In the last five years, 18 of the 20 NFL teams that made the conference championship round ranked in the top quartile (8th or better) in offensive efficiency, as measured by Football Outsiders’ DVOA metric. Building an efficient offense can mask all kinds of weaknesses. And offensive success is more sustainable year over year than defensive success.
So which offenses offer Super Bowl upside in 2022? Here’s how I’ve got them ranked, from 1-32. And yes, I’m fully prepared to get dunked on for some of these five months from now. But first, a quick explainer on some of the terms we’ll be using.
DVOA: A Football Outsiders metric that measures performance against league average while adjusting for strength of opponent. This measures overall performance or efficiency.
EPA: Expected points added. A performance metric that measures the degree to which each play helps a team get closer to scoring. All EPA references below are courtesy of TruMedia and Pro Football Focus.
AGL: Adjusted games lost. A Football Outsiders metric that measures which teams were most impacted by injuries. This can also be broken down by offense and defense.
1. Kansas City Chiefs
If you want to fade the Chiefs, go for it. They had the second-healthiest offense in the NFL last year. Chances are, their depth will be tested more in 2022. They also face the hardest schedule in the NFL, according to projected win totals. Oh, and they traded Tyreek Hill.
Me? I’m not betting against Patrick Mahomes, Andy Reid, and a top-five offensive line. Even with their struggles last year—and those were real, particularly in the first half of the season—the Chiefs still finished second in offensive DVOA. In four seasons with Mahomes as the starter, they’ve finished first (in 2018 and 2019) and second (in 2020 and 2021).
It’s not like the cupboard is bare. The Chiefs still have tight end Travis Kelce as a no. 1 receiving option. Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Mecole Hardman offer speed on the outside. JuJu Smith-Schuster can work the middle of the field. And second-round pick Skyy Moore is a fun wild card.
One area the Chiefs could benefit is getting a little regression to the mean: They turned the ball over on 14.3 percent of their possessions last year, which ranked 26th and was easily their highest rate during the Mahomes era. That number is likely to come down in 2022. The Chiefs turned it over on just 9 percent of their drives from 2018 to 2020 –that was the fifth-best rate in the league. It might not look the same as it always has, and maybe there will be some growing pains early, but I trust Mahomes and Reid to figure it out.
2. Buffalo Bills
There’s no questioning the Bills’ offensive ceiling after what we saw in the playoffs last year, when they scored touchdowns on 12 of 16 possessions over a two-game stretch. Buffalo has now finished fifth in offensive efficiency in back-to-back seasons.
The big question for the 2022 Bills: How will their approach change under new offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey? Brian Daboll was the most pass-heavy play caller in the NFL the last two seasons. The Bills passed 63.7 percent of the time on early downs in neutral situations. Will Dorsey be as aggressive? Or will the Bills’ defensive-minded head coach Sean McDermott urge him to be a little more balanced? Given how dynamic quarterback Josh Allen is, a push for balance is unlikely to lead to an uptick in efficiency.
The other question is the offensive line. It feels like every time the Bills have struggled over the past couple seasons, it’s been because they’ve had issues in protection. Right guard Ryan Bates and right tackle Spencer Brown have a combined 18 career starts between them. If they experience some ups and downs, the Bills’ road could get a little bumpy. It’s also worth noting that Buffalo’s offense ranked third in AGL last year. Chances are their depth will be tested more in 2022.
But overall, Allen is going to compensate for most shortcomings. He has the skill that all great quarterbacks must possess: an ability to figure things out. Last year, as opposing defenses tried to limit explosive plays, Allen started to torch two-high coverages. His performance (EPA per play) against two-high coverages was actually better than it was against single-high coverages and fourth-best among starters. Because of Allen, the Bills’ ceiling is as high as any team.
3. Los Angeles Chargers
Justin Herbert is a transcendent talent entering his third season; it’d be no surprise to see him turn in an MVP season in 2022. After all, the offense was not the problem last year. The Chargers finished fourth in offensive DVOA, and for the most part, they kept the band together. Among the 12 players who logged 400+ snaps on offense for the Chargers, 10 are back, and so is play caller Joe Lombardi. They added first-round pick Zion Johnson at right guard and replaced tight end Jared Cook with Gerald Everett. Right tackle remains a question, but OL guru Brandon Thorn has the Chargers with the fifth-ranked offensive line going into the season.
