Ranking the Top 10 Offenses in the NFL

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorNovember 2, 2018

Ranking the Top 10 Offenses in the NFL

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    The NFL team scoring average is 24.1 points per game, an all-time high.

    To put that number in context, that's nearly a touchdown higher than the mark 25 seasons ago of 18.7 points per game. Remarkably, a team scoring the league average now would have been No. 2 overall in 1993, behind only the Steve Young- and Jerry Rice-led San Francisco 49ers.

    The offensive boom has been this year's storyline, so much so that it was hard to limit this following list to 10 teams (ranking the top five is near impossible). You can read our top 10 defenses here.

    Here's a look at the NFL's top 10 offenses now. They were each judged based off the following criteria:


    Football Outsiders Defense-Adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA)

    A proprietary Football Outsiders statistic, DVOA "measures a team's efficiency by comparing success on every play to a league average based on situation and opponent." The statistic is arguably the best analytical measurement of team success.


    Explosive Plays

    Efficiency is important, but all teams need big plays to make life easier.

    Football analyst Warren Sharp has a proprietary list ranking the percentage of explosive plays each NFL team pulls off. Explosive plays are defined as rushes of 10 or more yards and pass completions of 15 or more yards. We'll use explosive run and pass rankings here.



    Separate from DVOA, Football Outsiders also ranks variance, which is "a measure of a team's game-to-game consistency as judged by total DVOA rating for each game." Offenses with less variance give their teams a better chance to win on a week-to-week basis.


    Notable Injuries and Personnel Changes 

    The relative health of team offenses came into consideration, as did personnel changes or increased playing time for key players. For example, Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen is back with the team after missing a month with a foot injury.



    Does the team's offensive leader have an impressive track record? If so, that helps the unit.


    Team Defense

    If a team's defense underperforms, then the offense must work in unideal, pressure-packed circumstances, as it's forced to lead the team to victory. Offenses under more stress in a given week to produce receive more credit.



    We'll throw everything together and come up with a ranking.

10. Indianapolis Colts

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    Football Outsiders DVOA: No. 15 overall (No. 18 pass, No. 11 run)

    Explosive Run Play Percentage (Sharp Football Stats): 12 percent (16th overall)

    Explosive Pass Play Percentage (Sharp Football Stats): 6 percent (27th overall)

    Variance: No. 13


    Notable Injuries/Personnel Changes

    Running back Marlon Mack (four games), wideout T.Y. Hilton (two-and-a-half games) and tight end Jack Doyle (five games) have all missed time but are back.

    The offensive line has played roulette because of various injuries, but the team has returned left tackle Anthony Castonzo, who has started the team's past three games.

    Braden Smith has also solidified the right tackle spot, where he's started the past four games. Guard Matt Slauson and tackles Joe Haeg and J'Marcus Webb are all on injured reserve.



    Head coach Frank Reich, in his first season running the team, calls the plays. He's assisted by offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni, who most recently was the wide receivers coach for the Los Angeles Chargers.

    Reich has been an offensive coordinator for four years but worked under head coaches with an offensive background (Mike McCoy with the Chargers and Doug Pederson with the Philadelphia Eagles). He called the plays in 2014 and 2015 with the Bolts (the team finished 17th and 26th in points per game, respectively) but did not do so with Philadelphia. 


    Team Defense

    Rookie linebacker Darius Leonard (88 tackles in seven games) and defensive lineman Margus Hunt (four sacks) have been tremendous.

    However, the Colts defense has dealt with an inordinate number of injuries that has hindered the team's performance at times. Overall, the team gives up the seventh-most points per game (26.6).



    The Colts sneak into the top 10 by virtue of the team's offense still performing well despite a litany of injuries to key offensive players.

    The offensive line has been the star unit this year as it has kept quarterback Andrew Luck upright, which has been a trouble spot for previous Colts lines. Per Football Outsiders, the team is fifth in adjusted sack rate allowed.

