You can make the case that NFL quarterback play is at an all-time high. Offensive systems are more creative and dynamic than ever before. It’s incredible stuff to watch. So, which offenses will rock the most in 2021?
This is an annual exercise for me, but it felt especially difficult this time around. Two of my favorite offenses fronting a pair of Super Bowl contenders — in Baltimore and Cleveland — couldn’t crack this list! Las Vegas is going to put up numbers, but Jon Gruden’s Raiders didn’t make it, either. Which high-powered attacks did?
Here is my prediction of this season’s best offenses, Schein Nine style.
If you even think about putting any other team at the top, you are simply trying too hard. Patrick Mahomes is the best quarterback on the planet and the greatest show in sports. The guy just threw for 4,740 yards with 38 touchdowns against just six picks … yet it somehow felt like a down year because Aaron Rodgers won MVP. Isn’t that wild? Don’t ever take Mahomes’ generational genius for granted. Don’t let his extraordinary feats feel ordinary. This is rare brilliance we’re all witnessing — and the 25-year-old’s only going to get better.
Oh, and the quarterback isn’t the only elite playmaker in Kansas City. Travis Kelce is the best tight end in the game, an unstoppable force who just set a TE record with 1,416 yards despite sitting out Week 17 to rest for the playoffs. Tyreek Hill is the most explosive receiver in football, fresh off a first-team All-Pro season in which he scored a career-best 17 total touchdowns. Meanwhile, RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire showed enticing flashes as a rookie with 1,100 scrimmage yards, but he should truly break out in Year 2. Andy Reid’s obviously a play-calling maestro, and I expect him to really tap into CEH’s pass-catching skill set in 2021. The Chiefs coach brings unparalleled creativity to the screen game — remember Brian Westbrook’s dynamism in this area back in the Philly days?
Alright, enough dilly-dally — it’s time to address the elephant in the offense. You know what I’m referring to: the O-line that torpedoed K.C.’s chances in Super Bowl LV. Well, kudos to GM Brett Veach, who completely revamped the downtrodden unit this offseason by signing Joe Thuney, trading for Orlando Brown Jr. and drafting Creed Humphrey. With these reinforcements up front, the Chiefs will again be the glorious offensive machine you’ve come to know and love. (Well, at least when they’re not playing against your team.)
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Josh Allen rightly got PAID and he’s worth every single penny. I won’t bat an eye if Allen wins MVP while spearheading the Bills’ first Super Bowl title this season. The 25-year-old’s a bona fide star, and he’s in a spectacular environment to keep growing. Allen was on my SiriusXM Radio show hours before inking his $258 million extension, and the QB raved about Brian Daboll’s overall genius, as well as the offensive coordinator’s pace and attention to detail in training camp. I was genuinely stunned Daboll didn’t get a head-coaching job in this past offseason cycle, but Allen and the Bills reap the benefits.
The Stefon Diggs trade is quite the feather in GM Brandon Beane’s cap. In his first season with the Bills, Diggs led the league in catches (127) and receiving yards (1,535). And now he’s enjoying a full offseason/preseason with Buffalo, unlike last year during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Can’t wait to see what Allen and Diggs cook up this fall. Beyond Diggs, the deep receiving corps is stocked with playmakers of all shapes, sizes and skill sets. Up front, the Bills return five starters from a unit that finished last season as Pro Football Focus’ No. 10 offensive line.
Now, the big questions remain in the ground game, where Buffalo ranked 20th last season. Will Devin Singletary finally emerge as a steady all-around presence? Can bruising back Zack Moss provide more oomph in Year 2? We shall see. But it’s a passing league, in this capacity, the Bills are set.
The MVP is here — and Aaron Rodgers‘ unofficial last stand in Green Bay is going to be real and spectacular. Rodgers hasn’t been pleased with the lack of communication from up top, and I don’t blame him. The quarterback’s in his 17th season with the franchise, having established himself as one of the greatest players in Green Bay’s storied history … yet Packers brass are apparently unwilling to field his team-building input. That’d upset me, too. But now Rodgers is going to take out his anger on the rest of the league, eviscerating defenses with the fury of a thousand chips on the shoulder. He’ll continue to make cats like Robert Tonyan into standouts. And Rodgers did get back his bestie, Randall Cobb, in a trade that essentially served as an olive branch from the front office. Rodgers and Cobb have a great rapport.
I haven’t even mentioned Davante Adams, a true superstar who — like Rodgers — is fueled by what he perceives as disrespect from Pack execs. He wants to be the highest-paid receiver in the game, and understandably so, having just earned first-team All-Pro honors after catching a league-high 18 touchdown passes in 14 games. One Packer who did just get paid: running back Aaron Jones, who’s fresh off his second straight 1,000-yard season. He could comprise quite the 1-2 punch with 247-pounder A.J. Dillon, who’ll continue to use those insane calves to truck the opposition.
