QB Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers definitely should be one of the more feared offensive units in 2012. See where the NFL’s 32 teams rank in Taking It to the House’s 2012 rankings
With the dawning of a new NFL season, Taking It to the House has once again put together our Top 10 Offensive Units list for 2012. Pretty much, all team OTA sessions are winding down and everyone is feeling good about their free agency and draft pick-ups, so logically it is a great time to start debating which units will be most feared by defenses this season.
As always, please bring-on your feedback in the Comments Section and via my Twitter, @lloydvance
1. Green Bay Packers – [QB Aaron Rodgers, WR Gregg Jennings, WR Jordy Nelson, WR James Jones, WR Donald Driver, TE Jermichael Finley, RB James Starks, and WR Randall Cobb]. The Packers may not have repeated as Super Bowl Champs in 2011, but they truly were impressive on offense as they piled up a 15-1 regular season record. Mike McCarthy’s offense put up NFL-high’s with 560 points scored, 35 points per game, and 63 Offensive TDs. They also rang-up 6482 total yards (3rd) and 353 first downs (4th). There is an abundance of weapons for MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers (343-502, 4643 yds, and 45 TDs) and we don’t expect that to change in 2012 – didn’t draft a single offensive skill player. Teams have to pick their poison and it starts with do-everything receiver Gregg Jennings (67 rec, 949 yds, and 9 TDs). After Jennings, Nelson (68 rec, 1263 yds, and 15 TDs) might be the NFL’s best No. 2 and don’t forget about Mr. Dancing With the Stars, Donald Driver, plus emerging tight end Jermichael Finley. As crazy as it sounds, there really may not be enough balls for this entire unit, especially with explosive former role player Randall Cobb looking to breakout. For Fantasy Football players out there, due to the immense talent of this group each week there is a strong possibility of a forgotten player — deep threat receiver James Jones only had one catch in Week 1 last season.
2. New Orleans Saints – [QB Drew Brees, WR Marques Colston, WR Devrey Henderson, WR Lance Moore, TE Jimmy Graham, rookie WR Nick Toon, RB Darren Sproles, RB Pierre Thomas, and RB Mark Ingram (knee)]. I don’t know what Saints owner Tom Benson is thinking, but he better lock-up franchise QB Drew Brees as soon as possible. Brees (468-657, 5476 yds – league record, and 46 TDs) is the trigger man of the NFL’s newest version of the “Greatest Show on Turf”. The dome-based Saints seem to make every game a track meet – 547 points scored (34.2 per game) for 2nd in NFL — with their plethora of speedy players. Though the Saints have become the league’s new “Bad Boy” franchise due to Bounty-Gate, there is no denying that they are must-see due to their pinball machine scoring fest mentality. Played in two of the NFL’s most exciting playoff games – beating Detroit 45-28 and losing to the Niners 36-32 on a late 4th quarter touchdown. Sure Brees is the point guard of this team – will have to take-on a more active role with the season-long suspension of head coach Sean Payton – but his supporting cast is stellar too, starting with TE Jimmy Graham and veteran security-blanket Marques Colston. Graham (99 rec, 1310 yds – 2nd most for TE in NFL history, and 11 TDs) does everything over the middle and in the redzone, while also improving as a blocker. The Saints can also hurt opponents via running the ball and the screen game with one of the NFL’s most versatile players, scatback Sproles. The only concern with this unit is health as Colston and Moore always seem to be battling injuries.
