As teams hit the field to begin organized practices, it is only natural to evaluate which NFL offenses will pose the biggest threat in 2017. Some clubs we are covering made some wonderful offseason acquisitions that should set them up for brilliant success this year
Meanwhile, there are those teams with playmakers in their prime years we don’t envision slowing down anytime soon. As for the quarterbacks leading these powerful offenses, they range in age from nearly 40 to a fresh-faced 23 years old.
Here we break down eight of the NFL’s scariest offenses — units other teams should be worried about facing in 2017.
Last year, the Falcons averaged a phenomenal 33.8 points on average per contest and an even better 36 points during the postseason. No key playmakers on offense are going anywhere in 2017. Assuming Steve Sarkisian picks up where Kyle Shanahan left off, this should prime the Falcons for more of the same high-scoring action this fall.
Quarterback Matt Ryan had a spectacular 2016 when he passed for a career-high 4,944 yards, 38 touchdowns and only seven interceptions. It was not surprising when he was named the NFL MVP of the season. His production should continue with Julio Jones headlining the Falcons’ brilliant cast of pass-catchers. Jones himself tallied 83 reception for 1,409 yards, averaging 17 yards per catch.
Running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman combined for 1,599 rushing yards and 19 rushing touchdowns, ranking them both in the top 11 in scoring. They’re both young and not even close to taking a step back.
Things really can’t get much brighter looking at the Falcons offense approaching the start of the season.
Of course the Steelers, armed with the power duo of wide receiver Antonio Brown and running back Le’Veon Bell, must make this list. They are about as threatening as any when it comes to analyzing the league’s receiver/back tandems.
It is no shock that Steelers locked up Brown for another four years after he nabbed 106 catches for 1,284 yards and 12 touchdowns last season. More spectacularly, Brown has averaged 1,578 yards and nearly 11 touchdowns per year his last four seasons. He is truly an athletic freak of nature, something he documents on social media which highlights how devoted he is to keeping in the best shape possible.
As for Bell, his talents are limitless on the field. He packs a dual-threat punch both in piling up yards on the ground and catching passes through the air. During the course of just 12 games in 2016, Bell recorded 1,884 total yards and nine touchdowns. Just imagine if he had been on the field all season.
Nevertheless, Bell tallied only five less receptions than Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson. He also averaged the second-most rushing yards (105.7) per tilt.
The best news when it comes to the Steelers offense is that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger plans to stick around versus retiring in 2017. Provided he stays healthy, Pittsburgh’s offense should once again be a force this year.
New Orleans Saints
While the Saints were definitely not one of the best teams last year, their offense still ranked No. 1 overall. Veteran quarterback and future Hall of Famer Drew Brees threw for 5,208 yards and 37 touchdowns for starters.
As an entity, the Saints offense recorded 6,816 yards, which broke down to 426 per game. Ranking just one step below Atlanta in scoring, the Saints averaged 29.3 point per tilt. There is not a lot here to suggest that Brees and Co. are going to stumble backwards in 2017, even minus wide receiver Brandin Cooks.
It’s worth noting that Brees has thrown for no less than 4,870 yards and 32 touchdowns since 2011. He has worked with various personnel during this period and the job always gets done. This season around, look for second-year receiver Michael Thomas to continue to thrive. He put up 92 catches for 1,127 yards and nine scores in his rookie year.
Winning more games would be the icing on the cake for the Saints this year. They certainly have the tools on offense to make it happen.
Green Bay Packers
The Packers feature a quarterback in Aaron Rodgers that can do it all. The six-time Pro Bowler led the league with 40 passing touchdowns in 2016. He also added four rushing scores and 369 rushing yards to his stat sheet.
He and wide receiver/running back Ty Montgomery did an excellent job picking up the slack that former running backs Eddie Lacy and James Starks left behind when they were injured. Montgomery’s wish is to convert to running back full time in 2017. And he should. He averaged a swift 5.9 yards per attempt on foot last fall.
