Power Ranking Every NFL Offense Heading into the 2014 Season

Russell S. BaxterContributor IAugust 14, 2014

Power Ranking Every NFL Offense Heading into the 2014 Season

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    Are Drew Brees, Marques Colston and the New Orleans Saints offense primed for a huge 2014?
    Are Drew Brees, Marques Colston and the New Orleans Saints offense primed for a huge 2014?Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    This offseason in the NFL there were a dozen changes at offensive coordinator. That’s just over one-third of the league making a change on a vital part of its coaching staff.

    So what can we expect from not only those 12 teams but the other 20 clubs as well when it comes to moving the football, finding the end zone and putting points on the board in 2014?

    The search is over.

    With the regular season kicking off in three weeks, we are taking time to power rank the NFL’s 32 offensive units.

    Remember, these rankings don’t necessarily reflect point totals of the upcoming season. There’s certainly more than one way to light up the scoreboard in the NFL.

    For instance, when it comes to the passing attack, we have seen record numbers the last two seasons when it comes to interception returns for touchdowns. And let’s not forget the impact special teams have on the game. For instance, it’s worth noting that in each of the last two Super Bowls, the eventual winning team returned the opening second-half kickoff for a score.

    Each team’s offseason arrivals and departures, the impact of the 2014 draft class, and factors such as red-zone efficiency, sacks allowed, turnovers and yards gained all add up to us forecasting the worst to the best when it comes to NFL offenses in 2014.

32. Houston Texans

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    Pat Sullivan/Associated Press

    Offensive Coordinator: Bill O’Brien (head coach)

     

    What We Know

    This past season, the Houston Texans ended the year on a 14-game losing streak. They started three different quarterbacks in 2013, and the trio combined for 19 touchdown passes, 25 turnovers and had five interceptions returned for touchdowns. The team scored a mere 276 points, and a mistake-prone offensive unit managed just 26 touchdowns.

    Since then, Matt Schaub has been traded to the Oakland Raiders, and T.J. Yates was dealt to the Atlanta Falcons. It’s safe to say that Bill O’Brien certainly has his work cut out for him in his first stint as an NFL head coach.

     

    What We Think

    We will be very careful not to overthink what we saw last week when O’Brien’s team laid a goose egg versus the Arizona Cardinals in both teams’ preseason opener.

    Simply put, Ryan Fitzpatrick and his offensive mates were miserable in the 32-0 loss in Glendale, Arizona, as the quarterback threw a pair of interceptions. The veteran was picked up this offseason after being released by the Tennessee Titans. He threw for 14 scores but committed an equal amount of turnovers for Tennessee last year.

    Still, he will be the man at the controls, with Case Keenum and rookie Tom Savage in reserve. The Texans still have running back Arian Foster (who missed half of 2013), wideouts Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins, and tight end Garrett Graham.

    Still, O’Brien and his staff better hope Romeo Crennel’s defense can come up with some takeaways to help the offense. Houston forced an NFL-low 11 turnovers in 2013.

31. Oakland Raiders

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    Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

    Offensive Coordinator: Greg Olson

     

    What We Know

    This past season, the Oakland Raiders went through three different starting quarterbacks and finished with four wins, averaging just over 20 points per game.

    Dennis Allen’s team finished a respectable 12th in the league in rushing but more than one-fourth of the Raiders' 2,000 yards on the ground came via quarterback Terrelle Pryor—now with the Seattle Seahawks.

    Finally, Oakland’s offense produced 33 touchdowns while the club committed 31 turnovers.

     

    What We Think

    The team traded for veteran signal-caller Matt Schaub back in March, and then general manager Reggie McKenzie opted to select Fresno State’s Derek Carr with the 36th overall pick two months later. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see both in the starting lineup this season.

    For more information on Schaub, Robert Klemko of TheMMQB.com gets us caught up on the former Texans QB, who looks to get his career back on track.

    In 2013, running back Darren McFadden finished third on the team in rushing behind Rashad Jennings and Pryor, both no longer with the team. The hope is that free-agent pickup Maurice Jones-Drew can not only help the team control the football but keep McFadden on the field for 16 games, which would be a first for the six-year pro.

    There are new faces to throw to in wide receivers James Jones and Greg Little, and new blockers up front in the form of left tackle Donald Penn and right guard Austin Howard.

    Elsewhere, there are also wideouts Denarius Moore and Rod Streater, the latter of which was Oakland’s team-leader in catches this past season. However, this club could certainly use a few game-breakers.

30. Carolina Panthers

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    Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

    Offensive Coordinator: Mike Shula

     

    What We Know

    Only six teams in the league gained fewer total yards than the NFC South champion Carolina Panthers in 2013. Still, Ron Rivera’s club managed to score just enough points to get the job done.

    Quarterback Cam Newton enjoyed a Pro Bowl season, throwing for 24 scores (13 interceptions) and rushing for a team-high six touchdowns. Tight end Greg Olsen led the team with 73 catches and six touchdown grabs while running back DeAngelo Williams and fullback Mike Tolbert combined for 1,721 yards from scrimmage and 11 touchdowns.

     

    What We Think

    Is it possible that Rivera could get three or four scores each from defensive end Greg Hardy and middle linebacker Luke Kuechly?

    All kidding aside, the Panthers’ offensive unit doesn’t seem to have much of that wow-factor these days. It features a revamped pass-catching corps that includes tight ends Olsen and Ed Dickson, a former Baltimore Raven.

    Gone is veteran wide receiver Steve Smith. New faces include Jerricho Cotchery, Jason Avant and rookie wideout Kelvin Benjamin, the team’s first-round pick, who has impressed to date.

    However, this unit’s biggest concern—besides the health of Newton, who is working his way back from offseason ankle surgery—is an offensive line that will have a different look or two, especially with the offseason retirement of three-time Pro Bowl left tackle Jordan Gross.

29. Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Stephen B. Morton/Associated Press

    Offensive Coordinator: Jedd Fisch

     

    What We Know

    It’s a couple of numbers that bear repeating—unless you are hearing them for the first time.

    In 2013, the Jacksonville Jaguars finished dead last in the NFL with 247 points. In fact, the club has totaled a mere 502 points in its last 32 regular-season games. That’s 104 points fewer than the Denver Broncos (606) managed a year ago.

    This past season only the Tampa Bay Buccaneers gained fewer total yards, and only the Atlanta Falcons managed fewer rushing yards than Gus Bradley’s squad, whose offensive unit totaled a mere 23 touchdowns  in 2013.