    If the line keeps this performance up and the offense stays relatively healthy, the 3-5 Colts could make a serious run at the AFC South crown.

9. Chicago Bears

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    Football Outsiders DVOA: No. 11 overall (No. 14 pass, No. 5 run)

    Explosive Run Play Percentage (Sharp Football Stats): 14 percent (8th overall)

    Explosive Pass Play Percentage (Sharp Football Stats): 9 percent (17th overall)

    Variance: No. 20


    Notable Injuries/Personnel Changes

    Offensive guard Kyle Long is out six to eight weeks with a foot injury. Wideout Allen Robinson missed Week 8 with a groin injury and did not practice Wednesday.

    Running back Tarik Cohen has received extra touches since Week 4 and excelled, turning 52 of them from scrimmage into 488 yards and four touchdowns.

    The Bears offense averaged just 16.3 points per game in Weeks 1 through 3 but has averaged 32.8 points per game since Cohen got more looks (he had just seven per game through three weeks).



    Head coach Matt Nagy is in his first season with the team and calls the plays. He was previously the quarterbacks coach in Kansas City under Andy Reid from 2013 to 2015 and the offensive coordinator in 2016 and 2017.

    He didn't call plays until the Chiefs' final five games in 2017, when Reid handed over those duties following a 1-5 stretch. Nagy helped the offense bounce back as the team scored 28.6 points per game to finish 4-1 and win the AFC West with a 10-6 record.


    Team Defense

    The Bears defense is arguably one of the NFL's best (if not the best). Edge-rusher Khalil Mack (five sacks) leads a team ranked No. 1 in DVOA.

    The Bears have a couple of poor performances on their record (a 31-28 loss to the Miami Dolphins and a 38-31 defeat to the New England Patriots), but Mack played with a hurt ankle in both. He sat Sunday's game versus the New York Jets to rest, but he still did not practice Wednesday.



    The Bears offense has been night and day this year, but the one clear difference between a sluggish first three games and an explosive past four has been Cohen's emergence. He's a difficult matchup for any team out of the backfield and a near-impossible cover for linebackers and safeties.

    The key is whether the Bears offense can stay consistent through a 16-game stretch. If it does, the Bears should be a playoff team. If not, the defense will need to lead the way as it did early on.

8. Green Bay Packers

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    Football Outsiders DVOA: No. 6 overall (No. 13 pass, No. 4 run)

    Explosive Run Play Percentage (Sharp Football Stats): 16 percent (4th overall)

    Explosive Pass Play Percentage (Sharp Football Stats): 8 percent (21st overall)

    Variance: No. 1


    Notable Injuries/Personnel Changes

    Quarterback Aaron Rodgers is playing with an MCL sprain suffered in Week 1 versus the Bears. Wideouts Randall Cobb and Geronimo Allison have sat a combined five games with injuries, although rookies Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown both did well in their places.

    Ty Montgomery was traded Tuesday, and running back Aaron Jones saw a season-high 14 touches last Sunday. It's possible Jones (5.8 yards per carry in his career) sees more opportunities moving forward after being part of a three-man backfield with Montgomery and Jamaal Williams.



    Head coach Mike McCarthy is the Green Bay play-caller. Offenses have done well under his 13-year Packers tenure, finishing in the top 10 in points nine times. Having one of the best quarterbacks of all time helps, but McCarthy has performed well for the most part.

    He hasn't escaped criticism, however, and numerous sources have criticized his 2018 work. Ryan Glasspiegel of the Big Lead wrote his play-calling at the end of a 29-29 tie with the Vikings was "egregious," while Peter Bukowski of the Acme Packing Company said McCarthy's offense is "behind the NFL times in terms of creativity and ease of operation."

    Still, McCarthy has had plenty of success working with Rodgers over the years, and that can't be discounted.


    Team Defense

    The defense has endured a mediocre season, ranking No. 20 in overall DVOA, No. 17 versus the pass and No. 24 against the run.