— go pack go🧀 (@PackersHive) April 6, 2017
Through the air, Rodgers helped wide receiver Jordy Nelson tally a league-best 14 touchdowns. Beyond Nelson, Devonte Adams and Randall Cobb are both explosive playmakers.
Whatever draft moves the Packers make this April should only help the offense become even stronger in 2017, especially if it involves bolstering the offensive line.
The Cowboys chose two of the best rookies in the 2016 NFL Draft. One was selected for immediate use — running back Ezekiel Elliott. The other, quarterback Dak Prescott, was supposedly for the future. But a preseason injury to quarterback Tony Romo expedited the plan for Prescott.
As things shook out, both rookies put up some mind blowing numbers last season.
Elliott will attempt to keep pace with his league-high 108.7 yards on average recorded per game and 15 rushing touchdowns.
Prescott, who helped lead his team to a 13-3 playoff run, shall look to build on his stats. Among all quarterbacks who started at least 12 times, Prescott ranked No. 3 in quarterback rating at 104.9 last year. He scored a total of 29 touchdowns compared to just four interceptions and completed an incredible 67.8 percent of his passes.
Factor in for 2017 a healthy Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, Cole Beasley and watch the Cowboys offense take off like bandits again this fall.
Ultimately, Dallas’ offense ranked No. 5 in 2016. Provided neither Elliott or Prescott hits a sophomore slump, both should be major contributors, keeping the Cowboys’ offense as scary as ever in 2017.
New England Patriots
Quarterback Tom Brady proved all naysayers wrong when he returned from a four-game suspension to lead the Patriots to an exhilarating overtime Super Bowl LI victory.
Now that he’ll be around for 16 games, barring injury, the Patriots offense is well equipped to potentially outperform itself in 2017. Our apologies, in advance, to the rest of the AFC East.
Last season the Patriots offense finished No. 4 overall, sans Brady for the first quarter and tight end Rob Gronkowski for eight contests. As one of the most expertly-coached teams in the league, the Patriots are in a league of their own.
As for this offseason, re-signing running back LeGarrette Blount, who rushed for a league-high 18 touchdowns, would be a great thing. And, brilliantly, Bill Belichick traded for Cooks, who owner Robert Kraft recently compared to Randy Moss and who will undoubtedly be a fabulous tool for Brady.
Between Cooks, Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Gronk, Dwayne Allen (also acquired in a trade) and pass-catching back James White, the Patriots should have a field day steamrolling opponents in 2017.
In great news on the west coast, quarterback Derek Carr provided an encouraging health update on Monday.
Despite Carr breaking his leg in Week 16 and the Raiders falling short in the Wild Card playoff round, their offense finished No. 6 last season. This stands to only improve this year. Carr plays behind one of the best offensive lines — a unit that allowed him to be sacked only 16 times last year. This should equate to more productivity for the young quarterback moving ahead, especially as the line continues to develop continuity.
The young quarterback who is really finding his groove with Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree. The addition of tight end Jared Cook during the offseason is an intriguing one as well. He should make for a nice option deep down the middle of the field.
And, all eyes and ears will be monitoring the Marshawn Lynch situation. Lynch wants to play for the Raiders, and a deal for Oakland to acquire him in a trade from the Seattle Sehawks could be breaking any day.
With or without Beastmode in Oakland, the Raiders offense should not be underestimated.
In sticking with west coast teams, Bruce Arians has the pleasure of coaching the best offense in the NFC West. The Cardinals took a few stumbles in 2016, but their offense still finished at a stealthy No. 9 overall.
Running back David Johnson absolutely crushed it his second year, posting a grand total of 2,118 yards and 20 touchdowns. He alone makes the Cardinals offense quite frightening in a face-to-face matchup.
— Adam Spinks (@TheRBScout) April 14, 2017
On the other side of 30 and proving ageless, wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald tallied a league-high 107 receptions, showing no sign of decline. The offense also boasts John Brown and the young speedster J.J. Nelson. Tight end Jermaine Gresham rounds things out, giving quarterback Carson Palmer another big-bodied catcher.
The Cardinals fell shy of reaching the playoffs in 2016. But there is no reason to think at all they can’t conquer their division with such a talented roster.