pff has spent most of the nfl offseason ranking players and position groups to give fans a better idea of where things stand. now it’s time to classify the full sides of the ball, starting with these tiered offensive classifications.
Instead of listing teams from top to bottom and dividing them into similar elite or poor groups, we’ve organized the 32 NFL teams into groups of comparable units, comprising five tiers.
Reading: Best offense in nfl 2020
tier 1: the nfl elite
kansas city chiefs
It can be argued that the depth just isn’t there compared to other teams, and it remains to be seen how an almost entirely new offensive line will come together without much prep time. Still, any team with Patrick Mahomes at quarterback and led by Andy Reid and Eric Bienemy will be hard to shake off the top spot, especially when they have targets like Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce.
mahomes is a special player capable of things other quarterbacks don’t even consider trying. The Chiefs led the NFL in expected points added (EPA) per play last year, and the only thing that could keep them from doing the same this season is the question mark surrounding the offensive line. The good news for them is that this year’s offensive line group is unlikely to be any worse than the unit that battled so desperately from injury last year, even if it doesn’t get going.
tampa bay buccaneers
the fact that the bucs won a super bowl last season should bode ill for the rest of the nfl because a lot of the things that worked against the team last season just don’t exist anymore. Tom Brady may be another year closer to old-age discounts, but now he’s recovered from the MCL tear and has a full understanding of the offense. all the recipients of him are back, and there are even some new additions, from the likes of jaelon darden through the draft to the return of o.j. howard from injury.
tampa bay may have the most complete roster of any nfl team and a quarterback who earned the second-best overall pff rating (92.4) of any player at his position last season despite playing with a torn ligament in the knee all year.
green bay packers
With the saga of aaron rodgers drawing to a close, we can assess the Packers firmly in the knowledge that both the future Hall of Famer and his favorite catcher (r̶a̶n̶d̶a̶l̶l̶ ̶c̶o̶b̶b̶ davante adams) will be in the lineup.
Both players led the league at their respective positions in overall PFF rating last season, and Rodgers’ MVP season produced a 94.5 mark, the highest rating of his illustrious career. Adams also led the league in road rushing yards (2.96) as one of the most unstoppable players in the game.
The Browns are the first team in the NFL’s top tier of offense without a surefire stud at quarterback. Baker Mayfield is still a work in progress at this point, and his true ceiling remains a moving target. he had a lot of issues in a few games early last year, but you can certainly mitigate those performances with real issues outside of his control, like a new system with no preseason to work on things.
Mayfield earned a top-five PFF passing grade in the second half of the year, and the team has yet to see the full impact of a healthy Odell Beckham Jr. about this crime. With the best offensive line in the league on paper and two elite running backs ready to exploit it, this offense has balance and depth, not to mention potential that has yet to be realized.
Josh Allen’s breakout 2020 season propelled the Bills’ offense into a different realm the franchise hadn’t visited in a while. Allen’s overall PFF rating jumped from 64.1 in 2019 to 90.3 last season and placed him among the best players in the league. Stefon Diggs also proved to be a canny acquisition, as he thrived on the additional opportunity he received inside Buffalo’s passing attack. this offense is also one of the most advanced in the league in terms of balancing happy passes on neutral attempts, giving them an analytical boost over many other units in the league.
level 2: on the brink
the addition of julio jones has enormous potential within this offense and was a move the team needed to make, given the losses of corey davis and jonnu smith in free agency. Jones has been banged up lately, but he ranked fourth in the league in rushing yards last year, a stat he has possessed throughout his career. July’s threat abroad should open things up significantly for A.J. brown across the lineup and derrick henry in the backfield. Ryan Tannehill has already shown that he can take advantage of favorable matchups when they come along.