    Its performance may get worse after the team traded safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, who had a team-leading three interceptions, to the Washington Redskins for a fourth-round pick. The team does do a good job getting after the quarterback, sacking opposing signal-callers 23 times.



    Jones is the Packers' offensive X-factor. Simply put, he needs 15 to 20 touches per game as opposed to being limited to 10 over his first four games this season. Even the 14 touches he had against the Rams seems a bit low.

    If Jones continues to get more work, the Packers offense can jump to another level. The same goes for Valdes-Scantling, who can make a case for being the team's second-best receiver (14 catches, 257 yards, two touchdowns). With him being featured as well, Green Bay can jump the Bears and Minnesota Vikings and clinch the NFC North.

7. Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Football Outsiders DVOA: No. 8 overall (No. 8 pass, No. 16 run)

    Explosive Run Play Percentage (Sharp Football Stats): 13 percent (13th overall)

    Explosive Pass Play Percentage (Sharp Football Stats): 10 percent (11th overall)

    Variance: No. 11


    Notable Injuries/Personnel Changes

    Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell has been out all season in the midst of a contract dispute. He has to return by Week 10 to gain an accrued season and be eligible for free agency.

    The right side of the offensive line has endured some injuries. Right guard David DeCastro was out for two games but is back. Right tackle Marcus Gilbert has missed two games but returned to practice in full Wednesday.



    Randy Fichtner is in his first year as the team's offensive coordinator after serving as the Steelers' quarterbacks coach since 2010. Prior to that, Fichtner coached wide receivers from 2007 through 2009.

    Fichtner has received praise from numerous sources, including Alex Kozora of Steelers Depot, for his game plans against the Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns in a couple of wins.

    Ron Cook of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette also noted that the relationship between Fichtner and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger this year has worked out, with the signal-caller saying the two have gone along "very well."


    Team Defense

    The Steelers defense did not fare well in September in allowing 29.0 points per game. It also ranks No. 22 in DVOA overall. Defending the pass has been the team's biggest problem.

    However, Pittsburgh has turned it around in recent weeks, allowing point totals of just 17, 21 and 18 in its past three contests.

    Chris Adamski of the Tribune-Review pointed out one thing the Steelers are doing better in their win streak: "Over their previous 13 regular-season games dating back to Week 8 of last season, the Steelers—remarkably—had given up at least one passing play of at least 39 yards in all but one of them. Over the past three games, they have allowed just one pass that gained more than 24 yards."

    If that trend continues, the Steelers can turn more toward a successful run game led by James Conner (and perhaps co-led with Bell soon) as opposed to trying to keep up in passing shootouts.



    The Steelers are one of the most well-rounded offensive teams in football, with a strong-armed quarterback, a breakout running back in Conner, two excellent wideouts in Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster, and a tight end duo in Vance McDonald and Jesse James that has combined for 604 receiving yards.

    Even with the injuries, the offensive line has been exceptional, ranking 11th in adjusted line yards and first in adjusted sack rate, per Football Outsiders.

    The presumed return of Bell (he hasn't reported as of Wednesday, however) should only help the team down the stretch.

6. Carolina Panthers

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    Football Outsiders DVOA: No. 5 overall (No. 6 pass, No. 1 run)

    Explosive Run Play Percentage (Sharp Football Stats): 20 percent (2nd overall)

    Explosive Pass Play Percentage (Sharp Football Stats): 5 percent (32nd overall)

    Variance: No. 18


    Notable Injuries/Personnel Changes

    Tight end Greg Olsen missed a month with a foot injury but is back healthy. 

    Wideout D.J. Moore, the team's first-round pick, has seen more playing time in recent weeks. He's delivered with 16 catches (20 targets) and 227 yards in his past four games.

