Ranking the Top Five NFL Offenses and Defenses (9/6/17)

By Frank Brank @realfrankbrank
The NFL season begins tomorrow evening. Now that rosters are close to finalized, let's recap our top five offenses and defenses coming into the season. We'll evaluate each offense and defense by how many points they score or give up against a league average defense or offense.

Offenses



The Steelers offense will be lead by their three-headed monster of Ben Roehtlisberger, Le'Veon Bell, and Antonio Brown. With three of the most talented offensive players in the league, the Steelers will almost certainly be up with the top offenses as we expect them to score 28.7 point per game against a league average defense.

Over the last few seasons, the Steelers have moved to the pass-heavy approach the rules of the game demands, and it's paid off. Antonio Brown was second in total catches last season with 106, only trailing Larry Fitzgerald by one, and was fifth in total targets.

Le'Veon Bell isn't the typical running back as Brown will again share a reasonable amount of targets with him this season. Bell is often sent out as a slot receiver considering his size, speed, and athleticism. Bell had 75 catches on 94 targets last season to go along with 1,268 yards on 261 carries. Needless to say, he'll be the key to opposing defenses to stop.




The Green Bay Packers head into another season with Aaron Rodgers immediately making them a force within the league. Our fourth-best offense will feature Ty Montgomery as a receiver, running back combination not too dissimilar from Le'Veon Bell (outside of the talent level), Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, and Davante Adams.

Nelson lead the team in targets last year with 152, followed by Adams with 121. Randall Cobb will look for a bounce-back season as injuries slowed him last year as he only started ten games. Ty Montgomery, a late season breakout player for their offense, will get a handful of carries and throws his way as well.

Aaron Rodgers will continue to be an MVP candidate as long as his right arm is still working. Rodgers lead the NFL in touchdown passes at 40 last season, and it's easy to predict he'll be towards the top again this year. Rodgers is even a threat with his legs. Though I'm sure the front office would enjoy keeping him behind the line of scrimmage as he ages, Rodgers still had 67 attempts last season on the ground to go along with four rushing touchdowns.




The Patriots will be without their number one wide receiver, Julian Edelman, after a season-ending knee injury in the preseason. There's one reason we shouldn't worry too much about that, and it's not Chris Hogan's presence in the slot. Tom Brady will go into his age-40 season with no signs of slowing down. Conventional wisdom would lead anyone to believe he cannot continue this pace, but I'll begin to get weary when I see his struggles, if they occur before he retires. Brady completed 67.4% of his passes last season while only throwing two interceptions on 432 attempts, or one half of a percent (!!!).

Brady will be surrounded by new addition, Brandin Cooks, as well as, Malcolm Mitchell, Chris Hogan, and of course, Rob Gronkowski. One could argue that this would have been Brady's best receiver core in some time until Julian Edelman was injured, which is incredible to consider. Though he was a deep threat at times last year, it's safe to assume Hogan will assume the slot, underneath routes that Edelman previously manned. This leaves the speedster Cooks and Mitchell as deep threats, along with Gronkowski in the seam.

Dion Lewis, James White, and Mike Gillislee will hold down the running back position. Gillislee seems to be the guy to replace LeGarrtte Blount's carries as Lewis and White will factor into the passing game.




The Falcons are coming off their embarrassing Super Bowl collapse, but we don't expect their offense to collapse this season. Essentially returning the entire offense, the Falcons should find themselves nearly averaging thirty points per game this season.

Matt Ryan is coming off his best season at the quarterback position where he managed 38 passing touchdowns with an NFL-best 9.3 yards per attempt, an entire yard better than second place. Ryan will be backed by Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. As strikingly similar players, each guy will contribute in the passing and running game.

Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu, and mini-breakout player from last season, Taylor Gabriel, will maintain the receiving core. Jones finished 18th in targets last season in just 14 games where he was the only NFL receiver to average over 100 yards per game.




In no surprise, the New Orleans Drew Brees are expected to lead the NFL in offense this season. The reason for this is not only Brees' excellence, but Sean Payton's willingness to throw the ball relentlessly. Brees attempted 673 passes last season, tops of the NFL, and completed an insane 70.0% of those throws. Not to mention, Brees isn't working with the greatest receiving options.