3. Philadelphia Eagles – [QB Michael Vick, WR DeSean Jackson, WR Jeremy Maclin, WR Jason Avant, rookie WR Marvin McNutt, TE Brent Celek, RB LeSean McCoy, and WR Riley Cooper]. After a season where everyone expected to see the “Dream Team” – but never really did — the Eagles high-octane offense will be looking for more consistency in 2012. Any talk of “weaponry” for the Birds starts with quarterback Michael Vick (253-423, 3303 pyds, 18 TDs, and 14 INTs). First and foremost, the 2010 NFL Comeback Player of the Year needs to stay healthy and cutdown on his turnovers (20) in order to take full advantage of one of the NFL’s best offenses. If nothing else, Vick’s offensive group should be a lot happier this season as their two cornerstone players, DeSean Jackson and LeSean McCoy, have been given lucrative extensions. D-Jax, who is one of the fastest players in the NFL, must now put his sulking ways behind him and return to his 2010 Pro Bowl form. Jackson (25) and Jeremy Maclin (24), when healthy definitely form one of the league’s best tandems with each capable of 70+ catches, over 1,100 yards, and at least 7 TDs. In 2011, McCoy (273 rushes for 1309 yards and a healthy 4.8 ypc) defintely showed that he is a premier back in the NFL as the former 2nd rounder was named an All-Pro and made his first trip to the Pro Bowl — scored 20 TDs including a franchise record 17 rushing. Tall receiver Riley Cooper has shown flashes and is a very good special teams player, but he will now be competing with rookie Marvin McNutt and veteran Jason Avant (29) for playing time. Though not in the class of Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski and Saints TE Jimmy Graham, there is no doubt that veteran Brent Celek (62 rec, 811 yds, 13.1 ypc, and 5 TDs) is a very good two-way tight end. After two learning years, there is no reason why 3rd year pro and H-back type, Clay Harbor, cannot make the jump to be more of a contributor.
4. Houston Texans – [QB Matt Schaub (foot), WR Andre Johnson (hamstring/knee), WR Kevin Walter, RB Arian Foster, RB Ben Tate, TE Owen Daniels, rookie WR DeVier Posey, rookie WR Lestar Jean and TE/FB James Casey]. Last year it all came together for the Texans as they finally won the AFC South and even made it to the divisional round of the playoffs. Despite not having 2010 NFL passing yardage champion, QB Matt Schaub, for a good portion of the 2nd half of the 2011 season, due to a foot injury. Former rookie starter TJ Yates (6 starts) was able to look capable due to the many weapons on Houtson’s offense. The Texans finished with a respectable 381 points scored (23.8 per game) and all signs are pointing to a full recovery for Schaub. The team is also hoping that big physical receiver Andre Johnson (33 catches, 492 yards and 2 TDs) will follow Schaub’s lead by shaking off a variety of leg injuries that slowed him in 2011 – only 7 starts. Johnson is an incredible deep and intermediate threat who opens the field for the entire unit, so look for a big bounce-back from the quarterback and his favorite receiver. It will be interesting to see if Posey will be able to off-set the loss of Jacoby Jones and help the sure-handed Walter. Even if Schaub and Johnson are slowed, expect some great effort from one of the league’s best backfield tandems, Arian Foster (1224 rushing yds, 10 RuTDs, 53 rec, 617 receiving yds, and 2 RTDs) and Ben Tate (942 rushing yds and 4 TDs). The only question mark is at tight end where Daniels (54 rec, 677 yds, and 3TDs) is coming back from a broken hand injury.
5. Dallas Cowboys – [QB Tony Romo, WR Dez Bryant, WR Miles Austin, TE Jason Witten, WR Kevin Ogletree, rookie WR Danny Coale, WR Dwayne Harris, RB Felix Jones, and RB DeMarco Murray (knee)]. Much like their quarterback, Tony Romo, Dallas’ group has a ton of talent, but has been plagued by inconsistency and injuries at times. Romo (346-522, 31 TDs, and 10 INTs) should have huge numbers again this season throwing to his buddies, Austin and Witten, but he also needs to work on not forcing passes to these two. It is now time for former first rounder Dez Bryant to live-up to wearing Michael Irvin’s No. 88 jersey, if his head is screwed on right, the former 1st rounder should definitely takeover the No. 1 receiver role from Austin. However both Bryant (63 rec, 928 yards, and 9 TDs) and Austin must remain healthly for the Cowboys to capitalize on size mismatches – also lost Laurent Robinson’s team leading 11 TDs (signed w/ Jags). If Romo has his two big targets rolling, it will make for much more easier opportunities for Witten (79 rec, 942 yds, and 5 TDs). All indications are that Dallas will be looking for Murray (164 rushes for 897 yds and 2 TDs in 7 starts) to comeback healthy from his 2011 knee injury to supplant underachiever Felix Jones. Also keep an eye on Oklahoma rookie TE James Hanna (6th Rd, 186) as many are saying he reminds them of Patriots TE Aaron Hernandez.