The Seahawks have a consistently strong offense as long as Russell Wilson is at quarterback, but they are in the dilemma of how best to modify it to suit their unique skill set. The debate has tended to focus on passing volume and whether Wilson has the ball in his hands enough, but perhaps it would be better to focus on how he has the ball and the types of passes the team is focusing on. Either way, Wilson is too good for this offense not to rank that high, especially when he’s throwing to the likes of Tyler Lockett and D.K. calf.
Arguably the most unique offense in the NFL, the Ravens system has been built around Lamar Jackson’s singular oddity as an athlete and playmaker. only the chiefs generated more ep per play than the baltimore ravens last year, and this was while the passing attack lost its way and stagnated compared to the previous season.
baltimore then went and added receivers in the form of sammy watkins and then first-round rookie rashod bateman, as well as making some corrective repairs to the offensive line. we should expect this offense to be formidable once again in 2021.
dak prescott’s return should propel this team back among the top offenses in the nfl, even if prescott doesn’t reach the brilliant level he was playing at last year before his injury. Sophomore wide receiver Ceedee Lamb has been one of the stars of training camp thus far, and Dallas has arguably the most imposing trio of wide receivers in football. Lamb spent 93.2% of his snaps last season lined up in space, but an expanded role this year could see him primed for a monster season.
rams of the angels
There are a lot of unknowns with the Rams’ offense heading into 2021. We know this system may be among the best offenses in the league, but we don’t know how hampered it has been by jared’s limitations. goff at quarterback. We have yet to find out how much Matthew Stafford will relieve that as the new starter.
Stafford is capable of spectacular things, but he has never posted an overall pff rating higher than 82.6 in a single season, a figure that would have allowed him to rank 13th in the league last year. We know that Sean McVay is convinced of what Stafford can do, but the same thing happened when he anointed Goff.
Tier 3: The Chasing Pack
San Francisco 49ers
No team in the league was as decimated by injuries last year as the San Francisco 49ers. even aside from losing their quarterback for most of the year, they couldn’t keep their playmakers healthy at the same time. even with average injury luck, this team will consistently field a much more formidable group, and the 49ers posted a top-10 yards per play figure all season (5.9) even with the group they had last year. The bigger question is where the ceiling is for this offense, and how different it is with Jimmy Garoppolo as the starter versus Trey Lance, the heir apparent.
QB Derek Carr just enjoyed his best season since 2016, and maintaining that kind of level is critically important for an offense that now needs its supporting cast to step up. Darren Waller is a superstar at tight end, but second-year wide receiver Henry Ruggs III now needs to show what he only showed as a rookie: a revolutionary ability to make big plays.
ruggs battled injury and a disappearing role during his rookie season, but finished the year with an overall pff rating of just 54.0, the worst of any rookie receiver. The Raiders also have work to do along the offensive line, as his group has aged and has begun to be replaced.
bearers of the angels
justin herbert was phenomenal as a rookie, shocking his detractors and finishing the year as the best pff quarterback under pressure. The Chargers made major moves in the offseason to improve the offensive line in front of him, bringing in players like Corey Linsley, the highest-rated center in football last year. Linsley allowed only four pressures total in 12 games, and reducing the amount of pressure Herbert will be under is a big deal because his performance against that pressure will most likely regress in Year 2. Herbert has guns to shoot and a line that looks much improved on paper.
kirk primos has the seventh-best pff passing grade in the nfl in the last three years, and two of the players ahead of him (drew brees and andrew luck) are now retired. Cousins has an impressive group of playmakers around him, with Dalvin Cook in the backfield as well as Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen at wide receivers. depth is a potential concern, but not nearly as big as the offensive line. Minnesota’s offensive line ranked 28th in the league last year in PFF pass blocking rating, delivering 170 total pressures.
washington football team
Signing ryan fitzpatrick to start at quarterback isn’t usually something to get too excited about, but fitzpatrick represents a vast improvement over what the team had a year ago. Dwayne Haskins was the worst starting quarterback in the league, with an overall PFF rating of 48.4, and while Alex Smith won games late after completing his incredible comeback story, he was a shadow of his former self.
fitzpatrick has a pff passing rating of 15th in the league since 2018, almost exactly the league average, and the washington football team has surrounded him with the kind of talent that means the quarterback game of average field could be extremely productive.