I would have liked to see the Chargers add one more speedy pass-catching weapon this offseason. But receivers Keenan Allen and Mike Williams and running back Austin Ekeler offer a nice trio. And again, this very same offense worked last year.
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The weirdest part about Tom Brady’s brief retirement was that it came after an MVP-caliber season in which the Bucs ranked first in offensive DVOA.
Tampa is down three offensive linemen—center Ryan Jensen to injury in training camp, guard Alex Cappa to free agency, and guard Ali Marpet to retirement—from last year. But they traded for guard Shaq Mason and have reasonable options at the other two spots. Pass protection is a lot easier when the quarterback stands in the same spot and gets rid of the ball in 2.5 seconds on every snap. Given the offensive line turnover, there will likely be more ups and downs than last year. But the Bucs have wide receiver depth and will probably get supposedly retired tight end Rob Gronkowski back at some point. Even with a 45-year-old quarterback, this offense is going to be tough to stop—again.
5. Cincinnati Bengals
The nerds (I say that affectionately!) will tell you to fade the Bengals in 2022. Their offense had the eighth-best injury luck last year, and injuries could be more of an issue this season. They also faced the second-easiest schedule of opposing defenses in 2021. They relied heavily on explosive plays, and playoffs included, the Bengals still only ranked 17th in offensive DVOA.
I’m here to tell you the nerds are going to be wrong. Joe Burrow is a bad man. Ja’Marr Chase is a bad man. And there is a very straightforward path to this offense making a significant leap in 2022. The Bengals were way too run-heavy for most of last season. Through 13 weeks, they passed the ball (on early downs in neutral situations) just 50.8 percent of the time, which ranked 19th. Burrow was coming off of an injury. The offensive line wasn’t good. Maybe head coach Zac Taylor wanted a balanced attack. But down the stretch, Taylor decided (for the most part) that he was going to win or lose with the ball in Burrow’s hands.
That’s the first step to improvement for Cincinnati: pass more! You have the most accurate quarterback in the NFL and a terrifying group of pass catchers. Don’t bail the defense out by handing the ball to Joe Mixon. That’s what they want you to do. The second step? Improved offensive line play. The Bengals ranked 30th in ESPN’s pass block win rate metric. They were 31st in adjusted sack rate. They didn’t make a huge splash in the offseason, but they added three competent starters in La’el Collins, Ted Karras and Alex Cappa. Thorn has the Bengals with the 11th-ranked offensive line going into 2022.
Sometimes we overcomplicate football. When looking at offense, most of it comes down to three questions:
- Is your QB good?
- Can your guys block their guys?
- Can their guys cover your guys?
Even if the O-Line makes a modest improvement, this group will be significantly better. As long as Burrow is healthy, I’m going to believe in the Bengals offense.
6. Los Angeles Rams
My ranking for the defending Super Bowl champs pretty much comes down to whether quarterback Matthew Stafford is hampered by the elbow injury that’s been bothering him during training camp. If he’s close physically to where he was last year, this should be a very good unit.
The Rams have produced a top-10 offense in four of five seasons under Sean McVay (including three times with Jared Goff at quarterback). Last year, they were eighth. Stafford crushed in two specific areas: against man coverage and against the blitz. He was the best quarterback (EPA per play) in the NFL against man coverage, and it wasn’t close. The difference between Stafford and the second-best QB against man coverage was the same as the difference between no. 2 and no. 12. Stafford also rated as the best QB against the blitz. The difference between him and no. 2 was the same as the difference between no. 2 and no. 9. The McVay-Stafford combo was able to limit what opposing defenses could try on a weekly basis.
The Rams have other questions. Joe Noteboom replaces Andrew Whitworth at left tackle. Allen Robinson II is in, Robert Woods is out, and they don’t have Odell Beckham Jr. (for now). But McVay has earned the benefit of the doubt. As long as Stafford is healthy enough to play, this should easily be a top-10 group.
7. Denver Broncos
The pieces around Russell Wilson are not perfect. The Broncos have some offensive line questions, and they already lost wide receiver Tim Patrick for the season. Having said that, for a decade in Seattle, Wilson showed he could lead efficient offenses under less than ideal circumstances. The Seahawks had a top-quartile offense eight times in 10 seasons with Wilson. Even last year, when the highs were high and the lows were low, Wilson still tied for ninth in QBR.
