Offensive football is in a beautiful state in 2019. The NFL has clearly taken to the air, as high-flying attacks dot the league landscape, but the ground game remains quite relevant, with dynamic runners coming in the form of quarterbacks, running backs and even jet-sweeping wide receivers.
So, yeah, at the moment, offense is king. But which offense will be the king of kings in 2019? Here is my preseason ranking of the top units, Schein Nine style:
1) Atlanta Falcons
Steve Sarkisian is no longer calling the plays, and that's a good thing. The return of Dirk Koetter makes it even better.
Matt Ryan remains one of the more strangely overlooked superstar quarterbacks in the NFL. Since 2010, the season in which Ryan nabbed his first of four Pro Bowl bids, the Falcons signal-caller ranks top five in passing yards (second), passing touchdowns (fifth), wins (fifth), fourth-quarter comebacks (second) and game-winning drives (third). He earned league MVP honors during a prolific 2016 campaign -- and actually posted comparable numbers last season, but didn't get the credit he deserved because the Falcons didn't win enough games (thanks, largely, to an injury-riddled defense that couldn't stop anyone).
One problem Ryan did encounter last season: constant pressure, as evidenced by the QB taking 42 sacks, the second-highest total of his career. General manager Thomas Dimitroff wisely went right at this issue, selecting a pair of offensive linemen in the first round of April's draft: OG Chris Lindstrom and OT Kaleb McGary. While McGary recently underwent a minimally invasive heart procedure, he's back with the team and Falcons coach Dan Quinn says doctors are "pleased" with the hulking OT's progress. Meanwhile, Lindstrom's running with the 1s, and the athletic blocker's turning heads in the process. If Ryan gets solid protection in 2019, watch out -- especially given all the weapons the QB has at his disposal ...
Is there a better receiving trio in the NFL today than Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley and Mohamed Sanu? Jones just became the first player in NFL history to log five straight seasons of 1,400-plus receiving yards, while Ridley scored 10 touchdowns in his rookie campaign. Sanu's the jack of all trades, an ideal WR3 who can get the tough yards, make the crucial block -- and even throw the key pass. Devonta Freeman, the highly paid running back who's missed 16 games over the past two seasons, is healthy again, having participated in the entire offseason program. This is no small thing: In his last two healthy campaigns of 2015 and '16, Freeman averaged 1,068 rushing yards, 64 catches and 14 total touchdowns, making the Pro Bowl in each season. Lastly, 24-year-old tight end Austin Hooper is fresh off his first Pro Bowl season.
Bottom line: This offense is poised to reach new heights in the coming months.
2) Kansas City Chiefs
Patrick Mahomes is a megastar who's just scratching the surface of his potential. Scary. In his first year as an NFL starter, the guy earned MVP honors after becoming just the second player in league history (joining Peyton Manning) to pass for 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns in a single season. Somehow, I still think we don't realize just how ridiculous that is.
What will ace play-caller Andy Reid and Mahomes cook up for an encore this fall? A whole bunch more points. The Chiefs boast the league's premier home-run hitter (Tyreek Hill) and the best tight end in football (Travis Kelce). Also, when healthy, Sammy Watkins remains a dangerous WR2. The one big question mark exists in the backfield, but Reid continues to express extreme confidence in Damien Williams. For what it's worth, Williams' production over K.C.'s two playoff games was pretty darn impressive: 159 rushing yards, 91 receiving yards and four touchdowns.
3) Los Angeles Rams
Here's what I'm banking on: Sean McVay's play calling and overall offensive acumen are special. Yes, NFL defenses appeared to kind of figure out how to handle McVay's scheme as the season went on, with the Rams scoring a season-low three points in the Super Bowl. But you don't think the 33-year-old wunderkind coach is coming up with a counter to the counter?
Not to mention, McVay's attack revolved around "11" personnel (1 RB, 1 TE, 3 WR), and Cooper Kupp's season-ending knee injury in Week 10 took away a crucial component from this scheme. Kupp's back in action and on pace to be ready for Week 1. This is huge for QB Jared Goff, who undoubtedly missed his security blanket down the stretch last season. I really do like -- and still believe in -- Goff, especially in McVay's offense.