This is a breakout year for the Arizona Cardinals and their offense as both the quarterback and head coach need to take another step forward in their development to show that there is a long-term future they are in for. building. Kyler Murray was solid and dynamic as a running threat last year, but he needs to show he can be an elite passer. Meanwhile, his head coach needs to show that he can continue to evolve his offensive scheme for Murray to have that chance. Arizona has receiving weapons, a better offensive line and talent to thrive, but they have yet to show it consistently.
the atlanta falcons may be a fading force, but with a new head coach and a system that has been very successful in tennessee, matt ryan may have life left as a top-level quarterback, even without july jones. Calvin Ridley has been a capable backup to Jones and actually averaged 107 yards in games Jones wasn’t playing. Kyle Pitts is just a rookie, but he is a true unicorn in terms of potential impact at the NFL level and could go a long way toward replacing what the team is missing in Jones. don’t fade the hawks too much yet.
level 4: critical failures
new orleans saints
The saints’ offense may be headed for a breeless season for the first time since 2006, but let’s remember how successful sean payton has been with other quarterbacks pinch-hitting for brees the last two years. Whether Taysom Hill or Jameis Winston end up as the starter, this offense will likely still have a modicum of success, particularly since they’re working behind a top-five offensive line.
the biggest question for pittsburgh is whether the offensive line they can field can be viable, as it has the potential to undo everything else on offense, given the possible five starters.
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pff has ranked the current unit 31st in the league, bad enough to prevent any resurgence of ben roethlisberger at quarterback. Despite the weapons to shoot at, Roethlisberger ranked 33rd out of 42 ranked last season in average depth of target (7.4), and that’s not enough to dominate the passing game.
The Bears’ offense should be viewed through the prism of who their quarterback has been in recent seasons. Andy Dalton should be a significant upgrade over Mitchell Trubisky, and if Dalton makes way for Justinfields, he has the potential to transform a very talented unit into a scheme that can still be wildly successful.
allen robinson ii is a top receiver who earned a top 5 pff rating last season and has had the lowest rate of catchable targets in the nfl for the past three years. If Robinson is suddenly working with an accurate passer, the sky’s the limit.
new york giants
With a suddenly looking extremely formidable receiving corps and a suddenly underrated quarterback, the Giants would have a very good offense on paper if it weren’t for an offensive line that appears to be a major weakness. daniel jones was actually the 18th ranked quarterback in terms of overall pff rating last year despite some lackluster stats, but he has trouble holding the ball for long, and nyc’s pass blocking can only magnify those problems. Andrew Thomas struggled as a rookie at left tackle, allowing 10 sacks, but was noticeably better down the stretch. a significant step forward from the now sophomore would be a huge boost for this group.
It’s a group with a lot of potential, but that potential in Jacksonville is real. Trevor Lawrence is the best quarterback prospect to enter the NFL since at least 2012, and maybe even longer, and he has a surprising amount of talent around him for a team he picked no. 1 overall. talented young catchers like d.j. Chark and Laviska Shenault give him options, as do the potential matchup problems Travis Etienne presents when the team trains him as a receiver. Don’t be surprised if the Jaguars’ offense quickly jumps up a notch.
Based on training camp hype alone, it’s hard to pinpoint where this offense will be. Early reports were extremely encouraging before giving way to familiar stories of Joe Burrow running for his life behind an outmatched offensive line. The line gave up 181 total pressures last season and ranked 29th in PFF’s pass blocking rating. Ja’marr Chase may have been the right first-round draft pick anyway, but the fears of everyone who wanted Penei Sewell drafted instead may yet come true.