    Right guard Trai Turner missed two games with a concussion but has returned. Left tackle Matt Kalil and right tackle Daryl Williams are both on injured reserve but are eligible to return later this season. Chris Clark and Taylor Moton have done well in their places, although Williams was excellent since entering the team's starting lineup in 2016.



    Offensive coordinator Norv Turner is in his first year coaching with the Panthers. Turner has enjoyed a decorated offensive coaching career, helping lead the Dallas Cowboys to Super Bowls in 1992 and 1993. He's been an NFL head coach or offensive coordinator for 27 years, and Turner's offenses have been top eight in scoring 10 times and top two on five occasions.


    Team Defense

    The Panthers defense has not excelled as well as it has in previous years under head coach Ron Rivera. The team ranks just No. 17 in DVOA and No. 18 in yards allowed per play.

    Still, the team is doing a good job keeping opponents off the scoreboard, ranking No. 11. Middle linebacker Luke Kuechly and defensive tackle Kawann Short are two of the best at their positions in the game.



    Quarterback Cam Newton and running back Christian McCaffrey form a dominant rushing duo that makes the Panthers' run game the best in football, and they're helped by an offensive line that has excelled despite numerous injuries.

    The pass game has been efficient, although it is No. 32 in explosive plays. However, Olsen's return and Moore's emergence could lift the team to new heights.

5. Los Angeles Chargers

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    Football Outsiders DVOA: No. 3 overall (No. 2 pass, No. 9 run)

    Explosive Run Play Percentage (Sharp Football Stats): 21 percent (1st overall)

    Explosive Pass Play Percentage (Sharp Football Stats): 16 percent (2nd overall)

    Variance: No. 4


    Notable Injuries/Personnel Changes

    The Chargers offense has enjoyed good health nearly all season, although No. 1 tight end Hunter Henry was lost for the year with a torn ACL in the offseason.

    Running back Melvin Gordon did miss his team's most recent game (a 20-19 win over the Tennessee Titans), but a good sign occurred Wednesday as he practiced on a limited basis. Offensive tackles Russell Okung and Sam Tevi each missed one game but are back in the lineup.



    Offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt has coached in the NFL since 1997, with his apex coming as the head coach of the 2009 NFC champion Arizona Cardinals.

    In 10 of his 15 seasons as an offensive coordinator or head coach, Whisenhunt's offenses have finished top 10 in points per game.


    Team Defense

    The Chargers defense has been shorthanded all year sans edge-rusher Joey Bosa, who is without a specific timetable for a return as he recovers from a foot injury. Bosa has 23.0 sacks in two full seasons with the Bolts.

    His absence may have led to some mixed results to start the year (the team allowed 30 points per game in September), but the Bolts have been excellent since then in preventing their last three opponents from hitting the 20-point mark.



    The Chargers hit nearly every note, as they're efficient, explosive, consistent and well-coached. The team has an abundance of talent even without the excellent Henry, who had 12 touchdowns in 29 career games.

    Gordon and Austin Ekeler make up a tremendous backfield, while Keenan Allen, Mike Williams and Tyrell Williams can make a case for being the league's best wideout trio. Quarterback Philip Rivers isn't slowing down in his 15th season, as he's completed 69.1 percent of his passes and tossed 17 touchdowns.

    The Bolts have some tough games up ahead against excelling defenses (e.g. the Seahawks and Baltimore Ravens), so we'll see if the team's hot offensive start continues.

4. New Orleans Saints

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    Football Outsiders DVOA: No. 4 overall (No. 4 pass, No. 6 run)

    Explosive Run Play Percentage (Sharp Football Stats): 5 percent (32nd overall)

    Explosive Pass Play Percentage (Sharp Football Stats): 13 percent (4th overall)

    Variance: No. 3


    Notable Injuries/Personnel Changes

    Running back Mark Ingram missed the first four games of the season with a PED suspension but is back. Wideout Ted Ginn Jr. was placed on injured reserve Oct. 18 with a knee injury, and rookie Tre'Quan Smith has seen more playing time in his place. Wideout Cameron Meredith was out for the first two games but is back.

