ramczyk. If Terron Armstead can stay healthy, the Saints will have one of the best tackle duos in the NFL. When it is all said and done, the Saints have the most dynamic offense in the NFL.
Ben Pfeifer is the Managing Editor of the Colts for Full Press Coverage, the AFC South Division Editor, and head NBA editor. Want to continue the discussion? Contact Ben Pfeifer on Twitter @Ben_Pfeifer_, @FPC_NBA and @FPC_Colts.