Ranking the Top 10 Offenses the NFL Has Seen Since 2000

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistJune 18, 2020

Ranking the Top 10 Offenses the NFL Has Seen Since 2000

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    Seth Wenig/Associated Press

    Defense might win championships, but offense is what drives the modern NFL. Quarterbacks, in particular, have ruled the NFL over the past two decades—only four non-quarterbacks have been named league MVP since 2000, and all four were running backs.

    However, while judging the most valuable offensive players can be a matter of pure statistics, determining the best modern offenses is a bit trickier. Of the league's 12 5,000-yard passing seasons, 10 have come in the last decade, but not all 10 of those 5,000-yard quarterbacks have helmed all-time great offenses.

    So, in trying to determine the best offenses of this century, yards and points will be considered, but so will factors like the players and schemes involved and end-of-season results.

    Ready? Let's dig in.

Honorable Mentions

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    2012 New England Patriots

    The 2012 New England Patriots didn't have the most prolific offense in franchise history. However, this was still an all-time great unit. New England's 34.8 points-per-game average remains tied for fifth-most in NFL history, and the team sent offensive standouts like Tom Brady, Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski and Logan Mankins to the Pro Bowl while compiling a 12-4 regular-season record.

                 

    2000 St. Louis Rams

    In 1999, the Greatest Show on Turf took the NFL by storm, winning Super Bowl XXXIV and turning Kurt Warner, Marshall Faulk, Torry Holt, Isaac Bruce and Az-Zahir Hakim into household stars. The 2000 edition of this squad didn't reach the Super Bowl, but it did rack up 33.8 points per game, which is tied for eighth all-time.

                 

    2019 Kansas City Chiefs

    The 2019 Kansas City Chiefs offense took a step back from the previous year, though injuries played a part here. Both quarterback Patrick Mahomes and wideout Tyreek Hill missed time. Overall, this squad finished the season ranked fifth in total points and sixth in total yards. Yet it deserves an honorable mention for overcoming adversity—like the aforementioned injuries and three consecutive double-digit deficits in the playoffs—en route to winning Super Bowl LIV.

10. 2018 Los Angeles Rams

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    Kyusung Gong/Associated Press

    2018 Statistics and Standings:

    Total Yards Per Game: 421.1 (2nd)

    Passing Yards Per Game: 281.7 (5th)

    Rushing Yards Per Game: 139.4 (3rd)

    Points Per Game: 32.9 (2nd)

    One of two Rams teams to make this top 10, the 2018 Los Angeles Rams were an offensive powerhouse to behold. Led by running back Todd Gurley and wideouts Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods, the Rams could score points almost at will—almost.

    Los Angeles was held to just three points in Super Bowl LIII by the Patriots.

    However, the Super Bowl disappointment shouldn't take too much away from the innovative and space-creating scheme cooked up by head coach Sean McVay. It allowed quarterback Jared Goff to emerge as one of the league's top signal-callers in 2019 and helped the Rams produce an offense for the ages.

    L.A.'s 32.9 points-per-game average wasn't the highest of 2018, but it is tied for 13th on the all-time list.

    These Rams only sent two offensive players to the Pro Bowl—Goff and Gurley—but the important thing is that they played as a unit and came within a game of winning it all.

9. 2004 Indianapolis Colts

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    MICHAEL CONROY/Associated Press

    2004 Statistics and Standings:

    Total Yards Per Game: 404.7 (2nd in the NFL)

    Passing Yards Per Game: 288.9 (1st)

    Rushing Yards Per Game: 115.8 (15th)

    Points Per Game: 32.6 (1st)

    This isn't the last time quarterback Peyton Manning will be mentioned on this list. It is, however, his only appearance with the Indianapolis Colts.

    While Indianapolis won the Super Bowl two years later, the 2004 Colts had the more prolific offense. Their 32.6 points-per-game average remains the 15th-highest in league history and the 11th-highest since 2000.

    This squad sent four offensive players—Manning, running back Edgerrin James, left tackle Tarik Glenn and wideout Marvin Harrison—to the Pro Bowl and featured other standouts such as Reggie Wayne, Brandon Stokley, Dallas Clark and Manning's longtime center, Jeff Saturday.

    Manning threw a then-record 49 touchdowns passes in 2004 and was named league MVP for his efforts. However, he wasn't the only player to have a monster season. James ripped off 1,548 rushing yards and 483 receiving yards, while Harrison, Wayne and Stokley all had 1,000-yard campaigns.

    The Colts totaled five or more passing touchdowns four different times during the regular season. Unfortunately, they also ran into the eventual champion New England Patriots during the playoffs and were held to just three points in the divisional round, which helped contribute to Manning's longstanding reputation as a quarterback who couldn't get it done in the postseason.