    Left guard Andrus Peat has missed a couple of games with an ankle injury and a concussion, but he's back in the lineup.



    Head coach Sean Payton, who calls the team's plays, has led the Saints since 2006.

    Simply put, his team's efforts on that side of the ball have been excellent for all 14 seasons, as Bucky Brooks of NFL.com noted: "Payton is arguably one of the best offensive minds in the business, as evidenced by the Saints' six No. 1 rankings in total offense during Payton's tenure thus far (2006, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2014 and 2016) and a pair of top finishes in scoring offense (2008 and 2009)."

    Of course, quarterback Drew Brees has been around since 2006, and he's a surefire Hall of Famer and one of the best the game has ever seen at his position. But Payton has managed to lead a consistently excellent offense for 13 years despite the turnover in offensive talent.


    Team Defense

    If you take out New Orleans' games with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Atlanta Falcons, the Saints would be No. 8 in fewest points allowed per game (19.6).

    However, New Orleans has a couple of poor defensive showings on its ledger (48-40 loss to the Bucs, 43-37 win over the Falcons). Of note, the pass defense is ranked just No. 29 in DVOA.



    Like most teams on this list, the quarterback can rely on a remarkable amount of talent. Brees has two Pro Bowl running backs (Ingram and Alvin Kamara), one of the game's best wideouts (Michael Thomas) and two young pass-catchers with potential (Smith and Meredith).

    Couple that with some excellent coaching and an offensive line that does a good job keeping Brees upright, and you have a clear top-five offense that one could make a case for being first overall (the difference between the top five is razor-thin).

3. Los Angeles Rams

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    Football Outsiders DVOA: No. 2 overall (No. 3 pass, No. 3 run)

    Explosive Run Play Percentage (Sharp Football Stats): 13 percent (12th overall)

    Explosive Pass Play Percentage (Sharp Football Stats): 16 percent (1st overall)

    Variance: No. 21


    Notable Injuries/Personnel Changes

    Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp has missed two-plus games, first because of a concussion and second because of an MCL sprain. L.A. wideout Brandin Cooks left a game with the Seattle Seahawks in the second quarter because of a concussion but cleared protocol and returned the following game. Otherwise, the offense has enjoyed excellent health.



    Head coach Sean McVay has worked wonders with the Rams since coming on board in 2017. In the year prior to his arrival, the team finished dead last in points per game (14.0). That number more than doubled in 2017, as the Rams led the league with 29.9 points per contest. McVay has received much praise for his recall ability, communication skills and schemes

    The team does not have an offensive coordinator (McVay calls the plays), but quarterbacks coach Zac Taylor is so well-regarded that he's considered the favorite to land the open Cleveland Browns job, per OddsShark.


    Team Defense

    The Rams have the best defensive player in football in tackle Aaron Donald, who leads the league with 10 sacks. All 10 of them have come within the past five games, including four versus the 49ers in a 39-10 win.

    Sometimes, Donald can put up a performance so dominant that the Rams offense doesn't have to do a lot to win a ballgame. However, the run defense has allowed 4.7 yards per carry, which has led to the Rams needing to pull out a few high-scoring games (e.g. a 33-31 victory at the Seattle Seahawks).



    The Rams have a tremendous amount of talent and one of the best offensive lines in football. They are all put in the best positions to win thanks to their head coach.

    One could easily make a case for the Rams being No. 1 overall, but in a year where a handful of teams have elite offenses, the margin is so thin. Ultimately, one team ahead of them has had a slightly better year, while another is now firing on all cylinders after an addition and some return.

2. New England Patriots

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    Football Outsiders DVOA: No. 7 overall (No. 7 pass, No. 10 run)

    Explosive Run Play Percentage (Sharp Football Stats): 14 percent (7th overall)

    Explosive Pass Play Percentage (Sharp Football Stats): 6 percent (29th overall)

    Variance: No. 9


    Notable Injuries/Personnel Changes

    Wideout Julian Edelman is back after sitting a four-game suspension. Wide receiver Josh Gordon made his debut with the team in Week 4 following a trade with the Cleveland Browns.