The cupboard is not bare for the Broncos. This offense finished 12th in offensive DVOA with Teddy Bridgewater and Drew Lock last season. The run game should be strong. The receiver duo of Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy offers real upside. Is there a scenario in which the O-line struggles, first-year head coach Nathaniel Hackett looks overmatched, and Wilson shows significant signs of decline? Sure. But I think it’s more likely that the run game is strong, Wilson launches bombs downfield, and the Broncos produce an efficient, explosive offense.
8. Green Bay Packers
Aaron Rodgers has had 12 seasons in which he’s started at least 15 games, and in 10 of those 12, the Packers ranked in the top quartile in offensive efficiency. They never finished lower than 11th.
I have the same questions everyone else has about Green Bay. Davante Adams had three times as many receiving yards as any other Packer last year. Who’s making up for that production? Rookie Romeo Doubs has generated a lot of training camp buzz. I hope he’s great, but context is important. In the last decade, the median production for rookie wide receivers taken in the fourth round is 69 yards. That’s total—for the whole year!
The lingering offensive line injuries to left tackle David Bhaktiari and Elgton Jenkins, who plays a variety of OL positions for Green Bay, are less concerning to me. The Packers have done a brilliant job of drafting and developing young offensive linemen; they figured things out up front last year and can do so again in 2022. The bottom line here is that even if the Packers take a step back (and I think they will), as long as Rodgers is healthy, the floor is high.
9. Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles completely changed their approach in the middle of last year, shifting to a run-heavy scheme with Jalen Hurts at quarterback. The final result? An offense that ranked 11th in efficiency. But their season came to a screeching halt with an ugly offensive performance in the playoffs against the Bucs. Larger samples are more useful than smaller samples, and this was an above-average offense that overachieved in 2021.
The Eagles may have the best and deepest offensive line in the NFL. They added wide receiver A.J. Brown to complement DeVonta Smith and Dallas Goedert, who finished no. 1 in yards per route run among tight ends last year, and Hurts was one of the best runners in the NFL in 2021. Among 53 players with at least 100 carries, he ranked second behind only Bills QB Josh Allen in success rate.
The question is whether Hurts can make strides as a passer. If he can, the Eagles could easily outperform my projected ranking. But even if Hurts is the same guy as he was last season, given the pieces around him, this profiles as a high-floor group.
10. Dallas Cowboys
There’s really only one argument for the Cowboys offense to be better this year than it was last year: Dak Prescott’s health.
Prescott started last season on fire, got injured, came back, and was mediocre. Yet even with the ups and downs, Dallas still finished seventh in DVOA. Prescott has played five healthy seasons, and in four of those five, the Cowboys have produced a top-10 offense. Simply put, if he’s healthy, their offense is probably going to be good.
The problem for the Cowboys is that Prescott’s supporting cast is objectively worse in 2022. The Cowboys traded receiver Amari Cooper and did little to replace him. Right now, the depth chart is CeeDee Lamb, rookie Jalen Tolbert and Noah Brown, who has 39 career catches. Maybe Tolbert will be great right away, but over the last 10 years, the median production for third-round picks during their rookie seasons has been 200 total receiving yards.
It’s possible that Prescott can carry the offense. But his weapons are worse, and that most likely means a step back.
11. Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings will have a coach who (theoretically) won’t hate his quarterback and won’t hate offense in general. If nothing else, that presents change from the Mike Zimmer era.
In four seasons with quarterback Kirk Cousins, the Vikings have finished eighth, 10th, 16th and 18th in DVOA. Even with a new play caller in Kevin O’Connell, this is most likely going to be a high-floor, low-ceiling group. As is seemingly the case every year, the offensive line is a question mark. If that group can be competent, Cousins will have plenty of help in Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen and Dalvin Cook.
If O’Connell proves to be a good offensive coach, it’d be no surprise to see them overachieve a little and crack the top 10.
