The top five offenses in the NFL last season included a variety of approaches and one surprise team, the Detroit Lions. During the offseason, many teams made improvements to their offense, hoping to crack the top five for this upcoming season. Mike Martz looked over the offseason additions and crafted his list of the top offenses for 2023.
Which teams made the cut? And which surprise team will emerge this season?
Top 5 NFL offenses for 2023
1. San Francisco 49ers
The San Francisco 49ers were fifth in total offense last season, and they started three quarterbacks, including the last player picked in the 2022 NFL Draft, Brock Purdy. The fact those quarterbacks played at a high level when two of them, Trey Lance and Purdy, had little and no NFL experience is impressive. This offseason, they signed veteran Sam Darnold, so they could move to the top of the league.
Coach Kyle Shanahan is the best offensive mind in the NFL. When you look at what they do with the quarterbacks, how ahead of the curve they are with their formations and how they run the ball, there is no question about it.
I believe Darnold will start. He was a highly talented guy coming out of college. He was put in a couple of tough situations with the New York Jets and Carolina Panthers. Now, he’s with a solid offensive staff and a coach who is brilliant with quarterbacks. The 49ers are an extremely talented team, and Darnold being the starter would be a good thing. They are primed to have a great season.
The 49ers will be the top offense because they are a step ahead of everyone else. Even without a star quarterback last season, they scored a lot of points (26.5 per game, sixth most). I love what Shanahan does and how they approach the quarterback position.
2. Kansas City Chiefs
The Kansas City Chiefs will always be in the top two or three offenses as long as quarterback Patrick Mahomes stays on his feet. They traded receiver Tyreek Hill to the Miami Dolphins and still led the league in total offense (413.6 yards per game) and scoring (29.2 points)
Coach Andy Reid is creative and can take personnel and move them around to put them in one-on-one situations. He and Shanahan do that better than anyone in the league. They’re always effective and particularly good with how they manage their quarterbacks.
3. Detroit Lions
The Lions were one of the NFL’s biggest surprises last season and were very efficient on offense. Rookie RB Jahmyr Gibbs is going to help them immensely. They should be even better, and they were fourth in the league in offense in 2022. The Lions had to put a lot of points on the board because their defense struggled. They finished last in total defense and 28th in scoring defense.
The Lions drafted some good defensive players like linebacker Jack Campbell and safety Brian Branch. Their weakness has always been in the secondary. Aidan Hutchinson is an excellent pass rusher, and they have a couple of linebackers they like.
But it all comes down to their secondary. They give up too many big plays, especially over the top. If Dan Campbell and his staff can fix that, it will take pressure off the offense.
Another strength of the Lions is they can dominate the clock better than any team in the league. They’re exceptional at running the clock down and getting first downs, and then all of a sudden they score from 60 yards out.
They have a great offensive line, a great offensive line coach (Hank Fraley) and coordinator Ben Johnson knows what he’s doing. The defense has to get better. If it lets them just play instead of having to put the pedal to the metal, they’ll get more creative. If the defense can generate some more turnovers, the offense will put even more points on the board.
The arrow is pointing up, and the Lions should stay in the top five.
4. Philadelphia Eagles
The Philadelphia Eagles are a system team on offense, and that’s OK. They’re a bit like Bill Walsh’s 49ers teams. They do what they do every week, and they do it extremely well. They run a lot of zone reads, and QB Jalen Hurts does a great job running the ball as well as seeing pass plays open up down the field. He’s a terrific downfield passer.
The Eagles have the look of an offense that’s going to be near the top of the league for quite a while provided they can keep Hurts standing. They’re just hitting their stride and have the potential to move up a notch or two this season.
The Eagles’ defense is very good, too. They finished second in total defense and eighth in scoring defense, and that helps the offense.
5. Buffalo Bills
The Buffalo Bills could fall a bit, maybe even out of the top five. Time has caught up to this offense, and they put everything on quarterback Josh Allen. After a while that’s just going to explode because they’re asking way too much of him, even though he’s a great player.
It’s not how much a team runs the football but how well, and it’s extremely important the Bills get back to doing that. They drafted tight end Dalton Kincaid in the first round. Hopefully, they will have more of a commitment to running the football instead of just a few plays here and a few plays there. They’re capable of running the football, as they showed at the beginning of last season, they just got away from it.
If the Bills mix in a hard-nosed running game with the other things they do, they’ll be fine. But I wonder if they’ll run the ball effectively enough to win a championship.
Mike Martz is a former NFL head coach and offensive coordinator, most notably for the St. Louis Rams. He was the OC for the Rams’ “Greatest Show on Turf” offense in 1999 when they won Super Bowl XXXIV. As head coach, he led the Rams to two division titles, and an appearance in Super Bowl XXXVI.