The growing disparity in NFL scoring has significant fantasy football implications. Here are six offenses ready to take the next step in 2019. Follow Philip Patton on Twitter at @PhilPattonNFL.
Offense dominated the NFL once again last season.
Offensive efficiency translated to results, too. According to SBD, the eight teams that reached the Divisional Round of the playoffs had an average offensive efficiency ranking of 8.1, but an average defensive efficiency ranking of just 14.3.
But the offensive revolution didn’t reach every corner of the league. There was a sizeable gap between the league’s elite offenses and its bottom-dwellers. The Chiefs outscored the Cardinals and Cowboys combined last year, for example.
This is a notable phenomenon, as the standard deviation (variation) between teams has increased by 25% in scoring and 56% in yardage since 2015. Last year was also the most widely-dispersed scoring season since 2011. The Chiefs, Rams and Saints offenses carried fantasy teams to the playoffs, while owning anyone of Arizona, Jacksonville, Buffalo and Washington felt like some sort of sick punishment.
This growing disparity in NFL scoring has significant fantasy football implications, which makes successfully predicting the next great offenses tremendously rewarding.
Elite offensive production starts with elite coaching and quarterback play, and the Colts clearly have both.
Frank Reich’s success in Philadelphia immediately translated to Indianapolis, as the Colts finished 1st in third down conversion% and 5th in red zone efficiency. Andrew Luck looked revitalized in Reich’s offense last season and should only improve with another offseason to master the system. The Colts also possess the most cap space in the NFL, which makes adding a wide receiver in free agency a no-brainer.
Last season, Andrew Luck received the best pass protection of his career by a wide margin. The Colts line ranked third in the league according to Pro Football Focus (PFF) and projects to be a dominant unit for years to come with rookie standouts Quenton Nelson and Braden Smith. The Colts front office has finally put Andrew Luck in a position to succeed, and 2019 could be the year he absolutely sets the league on fire.
Baker Mayfield looked comfortable and occasionally dominant in Freddie Kitchens’ offense last season, displaying rare accuracy and downfield passing for a rookie. Cleveland further bolstered its deep passing game this offseason by adding offensive coordinator Todd Monken to the coaching staff. Baker appears to be in good hands in Cleveland, which hasn’t been said about a Browns quarterback in quite a while.
The Browns offense is absolutely loaded with talent. Nick Chubb established himself as a workhorse back last season, averaging 5.2 yards/carry behind the second-best offensive line in football, according to PFF. The Browns have plenty of depth at the position with Kareem Hunt and Duke Johnson in reserves, as well as promising young receivers in Antonio Calloway and David Njoku. With another reliable pass-catcher to pair with Jarvis Landry, the Browns could absolutely field a top-10 scoring offense next season.
San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers offense was the most-hyped unit in the league last summer, and for good reason. Jimmy Garoppolo went 5-0 as the starter in 2017 and Jerick McKinnon looked like a perfect fit for Kyle Shanahan’s zone-blocking scheme. Both players went down early with torn ACLs, but a few contributors managed to emerge last season: George Kittle had a breakout performance, while Dante Pettis and Matt Breida flashed real play-making ability.
The Niners fanbase has been patient with its young head coach, but Shanahan needs to produce results this year. Luckily, San Francisco has plenty of cap space to add a possession receiver and upgrade the interior offensive line in free agency. Assuming his star quarterback stays healthy, this could be the year Shanahan unleashes his offensive juggernaut in the Bay.
Green Bay Packers
Mike McCarthy’s stale, uncreative offense finally wore out its welcome in Green Bay last year. The Packers chose to replace him with young offensive guru Matt LaFleur, who spent eight seasons as Kyle Shanahan’s right-hand man. LaFleur also served as Sean McVay’s offensive coordinator in LA and ran the Titans offense to middling results last year.
Tennessee had limited talent to work with, but that won’t be an issue in Green Bay with Aaron Rodgers, Aaron Jones, and Davante Adams. The Packers also have a couple promising receivers in Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown, both of whom could break out if they earn their quarterback’s trust next season. There are plenty of unknowns in Green Bay, but the possibility of a resurgent Aaron Rodgers provides tremendous upside.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
As the third-oldest head coach in the NFL, Bruce Arians has no interest in rebuilding with a young quarterback (otherwise he would have stayed in Arizona). He is fully committed to turning Jameis Winston into a quality signal-caller, as he’s done with Ben Roethlisberger, Luck, and Carson Palmer over the course of his career.
It also helps that the Bucs roster is loaded with downfield receiving threats Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and O.J. Howard. Tampa Bay had the fourth-worst starting field position last year, but that should improve under new defensive coordinator Todd Bowles. A competent Bucs coaching staff offers hope that Tampa Bay will finally realize its explosive offensive potential next season.
The Bears defense was so dominant last year, it allowed head coach Matt Nagy to take a more conservative approach on offense while developing Mitchell Trubisky. That may not be the case next season, as the loss of Vic Fangio, natural turnover regression, and a tougher schedule will necessitate more passing volume—Chicago was 24th in pass attempts last year. Such a dramatic identity change would vastly increase the value of the Bears skill position players.
Trubisky looked capable of making all the throws last season, but his inexperience showed in his decision-making. With another training camp in the same offensive system, he could take another major step forward next year. Chicago also has a nice cast of receiving talent in Allen Robinson, Anthony Miller, Trey Burton, and Tarik Cohen to push the ball downfield. Matt Nagy’s creative play-calling and his stewardship of Trubisky’s development make the Bears offense a legitimate breakout candidate in fantasy football next season.