In this two-part series, I will rank the offenses and defenses on the Falcons schedule. The criteria for the rankings in both parts will be similar but contain minor differences. I will consider difference-making starters, role and rotational players, and scheme for teams’ positions.
The difference between the offensive and defensive rankings is how much I value players vs. coaching and scheme. Offensively, schematics are more important and can play a vital role in sustaining an elite unit. Defensively, roster turnover is more prevalent, which makes it more difficult to maintain. Therefore, personnel will be valued more in the defensive article than the offensive one. If you missed the defensive rankings last week, be sure to check them out!
13. (NFL: 31) Chicago Bears – Offensive Coordinator: Bill Lazer
The Bears offense put the NFL on notice during Mitchell Trubisky’s rookie campaign. Since then, the group has been inconsistent with questions surrounding their first-round quarterback. Bill Lazer leads the offense, who has had absolutely no success as an NFL offensive coordinator. Matt Nagy has been and will be the play-designer and play-caller. In my opinion, he is overrated in that regard.
There seems to be no sequence or rhythm in the calls. The offense looks to be more interested in smoke and mirror concepts than production. Mitchell Trubisky is not smart enough to diagnose a defense and go through his progressions. Don’t let Week 1 against a terrible Lions team fool you.
The offensive line is bad in every aspect; they can not run or pass block, so the talent at running back does not matter. The only offensive linemen worth mentioning are Cody Whitehair and James Daniels. Allen Robinson is a top 15 receiver in my eyes, but he’s currently holding out. The Falcons should be able to shut this offense down.
12. (NFL: 27) Los Angeles Chargers – Offensive Coordinator: Shane Streichen
Much like the Bears, the Chargers’ offense will be reliant on the defense. With long time quarterback Phillip Rivers gone, Tyrod Taylor is the new starter. Even when the Chargers were bad, Rivers made this a better than average offense, but I do not think Tyrod can do that without a supporting cast, and he showed that in Week 1 against the Bengals.
Questions are surrounding Tyrod as the starter, as well as the scheme Shane Streichen will deploy. The line was upgraded by bringing in Bryan Bulaga and Trai Turner, to make it an average group. The skill positions are relatively good if Hunter Henry can stay healthy. Kennan Allen is one of the best route runners in the NFL and pairs well with Mike Williams, who is best at contested catches. The running back room is solid, but I just do not think Tyrod Taylor is a starting-caliber quarterback.
11. (NFL: 25) Carolina Panthers – Offensive Coordinator: Joe Brady
Rookie head coach Matt Rhule found success at Baylor and will try to replicate it with former LSU OC Joe Brady. Brady coached under Sean Payton for the Saints before joining the Tigers in Baton Rouge. His offensive philosophy is rooted in the Sean Payton system. This will be the first season in almost a decade that Cam Newton will not be the opening game starter. Instead, Teddy Two Gloves will be a different change of pace. He will have to be efficient for this offense to have any success, but he has the weapons around him to do so.
DJ Moore enjoyed a breakout year a season ago, even with Kyle Allen taking snaps. If Moore is a possession receiver, Robby Anderson should compliment him well as one of the league’s premier deep threats. The tackle position is strong as long as Russell Okung can stay healthy opposite Taylor Moton. Matt Paradis is a top ten center, but offensive guard is where the uncertainty lies.
Of course, the offense will run through Christian McCaffery, one of the best players in the NFL, regardless of position. McCaffery will enjoy working with someone like Joe Brady, whose offense is Sean Payton-Esque, and utilizes the running back significantly when attacking opposing defenses. Just like their defense, Carolina’s offense is inexperienced and has many uncertainties.
10. (NFL: 20) Minnesota Vikings – Offensive Coordinator: Gary Kubiak
I suspect the Vikings’ offense to regress from 2019 for one main reason — the loss of Stefon Diggs. Diggs was the teams’ deep threat and will be sorely missed.
Kubiak has had several top-five and ten offenses in Denver, Houston, and Baltimore. His philosophy has been relatively consistent throughout his coaching career. He wants to run the ball (which the Vikings did more times than any team in 2019) then build the play-action pass game off of that.
Kirk Cousins is ideal for this type of system. He should not be trusted to throw the ball as much as a Patrick Mahomes would, but he is accurate off play-action. Though the offensive line is horrendous in pass protection, the group is decent during the run. With an elite back like Dalvin Cook, the team must commit to the run and build off of that to be successful. Third down and anything more than eight yards for a first down is where Cousins and the offensive line struggle. They must stay ahead of the chains to be successful.
9. (NFL: 19) Denver Broncos – Offensive Coordinator: Pat Shurmur
The Denver Broncos might have the most skepticism in the league about what their offense will look like. Pat Shurmur is a much better offensive coordinator than head coach and wants to run his offense similarly to Gary Kubiak’s. He led two top-five offenses in Philadelphia and a top ten offense in Minnesota. This team is young and dripping in potential.
I believe that Drew Lock could be Denver’s future, but there still needs to be improvement before I am outspoken about him. KJ Hamler will be a solid role player, and Jerry Jeudy will be good but needs time to develop. Courtland Sutton’s injury hinders Jeudy’s development because competing against the top cornerback instead of the second corner is a sizeable difference. Melvin Gordon and Phillip Lindsey will be one of the better running back duos in the league. They will be playing behind an offensive line coached by Mike Munchak, who is one of the best at his position. This season will be the conception of the Drew Lock era in Denver.