     

    What We Think

    Despite the fact that he’s never thrown more touchdown passes than interceptions in his six NFL seasons, Chad Henne gets the nod as third overall pick Blake Bortles is expected to be redshirted, so to speak. To be fair, the veteran signal-caller did finish strong in 2013, throwing nine touchdown passes and only five interceptions in his final five outings.

    Henne should get support from free-agent running back Toby Gerhart, who hopes to be a workhorse in Fisch’s system. Underrated Cecil Shorts and second-year pro Ace Sanders were slated to be the starting wideouts, but the latter will miss the first four games due to a violation of the league's substance-abuse policy.

    The Jaguars used a pair of second-round picks in May on wide receivers Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson, but the latter has had problems staying on the field due to injuries. Tight end Marcedes Lewis led the team with four touchdown grabs a year ago.

    The left side of the offensive line features tackle Luke Joeckel—who saw his 2013 rookie season cut short by injury— while former Denver Broncos Pro Bowler Zane Beadles is now at left guard.

    Yes, there’s still plenty of work to be done.

28. New York Giants

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Offensive Coordinator: Ben McAdoo

     

    What We Know

    The team that led the league with 44 turnovers in 2013 will have its share of new faces on the offensive side of the football.

    One of those will be McAdoo, who would like to see quarterback Eli Manning complete 70 percent of his passes…to his own team. The veteran signal-caller led the league with a disturbing 27 interceptions this past season. Manning was also sacked a career-high 39 times and got little or no support from a ground attack that ranked a disappointing 29th in the NFL in 2013.

    Still, the 10-year pro has familiar targets at his disposal in Pro Bowler Victor Cruz and improving wideout Rueben Randle. And Manning is looking to take advantage of the skills of rookie Odell Beckham Jr., the 12th overall pick in May’s draft.

     

    What We Think

    Only four teams in the NFL scored fewer points and gained fewer yards than Tom Coughlin’s club this past season. Do we really expect it to be that much better one year later in a new system?

    The team looks to improve on last year’s dismal running performance with the addition of Rashad Jennings, who led the Oakland Raiders in rushing yards in 2013. There are also veteran Peyton Hillis and fourth-round draft choice Andre Williams, who has enjoyed a good camp and will at least serve as the team’s goal-line threat.

    Still, the Giants offensive line had its issues last season, and the recent retirement of guard Chris Snee doesn’t help. And there doesn’t seem to be any real front-runner at tight end, which is interesting, considering Coughlin has six of them on the roster.

27. Kansas City Chiefs

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Offensive Coordinator: Doug Pederson

     

    What We Know

    Head coach Andy Reid did a terrific job last season with a club that totaled a league-low 211 points prior to his arrival. The Kansas City Chiefs totaled 430 points, and the offensive unit alone managed 43 trips to the end zone.

    How hot was Pro Bowl running back Jamaal Charles this past season? The productive performer scored an NFL-high 19 touchdowns in just 15 games. In 2012, the Chiefs scored just 18 total touchdowns as a team.

    And give veteran quarterback Alex Smith the nod. He kept the club in games when the defense sputtered down the stretch and in the playoffs, throwing a career-high 23 touchdown passes. The first pick in the 2005 NFL draft gave some perspective on his game, speaking with Tom Pelissero of USA Today last weekend about a number of things.

     

    What We Think

    Reid and Co. took their share of hits in free agency on the offensive side of the football. Gone is Pro Bowl left tackle Branden Albert, as are guards Geoff Schwartz and Jon Asamoah.

    Also taking the free-agent route out of town was versatile offensive performer and ace punt returner Dexter McCluster, who signed with the Tennessee Titans. Filling the void left by the Pro Bowler will be rookie running back De’Anthony Thomas, who should be able to help Reid’s club on offense and with field position. Second-year pro Knile Davis could have a bigger role this season as well.

    Smith still has wideouts Dwayne Bowe and Donnie Avery to throw to, and second-year tight end Travis Kelce bears watching. But would it surprise you to know that Charles led Kansas City in catches (70), receiving yards (693) and touchdown grabs (seven) in 2013?

    This may wind up eventually being an effective offense in 2014, but the Chiefs are going to need more than just another big year from Charles for that to happen.

26. Tennessee Titans

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    Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

    Offensive Coordinator: Jason Michael

     

    What We Know

    The Tennessee Titans haven’t been to the playoffs since owning the league’s best record (13-3) in 2008.

    That’s a different story for another time. Over the past two seasons, the team has had a hard enough time just keeping its starting quarterback on the field.

    Now new head coach Ken Whisenhunt hopes to do for Titans quarterback Jake Locker what he helped do for San Diego Chargers veteran signal-caller Philip Rivers this past season.

    And if the eighth overall pick in the 2011 draft can reach his potential, this could be a very intriguing team this season.

     

    What We Think

    It’s safe to say that Whisenhunt knows a little something about the running game. Make that a lot of something.

    In his various stints around the NFL, the veteran coach has usually made the most of the talent he’s been surrounded by.

    In the case of the Titans, that talent appears to be at the running back position, even if former Pro Bowler Chris Johnson is no longer with the club. The Titans are stacked with Shonn Greene, rookie Bishop Sankey and onetime Kansas City Chiefs multidimensional threat McCluster. Hard-nosed Jackie Battle lines up at fullback but can also serve as an effective runner as well.

    A reliable ground game can also keep Locker healthy. The three-year pro has started just 18 games and missed 14 contests the past two seasons combined.

    As for the team’s top targets, Kendall Wright caught a quiet 94 passes in 2013 for just two scores. Wide receivers Nate Washington and Justin Hunter combined for seven touchdowns, while tight end Delanie Walker was a big factor, catching 60 passes and leading the club with six touchdown grabs.

    Still, until Jake is better known for being something other than the hurt Locker, the jury is out on this unit.

25. Cleveland Browns

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    Mark Duncan/Associated Press

    Offensive Coordinator: Kyle Shanahan

     

    What We Know

    Since returning to the league in 1999 as an expansion team, the Cleveland Browns have averaged less than 20 points per game in 13 of the club’s 15 seasons.

    In 2013, the team went through three different starting quarterbacks. The only one of the trio who remains with the club is Brian Hoyer, who went 3-0 as a starter this past season before going down with a knee injury.