12. Indianapolis Colts
When projecting the Colts, it’s instructive to look at how Frank Reich’s offenses and Matt Ryan’s offenses have performed in recent seasons. The Colts under Reich have finished 10th (Andrew Luck), 19th (Jacoby Brissett), 12th (Philip Rivers) and 13th (Carson Wentz) in offensive DVOA. They’ve been mostly fine, but not spectacular. Ryan, meanwhile, was 24th in EPA per play last year with the Falcons, and he ranked 14th in both 2020 and 2019.
In Indy, Ryan is likely to have an elite run game with Jonathan Taylor. And Reich’s history suggests he’s going to get the most out of the talent at his disposal. But it’s fair to question that talent this year. Behind no. 1 receiver Michael Pittman Jr., they have a bunch of unproven options. Maybe Alec Pierce will be great, but the median season for rookie second-round wide receivers over the last 10 years is 440.5 yards. I hope that Parris Campbell stays healthy, but he’s played 15 games in three seasons.
Meanwhile, Indy has one of the worst left tackle situations in the NFL with Matt Pryor and rookie Bernhard Raimann competing for the starting job. Add it all up, and the most likely scenario for the Colts offense feels like good, but not great.
13. Las Vegas Raiders
We have six examples of Josh McDaniels–led offenses where he didn’t have Tom Brady:
Josh McDaniels Offenses Without Tom Brady
As you can see, the results have been mixed. As with everything in football, a lot comes down to the quarterback. Derek Carr has had eight seasons as a starter, and only twice has he led a top-10 offense (2016 and 2019). Now, he has a great set of weapons with Davante Adams, Darren Waller and Hunter Renfrow, but will be playing behind an offensive line that is a major question—Thorn ranks that group 27th going into the season.
If you handed this offensive personnel to McVay or Reid or Sean Payton, it’d probably easily be a top-10 unit. If McDaniels is indeed a great offensive coach, the Raiders should outperform this ranking.
14. Baltimore Ravens
Let’s try to bring some nuance to the Lamar Jackson conversation and look at how he’s actually performed. If we isolate just passing plays (but still include sacks and scrambles), Jackson ranks 13th out of 40 qualifying quarterbacks in EPA per play over the last three seasons. Throw in Jackson’s unmatched running ability, and he’s performed like a top-10 quarterback.
Having said that, the Ravens offense has stretches where it appears as though the players have never met before. The Ravens’ passing game struggled against man coverage and against the blitz last year. Among 31 quarterbacks who had at least 100 snaps against the blitz, Jackson ranked 29th in EPA per play.
There are reasons to believe in a Ravens rebound. Jackson missed five games last year because of an ankle injury and a non-COVID illness, and the Ravens overall had the most-injured offense in the NFL, according to AGL. Even then, they finished 16th in offensive efficiency. Jackson and the run game give Baltimore a high floor. But the wide receiver corps is thin and unproven, and the Ravens have to prove they can find answers to the issues that plagued them last year.
15. San Francisco 49ers
I have no idea what to do with the 49ers this year.
They are probably the most high-variance unit on this list; if Trey Lance is who the 49ers thought he was when they traded up to draft him at no. 3 overall in 2021, the 49ers could easily be a top-five offense. Lance’s running ability, paired with a dynamic receiving trio of Deebo Samuel, George Kittle and Brandon Aiyuk, give Kyle Shanahan plenty to work with.
But Lance is an unknown, and the offensive line is a huge question mark. Jake Brendel (three career starts in six NFL seasons) is slated to replace Alex Mack at center. Second-year player Aaron Banks (zero starts as a rookie) is the new left guard. And rookie Spencer Burford takes over at right guard. Trent Williams is great at left tackle, but he’s 34 years old, and right tackle Mike McGlinchey is coming off of a season-ending quad injury.
There’s a scenario where Lance experiences growing pains and the offensive line performs like a bottom-10 unit. There’s also a scenario where Lance lights it up and the scheme helps out the O-line. This could be a unit that endures growing pains early in the season and then peaks late. But because of the unknown at quarterback and the inexperience on the offensive line, I wasn’t comfortable ranking them higher than middle of the pack.
16. New England Patriots
Quarterback Mac Jones showed plenty of promise as a rookie, finishing 13th in EPA per play last season. But the Patriots were careful to not put too much on his plate. From Week 9 on, the Patriots passed the ball a league-low 35.8 percent of the time on early downs in neutral situations. That number is skewed by the three-pass game against Buffalo, but still, we’re talking about a 10-game sample. Bill Belichick felt the best way to win was with his run game, defense, and special teams. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Jones, after all, was a rookie.