    Tight end Rob Gronkowski missed one game versus the Chicago Bears with back spasms but has returned. Running back Rex Burkhead was placed on injured reserve with a neck injury and is eligible to return in late November.

    Running back Sony Michel has missed a few games and is currently dealing with a knee injury. He practiced Saturday, although his status for the team's Week 9 game versus the Packers is unknown.



    Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels has been in charge since 2012. From that year through 2017, the Pats never ranked lower than sixth in offensive DVOA.

    McDaniels was also the OC from 2006 to 2008. Although the team scored the second-most points in 2007, its most impressive performance may have come in 2008, as the club finished seventh in offensive DVOA despite quarterback Tom Brady missing nearly all of the season with a torn ACL suffered in Week 1.


    Team Defense

    The Pats have a bend-but-don't-break defense that has trouble rushing the passer (just 12 sacks in eight games) but does a decent job keeping opponents out of the end zone (12th in fewest points allowed per game).

    The latter fact is partially because of cornerback Stephon Gilmore, who is second in the league with 11 passes defended.



    The 2018 Pats may not be getting as much notoriety as the Kansas City Chiefs, Rams or Saints, but the top six players in their current skill-position crew (Michel, Gordon, Gronkowski, Edelman, wideout Chris Hogan and running back James White) have been on the same field just twice. In those games, the Pats won 38-24 over the Colts and 43-40 against the Chiefs.

    As long as the 41-year-old Brady continues to defy time and the Pats stay relatively healthy on that front, the offense should be one of the top three in the league all season.

1. Kansas City Chiefs

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    Football Outsiders DVOA: No. 1 overall (No. 1 pass, No. 7 run)

    Explosive Run Play Percentage (Sharp Football Stats): 13 percent (10th overall)

    Explosive Pass Play Percentage (Sharp Football Stats): 14 percent (3rd overall)

    Variance: No. 12


    Notable Injuries/Personnel Changes

    The Chiefs have lost two interior linemen to injuries.

    Center Mitch Morse is in the concussion protocol and does not have a timetable to return. Right guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, M.D. suffered a fractured left fibula in the team's Oct. 7 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars and was placed on injured reserve. He'll be eligible to return Dec. 9.

    Otherwise, the skill-position players have enjoyed good health for the most part, although wideout Tyreek Hill is currently dealing with a groin strain.



    Offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy is in his first year at his current position. He received much praise for his work from head coach Andy Reid and quarterback Patrick Mahomes in an article from Adam Teicher of ESPN.

    Reid still calls the plays in Kansas City. Since arriving from the Philadelphia Eagles in 2013, the offenses under Reid's command have an average ranking of 8.5.


    Team Defense

    While the Chiefs sport a solid pass rush led by linebacker Dee Ford, who has eight of his team's 24 sacks, the team ranks just 26th in DVOA.

    Kansas City has needed to win a few shootouts (38-28 vs. the Chargers, 42-37 vs. the Steelers), although a few recent performances (a 45-10 win over the 5-3 Bengals) have been encouraging.



    Somehow, the Chiefs lost two interior starting linemen in early October and haven't skipped a beat, as the offense averaged 34 points per game in its last two contests without both of them.

    That's because the Chiefs' coaching staff, skill-position players and remaining starting offensive linemen have been exceptional all year.

    Reid is one of the NFL's most innovative offensive minds, Mahomes (league-leading 26 touchdown passes) guides an excellent skill-position crew, and the offensive line has succeeded in keeping the quarterback on his feet (third-lowest adjusted sack rate in the league, per Football Outsiders).

    In a league dominated by excelling offenses, the Chiefs' unit is the best in football.