We are less than a month away from the start of the 2020 NFL season, and I'm dreaming of offense. The stars, the strategies and the subplots -- yes, the subplots!
I can't wait for Ben Roethlisberger's return to action in Pittsburgh. I'm endlessly curious about how Joe Brady will transform the Panthers' offense. And I'm dying to see what the beautiful football mind of 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan has in store for all of us this season.
But actually, I don't anticipate any of those offenses shining brightest in 2020. Which units will? Here is my prediction for this season's best offenses, Schein Nine style.
The 2019 Cowboys ranked first in total offense and sixth in scoring. And honestly? You ain't seen nothing yet! Dallas' offensive numbers are about to explode.
Mike McCarthy is a terrific head coach -- and a major upgrade over Jason Garrett. He's going to get the most out of Dak Prescott, who is somehow still playing for a long-term deal. Dak set career highs in passing yards (4,902), yards per attempt (8.2) and TD tosses (30) in 2019. Jerry and Stephen Jones should've locked him up, because Prescott's production -- and his price tag -- will only go up under the watchful eye of McCarthy. Especially with the wealth of receiving riches at the quarterback's disposal. The Cowboys' WR trio is eye-popping. Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup each eclipsed 1,100 yards last season. They obviously have a great rapport with No. 4. And then there's the All-American wideout who fell into Dallas' lap at No. 17 overall in April's draft. CeeDee Lamb will be an instant star at The Star. In fact, I think he'll be the best receiver on the team this season. Yes, he's that big a talent, an absolute killer in big spots.
And I haven't even mentioned Ezekiel Elliott, who remains the straw that stirs the drink on this Cowboys offense. In his four NFL seasons, he's claimed two rushing titles (and led the NFL in rushing yards per game three times). Last year, he got off to a slow start following a 40-day contract holdout. And still, he rushed for 1,357 yards and 12 touchdowns, while catching 54 balls for 420 yards and two more scores. At 25, he remains squarely in his prime and will dazzle behind an offensive line that the grading gurus over at Pro Football Focus rank as the No. 3 group in football entering the 2020 campaign.
Simply put, America's team has America's elite offense.
It's Patrick Mahomes' world and we are all just living in it. The reigning Super Bowl MVP (and 2018 league MVP) is clearly the best player in the NFL and the driving force on this unstoppable offense. He just inked a deal for half a billion dollars -- and he's worth every penny. Still just 24 years old, Mahomes has plenty of room to grow, which is a terrifying thought for the rest of the NFL. Can you imagine how dominant this guy will be when his experience catches up with his transcendent skill set?
Of course, it doesn't hurt Mahomes' cause that Kansas City has assembled a pass-catching track team that's dangerous and diverse. Tyreek Hill is the biggest home-run hitter in the game today. His unparalleled speed keeps defensive coordinators up at night. Sammy Watkins is a threat to take over any game he plays in. The former No. 4 overall pick opened last season with a 198-yard, three-touchdown master class and closed it with a prolific playoff run. Mecole Hardman flies and scores (six touchdowns on 26 catches as a rookie), while Demarcus Robinson had a 172-yard game last season. Oh, yeah -- and how about Travis Kelce? You know, the best tight end this side of George Kittle? And I cannot wait to see first-round pick Clyde Edwards-Helaire in this offense. He's an ideal modern running back as a playmaker in the ground game and aerial attack.
And who's in charge of this spicy collection of supreme talent? Ingenious offensive guru (and future Hall of Famer) Andy Reid. Start warming up those fingers, scoreboard operators.
Lamar Jackson just led the league in passing touchdowns (36) and shattered Michael Vick's single-season record for rushing yards by a quarterback (1,206, eclipsing Vick's mark by a healthy 167 yards). The reigning MVP's a freak -- and he's only getting better. Scary. Jackson's connection with Marquise Brown is going to really take off in their second year together. Think about Jackson's domination as a thrower/runner last year -- and now think about Jackson forming a true rapport on deep chunk plays with the man known as "Hollywood." Mark Andrews is fresh off a sensational sophomore campaign where he scored 10 touchdowns and earned his first Pro Bowl bid.
Of course, Baltimore's bread and butter is the ground game. The Ravens just set the all-time record last season with 3,296 rushing yards, and not only do they return every back, but they added another vaunted runner in the draft. I love the J.K. Dobbins pick! The second-round selection -- with his talent, work ethic and winning ways -- was put on Earth to be a Ravens running back.
Marshal Yanda's retirement is a hit to the O-line, no doubt, but these Ravens are still gonna fly.
As a fan, I'm beyond excited to watch this show. Tom Brady is the G.O.A.T., and even at age 43, I expect him to be great in his first NFL season outside of Foxborough. Tampa Bay's offensive line is still a little rough around the edges, but Brady's lightning-quick decision-making covers up blocking warts. Mike Evans and Chris Godwin are the elite receiver tandem in the league -- and now they get to play with a quarterback who throws it to the right team! I love what Rob Gronkowski brings to this situation, too. While Brady's still feeling out his new teammates -- including talented tight ends O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate -- Gronk will serve as the QB's security blanket.
