After completing a trade with the Seattle Seahawks, the Oakland Raiders acquired Marshawn Lynch bolstering their offensive firepower for the 2017 season. It gave them the punishing running back they’ve been looking for over the course of their resurgence as a franchise. However, another AFC powerhouse has also re-tooled their offense after an impressive Super Bowl performance. That would be the New England Patriots, who are looking to protect their title. With that in mind, it leaves many to wonder which of these high-powered offenses will be the best offense in the AFC.
The Patriots began the off season by making some interesting moves. They began by trading for former Colts’ TE Dwayne Allen, who was producing for a team that was being led by rookie phenom Jack Doyle. With his emergence, Allen was considered expendable, which lead to the team making a deal with the Patriots for a fourth-round pick. By making this deal, the team replaced Martellus Bennett, who was demanding for money the team was unwilling to pay him. Having both Allen and Rob Gronkowski in the mix allowed the team to return to its familiar two tight end set we’re accustomed to seeing.
Shortly after talks of a possible Malcolm Butler– Brandin Cooks swap began between the Saints and the Patriots, Cooks was traded to the Patriots, but without Butler. The Patriots traded away their first and third round pick in exchange for Cooks leaving the team with the number one wide receiver they have been searching for through the draft. Cooks gives the team a deep threat who has blazing speed (4.33 second 40- yard dash) which will allow the Patriots to make big plays down the field. With his 1,173 yards and eight TD’s last season, Cooks showed he is capable of being counted on when thrown to. With Julian Edelman possibly moving to slot, Cooks will be able to make plays on the outside. Edelman will be able to make plays in the middle of the field along with Gronkowski; something that will give opposing defenses nightmares.
LeGarrette Blount was a workhorse for the Patriots last season, as he led the league with 18 TD’s. However, the team decided to move on from him with the acquisition of former Bills’ running back Mike Gillislee. His numbers of 577 yards and eight TD’s aren’t mind boggling, but they are still impressive considering how he played the 2016 season behind one of the best running backs in the NFL in LeSean McCoy. His good balance of physicality and speed will help the Patriots regain their “power back” which will go along nicely with their pass catching backs. James White is one of their good pass catching backs as he has shown to be reliable, especially in big situations. With 14 receptions, 110 yards, and 3 combined TD’s in the Super Bowl, White showed his value to a dominant offense. With all of this in mind, it makes the Patriots once again a scary team to reckon with in the AFC.
After many failures to find their franchise quarterback, the Raiders have finally found the quarterback they can build around. Derek Carr made a statement last year with his 28 TD’s and six interceptions which put him in the MVP discussion. If a broken fibula injury didn’t prevent Carr from leading his team through the playoffs, the Raiders would have most likely given the Patriots some competition. His calmness in the pocket allowed him to make the right throws at the right time, which helped the team to make big strides throughout the season. By completing 63% of his passes a year ago, Carr showed his patience and his effectiveness as a passer which explains his great decision making. Having one of the best offensive lines in the NFL helped his cause as he was well protected throughout the season.
Along with a great quarterback, you need a great running back. The Raiders have no shortage of that. After completing a trade with the Seahawks, Marshawn Lynch is officially a Raider, which should excite many fans.
Under one of the best offensive lines in the NFL, Lynch will thrive against opposing defenses. Although he did have a rough 2015 season before his retirement, he struggled mightily with a nagging hamstring injury that forced him to only accommodate 417 yards with four TD’s. However, he should be fully healed after taking a year off and will look to give the team the dominant Marshawn Lynch of 2014 which included numbers of 1306 yards along with 13 TD’s. If that version of Lynch materializes, the Raiders’ running game will be a scary one. Having the dominant presence of Lynch in the backfield has already bolstered an already dominant offense.
To go along with Carr, the Raiders have two stars on the outside in Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper. During the 2016 season, Cooper shined with 1,153 yards and five TD’s which showed how reliable and valuable he is to the team’s receiving corps. He also showed his explosiveness making big plays with his ability to break free from cornerbacks with ease. Crabtree also shined during the 2016 season with his 1,003 yards and nine TD’s, which gave the Raiders the offensive boost they needed. Like Cooper, Crabtree can break away from cornerbacks with ease with his physicality at the line. With two stars that could make plays on the outside, the Raiders are capable of beating up any secondary.
With so much firepower on the offensive side of the ball, the Patriots and Raiders are both set up for success in the 2017 season. Although the Raiders do have the edge on the offensive line and running back positions, the Patriots’ weapons on offense are more diverse. With quarterback Tom Brady still around along with Gronkowski, the team already has two offensive superstars on its roster. Adding Cooks to the mix along with a solid running back in Gillislee will give the Patriots everything it needs to be successful on offense. The Raiders will still be a great offense next year regardless, but the Patriots will still be the powerhouse of the AFC.