But the 2022 season offers a new set of challenges. The defense might not be nearly as good as it was last year, and Jones will likely be asked to do a lot more. Josh McDaniels is gone, and the offense has been handed over to Matt Patricia and Joe Judge. What could go wrong?
The Patriots lost a pair of starters on the offensive line and are counting on Trent Brown, who has been healthy for a total of 14 games the past two seasons, at left tackle and rookie Cole Strange at left guard.
Reports from Patriots camp suggest that they are making pretty significant scheme changes, and there have been real growing pains. Jones’s pass-catching group is still below average. The Patriots don’t have anyone who is going to keep opposing defensive coordinators up at night.
Progress in the NFL isn’t always linear. It’d be no surprise to see this group take a slight step back in 2022.
17. Arizona Cardinals
We have had three years of the Kliff Kingsbury-Kyler Murray offense, and the results have been remarkably underwhelming. They’ve finished 13th, 19th and 15th, respectively, in offensive efficiency. Why should we expect something different this year?
Murray has had stretches where he’s looked like a top-level quarterback. There’s no denying his talent, but he’s yet to put it all together for a complete season, and it’s unclear where Kingsbury gives the Cardinals an edge. Much of their success has hinged on Murray making a play or DeAndre Hopkins making a play.
Hopkins will serve a six-game suspension to start the season, and that should be alarming for Arizona. Per TruMedia/PFF, without Hopkins last year, Murray completed 63.8 percent of his passes and averaged 6.21 YPA with six touchdowns and four interceptions. It’s not the biggest sample (257 plays), but he essentially turned into a mix of Sam Darnold and Andy Dalton. Meanwhile, the Cardinals have three offensive line starters who are age-32 or older.
Murray is talented enough to go off and put the team on his back. But given how comical the Cardinals’ offseason was—between the extensions for Kingsbury and GM Steve Keim, along with the homework clause fiasco for Murray—the more likely scenario is that this thing gets ugly.
18. Jacksonville Jaguars
Good life rule: When you start a new job, try to replace a guy who was a trainwreck. And that’s what Doug Pederson is doing. It is inconceivable that he could do a worse job than his predecessor, Urban Meyer. At the very least, Pederson will manage the games well, be aggressive on fourth downs and connect with his players. The coaching change is just one of many reasons why this could be a significantly improved group. The Jaguars offense was 28th in AGL, so there’s a good chance they get better injury luck in 2022. Per the Football Outsiders Almanac, they also led the NFL with 41 dropped passes. Chances are they’ll be better there, too.
I didn’t agree with many of the Jaguars’ offseason moves as they were unfolding, but the bottom line is that regardless of how they chose to spend their money, the roster is better in 2022 with additions like receiver Christian Kirk and guard Brandon Scherff; offensive line and pass-catching weapons that should be good enough to give us a fair evaluation of Trevor Lawrence.
I’m not telling you the Jaguars offense is going to light it up. But I do think this group can be competent. Maybe they can put that on a billboard?
19. New Orleans Saints
On the surface, the Saints might seem appealing. They were 5-2 with Jameis Winston last year, 4-1 with Taysom Hill, and 0-5 with the combination of Trevor Siemian and Ian Book. Receiver Michael Thomas didn’t play, and they had the second-most injured offense in the NFL. And even then, they still finished 23rd in offensive DVOA—not good, but not horrible.
Of course, Sean Payton, one of the brightest offensive minds the league has seen in the last 20 years, was the head coach last year. And Payton is gone this year. He knew how to maximize the talent at his disposal. I don’t care if the Saints are maintaining continuity with their other coaches. Not having Payton is going to be a huge deal.
Reading too much into Winston’s numbers from last year’s seven-game sample would be a mistake. He threw touchdowns on 8.7 percent of his passes—an unsustainable rate. He finished 35th out of 38 quarterbacks in Next Gen Stats’ completion percentage over expectation metric.
On paper, the weapons could be nice. The Saints have Thomas, Jarvis Landry and Chris Olave at receiver, along with versatile running back Alvin Kamara. But in the end, Winston is probably going to be a turnover machine who frustrates his coaches. You can bet on the post-Payton version of the Saints’ offense if you want. I’m not that brave.