6. New York Giants – [QB Eli Manning, WR Hakeem Nicks (foot), WR Victor Cruz, WR Jerrel Jernigan, WR Ramses Barden, WR Dommenick Hixon, RB Ahmad Bradshaw (foot), rookie WR Reuben Randle, rookie RB David Wilson, and TE Martellus Bennett]. The 2011 season was a magical ride for QB Eli Manning as he made his 2nd Pro Bowl after posting some of the most astounding numbers in New York Giants’ history. And most importantly he led the G-Men to their 2nd Super Bowl title in 5 years. Manning’s numbers (359-589, 61% — 2nd highest in career, 4933 yds – Giants team record, 8.4 yds per pass, 29 TDs – 2nd highest in career, 16 INTs, and his second highest QBR at 92.9) and leadership showed that indeed Peyton’s little bro was a Top 5 quarterback. But the story of the 2011 champs doesn’t stop with Eli as the current version of Big Blue is no longer just ground-and-pound. Head Coach Tom Coughlin has allowed his team to open it up more more, due to the many offensive weapons at Manning’s disposal. If Hakeem Nicks (76 rec, 1192 yards, and 7 TDs) can return from a foot injury suffered in OTAs, then he and 2011 breakout star, Victor Cruz (82 rec, Giants record 1536 yards, and 9 TDs), have a chance to form one of the NFL’s best duos. Both Nicks and Cruz went well over 1,100 yards with at least 7 TDs and you can expect the same thing in 2012. Surprisingly the NY Giants didn’t run the ball as effectively as in the past (ranked 32nd). However watch for OC Kevin Gilbride to try and get Bradshaw and rookie David Wilson established early this season. A concern is at tight end as Jake Ballard (knee) was waived and subsequently claimed by the Patriots. And Ballard’s former main back-up, Travis Beckum, also is having difficulty coming back from an ACL injury suffered in the Super Bowl too — watch for free agent signee and former Cowboy Martellus Bennett to step-up.
7. Atlanta Falcons – [QB Matt Ryan, WR Roddy White, WR Julio Jones, WR Harry Douglas, TE Tony Gonzalez, RB Jason Snelling and RB Michael Turner]. If you are looking for a well-balanced offensive attack, this is the unit to watch. Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff and HC Mike Smith have done a great job trying to recreate the 1990’s Dallas Cowboys’ triplets. But unfortunately so far this group hasn’t had any playoff success to point to – record of 0-3 in the postseason under Smith. Putting their postseason shortcomings aside, this young group has everything else going for it– 402 points in 2011 for a 25 per game average, 7th in the NFL. A strong-armed leadership quarterback in Matt Ryan (347-566, 61.3%, 4177 pyds, 29 TDs, and 12 INTs), a Do-It-all veteran receiver in Roddy White (100 rec, 1296 yds, 8 Tds), an explosibe game-breaking homerun receiver in 2nd-year youngster Julio Jones (54 rec, 959 yds, 17.8 ypr, 8 TDs), an over-the-middle and redzone threat in Tony Gonzalez (80 rec, 875 yds, 7 TDs), and a move-the-chains back in Michael Turner (301 rushes for 1340 yds, 11 TDs). If Falcons new offensive coordinator, Dirk Koetter, is serious about turning his offensive weapons loose… Look Out! Ever since Ryan came into the league in 2008, Turner has been the team’s first option, but their lopsided 24-2 loss to the Giants in the 2011 Wildcard round showed that the Falcons are too predictable. Playing a dome, it is about time for Atlanta to use their speed to their advantage on their fast track. Turner (30) is slowing down and is not the best receiver – only 17 receptions for 168 yards and 0 TDs — so it is really time for Ryan to lean on White, Jones, and Gonzalez. Ryan has the accuracy and arm strenght to be effective, but he must do a better job in the pocket (getting hit). With urgency surrounding the Falcons, there definitely should be a “Git-R-Done” mentality in Hotlanta. If healthy, watch for huge offensive production from this unit with the potential of a 1,000-yard rusher, 4,000-yard passer, and possibly three 1,000-yard receivers.
