Few teams pose as great a threat to an opposing defense as the offenses that will be on display Sunday at the Louisiana Superdome. Both the Houston Texans and New Orleans Saints have upper echelon quarterbacks, dynamic big wide receivers, running backs that can run, catch, and protect, field stretching tight ends and good offensive lines.
In each of those categories one team holds an edge over the other. For instance, Drew Brees is clearly the better QB between the two, but the Texans arguably have the best wide receiver and running back. The tight end and offensive line units are more in question, but I think ultimately both go to the Saints.
And that is ultimately the point—when all is said and done, the Saints are ultimately the better offense between these two teams. Let me expand on my thought process.
Start with continuity. Sure Matt Schaub, Andre Johnson and head coach Gary Kubiak have been together for a long time now, but they have not had tremendous success until the last couple years. Contrast that to Drew Brees, Marques Colston and Sean Payton.
The success those guys have had is unmatched in the entire league, going back to 2006. The Saints have kept the same offense, had the same play-caller and have enjoyed a long line of success each and every year. Statistically, the Saints are the No. 1 offense in the NFL going back to 2006.
Drew Brees has led the league in completion percentage, passing yards, passing touchdowns and a multitude of other categories in multiple years since 2006. Though Schaub has had multiple 4,000-plus yard seasons, and Andre Johnson has likely been the best wide receiver in the league during Kubiak's tenure in Houston, the offense has never been able to lead the league in anything.
Which team presents the better offense?
The offense racks up the yards—both on the ground and through the air. But points have often been difficult to come by for Houston. Schaub's touchdown to interception ratio is always a concern for Houston fans. And Johnson has consistently missed games, which has dramatically dropped the overall production of the Texans' offense.
Of course, last season the Texans figured out how to run the ball consistently with Arian Foster, and this year Ben Tate seems to be reprising the role of Olandis Gary in Denver—that of a second running back coming out of nowhere to rush for 1,000 yards (a large assumption of course).
For this reason, the question of who is better must be given more credence than my initial reaction would lend. Houston has become one of, if not the preeminent rushing team in the league. They do it much like Kubiak's crews in Denver with the zone scheme combined with the threat of an able passing offense.
But I don't believe anyone ever gave serious consideration to any of those Denver offenses as the best offense in the league. The reason: Running the football doesn't make you the best offense, scoring and winning does.
That is ultimately why the Saints must maintain the title—certainly among these two teams, and still possibly among all NFL teams. The Saints score and they win. They do it in exciting ways, and at times—like they did last week versus Chicago—they grind it out to get it done. That versatility of explosion and workmanlike is fairly unique.
One might be able to call New England that, at times Green Bay, Pittsburgh and even Houston. But no offense has found that balance as brilliantly as the Saints under Sean Payton. To control the clock when a team wants to is a crucial ability for a winning team. But to win championships, a team at one time or another must also get explosive plays.
By no means am I saying Houston's offense cannot do these things. Again, at times they are both. They are definitely capable of the explosive pass play, or even run play. Their running backs and tight ends are both effective in the screen game. Then again, so are those players for the Saints.
It would be difficult to pronounce absolute status upon either offense. There are areas the Texans are better—certainly the running game as a whole. But the Saints are more efficient in the short passing game, while also hitting the deep ball by personnel, formations and route combinations.
Both love play-action, and both are very good at it. Schaub is a little less patient, and will often try to force the ball down the field after play fakes, whereas Brees is generally very patient allowing himself to check down to his running backs.
In all, these are some of the things to look forward to this weekend. Both teams will use play-action, both will strive for balance in the run game. Both will try to hit some "explosives" in the passing game.
But ultimately the team that is more efficient in the passing game, is able to keep and move the ball, stay "on schedule" with down and distance and then punch the ball in the end zone, will be the more successful team in this game.
And for all practical purposes, the team that wins the game is the better offense. After all, what's the point of having a good, or great, offense that can't win football games?