    Of course, there’s a lot to be said in terms of tradition when it comes to the Browns. Back in May, the team used the 22nd overall pick in the draft for the third time in eight years to draft a quarterback.

    Say hello to former Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel. And this week, for good measure, new offensive coordinator Shanahan enlisted the aid of familiar face Rex Grossman, signed by the team on Tuesday, according to ClevelandBrowns.com.

    At least things won’t be boring in 2014 for the Browns, who have lost 11 or more games each of the last six seasons.

     

    What We Think

    We will soon find out which player the team’s starting signal-caller will be this season, at least when it comes to Week 1.

    For what it’s worth, the Browns haven’t had a quarterback start all 16 games since Tim Couch in 2001.

    Regardless of whether it’s Hoyer or Manziel, both will have Pro Bowl tight end Jordan Cameron at their disposal. The emerging pass-catcher totaled 80 receptions this past season, including seven for touchdowns.

    Meanwhile, we all await the fate of Josh Gordon, the league-leader in receiving yards in 2013 who is expected to miss substantial time in 2014 due to his off-the field issues. The rest of the wideout corps now includes free-agent additions Miles Austin, Nate Burleson and Andrew Hawkins, while speedy Travis Benjamin is in the mix.

    There’s also competition at running back with former Houston Texans runner Ben Tate and rookie Terrance West vying for carries. Pro Bowlers in the form of left tackle Joe Thomas and center Alex Mack anchor the offensive line.

    Why the not-so-lofty ranking for Mike Pettine’s club? Combine the quarterback duel with the uncertainty surrounding Gordon, and you wished you felt better about this unit.

24. St. Louis Rams

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    Tom Gannam/Associated Press

    Offensive Coordinator: Brian Schottenheimer

     

    What We Know

    Despite using two different quarterbacks last season in Sam Bradford and Kellen Clemens, the St. Louis Rams managed to do something they had not done since 2006—average at least 20 points per game for a season.

    Now they just need Bradford to last all 16 games, something he has done every other year in his brief NFL career. If that happens, perhaps this franchise can do something it hasn't done since way back in 2003—post a winning campaign.

     

    What We Think

    A lot is riding on the health of Bradford, who did throw 14 touchdown passes and just four interceptions before going down last season. Still, the Rams added one of the better backup quarterbacks in the league this offseason in Shaun Hill.

    The ground game figures to be even better in 2014 with Zac Stacy having a year under his belt. He was one of the league’s hotter runners late last season and will be spelled on occasion by rookie Tre Mason.

    There are plenty of names at wide receiver with Tavon Austin, free-agent addition Kenny Britt, Brian Quick, Chris Givens and Austin Pettis, to name a few. Tight end Jared Cook led the team with five touchdown receptions and averaged an impressive 13.2 yards per catch on 51 grabs.

    Up front, the team added Greg Robinson with the second overall pick, and the former Auburn standout will begin his career at left guard. Meanwhile, head coach Jeff Fisher is awaiting the return of left tackle Jake Long, who tore his ACL last December.

    The pieces are there. It remains to be seen if they can all stay on the field at the same time.

23. New York Jets

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Offensive Coordinator: Marty Mornhinweg

     

    What We Know

    Under head coach Rex Ryan, the New York Jets have basically been offensive on this side of the football. In 2013, rookie quarterback Geno Smith started all 16 games and committed 25 of the team’s 29 turnovers.

    It marked the fourth time in five years under Ryan that the team’s starter behind center coughed up the ball at least 23 times in a season.

    Now would be a good time for the Jets to start a new tradition.

     

    What We Think

    Last season, Gang Green’s offensive unit totaled a mere 25 touchdowns, including just 13 through the air. The Jets produced the fourth-fewest points in the league. Besides Smith’s on-the-job training, a lack of talent was a major issue as well.

    The draft netted tight end Jace Amaro in the second round, and wide receivers Jalen Saunders and Shaquelle Evans, both in the fourth round. But injuries and the learning curve make it tough to think that any of the three will be major contributors, at least early in the season.

    Free agency has brought wide receivers Eric Decker and Jacoby Ford, while the addition of running back Johnson, cast off from the Tennessee Titans after six seasons, may wind up being an enormous plus for a ground game that ranked sixth in the NFL in 2013.

    Add in some continued development by wide receiver Jeremy Kerley and tight end Jeff Cumberland, and things are looking up for the Jets. We are just not sure how far up.

22. Baltimore Ravens

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    Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

    Offensive Coordinator: Gary Kubiak

     

    What We Know

    The defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens hardly looked the part in 2013, especially on the offensive side of the ball.

    The lack of a running game was but one reason that Super Bowl XLVII MVP Joe Flacco served up a career-high 22 interceptions in 16 games this past season.

    There have been a few key additions this offseason to make life easier for the strong-armed quarterback. But is one of last year’s biggest problems on offense still a shortcoming for John Harbaugh’s club?

     

    What We Think

    Flacco now has new targets in veteran wide receiver Steve Smith and tight end Owen Daniels, late of the Carolina Panthers and Houston Texans, respectively. Combined with wideouts Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones, and a healthier tight end in Dennis Pitta, the passing attack should be very effective.

    But there’s that word "should." This past season, only two teams in the league ran for fewer yards than the Ravens. Former Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice won’t be around for the first two games of 2014 due to his league suspension after being charged with third-degree assault. That means more work for Bernard Pierce. A year ago, he and Rice combined for only 1,096 yards rushing.

    A new-look offensive front, featuring center Jeremy Zuttah and new starting right tackle Ricky Wagner, should rebound from an off year. Baltimore allowed a disappointing 48 sacks in 2013.

    Still, we have our reservations when it comes to a unit that may take a little time to get its act together in 2014.

21. Washington Redskins

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Offensive Coordinator: Sean McVay

     

    What We Know

    This past season, the Washington Redskins finished ninth in the NFL in total offense. But that didn’t necessarily translate into the kind of end-zone production the team was expecting.

    The club totaled only 334 points—which was ranked 23rd in the league in 2013—and 102 points fewer (436) than it managed during its NFC East title season of 2012.

    There’s a new head coach in D.C. in Jay Gruden, who was most recently the offensive coordinator of the Cincinnati Bengals.

    Here we go again.

     

    What We Think

    One of the Redskins’ biggest problems this past season was the inability to hang on to the football. Just one year after committing a league-low 14 turnovers, the club coughed up the football 34 times in 16 contests.