20. Miami Dolphins
Tua Tagovailoa started 12 games last year. If we isolate just the snaps when he was on the field, the Dolphins performed like roughly the 22nd-best offense in terms of EPA per play. I’m not ready to bump them up significantly from that spot going into 2022. The Dolphins added two offensive linemen—Terron Armstead, who missed nine games last year, and Connor Williams, who was the weak link on the Cowboys’ offensive line. This still projects to be a below-average group unless some of their young players really step up.
Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle and Mike Gesicki should offer an athletic, explosive pass-catching corps, but do we really expect Hill to be just as productive away from Mahomes and Reid? Or is it more likely that he’s slamming a tablet to the ground in mid-October because he’s unhappy with how things are going?
Maybe this will all work out. Or maybe Stephen Ross will be trying to woo Aaron Rodgers in international waters by the time we get to Week 10.
21. Tennessee Titans
This looks like a mediocre group with a low ceiling. We know what the Titans want to do. They want to hand the ball to Derrick Henry. And then hand the ball to Derrick Henry. And then hand the ball to Derrick Henry some more.
But when the offense was shredding in 2019 and 2020, the Titans complemented that approach with a highly efficient passing game. It’s hard to see them checking that box this season with A.J. Brown gone and an underwhelming offensive line.
22. Carolina Panthers
Even at his worst, Baker Mayfield has been significantly more competent than Sam Darnold at his best. No one is arguing that Mayfield is great, but the Browns still ranked 19th in passing DVOA last season with him as a 14-game starter. And that was in a season where it felt like everything—from Mayfield’s shoulder injury to the Odell Beckham Jr. drama—went wrong.
Between DJ Moore and Christian McCaffrey, there are some playmakers to work with. The Panthers signed a couple starting-caliber offensive linemen in free agency and drafted tackle Ikem Ekwonu with the sixth overall pick. We have no evidence through two seasons that Matt Rhule is going to give the Panthers an edge schematically. But from a pure talent perspective, Carolina has enough to field a mediocre offense.
23. New York Giants
The Daniel Jones conversation is tricky. From a narrative perspective, it’s reasonable to point out that he’s been put in a horrible spot in recent years being coached by Jason Garrett and Joe Judge and playing behind a mess of an offensive line year after year. The situation has been legitimately bad.
Jones is talented. He has a big arm. He can move. And he’ll take hits in the pocket. If you strung together Jones’s 50 best plays from his first three seasons, you could be convinced that there’s untapped upside. But statistically, there’s really no precedent for a player being this bad through three seasons and then turning it around. According to the Football Outsiders Almanac, there have been four other quarterbacks who posted a passing DVOA below -10.0 percent in each of their first three seasons (minimum 200 passes each season): Jeff George, Rick Mirer, Tim Couch and Darnold. This history should not make Giants fans feel better about Jones’s 2022 prospects.
The Giants’ offensive line should be better, but it’s probably below average. They have some talent at the skill spots with Kenny Golladay, Kadarius Toney and Saquon Barkley. And new head coach Brian Daboll will likely be more aggressive than his predecessors.
The Giants offense was 30th in AGL last year. And they now have the NFL’s easiest schedule. If they get some good injury luck, they could at least be mediocre.
24. Detroit Lions
I take no pleasure in saying not nice things about the Lions. Their fan base is starving for something, anything. And I’m enjoying Dan Campbell on Hard Knocks as much as the next person.
But this Lions offense was 29th in DVOA last year and pretty much added only one new starter: receiver DJ Chark. (It is unclear when first-round pick Jameson Williams will return from injury.) Everyone remembers that Jared Goff is still their quarterback, right? I’m struggling to identify Detroit’s path to a major leap.
Maybe they’ll get some better injury luck (the offense was 27th in AGL last year). Maybe new play caller Ben Johnson will give them an edge. Maybe their younger players will show significant improvement. But even if all of those things happen, the Lions have a limited ceiling.
Better? Yes. Good? I don’t see it.
25. Washington Commanders
It’s not often that a quarterback-team pairing feels so doomed from the start. Carson Wentz has never been able to improve his fatal flaws: He can’t give up on plays; he misses too many layups; and he’s fumbled a league-high 66 times since entering the league in 2016. Wentz has had organizations give up on him in consecutive years and now goes to one of the most dysfunctional franchises in the NFL. On what planet does this actually work out?