8. (NFL: 16) Las Vegas Raiders – Offensive Coordinator: Greg Olson
No, not that Greg Olsen. Greg Olson, who has never had a top ten offense in his 11 years as a coordinator. Jon Gruden is responsible for this offense that is dedicated to the run and efficient passing off of it. Gruden’s offense has been productive, underrated even, despite the lack of talent.
The offensive line is a top-five group, as Josh Jacobs demonstrated by becoming a top ten running back in his rookie season. Darren Waller is a top-five tight end who has an incredibly high ceiling. The wide receivers are not scaring anyone. Henry Ruggs could develop into a Tyreek Hill type of player, but for now, he will be given little respect till he proves himself. The most significant question mark is similar to that of Minnesota’s. Can Derek Carr (Kirk Cousins) be productive in obvious passing downs without the crutch of a play-action?
7. (NFL: 14) Seattle Seahawks – Offensive coordinator: Brian Shottenheimer
This spot might surprise some people who think Seattle should be lower on this list. The offensive line can run block fine, but they cannot pass-protect to save their lives, and this might be the worst scheme in the league. HOWEVER, with Russell Wilson as your quarterback, the Seahawks will always have a chance, and he showed why in Week 1.
Wilson might not be the best quarterback in the league, but he is certainly the most valuable. The skill players are of good quality. DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, Greg Olsen, Chris Carson, Carlos Hyde, and Rashad Penny are all capable of putting up impressive numbers, but the ceiling for this team is hurt due to the scheme and coaching. They will be better than average but not great unless Russell Wilson has MVP performance after performance.
6. (NFL: 12) Detroit Lions – Offensive Coordinator: Darrell Bevell
At the beginning of 2019, Matthew Stafford was on fire. If he maintained his numbers before the injury, he would have been in the conversation for MVP. With that being said, Stafford has been injured frequently — but for the purposes of these rankings — we consider everyone healthy until they are not. Stafford is a top ten quarterback, Kenny Golladay is a top ten wide receiver, and Marvin Jones is one of the best number two receivers in football. With a solid tight end and a stable of capable running backs, this is one of the most balanced teams in the NFL. If healthy, this offense could be a top ten group come playoff time.
5. (NFL: 11) Green Bay Packers – Offensive Coordinator: Nathaniel Hackett
Like many other teams, Green Bay’s offensive coordinator is not the play-caller. Head coach Matt Lafleur brought in his offensive system last year, which is similar to Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay’s. The Packers want to establish the run and build the passing game off of that. The team has premier talent at every critical position but does lack depth.
Aaron Rodgers has declined in recent years but is still a top ten quarterback. Davante Adams and Aaron Jones are arguably top five at their respective positions. David Bakhtiari is a top three left tackle and has been an All-pro each of the last three seasons. In his second year, Elgton Jenkins is already a top ten guard and has the flexibility to play any position along the offensive line. This will be a better group than last year after a season of experience, borderline top ten offense.
4. (NFL: 7) Dallas Cowboys – Offensive Coordinator: Kellen Moore
The Dallas Cowboys will be electric this season. Ignore their Week 1 performance… Dak Prescott will light the league on fire after the coaching change from Jason Garrett to Mike McCarthy. His offense is routed in the Air Coryell system and relies on receivers winning one on one battles. In Green Bay, it was slants and flats, then a deep shot.
Dallas has an offensive roster best suited for his philosophy. Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and CeeDee Lamb are capable of winning one-on-one matchups, giving McCarthy deadly flexibility in his play designs. He will be able to line all three in any position. The offensive line regressed but still is one of the better units in the NFL. I expect this team to surprise people with the regime change.
3. (NFL: 6) Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Offensive Coordinator: Byron Leftwich
Although Byron Leftwich will soon be a hot commodity, Bruce Arians will remain in control of the play calling. It is easier to list the positions that are inferior than superior.
The offensive line is the weakest link but is still an above-average group. Tom Brady is the smartest quarterback ever not named Peyton Manning. He is clutch, a leader, possesses incredible pocket presence, and elevates everyone around him.
This offense might not put-up record-breaking points or yards but will win games doing whatever is necessary. The skill players are ridiculous. Gronk, OJ Howard, Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Ronald Jones, and Leonard Fournette create one of the most star-studded offenses in recent memory.
2. (NFL: 3) New Orleans Saints – Offensive Coordinator: Pete Charmichael
Carmichael’s relationship with Drew Brees and this offense might be the best among active OC’s. Every year with Brees, he has led the offense to an average ranking of 3.3 in yards and 5.1 in points. They rarely finish outside of the top ten.
The Saints are ranked higher than the Bucs because we know what we are getting with Payton and Brees, and their offensive line is the best in the NFL. Michael Thomas, Jared Cook, Emmanuel Sanders, and Alvin Kamera are all tier one or two players at their positions. This will be another big yard season for the Saints, and I expect them to still end up blowing whatever situation they find themselves in come the playoffs.
1. (NFL: 1) Kansas City Chiefs – Offensive Coordinator: Eric Bieniemy
Not much has to be said about this group. The best QB in the league is led by two of the best offensive minds — Andy Reid and Eric Bieniemy — and the Chiefs have done an unbelievable job of surrounding Mahomes with elite talent. Their wide receiver core, consisting of Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins, Travis Kelce, and Mecole Hardman, is elite. And they just added another versatile weapon in the first round of the draft in Clyde Edwards-Helaire. This will once again be the best offense, and possibly the best team in the NFL.
Photo: Doug Murray/Icon Sportswire
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