    Another issue was putting quarterback Robert Griffin III back on the football field far too early in 2013, especially considering that the 2012 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year ended that season injuring his knee in the team’s home playoff loss and never took the field during the preseason.

    But that was 2013. Griffin looks ready to go and has a new-look passing arsenal with wide receivers DeSean Jackson and Andre Roberts. They join Pierre Garcon—who led the NFL with 113 catches in 2013—veteran wideout Santana Moss and second-year tight end Jordan Reed.

    But this team’s bread and butter will continue to be a ground attack that, led by Alfred Morris, ranked fifth in the NFL one year after leading the league in that category.

    There are certainly plenty of positives. It just may take this group a bit of time before it hits its stride.

20. Minnesota Vikings

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Offensive Coordinator: Norv Turner

     

    What We Know

    Interestingly enough, last season’s Minnesota Vikings squad didn’t have a problem scoring points. Despite starting three different quarterbacks and not having a player total at least 1,000 yards through the air, the Purple Gang totaled 391 points while their offensive unit totaled 41 touchdowns.

    It’s back to three quarterbacks, at least for now, when it comes to the Vikings, who now have a new head coach in Mike Zimmer, a new offensive coordinator in Turner, and that same-old reliable runner in superstar Adrian Peterson.

     

    What We Think

    You can expect some interesting things when Turner’s offense has the football this season. How long it has it for one reason or another may be an entirely different story.

    Still, be it Matt Cassel, rookie Teddy Bridgewater or three-year pro Christian Ponder (probably in that order) making the throws, the offense has its share of playmakers. Peterson's body of work speaks for itself, while the man to watch this season is second-year wideout Cordarrelle Patterson. As a rookie in 2013, he scored a combined nine touchdowns rushing, receiving and on kickoff returns.

    Turner also inherits wideouts Greg Jennings and Jerome Simpson, as well as tight end Kyle Rudolph. Jennings led the club with 68 receptions this past season, and he and Patterson tied for the team lead with four touchdown catches. Third-year wide receiver Jarius Wright and Rudolph each totaled three scoring grabs in 2013.

    Perhaps the only thing that could slow down this unit is a constant shuffling of the starter behind center. In a division where points are required, a little continuity at quarterback could go a long way for these Vikings.

19. Buffalo Bills

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    Jason Miller/Getty Images

    Offensive Coordinator: Nathaniel Hackett

     

    What We Know

    There seems to be a little excitement surrounding the team in the midst of the league’s longest current playoff drought.

    And a lot of the good vibes surrounding the Buffalo Bills have to do with the potential of an offensive unit that added some speed in a big way—both through the draft as well as free agency this offseason. With quarterback EJ Manuel entering his second season, he’s expected to take advantage of some new talent now taking up residence in Orchard Park.

    Does that mean the team is headed back to the postseason? You have to start somewhere when your club hasn't played in the NFL’s second season since 1999.

     

    What We Think

    A healthy Manuel, who made just 10 starts during his rookie campaign, is essential to the improvement the Bills make on this side of the football. Head coach Doug Marrone saw his club produce only 31 offensive touchdowns a year ago, including just 16 scores through the air.

    Via general manager Doug Whaley, the franchise gave up a few draft choices in 2015 to move up and grab wide receiver Sammy Watkins with the fourth overall pick. He’ll pair with emerging wideout Robert Woods, former Tampa Bay Buccaneers performer Mike Williams and incumbents such as Marquise Goodwin and T.J. Graham. Still, it was tight end Scott Chandler who led the club with 53 catches in 2013.

    Running back Bryce Brown—acquired this offseason from the Philadelphia Eagles—joins a deep backfield that includes explosive C.J. Spiller, Fred Jackson and free-agent pickup Anthony Dixon. Only the Eagles gained more yards rushing in the league than Marrone’s club one year ago.

    The last time the Bills scored at least 400 points in a season was 1998. That’s a very realistic number for this team to shoot for in 2014.

18. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Offensive Coordinator: Jeff Tedford

     

    What We Know

    This past season, no club in the league gained fewer yards per game than the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

    While we are at it, only the Jacksonville Jaguars (247) and Houston Texans (276) scored fewer points than the Buccaneers (288), who averaged exactly 18 points per game.

    Enter a new head coach in Lovie Smith, a new offensive coordinator in Tedford and a new starting quarterback in former Chicago Bear Josh McCown. It’s safe to say we don’t expect to see the team that struggled to score points a year ago.

     

    What We Think

    The Bucs were a mere 22nd in the league in rushing this past season. The loss of versatile Doug Martin for the vast majority of 2013 due to injury certainly hurt. A first-round pick in 2012, he totaled 1,926 total yards from scrimmage and 12 touchdowns during his debut campaign. The Bucs added a little insurance in the form of running back Charles Sims in the third round in May.

    It was surprising that the team didn’t try to sign LeBron James this offseason. All kidding aside, McCown will have quite the massive targets to throw to this season in former Pro Bowler Vincent Jackson (6’5”), first-round wide receiver Mike Evans (6’5”) and second-round tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins (6’5”).

    Add an overhauled offensive line that features free-agent pickups in left tackle Anthony Collins, left guard Oniel Cousins and center Evan Dietrich-Smith, and the pieces are certainly in place for a much-improved performance for these Bucs.

    Back to McCown, who last season threw more touchdown passes (13) than interceptions (one) for just the second time in his long career. Is he indeed ready for bigger and better things in 2014?

17. Miami Dolphins

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Offensive Coordinator: Bill Lazor

     

    What We Know

    In 2013, the Miami Dolphins offense made more news off the field and in the locker room than it did on the field.

    Quarterback Ryan Tannehill threw 24 touchdown passes compared to only 17 interceptions, but he spent plenty of time getting to know the turf at numerous NFL venues.

    Joe Philbin begins his third season as head coach and now has a new offensive coordinator in Lazor. Don’t be surprised if this club take a few big steps forward on this side of the ball.

     

    What We Think

    The offense looked sharp early in last week’s outing against the Atlanta Falcons. Of course, one series in a preseason game does not a season make.

    But Tannehill looked sharp when we saw him last week. The question is whether that is a sign of things to come. This past season, the 2012 first-round pick took a licking and kept on ticking, as he was sacked a league-high 58 times.

    A new-look offensive front now features veterans Branden Albert and Daryn Colledge at left tackle and left guard, respectively, while 2014 first-round pick Ja’Wuan James and second-year pro Dallas Thomas are the new starters at right tackle and right guard, respectively.