QB carson gonz and guard quenton nelson’s synchronized foot surgeries certainly don’t help the team’s standings, but both players are expected to return and make a big presence in the regular season. Nelson has been the most valuable offensive lineman, at any position, by PFF War in each of the past two seasons, and he is the anchor of the second-best offensive line in the league heading into the year. gonez represents the true x-factor of this unit, with his results range from 2020 disaster to 2017 mvp candidate.
level 5: the rest
new york planes
the jets have done a lot of things right the last two seasons, but how that will translate to success in 2021 is still up for debate. zach wilson was spectacular last season in college, but there are real concerns about the size of the sample of that elite game. Similarly, the pieces are in place so his receiving body looks great, but as of now he lacks a background. The Jets’ offense has one of the widest scoring ranges of any team in the league.
miami’s biggest question mark is second-year quarterback tua tagovailoa’s game. His biggest problem in a difficult rookie season was a lack of big plays, evidenced by the lowest rate of big shots (BTT) in the NFL (2.7%). If he can progress in developing him to be more aggressive and add those big plays, that’s a big step in the right direction.
The team’s second biggest problem is an offensive line that was ranked 28th in the nfl last year in overall pff rating and only ranked 23rd in pass blocking rating because miami had one of the fastest average times to throw. in soccer in 2.47 seconds.
new england patriots
new england’s offense struggled last season, but what does the 2021 version look like now that it’s made two different tight ends among the highest-paid in the nfl? The Patriots appear to be zigzagging their schematic approach like the rest of the NFL’s zags, and it remains to be seen if that will lead to more success. Cam Newton was the 23rd ranked quarterback in overall PFF ratings last year, sandwiched between Jared Goff and Andy Dalton, but now he has the threat of being replaced by Mac Jones if he can’t find a better consistent level of play. /p>
philadelphia had a chance to move up at quarterback this season once they traded carson gonz, but instead they opted to take over the wide receiver position and hand over the keys to jalen hurts for at least one season.
devonta smith has the potential to make a big impact even as a rookie. She is one of the most technically sound receivers to enter the league in years, with passes thrown in college that resulted in an NFL passer rating of 153.4. It hurts may put a limit on how good this offense can be, but it also ups the ante with the threat of him as a running back.
The sam darnold experiment continues with a new team this offseason, with carolina willing to bet that darnold was simply the victim of unpleasant circumstances in new york. The Panthers have some impressive wide receivers for Darnold, but there are big concerns along the offensive line despite (or, indeed, because of) the additions made this offseason. darnold has a career passing grade of just 36.8 when pressed, and if they can’t keep him safe in the pocket, it could be another ugly season for him.
The lions are only part of the way through their reconstruction project. And while they’ve tackled the trenches, building what appears to be a top-10-caliber offensive line, it means they have one of the weakest receiving corps in the league on paper.
jared goff is fighting to stay in the league after being unceremoniously fired by the team that drafted him, but he has little proven quality to change his narrative. tight end t.j. Hockenson is by far the most proven receiving option on the team, but he only has 152 career goals from him to his name.
The Denver Broncos have an elite-level offense across the board except for the quarterback position, and nothing shows the importance and power of that position than the team’s ranking here. Drew Lock was ranked 40th out of 42 ranked in adjusted completion rate last season, finishing 35th in the overall PFF rating. teddy bridgewater is coming off the worst opening season of his career despite a solid situation around him in carolina. So if neither player shows significant improvement this year, it’s hard to see how Denver’s offense won’t struggle.
deshaun watson was one of the best quarterbacks in football last year, but the magnitude of his legal troubles off the field cannot be underestimated. The now-Texans quarterback is currently in training camp in a strange world of attendance limbo without actually showing up, and the team is gearing up to start the season with Tyrod Taylor as the starter. Taylor has a quality starting game on his resume, but his last two stints as a starter were ugly. Houston’s offense could struggle in 2021.