8. 2019 Baltimore Ravens

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    Chris O?Meara/Associated Press

    2019 Statistics and Standings:

    Total Yards Per Game: 407.6 (2nd)

    Passing Yards Per Game: 201.6 (27th)

    Rushing Yards Per Game: 206.0 (1st)

    Points Per Game: 33.2 (1st)

    The 2019 Baltimore Ravens are arguably the most innovative offense on this list. Their uptempo rushing attack—built around quarterback Lamar Jackson and running back Mark Ingram—was virtually indefensible this past season. Jackson himself rushed for 1,206 yards.

    Though Baltimore's offense wasn't balanced yardage-wise, it is definitely worth noting that Jackson led the NFL with 36 passing touchdowns in 2019 and went on to win the MVP award. Ravens head coach John Harbaugh believes this squad's rushing prowess will bring more balance to the offense moving forward.

    "We should have guys more open and we should have bigger plays and we should create more opportunities in the passing game because of that run game," Harbaugh said, per ESPN's Jamison Hensley.

    The 2019 Ravens' average of 33.2 points per game ranks 12th on the all-time list, and Baltimore sent seven offensive players to the Pro Bowl—including Jackson, Ingram and tight end Mark Andrews.

    This team gets a boost for its explosive and innovative scheme, but it might rank even higher if it hadn't been ousted from the postseason one game in.

7. 2011 New Orleans Saints

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    Bill Feig/Associated Press

    2011 Statistics and Standings:

    Total Yards Per Game: 467.1 (1st)

    Passing Yards Per Game: 334.2 (1st)

    Rushing Yards Per Game: 132.9 (6th)

    Points Per Game: 34.2 (2nd)

    The first of two 2011 squads to make this list, the 2011 New Orleans Saints only rank this low because they didn't make it past the divisional round in the playoffs. In terms of raw production, these Saints could hold their own with most teams in recent history.

    In fact, no team has ever produced more than the 7,474 yards New Orleans racked up during the regular season.

    Quarterback Drew Brees set his own record by passing for 5,476 yards (a record Peyton Manning broke two years later).

    New Orleans sent five offensive players to the Pro Bowl in 2011, including Brees, tight end Jimmy Graham and tackle Jermon Bushrod. Graham, wideout Marques Colston and running back Darren Sproles all topped 1,000 total yards as well.

    The 2011 Saints rank seventh on the all-time scoring list with an average of 34.2 points per game.

6. 2011 Green Bay Packers

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    Jeffrey Phelps/Associated Press

    2011 Statistics and Standings:

    Total Yards Per Game: 405.1 (3rd)

    Passing Yards Per Game: 307.8 (3rd)

    Rushing Yards Per Game: 97.4 (27th)

    Points Per Game: 35.0 (1st)

    The second of our two 2011 squads, the Green Bay Packers, also fell short in the divisional round. However, they also produced an impressive 15-1 record and a wonderful campaign for quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

    Rodgers won his first of two MVP awards after passing for 4,643 yards and 45 touchdowns with just six interceptions and an incredible 122.5 rating. That rating remains a league record, while Green Bay's 35 points-per-game average sits fourth in the all-time rankings.

    Four of Green Bay's offensive players—Rodgers, fullback John Kuhn, wideout Greg Jennings and center Scott Wells—were named to the Pro Bowl in 2011. Rodgers and Kuhn were also named to the All-Pro list.

    The biggest downfall of this offense—aside from its early playoff exit—is the fact that it featured an underwhelming rushing unit. James Starks led the team with just 578 rushing yards. Of course, the team's lack of a threatening ground attack makes Rodgers' stellar season all the more impressive.

5. 2016 Atlanta Falcons

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    2016 Statistics and Standings:

    Total Yards Per Game: 415.8 (2nd)

    Passing Yards Per Game: 295.3 (3rd)

    Rushing Yards Per Game: 120.5 (5th)

    Points Per Game: 33.8 (1st)

    Like a few teams on this list, the 2016 Atlanta Falcons fell just short of notching a Super Bowl victory. In case you forgot, they got out to a 28-3 lead on the Patriots in Super Bowl LI before collapsing in the second half and overtime.

    Until that point, however, the Falcons offense seemed like a truly unstoppable unit. Atlanta ranked in the top five of every major offensive category and racked up 540 points in the regular season, which is tied for eighth on the all-time list.

    In terms of offensive talent, few teams could match the Falcons in 2016. Quarterback Matt Ryan and wideout Julio Jones were both first-team All-Pros, while running back Devonta Freeman and center Alex Mack were selected to the Pro Bowl.

    Fueled by coordinator Kyle Shanahan's creative uptempo offense, the Falcons featured multiple key role players. Mohamed Sanu, Taylor Gabriel, Tevin Coleman and Freeman all produced at least 400 receiving yards during the regular season, and Jones had a whopping 1,409.

    If not for some questionable play-calling and a defensive collapse late in the big game, these Falcons would have been champions.