    And for now, either Sam Brenner or veteran Samson Satele will fill the void left by the injury to Pro Bowl center Mike Pouncey until he recovers from hip surgery.

    A bounce-back season from wideout Mike Wallace would be a plus. The former Pittsburgh Steelers speedster caught 73 passes this past season but scored just five touchdowns. Brian Hartline led the club with 76 catches and 1,016 receiving yards. Unsung tight end Charles Clay finished third on the club with 69 catches and led the team with six touchdown receptions.

    Brandon Gibson, third-year pro Rishard Matthews and rookie Jarvis Landry are in the mix as well.

    Finally, the team is hoping that a healthy Knowshon Moreno can improve the league’s 26th-ranked running game from 2013.

16. Seattle Seahawks

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Offensive Coordinator: Darrell Bevell

     

    What We Know

    In an era where offense supposedly wins titles and quarterbacks drive the league, the Seattle Seahawks—led by the league’s stingiest defensive unit—hoisted the Lombardi Trophy in February.

    The Seahawks were 18th in the NFL in yards gained and 26th in passing offense in 2013.

    Still, keep in mind that only three teams in the league gained more yards rushing. And quarterback Russell Wilson and Co. committed only 19 turnovers during the regular season.

     

    What We Think

    While Wilson threw 26 touchdown passes for the second time in as many NFL seasons, he also took his share of hits, mainly because of the team’s injury issues at tackle. This year, head coach Pete Carroll is hoping Russell Okung can stay healthy, while the team just signed veteran Eric Winston to back up rookie right tackle Justin Britt.

    With Golden Tate now in Detroit, wide receivers such as Percy Harvin (when healthy), Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse and Ricardo Lockette are expected to get the job done. Zach Miller and Luke Willson are the main performers at tight end.

    The relentless Marshawn Lynch is the key to the ground game and helps make every offensive line look better. There’s depth in the backfield in Robert Turpin and Christine Michael.

    The Seahawks may never be considered an offensive juggernaut, but they know how to execute—especially when it counts most. What more do you need than that?

15. Dallas Cowboys

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Offensive Coordinator: Bill Callahan

     

    What We Know

    The Dallas Cowboys have talent at quarterback, wide receiver, tight end and running back. They have an offensive line that has made strides on a yearly basis.

    But if Jason Garrett’s team has a realistic chance of winning more than eight games for the first time since 2009, the ground attack has to take center stage.

    Of course, that can be a challenge with this club, which continues to perplex us both on and off the field.

     

    What We Think

    You have to wonder if this is the year that running back DeMarco Murray sees his carries increase.

    Dallas’ ground attack finished 24th in the NFL in rushing in 2013, slightly up from the previous year when only the Arizona Cardinals ran for fewer yards in the league. This past season, the Cowboys ran for fewer than 100 yards rushing in 11 games and had fewer than 20 rushing attempts in half of their 16 games.

    So will it be another year of quarterback Tony Romo carrying this unit on his back (which can’t be 100 percent healthy)? In 15 games in 2013, he threw more than three times as many touchdown passes (31) as interceptions. He has veteran tight end Jason Witten, explosive wideout Dez Bryant and the emerging Terrance Williams to throw to.

    They also have an offensive line that has been bolstered by a first-round pick three of the last four years. Versatile Zack Martin opens at right guard, teaming with Pro Bowl left tackle Tyron Smith and second-year center Travis Frederick.

    Now all they need is a ground game that averages more than just 21 attempts per game.

14. Atlanta Falcons

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Offensive Coordinator: Dirk Koetter

     

    What We Know

    While injuries were a major factor in the Atlanta Falcons' sudden change from NFC power to also-ran, you can also blame a flawed philosophy for the team’s disappointing 2013.

    No team in the league totaled fewer rushing attempts and fewer rushing yards than Mike Smith’s club this past season. Atlanta ran for 1,247 yards as a team, a total that onetime Falcons running back Michael Turner surpassed three times in his five seasons with the club.

    Add in the fact that quarterback Matt Ryan was sacked a career-high 44 times in 2013, and changes were bound to be made.

     

    What We Think

    We are predicting big things from the recently dormant Atlanta ground game, one that ranked 29th in the league in 2012 and dead last in the NFL this past season. Veteran running back Steven Jackson looks to rebound from a disappointing season, and rookie Devonta Freeman could be a much-needed spark.

    A revamped offensive line features the new right-side combo of veteran free agent guard Jon Asamoah and rookie tackle Jake Matthews, the sixth overall pick in the 2014 draft.

    Of course, Ryan still has wide receivers Roddy White and Julio Jones, both of whom had problems staying healthy a year ago. Second-year tight end Levine Toilolo has the unenviable task of trying to fill the cleats of Tony Gonzalez, but that’s not really necessary.

    If Smith and Co. get back to basics, do not be shocked if they are one of the elite offenses in the league. But we’ll give them a bit of a conservative ranking, at least for now.

13. Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Offensive Coordinator: Todd Haley

     

    What We Know

    The Pittsburgh Steelers were an average team in 2013, and their offense wound up ranking below average.

    Mike Tomlin’s club was 20th in the NFL in total yards, while only four teams in the league gained fewer rushing yards per game.

    Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw for 4,261 yards and twice as many touchdown passes (28) than interceptions (14). He had Pro Bowl wideout Antonio Brown, who enjoyed a career year and emerged as one of the league’s better players at his position.

    So it’s another year in Haley’s offense. What can we expect from this unit this upcoming season?

     

    What We Think

    There’s a lot of young talent to be served here.

    Running back Le’Veon Bell totaled 1,259 yards from scrimmage during his debut campaign, running for a team-high eight scores while also contributing with 45 receptions. He will pair with veteran LeGarrette Blount, late of the New England Patriots. Keep an eye on electrifying rookie Dri Archer, who could help the offense and special teams in many ways.

    Second-year wide receiver Markus Wheaton will be the starter opposite Brown. Injuries limited Wheaton’s availability and performance during his rookie campaign. Brown finished second in the league in both catches (110) and receiving yards (1,499) this past season. Free-agent addition Lance Moore hopes to fill the void left by the departure of Jerricho Cotchery.

    Veteran tight end Heath Miller is now more than a year removed from the knee injury that shelved him in December of 2012.