Green Bay’s line has a pair of studs in David Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins, though replacing free-agent departure Corey Linsley won’t be easy. That said, Rodgers certainly makes things easier on his blockers via pre-snap savvy and post-snap magic.
Derrick Henry is the best running back in the NFL bar none. He’s led the league in carries, yards and touchdowns in each of the past two seasons, having just become the eighth member of the 2,000-yard club last year. And with the 17th game added this fall, I wouldn’t be shocked to see “King Henry” hit 2K once again. Don’t throw any other back into the conversation — the real debate begins at No. 2.
Ryan Tannehill has been great since coming over from Miami. How great? Since taking over as the Titans’ starter in Week 7 of the 2019 season, Tannehill ranks first in yards per attempt (8.5), third in passing touchdowns (55) and third in passer rating (111.3). And now he gets Julio Jones! I expect A.J. Brown and Jones to be the elite WR duo in 2021. The offensive line is always solid, even last season when perennial Pro Bowler Taylor Lewan was limited to just five games. Now the star blocker is back — and second-round tackle Dillon Radunz is learning at his side.
Mike McCarthy stressed something noteworthy on my SiriusXM Radio show last week: If this were the regular season, we wouldn’t be talking about Dak Prescott’s shoulder. The Cowboys want to save Dak from pushing himself. It’s that simple. And I’m absolutely bullish on the freshly paid quarterback enjoying a monster season, especially with the wealth of weapons at his disposal.
Speaking of monster seasons, I think second-year stud CeeDee Lamb is about to emerge as Dak’s No. 1 target. McCarthy gushed about the camp Lamb is having — and that’s the sentiment you’re hearing from anyone who’s spent time around the Cowboys in recent weeks. Amari Cooper just came off the PUP list — and the man just churns out 1,000-yard seasons, with five in his first six NFL campaigns. Add in Michael Gallup, and Dallas boasts a devastating trio of pass catchers. In the run game, Ezekiel Elliott’s about to have a big bounceback season. McCarthy, not typically one for August hyperbole, raved about Zeke’s camp and football savvy. With the Cowboys’ O-line healthy again, he could lead the league in rushing for the third time. (In fact, I made that exact bold prediction just a few months ago.) This offense is going to be dominant on the ground and through the air.
In his first regular season with the Buccaneers last fall, Tom Brady threw his most touchdown passes (40) since his record-setting 2007 campaign. And here’s the scary part for opposing defenses: He’s going to be much better this regular season. All starters and key players return. TB12 knows Byron Leftwich’s offense. He understands what Bruce Arians wants. Oh, and he won’t be playing this season on a torn MCL. As Tampa Bay QB coach Clyde Christensen just told my colleague Judy Battista, a clean bill of health for the 44-year-old “changes everything.”
Brady isn’t the only Buccaneer who’s enjoying a full offseason/preseason in Tampa Bay for the first time, either. Antonio Brown, Leonard Fournette and Rob Gronkowski are in the same boat. Arians said this week that AB is playing at the same speed he was four or five years ago. That’s nightmare fuel for DCs across the league.
Sure, not having Cam Akers scares me. I thought he was primed for a great year at running back before the season-ending Achilles tear. It’s a big loss. But I love the thought of Matthew Stafford slinging it around in Sean McVay’s offense.
Stafford is a massive upgrade for this team at the quarterback position. What a spectacular offseason move! It’s everything — and it’s going to be fun to watch. Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp are a fantastic 1-2 combo at receiver. And don’t overlook what cats like Van Jefferson, DeSean Jackson and rookie Tutu Atwell will bring. This Rams’ offense will help guide Los Angeles to the L.A. Super Bowl.
There’s a reason why the Falcons fans consider new head coach Arthur Smith to be “Artie The One-Man Party.” Smith changes the culture and calls a beautiful game. Both of those things were desperately needed in Atlanta. And although the Falcons just went 4-12, Smith’s offensive cupboard isn’t exactly bare.
Matt Ryan has a ton of gas left in the tank at age 36. He certainly was not the problem last season. Neither was Calvin Ridley, who broke out in a major way with a juicy 90/1,374/9 line. Sure, Julio Jones is gone, but in comes No. 4 overall pick Kyle Pitts. This 6-foot-6, 245-pound playmaker has Hall of Fame potential written all over him. Seriously. Can Mike Davis carry a ground game for an entire season? That remains to be seen. But I trust the new head coach to get the most out of his offensive personnel.
Justin Herbert is simply dreamy. His first NFL season was record-setting. Year 2 will be better, especially after GM Tom Telesco brilliantly addressed the offensive line in free agency (Corey Linsley and Matt Feiler) and the draft (No. 13 overall pick Rashawn Slater).
Herbert’s weaponry isn’t lacking, either. Keenan Allen is the most underrated star receiver in the game, while Mike Williams is a jump-ball wizard in a contract year. If Austin Ekeler enjoys better health luck this season, he’s going to pile up scrimmage yards in droves.
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