What makes a great offense in the NFL today?
As the Kansas City Chiefs proved in Super Bowl LIV, having a franchise quarterback — in this case, Patrick Mahomes — can be the difference between winning and losing a championship. While the San Francisco 49ers dominated due to their defense in 2019, the Niners collapsed when it mattered most. And that’s due, in large part, to the greatness of the Chiefs’ offense.
A franchise quarterback is paramount to making our list, sure, but that’s not everything that we took into consideration for this ranking. A franchise’s skill players — wide receivers, tight ends and running backs — along with the offensive line, play a huge part in elevating an offense from good to great.
Here’s our ranking of the five best offenses in the NFL in 2020.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Winston unfurled some beautiful passes while in Tampa, sure, but he was just too prone to turnovers for a team with playoff aspirations. Although Brady isn’t playing at his GOAT-level, he’s still incredibly efficient — and he should put up better numbers with a much-improved receiver group around him.
Speaking of those receivers...
Skill: The Buccaneers have arguably the top tandem of receivers in the league in Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. Both players would be No. 1 receivers on most of the teams in the league, but they represent an ideal duo for Brady to throw to.
The Bucs’ biggest hole appears to be at running back. Although Ronald Jones made terrific strides in his second season with the Bucs, Tampa Bay — and Brady — need a reliable third-down back to really reach their potential. The team also added Ke’Shawn Vaughn in the third round as competition, but they badly need a back to emerge as Brady’s safety blanket.
Offensive Line: One thing that Brady needs — especially as he gets longer in the tooth — is a rock-solid offensive line. The interior of the Bucs’ offensive line — Ali Marpet and Ryan Jensen — are top-tier players who should be Brady’s best friends in Tampa. The Bucs also did a great job of landing Tristan Wirfs in the first round of the draft. He should be a valuable addition at either tackle or guard.
4. New Orleans Saints
QB: Brees is still one of the most accurate quarterbacks in the league, but Father Time is catching up to him. Although his football smarts and ball placement are still top-notch, Brees’ arm strength tends to deteriorate — especially as the season grinds on.
The Saints have some great backup options in case Brees must miss games like he did a season ago. New Orleans re-signed Taysom Hill to a lucrative contract extension and added Jameis Winston, who led the league in passing yards in 2019, to the quarterback room.
You won’t find a more talented quarterback group than the Saints'.
Skill: The Saints had the fourth-best offense in the league last year, per DVOA, and that was without a reliable No. 2 target in the passing game for Drew Brees. Naturally, the Saints signed one of the best available receivers in Emmanuel Sanders to play opposite Michael Thomas. Thomas, who led the NFL in receptions and receiving yards a year ago. While his numbers are expected to go down, he’s still arguably the best receiver in the NFL.
The Saints’ offense should also benefit from the return of a healthy Alvin Kamara. Hobbled by a bothersome ankle, Kamara had the worst season of his short career in 2019. That being said, a poor year from Kamara still accounts for more than 1200 yards from scrimmage.
OL: Despite releasing three-time Pro Bowl offensive lineman Larry Warford in the offseason, the Saints still have one of the most talented offensive line units in the league. With arguably the best tackle duo in Terron Armstead and Ryan Ramczyk, the Saints put together PFF’s fifth-best offensive line in 2019.
After spending a first-rounder on Michigan’s Cesar Ruiz, the Saints’ offensive line might be even better in 2020.
3. Dallas Cowboys
QB: The Cowboys haven’t given Dak Prescott a long-term deal yet, but the Dallas passer is worth the money. The Cowboys had the second-best offense in the league last year, according to DVOA, and that’s mainly because of how good Prescott was.
The former fourth-round pick tossed 30 touchdown passes, against just 11 interceptions. Prescott established himself as the engine of the Cowboys offense over Ezekiel Elliott. And he should be even better next season. If his play continues to develop, Prescott will absolutely be in the NFL MVP discussions.
Skill: Another reason to be so bullish on Dak Prescott and the Cowboys offense is the skill position players the team employs. The ‘Boys have a devastating one-two punch at running back with Zeke and Tony Pollard, who showed flashes of brilliance in limited snaps in his rookie year.
That’s just the running game, though. The Cowboys might have the best receiver trio in the NFL after drafting CeeDee Lamb in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft. Adding him to a team that trotted out Amari Cooper and up-and-comer Michael Gallup will cause major headaches for opposing defenses.
At tight end, the Cowboys have also upgraded by default in 2020. Jason Witten is a franchise legend, but there was a reason he retired to join the Monday Night Football crew in 2018. He just can’t move anymore. Dallas instead will start Blake Jarwin, who should be a reliable target in the passing game.
OL: The Cowboys’ once-great offensive line has come back to Earth in recent years. The loss of Travis Frederick really stings, as the Cowboys will have to rely on Joe Looney or rookie Tyler Biadasz to fill his spot. While we can’t expect the Cowboys to have a top-five line in 2020, they should be good enough to make the Cowboys an elite NFL offense.
2. Baltimore Ravens
QB: The reigning MVP, Lamar Jackson, had a ridiculous 9% touchdown rate last season, which should regress to the mean next year. But that doesn’t mean that the Ravens quarterback won’t be better in 2020. It’ll be tough for Jackson to replicate his raging success, sure, but we’re definitely not counting him out — especially with even more talent on offense.
Skill: In his rookie season, Marquise “Hollywood” Brown showed why he’s one of the most electrifying young players in the league. The former Oklahoma star hauled in seven touchdown passes on just 46 receptions. Fully recovered from a foot injury, he should have an even bigger impact on the field in his sophomore season. The same can be said for other young talented players on the Ravens roster, such as Miles Boykin and Justice Hill. Not to mention, the Ravens stole running back J.K. Dobbins in the second round of the latest NFL draft.
The Ravens also have one of the best young tight ends in the NFL in Mark Andrews. Although he isn’t mentioned in the Big Three of tight ends, maybe he should be. It wouldn’t be surprising if he makes a George Kittle-like leap in his third season.
The sky's the limit for this high-flying offense.
OL: The Ravens had PFF’s second-highest-rated offensive line in the NFL last year, which makes sense when you see the numbers Jackson and Co. put up. Ronnie Stanley might be the most underrated offensive tackle in the league. Stanley allowed just nine pressures in 2019, per PFF.
1. Kansas City Chiefs
QB: The best quarterback in the league, Mahomes should be even more dangerous in 2020. With a Super Bowl championship under his belt, the Chiefs star quarterback has plenty of room to improve on what he might even consider a “down” year in 2019. If Mahomes can stay healthy, the Chiefs have the highest ceiling of any offense in the league.
Skill: The Chiefs, with the third-best offensive DVOA rating in 2019, added even more talent to their explosive offense. Kansas City added Brian Westbrook-clone Clyde Edwards-Helaire in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft. Expect the Chiefs to be even faster this season, with Mecole Hardman taking on a bigger role in the offense.
Tyreek Hill, who played in just 12 games last season, will look to regain his 2018 form when he ran wild on opposing defenses with nearly 1500 receiving yards and 12 touchdown receptions.
And yes, we haven't even mentioned Travis Kelce, one of the top tight ends in the NFL. Although he's not getting any younger, Kelce is such a dynamic weapon for Mahomes in the middle of the field. He's a wide receiver in a tight end's body.
OL: The weakest link on the Chiefs’ offense, the Kansas City line will look familiar to the 2019 unit. Kansas didn’t do much in the offseason to upgrade the blocking unit — other than drafting Lucas Niang in the third round and adding Mike Remmers for depth purposes.
Photo: Getty Images