Falcons and Pats have NFL's best offenses, but these four units could rise to the top

Last week, we took an in-depth look at which NFL teams might be able to dethrone the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos  for the best defense in football during the 2017 season. Seattle and Denver have been leading the way in point prevention, yardage suppression and defensive efficiency for years, and were at the top of the league last season as well. 

This week, we're going to do the same exercise, but for the other side of the ball. 

The two best offenses in football in 2016 belonged to the Atlanta Falcons and New England Patriots . Atlanta finished the season as the eighth-highest scoring team in NFL history, led the league in total yards and finished first in Football Outsiders' offensive DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average, a measure of efficiency that adjusts performance for down, distance and opponent). New England finished third in scoring, fourth in yards and second in DVOA despite playing without Tom Brady for four weeks and getting shut down and shut out by the Buffalo Bills in one of those games. 

Given the minimal roster turnover in Atlanta (offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan is a big loss, but Steve Sarkisian shouldn't represent too much of a drop-off) and the power-infusing roster moves made by New England, we can expect the Falcons and Patriots to be in the mix for the title of best offense in football in 2017 as well. 

Who might step up to join them? Here are a few candidates. 

Pittsburgh Steelers

Points ScoredTotal YardsDVOA
  • Key additions: Martavis Bryant (susp.), JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Conner
  • Key losses: DeAngelo Williams , Markus Wheaton , Ladarius Green

The Pittsburgh Steelers  finished last season in the top 10 in scoring and total yards, as well as rush, pass and overall offensive DVOA. They did this despite the fact that Le'Veon Bell was suspended for the first three games, despite the fact that Martavis Bryant was suspended for the entire season, despite the fact that Ladarius Green missed most of the season with injuries, despite the fact that Ben Roethlisberger missed two games due to injury and played several others while gimpy at the very least and despite the fact that they finished 26th in the league in average starting field position. 

With Bell back in the fold for a full season (assuming he signs either his franchise tag tender or a long-term deal), Bryant conditionally reinstated and Smith-Schuster and Conner presumably working in as rotational backups in place of Wheaton and Williams, they'll have even more firepower in 2017. The Steelers still have one of the best offensive lines in the NFL, a great quarterback and arguably the best running back (Bell) and wide receiver ( Antonio Brown ) in the league. If Roethlisberger manages to play a full 16-game slate for the first time since 2014, they could easily jump up to grab the top spot in all of football. 

Oakland Raiders

Points ScoredTotal YardsDVOA
  • Key additions:  Marshawn Lynch , Jared Cook , Cordarelle Patterson
  • Key losses: Latavius Murray, Mychal Rivera , Menelik Watson

Oakland took a major leap offensively in Derek Carr 's third season. The Oakland Raiders jumped from 24th in total yards to sixth and from 17th in scoring to seventh. Their offensive efficiency leapt as well, from 18th in 2015 to seventh in 2016 -- sparked by a major step forward from the Carr-led pass offense. 

The Raiders' offensive line is one of the best in football and kept Carr extremely well-protected all season -- no quarterback was sacked less often as a percentage of his total dropbacks in 2016. When throwing from a clean pocket, Carr was sparkling, threading passes to Amari Cooper , Michael Crabtree and his supplementary receivers to move the ball incrementally down the field. As long as Carr comes back healthy from his broken leg and makes strides in some of his areas of weakness as he has during the first few years of his career, they should be even better in 2017 given his progression and the presence of new tight end Jared Cook.  

The one relative weakness of the Raiders' offensive attack last season was the run game, but with Marshawn Lynch replacing the departed Latavius Murray in 2017 they should have a chance to take a step forward there as well. If everyone involved stays healthy and the line does its job, the Raiders should be in the mix once again. 

Dallas Cowboys

Points ScoredTotal YardsDVOA
  • Key additions: La'el Collins (inj.), Rico Gathers (PS), Ryan Switzer
  • Key losses: Ronald Leary, Doug Free (ret.), Tony Romo (ret.)

The Dallas Cowboys were the most surprisingly successful offense in football last season. Nobody expected them to have the level of success they had once Tony Romo went down with another back injury, but Dak Prescott stepped right in and put together arguably the best season a rookie quarterback has ever had, taking the offense to new heights of efficiency. Dallas was the only team to finish in the top five in yards and points, as well as rush, pass and overall offensive DVOA. 

The pieces are all in place for the Cowboys to be just as good in 2017. The core of the best offensive line in the NFL returns, as even though  Ronald Leary and Doug Free are gone, Tyron Smith , Travis Frederick  and Zack Martin are still in town. La'el Collins is expected to slide back into the starting lineup after going on injured reserve early last season, and the fifth spot on the line should be filled by either 2015 third-rounder Chaz Green or free-agent signing Jonathan Cooper

No matter who fills that spot, the Cowboys should again have one of the best running games in the league. Ezekiel Elliott is still the same monster he was as a rookie, and if the Cowboys mix in more zone-read plays for Prescott they can threaten even more of the field with their running game. Prescott also now has an entire offseason to work as the No. 1 QB, which means he should have even more chemistry with the top passing game weapons than he did last season, when he had to find it starting late in training camp.

The Cowboys gave him some new toys to play with in slot man Ryan Switzer, a Cole Beasley clone that should work as both his understudy and co-star in more four-wideout sets, as well as practice squad tight end Rico Gathers, a 6-foot-8 former basketball player that apparently tore up the first team defense working with Romo on the scout team last year. 

Green Bay Packers

Points ScoredTotal YardsDVOA
  • Key additions: Martellus Bennett, Jahri Evans , Jamaal Williams, Aaron Jones
  • Key losses: Eddie Lacy, Jared Cook, T.J. Lang, JC Tretter

The Green Bay Packers have Aaron Rodgers . Just on the strength of his right arm and ability to manipulate defenses, the Packers are routinely among the best offenses in the NFL. They've led the NFL in scoring twice during Rodgers' time as a starter and have finished with the top overall offensive DVOA twice as well, so there's a track record of them getting into the area of Best Offense in Football when everything is going right. 

They were right in the mix in the next group of teams behind the Pats and Falcons last season, and they've added some firepower to the offense by giving Rodgers the best tight end he has ever had in Martellus Bennett . Considering the kind of weapon Rodgers turned Cook into last season, it's scary to think of what he could do with the much more talented Bennett. 

He's going to be working with two new offensive linemen after the Packers lost Lang and Tretter this offseason, but he still has David Bakhtiari protecting his blind side and Bryan Bulaga anchoring the right side of the line. He has also shown himself to be essentially offensive-line proof at times in the past. With Ty Montgomery locked into the backfield from the jump and several new candidates to work as the backup, the running game should be more consistent as well. That'll help with Rodgers' play-action game, where he's consistently one of the best in NFL. 

CBS Sports Writer

Jared Dubin is a New York lawyer and writer. He joined CBSSports.com in 2014 and has since spent far too much of his time watching film and working in spreadsheets. Full Bio

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