    Finally, the Steelers offensive line came into its own late last season and will get back three-time Pro Bowl center Maurkice Pouncey after he missed all but a few moments of the 2013 season. After allowing 36 sacks in its first nine games in 2013, Pittsburgh gave up only seven sacks in the team’s final seven contests.

    It will be very interesting to see how this group develops as the season wears on.

12. San Francisco 49ers

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    Offensive Coordinator: Greg Roman

     

    What We Know

    The beauty of the San Francisco 49ers offense the last three seasons under head coach Jim Harbaugh has been its efficiency as well as its execution. The Niners have committed just 44 turnovers in 48 regular-season contests over that span.

    Be it Alex Smith or Colin Kaepernick at quarterback, both have benefited from one of the better offensive lines in the league, as well as a relentless ground attack. This past season, only two teams in the NFL ran for more yards than San Francisco, which finished fourth in the league in the same category in 2012.

     

    What We Think

    We are still trying to get a feel for just how good Kaepernick is, especially when it comes to throwing the football. We may find out very quickly in 2014.

    It has been quite a few years since the team appeared to be this deep at wide receiver.

    Kaepernick has numerous options at his disposal, including opportunistic tight end Vernon Davis. Exactly one-fourth of Davis' 52 receptions in 2013 went for a touchdown.

    Back to wideout, where Harbaugh’s club features Michael Crabtree, ageless Anquan Boldin (he's 33), onetime Buffalo Bills standout Stevie Johnson, Brandon Lloyd, second-year pro Quinton Patton and 2014 fourth-round pick Bruce Ellington.

    As for that aforementioned running game, you can expect to see plenty of both veteran Frank Gore and rookie Carlos Hyde this season. And that can only mean good things for Kaepernick and Co. as Harbaugh’s club seeks a bit more balance on this side of the football.

11. Arizona Cardinals

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    Offensive Coordinator: Harold Goodwin

     

    What We Know

    While they were far from a juggernaut, the Arizona Cardinals won 10 games in 2013.

    Most of the credit went to a defensive unit that ranked sixth in the league in yards allowed.

    But give head coach Bruce Arians’ offensive unit the nod as well. The team made some strides in terms of the running game, and veteran quarterback Carson Palmer bounced back after a so-so start.

    Arians’ Cards put 379 points on the board, up considerably from their performance (250 points) the previous year. And a unit that gained the fewest total yards in the league in 2012 ranked 12th in that department this past season.

     

    What We Think

    Palmer enjoyed quite the second-half resurgence in 2013. The league’s No. 1 overall pick in 2003 (by the Cincinnati Bengals) threw nearly twice as many touchdown passes (16) than interceptions (nine) in his last nine outings. This, after throwing eight scores while being picked off 13 times during the team’s 3-4 start.

    Veteran wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald led the club with 82 receptions and 10 touchdown grabs while Michael Floyd caught 65 passes for a team-high 1,041 yards. Now add tight end John Carlson, speedy wideout Ted Ginn Jr. and rookie speedster John Brown to the mix, and this could be a passing attack worth the price of admission.

    Andre Ellington is expected to be the main man in the backfield, and Arians is hoping to turn him into the team’s workhorse. Free-agent addition Jonathan Dwyer and second-year pro Stepfan Taylor hope to help as well.

    It has been a few years since the Arizona offense had the potential to outshine the team’s defense. That may be a necessity in 2014.

10. Indianapolis Colts

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    Offensive Coordinator: Pep Hamilton

     

    What We Know

    This past season, quarterback Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts managed to average 24.4 points per game minus some of the team’s top offensive players and while sporting a mediocre ground attack.

    The fact is that the 24-year-old signal-caller cut his turnovers basically in half from his rookie campaign. Luck coughed up the ball 11 times in 2013 (part of the team’s NFL-low 14 turnovers) compared to 23 times the previous season.

    Now veteran wide receiver Reggie Wayne is healthy again, as is tight end Dwayne Allen.

    A year ago, Luck threw 23 touchdown passes for the second consecutive season, this time to 11 different players. Meanwhile, the Indianapolis ground attack averaged just 108.9 yards per game.

     

    What We Think

    This could be Luck’s breakout year in terms of the passing game. Wayne is back after missing a big chunk of 2013, and Allen also returns after suffering a hip injury is last year’s opener.

    Of course, the third-year signal-caller has wideout T.Y. Hilton at his disposal. In his second season and with Wayne missing time, Hilton led the team in catches (82), receiving yards (1,083) and touchdown grabs (five). Tight end Coby Fleener returns as well after totaling 52 receptions, four for scores.

    But the big difference figures to come from running back Trent Richardson, who should be a lot more acclimated to Hamilton’s system with a training camp under his belt. There’s veteran Ahmad Bradshaw, who will need to produce, considering Vick Ballard has already been lost for the season.

    With a bigger emphasis on the running game and Luck getting a few of his key targets back, look for the Colts’ attack to put up some impressive numbers.

9. Detroit Lions

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    Offensive Coordinator: Joe Lombardi

     

    What We Know

    It’s somewhat ironic that the team from the Motor City got out of the starting gate well in 2013 only to wind up being a lemon by season’s end.

    Of course, 21 turnovers in the final seven games of the season will do that. All told, the team gave up the pigskin 34 times, which was tied for the second-most turnovers in the league in 2013.

    The Detroit Lions have some of the premier players at their positions on the offensive side of the football. The league’s third-ranked passing attack from a year ago was keyed by the combination of strong-armed quarterback Matthew Stafford and All-Pro wideout Calvin Johnson.

    However, while the 26-year-old quarterback finished the season with 4,650 yards and 29 scores, 12 of his 19 interceptions came in the final seven games. It was just one of many reasons the team squandered a 6-3 start and wound up missing the playoffs for the 13th time in the last 14 seasons.

     

    What We Think

    With new offensive coordinator Lombardi, running backs Reggie Bush and Joique Bell figure to be a lot busier this season. And if the Lions can improve on a ground attack that ranked a mediocre 17th in the league this past season, that’s just more good news for Stafford and Co.

    Speaking of the five-year quarterback, he will not only have Megatron once again at his disposal but a pair of new faces in free-agent pickup Tate and first-round pick Eric Ebron, the latter giving head coach Jim Caldwell’s team a big-time downfield threat at tight end.

    Detroit’s offensive line is sound, led by ageless center Dominic Raiola, who will begin his 14th season with the club.

    These days, scoring a lot of points is basically essential if you are going to compete for the NFC North title. The Lions figure that should be much easier this season if they hang on to the football.