The "yeah, but" with this offense is obviously Todd Gurley's knee, with his trainer confirming in the offseason that there's an "arthritic component" to the highly discussed body part. Now, I did love the third-round selection of Darrell Henderson, an explosive one-cut back who's ideally suited to play in this offense. He's no Gurley, but he's a weapon. And if Gurley is Gurley again, well, this ranking might be too low.
4) Los Angeles Chargers
Keenan Allen is a legit star, with that pesky injury bug in the rearview mirror. Over the past two seasons, Allen's played in all 32 games, piling up 199 catches for 2,589 yards and 12 touchdowns. His running mate at receiver, Mike Williams, is poised for a breakout season -- if he didn't already have one last year, when he hauled in 10 touchdown grabs. Tight end Hunter Henry's over a year removed from the torn ACL that wiped out his 2018 season. I expect the 24-year-old to deliver on the promise so many have talked up.
5) New Orleans Saints
I'd argue that Drew Brees and Michael Thomas comprise the top quarterback-receiver combo in the game today. Thomas rightfully got PAID last month, as the Ohio State product's been a pass-catching machine since he stepped on the NFL gridiron in 2016. He just paced the NFL with 125 catches, and did so on only 147 targets -- meaning he posted an absurd 85 percent catch rate. Like I said, Brees to Thomas is the best connection going.
Alvin Kamara is absolutely breathtaking -- a slippery runner with stellar pass-catching ability and a nose for the end zone (SEE: 31 total touchdowns in two NFL seasons). While losing Mark Ingram hurts, you could do much worse than Latavius Murray at RB2. And don't sleep on the Jared Cook pickup at tight end.
6) Green Bay Packers
Aaron Rodgers is heathy, and that means the most talented quarterback in NFL history is ready to dominate. The Rodgers-Davante Adams connection is real and spectacular. And I get the sense that, under new head coach Matt LaFleur, Aaron Jones' backfield ability will finally be maximized. The dude has averaged a robust 5.5 yards per carry in each of his first two NFL seasons. Keep feeding him the rock!
Did I mention Rodgers is healthy?
7) Cleveland Browns
Baker Mayfield just set a rookie record for touchdown passes (27) and he's going to the next level this year with Odell Beckham Jr. in the fold. OBJ and Jarvis Landry, close friends and former LSU teammates, could become the elite receiver combination. Hyper-athletic tight end David Njoku showed flashes of greatness last season, and could be a monster over the middle in 2019.
While GM John Dorsey traded disgruntled pass-catching RB Duke Johnson to Houston on Thursday, the backfield's far from bare in Cleveland. Nick Chubb proved to be one of the league's most effective backs last season once the Browns stopped messing around with Carlos Hyde, and he'll be flanked by all-around playmaker Kareem Hunt in the second half of the season (after Hunt's eight-game suspension is served).
Rookie head coach Freddie Kitchens showed plenty of promise as a play caller once he took over the reins last season -- and the pieces are there for him to flourish in Year 1 in the big chair.
8) Philadelphia Eagles
Carson Wentz is healthy and he's going to get back to the MVP form we saw before he ripped up his knee two Decembers ago. GM Howie Roseman has given Wentz the most talent he's ever had around him. DeSean Jackson is going to fly and perfectly complement big-bodied playmaker Alshon Jeffery. The tight end duo of Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert is highly versatile and devastatingly effective. And I expect second-round pick J.J. Arcega-Whiteside to provide immediate returns as a jump-ball specialist. In the backfield, rookie Miles Sanders is going to star, with Jordan Howard leading a capable cavalcade of additional options at RB.
9) Indianapolis Colts
Andrew Luck hasn't practiced due to a nagging calf injury. I'm a little spooked, but not going to hot take it ... yet. Let's assume Luck is healthy for the regular season; he's an MVP candidate. His rapport with T.Y. Hilton is remarkable, and GM Chris Ballard added more passing-game weapons in free agency (Devin Funchess) and the draft (Parris Campbell). Also, Deon Cain could be a name to watch. After missing his entire rookie season with a torn ACL, the second-year pro continues to generate a ton of buzz.
The line performed spectacularly last season, with Quenton Nelson leading the way. Only entering Year 2, Nelson's already the best guard in the NFL. He makes this group go.