8. Detroit Lions – [QB Matthew Stafford, WR Calvin Johnson, WR Nate Burelson, WR Titus Young, rookie WR Ryan Broyles (knee), TE Brandon Pettigrew, TE Tony Scheffler, RB Kevin Smith and RB Jahvid Best (concussions)]. If ever there is a young group that could challenge the Packers and Saints as the NFL’s most explosive offense, it is Detroit (scored 474 points w/ 29.6 per game average — 4th in the NFL). After years of waiting, all of the Lions’ many high-round offensive draft picks started to pay dividends in 2011 – made playoffs for the first time since 1999. Former 2009 first overall selection, QB Matthew Stafford (421-663, 63.5%, 5038 pyds, 41 TDs, and 16 INTs), was healthy and the league finally got to see his Jeff George-like arm at work. Stafford easily eclipsed 4,000-yard and 25-touchdown bench marks while adding his name and receiver Calvin “Megatron” Johnson (96 rec, 1681 yds, 17.5 ypc, and 16 TDs) to the top of every fantasy football league’s rankings. Megatron took over from Houston Texans playmaker Andre Johnson to establish himself as the NFL’s No. 1 receiver. And we maybe looking at an extended period of seasonal lines consisting of 100+/1300+/10+, if the 26-year old can stay healthy. C.Johnson’s all-over-the field ability opens the gridiron up for the rest of this emerging group including veteran partner Nate Burelson, slot guy Titus Young and hulking tight end Pettitgrew. The Lions could have also gotten the steal of the 2012 draft, if NCAA receptions leader Ryan Broyles can comeback from a bowl game knee injury. The only position on offense that is still up in the air though, in terms of production, is at running back where K. Smith, Mikel Leshoure (Achilles, 2-gm suspension), and Best will be fighting it out. Whoever is the starter at running back, OC Scott Linehan will be looking for at least 700 rushing yards, 50+ receptions, and 8 total touchdowns.
9. New England Patriots – [QB Tom Brady, WR Wes Welker,WR Brandon Lloyd, WR Jabar Gaffney, WR Deion Branch, WR Donte’ Stallworth, TE Rob Gronkowski, RB Danny Woodhead, RB Joseph Addai, RB Stevan Ridley, and TE Aaron Hernandez]. Even with the recent cutting of melodramatic receiver Chad Ochocinco (now on Dolphins), HC Bill Belichick and OC Josh McDaniels have assembled the NFL’s most ecletic talented group for former 3-time Super Bowl winning quarterback Tom Brady to work with. Everything starts with over-the-middle and redozne targets Gronkowski (90 rec, 1327 yds, and 18 TDs – both NFL TE single season records) and Welker (122 rec, 1569 yds, 12.9 ypc, and 9 TDs). Brady’s two favorite targets are masters at finding mismatches and holes in defensive zones. As if scoring 513 points (32.1 per/gm to rank 2nd in NFL) and ranking 2nd in passing yards (5084) in 2011 wasn’t enough, the AFC Champions made their weaponry deeper by grabbing former Pro Bowl receiver Brandon Lloyd and also bringing back homerun threat Donte’ Stallworth and steady veteran Jabar Gaffney. Competition will be high in training camp as there are only six receiver roster spots, so several big names will be fighting it out. The player that I will most be interested in seeing if he can still be a solid contributor is former Super Bowl MVP, Deion Branch. In his return after leaving via free agency, Branch has been solid but nowhere near the game-breaking threat that he once was and at this point in his career, he probably will not be much of a special teams contributor. The Patriots easily had the NFL’s best tight end group entering 2012 with Gronk, Hernandez, former Bronco Daniel Fells, and former Titan Bo Scaife, then they claimed former Giants starter Jake Ballard (knee) off waivers. With the defection of running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis to the Bengals, there is a gaping need for a running back to breakout from the group of Woodhead, Addai, Ridley, and others. No matter who is the Patriots starter, you should expect a “running back by committee” approach with McDaniels hoping for at least 600 rushing yards, 40+ catches, and 5 TDs from someone.