8. Cincinnati Bengals

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    Offensive Coordinator: Hue Jackson

     

    What We Know

    Led by head coach Marvin Lewis, the Cincinnati Bengals have made defense their calling card.

    However, at least in 2013, their success was dictated by the play of quarterback Andy Dalton.

    In 11 victories this past season, the 26-year-old signal-caller threw 27 touchdown passes and committed 12 turnovers. In six losses, including the team’s 27-10 playoff setback to the San Diego Chargers, Dalton threw for only seven scores and coughed up the ball 14 times.

    All told, Lewis’ club committed 30 turnovers in 16 regular-season contests, the highest total among the 12 teams to reach the playoffs in 2013. Despite those miscues, the Bengals averaged 26.9 points per game, and their offensive unit reached the end zone 47 times.

     

    What We Think

    It will be very hard to slow down this unit this season, unless the team shoots itself in the foot on a weekly basis.

    While the focus is usually on what Dalton doesn’t do, the fact is that he completed 61.9 percent of his passes for 4,293 yards and 33 touchdowns in 2013.

    The pass-catching corps includes Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green as well as tight ends Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert. But as Coley Harvey of ESPN.com explains, wideout Marvin Jones injured his foot this past weekend and could be sidelined for a few weeks.

    However, new offensive coordinator Jackson will unleash the ground game this season and take advantage of the team’s talent at the position. Giovani Bernard comes off a debut year in which he finished as the club’s second-leading rusher and second-leading receiver.

    The team also added talented running back Jeremy Hill in the second round in May. He has wasted little time making an impression, causing many to wonder what role 2013 team rushing leader BenJarvus Green-Ellis will play this season.

    It’s a nice problem for the Bengals to have. And that’s bad news for the team’s opposition in 2014.

7. San Diego Chargers

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    Offensive Coordinator: Frank Reich

     

    What We Know

    It’s never news when the San Diego Chargers get off to a slow start and somehow rebound to make the playoffs.

    Once again, the Bolts stumbled out of the gate, losers of seven of their first 12 games in 2013. But Mike McCoy’s club closed with four straight victories and grabbed a wild-card berth in the crowded AFC West.

    It was a big year for Rivers, who threw for 4,478 yards, 32 touchdown passes and 11 interceptions on the way to NFL Comeback Player of the Year honors. He got plenty of support from running back Ryan Mathews, as the San Diego ground attack was much improved in 2013.

     

    What We Think

    Look for McCoy and new offensive coordinator Reich, who's taking over for Whisenhunt, to pick up where the team left off last season in terms of philosophy

    Mathews comes off a career year with 1,255 yards rushing in 2013. So does five-year pro Donald Brown, who comes over from the Indianapolis Colts after finally looking like a first-round draft choice this past season. The versatile Danny Woodhead finished as the Chargers’ second-leading rusher and receiver, and totaled eight touchdowns.

    Veteran tight end Antonio Gates (tied for 12th in NFL history with 87 touchdown receptions) led the club in catches in 2013, but also keep an eye on Ladarius Green.

    At wide receiver, Keenan Allen was a 1,000-plus-yard performer as a rookie last year, and he returns along with Vincent Brown, Eddie Royal and the now-healthy Malcom Floyd.

    Combine all of this with a much-improved offensive line, and this could wind up being one of the most effective offensive units in the league, especially if Rivers once again excels at taking care of the football.

6. Green Bay Packers

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    Offensive Coordinator: Tom Clements

     

    What We Know

    How does a team that uses four different starting quarterbacks and a rookie runner manage to finish third in the NFL in total offense, as well as in the league’s top 10 in both rushing (seventh) and passing (sixth) yards?

    Say hello to the Green Bay Packers, head coach Mike McCarthy and his offensive coordinator, Clements.

    The team still managed to make it a third straight NFC North title despite the fact that starting signal-caller Aaron Rodgers missed seven games.

    Imagine this unit healthy for the most part in 2014.

     

    What We Think

    A big part of the Packers’ success this past season was a much-improved ground attack led by Eddie Lacy, the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2013. The former Alabama star finished eighth in the league with 1,178 rushing yards, along with a team-high 11 touchdowns.

    Fullback John Kuhn returns as does the talented James Starks, who has enjoyed a good offseason.

    The explosive Randall Cobb and now-well-paid Jordy Nelson return at wide receiver, as does Jarrett Boykin. Green Bay also added wide receiver Davante Adams in the second round of May’s draft. Andrew Quarless returns at tight end, but the Pack also addressed this area in the draft by selecting Richard Rodgers in the third round.

    A challenged offensive line welcomes back tackle Bryan Bulaga this season as well. He’ll line up on the right side opposite left tackle David Bakhtiari, while second-year pro J.C. Tretter takes over at center for Evan Dietrich-Smith.

    Finally, there’s Rodgers. He became the team’s full-time starter in 2008, and in those six seasons, he has thrown for an astounding 187 touchdowns compared to only 51 interceptions.

    Only another series of injuries could slow down this unit in 2014…maybe.

5. New England Patriots

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    Offensive Coordinator: Josh McDaniels

     

    What We Know

    For all of what we felt that the New England Patriots weren’t able to do in 2013, especially when it came to the offensive side of the football, here’s what Bill Belichick’s team did do this past season.

    Only the Denver Broncos and Chicago Bears scored more points in the league last season than the Pats. Quarterback Tom Brady had a down year in terms of touchdown passes (25) but still threw for more than twice as many scores as interceptions (11).

    Belichick’s club not only finished seventh in the league in total yards per game but was ranked in the top 10 in both rushing and passing.

    Now just think of what Brady and Co. are capable of following such an “awful” season.

     

    What We Think

    Regardless of which players are available, the Patriots always find a way.

    Last season, the offense managed to get the job done minus free-agent defections such as wide receiver Wes Welker and running back Woodhead, as well as oft-injured tight end Rob Gronkowski, who missed his share of time. According to Rob Harms of The Boston Globe, the two-time Pro Bowler hopes to be ready for Week 1 of the regular season.

    Last season’s inexperienced pass-catching corps will be a year wiser. Second-year wide receivers such as Aaron Dobson, Kenbrell Thompkins and Josh Boyce should be bigger factors, as should free-agent pickup Brandon LaFell, late of the Carolina Panthers. In 2013, Julian Edelman did his best Welker impression, leading the club with 105 receptions.