Michael Thomas and Ted Ginn will factor into the mix this season with Michael Thomas being the clear number one receiver, at least until Willie Snead returns from suspension. Thomas had an up and down rookie season, but he'll need to be the guy heading into this year. When Snead returns, we should expect them to share targets as the season progresses. Ginn will provide Brees with a deep threat but surely won't be a high-target player if everyone is at 100%.

Mark Ingram and Adrian Peterson will be the punch and speed in the backfield. Peterson isn't what he was and has massive injury concerns, but should be plenty to supply Brees with another target out of the backfield. One would assume Ingram will get the bulk of the carries, although Payton has a tendency to regularly use three guys out of the backfield throughout the flow of a game.

Honorable Mentions: Cowboys with Elliott (27.6 PPG), Raiders (27.4 PPG), Colts with Luck (26.6 PPG)


Defenses



The Broncos lead the league in yards per play last season and should factor into the top defenses again this year. One could argue the Broncos have standout defensive players at nearly every position between Von Miller, Brandon Marshall, Chris Harris Jr., and Aqib Talib. The only weakness may by interior linemen, but in the way the NFL has progressed, that is the best possible spot to have a weakness.

The only thing limiting the Broncos defense from being higher on this list is the offense's penchant to leave the defense in bad spots. With a league average quarterback, Denver would allow almost two points less per game!




The Chiefs' defense just out-ticks the Broncos defense through similar means. Their biggest weakness may be interior linemen, but it's not much of one when you consider the secondary. Ron Parker, Eric Berry, and Marcus Peters will dominate most, if not all, receiver groups while Justin Houston brings the rush off the edge. With Houston's absence for most of last season, Dee Ford came onto the scene with ten sacks and had his breakout season. Andy Reid may only want to throw the ball five yards past the line of scrimmage, but they pose similar limits to opposing teams.

With that being said, Kansas City isn't all that efficient on defense. They give up more big plays than anyone else on this list; however, their offense is predicated on ball control and long, sustained drives, meaning that their defense is on the field for fewer plays.




In case you were still wondering who the best team in the NFL may be, the Patriots have the third highest rated offense and third highest rated defense. The most impressive aspect of the Patriots defense is the lack of a huge name to give them a boost in narrative. Ten of the eleven starting defensive players, to my estimation, are plus defensive players with the exception of Patrick Chung. Malcolm Butler and Devin McCourty will hold down the secondary as an impressive linebacker group of Dont'a Hightower, David Harris, and Kyle Van Noy should stifle tight ends and running backs.




To no surprise, the Seahawks find themselves among the best defensive teams in the NFL. This group has been impressive for the last half decade and that will continue this season barring mass amounts of injury. Richard Sherman, Cam Chancellor, and Earl Thomas are as good as a secondary can get. With the addition of Sheldon Richardson, the Seahawks front seven may be the best in the NFL. Richardson will be surrounded by Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett while playing in front of Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright. The only real weakness may be Jeremy Lane, who was exposed last season, but was previously a plus defensive player. The athleticism of the Seahawks' group is only second to one team.




The Texans are that team. As other teams have that one weak spot to point out, the Texans truly do not. With Clowney now fully healthy and combined with J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus, they will wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks. Running backs and tight ends will have to deal with Brian Cushing (who is aging, but still decent) and Benardrick McKinney. Similar to the Patriots, the secondary doesn't have the big, standout names, but they do standout on the field. Jonathan Joseph will lead the defensive backs and draw most top receivers, but Kevin Johnson, Andre Hal, and Corey Moore are all impressive, plus players in the secondary. On paper, the Texans are the best defensive team. There isn't a weakness as they sit at the moment; however, injuries have crushed their front seven in previous years. If they can stay healthy, they may be able to, yet again, get Houston to the playoffs themselves.


Honorable Mentions: Ravens (22.4 PPG), Cardinals (22.9 PPG), Giants (23.0 PPG), Panthers (23.2 PPG)