4. 2001 St. Louis Rams

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    TOM GANNAM/Associated Press

    2001 Statistics and Standings:

    Total Yards Per Game: 418.1 (1st)

    Passing Yards Per Game: 291.4 (1st)

    Rushing Yards Per Game: 126.7 (5th)

    Points Per Game: 31.4 (1st)

    While the 2001 incarnation of the "Greatest Show on Turf" wasn't quite as prolific as the 2000 version in terms of scoring, it gets bonus points for coming up just a few plays short of winning Super Bowl XXXVI.

    This isn't to suggest the 2001 Rams weren't any less dangerous than the previous year's team. It featured the same cast of characters—like Kurt Warner, Isaac Bruce, Marshall Faulk, Torry Holt and Az-Zahir Hakim. All but Hakim were named to the Pro Bowl, and Warner won his second league MVP award.

    While the 2001 Rams rank just 26th on the all-time scoring list, they were a top-five team during the season in every major offensive category. They lost just two games before Super Bowl XXXVI and scored more than 500 total points for the third consecutive season.

    If not for a clutch kick from New England's Adam Vinatieri, these Rams might have joined the 1999 Rams as league champions.

3. 2018 Kansas City Chiefs

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    Reed Hoffmann/Associated Press

    2018 Statistics and Standings:

    Total Yards Per Game: 425.6 (1st)

    Passing Yards Per Game: 309.7 (3rd)

    Rushing Yards Per Game: 115.9 (16th)

    Points Per Game: 35.3 (1st)

    While last year's Chiefs offense was potent enough to get to and win the Super Bowl, the 2018 version was even more prolific—though that squad also had to deal with its fair share of adversity. Midway through 2018, Kansas City released standout running back Kareem Hunt after video surfaced of him assaulting a woman.

    Even with Hunt gone for the back half of the season, the Chiefs managed to finish first in both points and total yards. This was largely due to the magic created by Patrick Mahomes. In his first season as a full-time starter, he was named league MVP.

    Mahomes and four other offensive players—wideout Tyreek Hill, fullback Anthony Sherman, tight end Travis Kelce and tackle Eric Fisher—were named to the Pro Bowl.

    The 2018 Chiefs posted a 12-4 record and advanced to the AFC title game, where they lost to New England in overtime. Their 35.3 points-per-game average ranks third on the all-time list.

2. 2007 New England Patriots

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    Charles Krupa/Associated Press

    2007 Statistics and Standings:

    Total Yards Per Game: 411.3 (1st)

    Passing Yards Per Game: 295.7 (1st)

    Rushing Yards Per Game: 115.6 (13th)

    Points Per Game: 36.8 (1st)

    The 2007 Patriots are arguably one of the greatest "what if" stories in league history—as in, what if Eli Manning and David Tyree hadn't created a miracle at the end of Super Bowl XLII?

    Well, what would have happened was that the Patriots would have beaten the New York Giants and capped the only 19-0 season in league history. The Patriots fell short, of course, but their offense was one of the greatest the sport of football has ever witnessed.

    Led by Tom Brady, the 2007 Patriots finished first in passing, total yards and points. A whopping six offensive players were named either first- or second-team All-Pro—including Brady, wideout Randy Moss, tackle Matt Light and wideout Wes Welker. Moss is already in the Hall of Fame, and Brady will join him as soon as he is eligible.

    More importantly, the Patriots were prolific enough that they didn't lose a single game before coming up short against the Giants. Their 36.8 points-per-game average sits behind only one team on the all-time list...

1. 2013 Denver Broncos

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    Tony Avelar/Associated Press

    2013 Statistics and Standings:

    Total Yards Per Game: 457.3 (1st)

    Passing Yards Per Game: 340.3 (1st)

    Rushing Yards Per Game: 117.1 (15th)

    Points Per Game: 37.9 (1st)

    Like the 2007 Patriots, the 2013 Denver Broncos fell short in the game that mattered most. Unlike the Patriots, they didn't finish the regular season undefeated. They did, however, put up the most prolific offensive season in league history.

    Led by league MVP Peyton Manning, the 13-3 Broncos dominated opposing defenses and set several records along the way. Manning's MVP award was the fifth of his career, and he broke his personal passing touchdown record by throwing 55 of them.

    Four of Denver's offensive players—Manning, wideout Demaryius Thomas, tight end Julius Thomas and guard Louis Vasquez—were named to the Pro Bowl. Demaryius Thomas and wideout Eric Decker both had 1,000-yard receiving seasons, while Wes Welker chipped in with 778 yards and 10 touchdowns.

    Thomas, Thomas, Decker and Welker all had double-digit receiving touchdowns in 2013, and running back Knowshon Moreno chipped in 10 on the ground.

    When it comes to racking up points, no team did it better than the 2013 Broncos. Their 606 points scored during the regular season remains the NFL's high-water mark.