The brain trust working with Brady isn't too shabby, either. Bruce Arians is a great offensive mind, and I really respect Byron Leftwich as a play caller. The pirate ship at Raymond James Stadium is gonna be in full battle mode with how often those cannons are firing.
Matt Ryan is a star with a Hall of Fame resume -- remember the MVP season? -- who never gets the respect he deserves. Maybe that'll change this year, with Atlanta competing in an NFC South that certainly won't lack for fireworks. (Three of the division's offenses make this list, and the fourth is the highly intriguing Matt Rhule/Joe Brady Panthers unit.) Speaking to Ryan last week on my SiriusXM Radio show, "Schein on Sports," the Falcons' 13th-year quarterback raved about how newbies Todd Gurley and Hayden Hurst can impact the offense. And he's right -- especially with the RB. Gurley is a massive upgrade over Devonta Freeman. He should step right in, deliver 1,000-plus yards on the ground and be a weapon for Ryan in the passing attack. Speaking of the passing attack ...
Yes, like I said above, Evans/Godwin is the premier WR duo in the NFL today. But the Julio Jones/Calvin Ridley combo isn't far behind. Jones is a Madden "Create A Player" of a wideout. He possesses everything you want at the position and he's logged 1,300-plus yards in each of the past six years. Meanwhile, Calvin Ridley has another gear -- and I expect him to hit it in Year 3. Look for a major breakout season from the kid who scored 17 touchdowns in his first two pro campaigns.
Michael Thomas is the best receiver in the NFL. And Saints GM Mickey Loomis brilliantly signed Emmanuel Sanders to be the perfect No. 2. (You're welcome, Drew Brees.) Meanwhile, Alvin Kamara is healthy, and that's a game changer for New Orleans. When right, No. 41's a terror in all aspects of the Saints' offense. The offensive line is imposing from tackle to tackle -- definitely one of the league's very best.
And of course, Sean Payton is a master play caller. I believe he's a Hall of Famer. And Brees, despite all the noise about arm strength, is still playing at a Hall of Fame level.
The Raiders' offensive line is gigantic and cohesive. These are important traits. Josh Jacobs is a budding star -- it wouldn't surprise me to see him lead the league in rushing in his second season.
OK, let's stop avoiding the elephant in the room and get right down to business ...
The Derek Carr respect tour is going to be real and spectacular. I've always been a big Carr supporter and don't really understand all the criticism. The dude just set career highs in passing yards (4.054), completion percentage (70.4) and yards per attempt (7.9), and now he's really going to make the doubters eat crow. First-rounder Henry Ruggs III will stretch the field and make Tyrell Williams better served as a WR2 -- not to mention, Ruggs' extraordinary speed will open up holes underneath for promising second-year slot man Hunter Renfrow. Darren Waller is a stud at tight end, coming off a 1,145-yard breakout year.
And don't forget: Jon Gruden is still a master play caller.
Too soon? Too high? Or just right? I love Joe Burrow's talent and moxie. Plain and simple, he has it. And while 2020 has clearly been an offseason like no other -- putting all rookies way behind the typical learning curve -- Burrow is special. I think he hits the ground running. Especially with the talented cast of playmakers by his side.
I love that A.J. Green is back in Cincy. He's a stud. I've argued forever that he is a Hall of Famer, and I think he bounces back from injury with a big season to significantly smooth Burrow's transition into the NFL. The silver lining of Green missing the entire 2019 season? It allowed Tyler Boyd to further cement himself as a true difference maker with a second consecutive 1,000-yard effort. Rookie Tee Higgins gives Burrow a big-bodied target with contested-catch skills, while third-year man Auden Tate has flashed some playmaking ability. Joe Mixon is one of the most talented backs in the entire league, a true three-down playmaker. And hey, the Bengals basically get a bonus first-rounder on the offensive line, with OT Jonah Williams set to make his NFL debut after missing the entire 2019 season due to injury.
Cincy's placement on this list might raise some eyebrows, but I think the Bengals are going to pour on the points this year.
I love Detroit's offense this year. Matthew Stafford is healthy, and that means he'll be back to his usual star form. It's also Stafford's second year in Darrell Bevell's offense, so no more learning curve. And the Lions might have the most underrated receiving trio in the NFL: Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones and Danny Amendola. I love their playmaking ability and diverse skill sets. And you have to imagine that T.J. Hockenson, the No. 8 overall pick in 2019, will enjoy a more fruitful Year 2 with some better health luck.
The key, to me, is D'Andre Swift. I think the second-round pick is going to be an absolute stud at running back from Day 1. And if that's the case, Detroit's attack could be devastating. Can't wait to see it!