    As far as the ground attack, Stevan Ridley led the team with 773 yards rushing and seven scores, while the talented Shane Vereen actually totaled more receptions (47) than carries (44) in 2013. Could rookie James White fill the role of Blount, who's now with the Pittsburgh Steelers?

4. Philadelphia Eagles

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    Offensive Coordinator: Pat Shurmur

     

    What We Know

    After a 3-5 start this past season, new head coach Chip Kelly had good reason to duck his head.

    After seven wins in the team’s final eight games and an NFC East title under their belt, the Philadelphia Eagles gave a heads up to the rest of the NFL.

    Part of the sudden resurgence came via second-year quarterback Nick Foles, who threw an astounding 27 touchdown passes compared to only two interceptions in 2013. Philadelphia’s offensive line also played solid football this past season, and Kelly got a tremendous season-long performance from All-Pro running back LeSean McCoy.

    We know this will be a different offense in 2014. That’s because the club opted to part ways with three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver DeSean Jackson, who finished first on the team with a career-high 82 receptions in 2013.

     

    What We Think

    It’s hard not to like what you see in the Eagles’ attack these days.

    Yes, the league’s second-ranked offense and NFL’s top-ranked running attack has McCoy, the league leader in rushing yards (1,607) and total yards from scrimmage (2,146) a year ago. There’s a new backfield mate in running back Darren Sproles, who's a dangerous commodity every time he touches the ball, especially in the passing game.

    Riley Cooper came into his own last season and will be counted on even more in 2014 as veteran wide receiver Jeremy Maclin attempts to bounce back following a lost 2013 campaign. The Birds added wide receivers Jordan Matthews and Josh Huff in the draft three months ago. Kelly’s team also has the tight end combo of Brent Celek and Zach Ertz, which combined for 10 touchdown grabs in 2013.

    Yes, it seems pretty obvious that Foles won’t go through the season throwing only two interceptions. Then again, don’t be shocked if he also improves on those 27 touchdown passes of a year ago.

3. Chicago Bears

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    Offensive Coordinator: Aaron Kromer

     

    What We Know

    Because the Denver Broncos were so far above the rest of the league in terms of offensive production in 2013, it somehow gets lost that the Chicago Bears finished second in the NFL with 445 points.

    In his first season as an NFL head coach—and forced to use two different starting quarterbacks—Marc Trestman gave us a glimpse of what the team’s offense could look like going forward. This will be especially true if veteran signal-caller Jay Cutler, entering his ninth NFL season, can stay on the field for all 16 games, something he hasn’t done since 2009.

     

    What We Think

    All the pieces are in place for Cutler to do something he has never done as a pro—throw at least 30 touchdown passes in a campaign.

    There’s running back Matt Forte, who finished second in the league in rushing (1,339) and third in the NFL in total yards from scrimmage (1,933). There’s the Pro Bowl wideout tandem of Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, which combined for 189 catches, totaling 2,716 yards and 19 touchdowns.

    There’s also the talented, feisty tight end Martellus Bennett, who racked up 65 catches for 759 yards and five scores. With promising second-year wideout Marquess Wilson on the shelf for now, we could see more of a backup tight end featured in Trestman’s offense.

    Add in a revitalized offensive front, and the sky is the limit for Cutler and his mates, at least when talking about putting points on the board.

2. Denver Broncos

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    Offensive Coordinator: Adam Gase

     

    What We Know

    When you total an NFL-record 606 points as well as a league-record 76 total touchdowns in 16 regular-season contests, you certainly don’t ever think that your final appearance of the campaign will result in a 35-point loss to anyone.

    Tell that to the Denver Broncos, who saw Peyton Manning throw for 5,477 yards and 55 scores during the year. But when it came to the biggest game of the season, Super Bowl XLVIII, No. 18 and friends put up just eight points on the scoreboard.

    How does this team rebound from such a debacle? And what tweaks will we see in regard to the Denver attack this upcoming season?

     

    What We Think

    It is imperative that Gase finds a reliable running game that balances out the passing attack and helps keep the Denver defense off the field.

    That falls upon the legs of second-year running back Montee Ball, who hopes to power his way through the opposition this season. He will have a new-look offensive line in front of him. Former Pro Bowl left tackle Ryan Clady returns after an abbreviated season, fill-in Chris Clark moves over to right tackle, and three-year pro Orlando Franklin goes from tackle to left guard, replacing Zane Beadles.

    We have all gotten to know Manning’s targets. There are wide receivers Demaryius Thomas and Welker, and tight end Julius Thomas. Free-agent Emmanuel Sanders, late of the Pittsburgh Steelers, is expected to take up the slack left by Decker's departure. Rookie wideout Cody Latimer could bear watching as well.

    Are these Broncos capable of offensive fireworks once again? A few more carries by Ball and fewer tosses by Manning may be in the team’s overall best interest.

1. New Orleans Saints

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    Offensive Coordinator: Pete Carmichael

     

    What We Know

    Quarterback Drew Brees enjoyed another big year in 2013, falling just short of 40 touchdown passes while reaching the 5,000-yard mark for the third straight season. The prolific signal-caller still has All-Pro tight end Jimmy Graham, who led the league with 16 touchdown grabs this past season, as well as wide receivers Marques Colston, Kenny Stills and now 2014 first-round pick Brandin Cooks.

    It’s worth noting that 25 of Brees’ 39 touchdown passes this past season went to tight ends and running backs.

    What he no longer has is explosive pass-catching running back Sproles, who was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles this offseason. The unsung Pierre Thomas, the team leader with 549 yards rushing in 2013, also totaled 513 yards on 77 receptions (second on the team) and scored more touchdowns as a pass-catcher (three) than a runner (two).

    The offensive line, anchored by the right-side combo of guard Jahri Evans and tackle Zach Strief, is one of the better units in the NFL.

     

    What We Think

    Sean Payton’s club ranked just 25th in the league in rushing offense one year ago. That number could change dramatically this season if former Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram continues to look like a former first-round draft choice, as was the case on more than one occasion during the second half and in the playoffs in 2013.

    Look for Brees to once again put up his usual prolific numbers but perhaps fall just a bit short of 5,000 yards through the air for the first time since 2010. Instead, don’t be shocked if he leads the NFL in touchdown passes and the majority of those scoring throws wind up going to wide receivers instead of his underneath targets.

     

    Statistical support for this piece was provided by Pro-Football-Reference, NFL.com and ESPN.com. Depth charts are provided by Ourlads.