OK, let’s at least try to make the case. Wentz has finished in the top half of the league in QBR four times in the last five seasons. The Colts, with Wentz as their starter last year, finished 13th in DVOA. Washington was 21st in DVOA last season, and that was despite having the fourth-most injured offense.
Convinced? Yeah, didn’t think so. Me neither. I can’t see a scenario where this works out.
26. Pittsburgh Steelers
Ben Roethlisberger was bad last year—and he was bad in a very limiting way. Mitchell Trubisky is probably going to be bad this year (assuming he’s the starter). But with Trubisky’s athleticism, he should be bad in a less limiting way.
Between Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, and Najee Harris, this offense has some talented pieces. Expectations for George Pickens should probably be tempered, but his college film screamed superstar upside. The offensive line, however, is a big question mark. Thorn has the Steelers’ line ranked dead last going into the 2022 season.
If the Steelers are going to contend for a playoff spot, they’ll need defense and special teams to lead the way. That likely means a “don’t screw it up” offensive approach. Pittsburgh ranked 25th in offensive DVOA last year. A similar performance seems like the most likely outcome this season.
27. Seattle Seahawks
They have two quarterback options: Geno Smith and Drew Lock. Over the last two years, 37 quarterbacks have had at least 400 dropbacks. Among that group, Lock ranks 31st in EPA per play.
As for Smith, he quarterbacked 38 drives last season. According to the Football Outsiders Almanac, the Seahawks averaged 25.4 yards on those possessions. Extended over an entire season, that would have ranked 31st in the NFL ahead of only the Texans. And this is the guy in the driver’s seat of their QB competition!
DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett are great. The run game has a chance to be efficient. But the offensive line is young and unproven. With such major issues at quarterback, reaching mediocrity feels like it’d be a miracle for this group.
28. New York Jets
Zach Wilson suffered a knee injury in the Jets’ first preseason game but isn’t expected to miss significant time in the regular season. Jets fans are hoping that Wilson can make the second-year leap, but if we look at last year, the numbers suggest that the offense worked better without Wilson than with him. Per TruMedia, in 700-plus plays with Wilson, the Jets performed like the 30th-ranked offense in terms of EPA per play. In 300-plus plays without him, they performed like the 13th-ranked offense.
The good news? Maybe offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur is a good schemer and play caller. The bad news? When Wilson was on the field, the numbers suggest he was the Jets’ biggest problem.
Losing tackle Mekhi Becton hurts, but the Jets still have a solid offensive line. And the Jets are young and talented at receiver. The supporting cast is plenty good enough to evaluate Wilson’s progress. It’s dangerous to draw conclusions based on rookie performances, but Wilson’s 2021 showing was troubling. He will have to prove he’s an asset and not a problem in 2022.
29. Houston Texans
Second-year quarterback Davis Mills had some promising moments last year, and journeyman receiver Brandin Cooks continued to produce. Dameon Pierce could be a really fun rookie. And the offensive line could be competent.
I don’t have high hopes for the Texans offense, but “surprisingly watchable” is at least in the reasonable range of potential outcomes.
30. Chicago Bears
The Bears’ new regime showed no desire to put pieces around former first-round pick quarterback Justin Fields to get a good evaluation of him in 2022.
Chicago has both a bottom-five offensive line and a bottom-five group of pass catchers. If Fields is Superman, maybe they can get to mediocrity. But Chicago seems like a good bet to be one of the NFL’s worst offenses.
31. Atlanta Falcons
Their offense finished 28th in DVOA last year, and that was with Matt Ryan as a 17-game starter and with the NFL’s best injury luck. What’s it going to look like with some combination of Marcus Mariota and Desmond Ridder?
Kyle Pitts is fun. Drake London could offer hope for the future. But this is a bottom-10 offensive line combined with one of the worst quarterback situations in the NFL.
At least Falcons fans can watch Alabama on Saturdays and dream of Bryce Young for 2023.
NR. Cleveland Browns
As of this writing, we are still waiting for a ruling on the NFL’s appeal of Deshaun Watson’s six-game suspension. Given the uncertainty around the Browns’ QB situation, we’ll leave them unranked for now.