10. Pittsburgh Steelers – [QB Ben Roethlisberger, WR Mike Wallace (holdout), WR Antonio Brown, WR Jericho Cottrey, WR Emanuel Sanders, RB Rashard Mendenhall (knee), RB Isaac Redman, and TE Heath Miller]. Entering the 2012 season, some are calling for the Steelers (325 points, 20.3 per game to rank 21st in NFL) to return to their ground-and-pound run-first mentality that has been a staple of the franchise for years. All signs are pointing to a more conservative attack, now that Bruce Arians – currently with Colts – is out as offensive coordinator and former Chiefs head coach Todd Haley is in. Arians was continually at odds with Steelers’ nation for throwing too much, However Haley also comes from an explosive offense from his time with the Kurt Warner / Larry Fitzgerald Arizona Cardinals. We will see if Haley goes back to the Chuck Noll playbook, but either way he will have many offensive weapons to work with. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (324-513, 63.2%, 4077 yds, 21 TDs, and 14 INTs) over the last couple seasons has established career highs in attempts and that is due to his many targets. Everything starts with franchise wideout Mike Wallace (72 rec, 1193 yds, 16.6 ypc, and 8 TDs), who has the speed to get deep and the toughnesss to work the middle – possible holdout situation with the restricted free agent. After Wallace, even with veteran Hines Ward retiring, the cupboard is full. Brown (69 rec, 1108 yds, 16.1 ypc and 2 TDs) had a breakout season as he made the Pro Bowl after starting only 3 games and Sanders proved that he also is a capable playmaker. Though not a Gronk or Jimmy Graham, Miller is a solid two-way tight end, who contributes in the redzone and is an excellent blocker. With the Steelers talking about running the ball more, watch for the return of Mendenhall (228 rushes for 928 yds, 4.1 ypr, and 9 TDs) from a knee injury and more competition from Redman.
11. San Diego Chargers – QB Philip Rivers, WR Malcolm Floyd, WR Robert Meachem, WR Eddie Royal, WR Vincent Brown, WR Roscoe Parrish, TE Antonio Gates, RB Ryan Matthews, and TE Randy McMichael.
12. Carolina Panthers – QB Cam Newton, WR Steve Smith, WR Brandon LaFell, WR David Gettis, TE Greg Olsen, RB DeAngelo Williams, FB Mike Tolbert and RB Jonathan Stewart
13. Chicago Bears – QB Jay Cutler, WR Brandon Marshall, WR Roy Williams, WR Earl Bennett, WR Devin Hester, WR Johnny Knox, rookie WR Alshon Jeffrey, WR Dane Sazenbacher, RB Michael Bush and RB Matt Forte (Knee, Holdout)
14. Tennessee Titans – QB Matt Hasselbeck / Jake Locker, WR Kenny Britt (knee), WR Nate Washington, Lavelle Hawkins, rookie WR Kendall Wright, WR Damian Williams, WR Marc Mariani, TE Jared Cook, RB Javon Ringer, and RB Chris Johnson
15. Arizona Cardinals – QB Kevin Kolb / John Skelton, WR Larry Fitzgerald, rookie WR Michael Floyd, WR Early Doucet, WR Andre Roberts, WR Stephen Williams, TE Todd Heap, RB Chris Wells (knee), and RB Ryan Williams (knee)
16. Kansas City Chiefs – QB Matt Cassel, WR Dwayne Bowe, WR Steve Breaston, WR Jerahamie Urban, WR Jon Baldwin, WR/RB Dexter McClusters, RB Peyton Hillis (hip), TE Tony Moeaki (ACL) and RB Jamaal Charles (ACL)
17. San Francisco 49ers – QB Alex Smith, WR Michael Crabtree,WR Mario Manningham, WR Randy Moss, rookie WR AJ Jenkins, WR Ted Ginn Jr, rookie RB LaMichael James, RB Kendall Hunter, RB Brandon Jacobs, TE Vernon Davis, TE Delani Walker and RB Frank Gore
18. New York Jets – QB Mark Sanchez, WR Santonio Holmes, WR Chaz Schilens, WR Jeremy Kerley, rookie WR Stephen Hill, RB Shonn Greene, RB Joe McKnight, and TE Dustin Keller
19. Seattle Seahawks – QB Matt Flynn / Tarvaris Jackson / rookie Russell Wilson, WR Sidney Rice (concussions), WR Mike Williams, WR Ben Obomanu, WR Deon Butler, WR Golden Tate, RB Marshawn Lynch, TE Kellen Winslow and TE Zach Miller
20. Minnesota Vikings – QB Christian Ponder, WR Percy Harvin (wants to be traded), WR Jerome Simpson, WR Michael Jenkins, WR Devin Aromashodu, TE Kyle Rudolph, TE John Carlson, rookie WR Greg Childs, rookie WR Jarius Wright, and RB Adrian Peterson (knee)
21. Baltimore Ravens – QB Joe Flacco, WR Anquan Boldin, WR Torrey Smith, WR David Reed,WR Jacoby Jones, rookie WR Tommy Streeter, TE Ed Dickson, TE Dennis Pitta, RB Ray Rice (Holdout), rookie RB Bernard Pierce
22. Tampa Bay Bucs – QB Josh Freeman, WR Vincent Jackson, rookie RB Doug Martin, WR Mike Williams, WR Preston Parker, WR Arrelious Benn, TE Dallas Clark and RB LeGarrette Blount
23. Indianapolis Colts – rookie QB Andrew Luck, WR Reggie Wayne, WR Donnie Avery,WR Austin Collie, rookie TE Coby Fleener, RB Donald Brown, and RB Delone Carter
24. Oakland Raiders – QB Carson Palmer, WR Denarius Moore, WR Jacoby Ford (foot), WR Darius Heyward-Bey, rookie WR Juron Criner, rookie WR Rod Streater, WR Louis Murphy, TE Brandon Myers, RB Darren McFadden and RB Mike Goodson
25. Washington Redskins –rookie QB Robert Griffin III, WR Pierre Garcon,WR Josh Morgan, WR Leonard Hankerson (hip), WR Santana Moss, WR Anthony Armstrong, TE Fred Davis, RB Roy Helu and RB Tim Hightower (ACL)
26. Cinncinati Bengals – QB Andy Dalton, WR AJ Geen, WR Armon Binnis, WR Brandon Tate, WR Jordan Shipley (knee), rookie WR Marvin Jones, rookie WR Mohamed Sanu, RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis and TE Jermaine Gresham
27. Denver Broncos – QB Peyton Manning, WR DeMaryius Thomas, WR Eric Decker (knee), WR Brandon Stokely, WR Andre Caldwell, RB Knowshon Moreno (knee), rookie RB Ronnie Hillman, TE Jacob Tamme, TE Joel Dreessen and RB Willis McGahee
28. Buffalo Bills – QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, WR Stevie Johnson, WR David Nelson, WR Donald Jones, WR Marcus Easley, rookie WR TJ Graham, QB/WR Brad Smith, RB CJ Spiller, RB Fred Jackson, and TE Scott Chandler
29. St. Louis Rams – QB Sam Bradford, WR Danny Ammendola (elbow), WR Brandon Gibson, rookie WR Brian Quick, WR Steve Smith (knee), rookie WR Chris Givens, RB Steven Jackson, rookie RB Isaiah Pead and TE Lance Kendricks
30. Jacksonville Jaguars – QB Blaine Gabbert, rookie WR Justin Blackmon, WR Laurent Robinson, WR Mike Thomas, WR Lee Evans, RB Maurice Jones-Drew (holdout), RB Rashard Jennings and TE Marcedes Lewis
31. Miami Dolphins – Matt Moore / rookie QB Ryan Tannehill / David Garrard, WR Brian Hartline, WR Chad Ochocinco, WR Devon Bess, WR Legedu Naanee, RB Reggie Bush, RB Daniel Thomas, rookie RB Lamar Miller, H-Back Charles Clay and TE Anthony Fasano
32. Cleveland Browns – rookie QB Bruce Weeden/ Colt McCoy, WR Greg Little, WR Mohamed Massaquoi, WR Josh Cribbs, rookie WR Travis Benjamin and rookie RB Trent Richardson