Warren Sharp is returning to his roots for the 2023 season, writing multiple weekly articles on Sharp Football Analysis including weekend recaps, game previews & much more.
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These 2 NFL Teams Will Score More Points in 2023
For the most part, solid coaching will show up in overall performance.
Thus, the offenses that were best in EPA/play, averaged out over every play all game long, are likely those with a great combination of coaching and players.
The top three last year? Chiefs, Bills, and Eagles.
Solid coaching and players. Two of the three made the Super Bowl.
The opposite is also true.
The bottom three last year? Texans, Colts, and Broncos.
All three fired their head coaches.
Coaching Matters: Play Calling & Offensive Efficiency
Play calling is vital to the efficiency and productivity of an offense.
We know how important it is to stay ahead of the sticks, avoid third downs, and build leads.
The best offenses, those that rank highly in per-play efficiency and score the most points, are typically heavily correlated with the ability to be efficient on early downs.
But there are a few very narrow aspects of a team’s offense that absolutely impact team win-loss records and which, at times, might not align with their overall per-play efficiency.
And when a team has an otherwise average to above average offense but struggles in a couple of these areas, they will not meet our expectations for their offensive output.
One of those aspects is opening script performance. Another is performance in the red zone.
There are two offenses from 2022 that were solid, productive, average to above-average offenses on a per-play basis, but they struggled immensely on opening scripts and in the red zone.
These two teams could stand to gain a ton in 2023 if their coaching staff gets more production on opening scripts and in the red zone.
And because their offenses are solid but struggled mightily in these two narrow aspects, I predict potentially large improvements in 2023.
Ironically, there were only three offenses to score just 1 touchdown all season on the opening drive of the game.
One of the offenses was the Jets. They will naturally improve because of Aaron Rodgers and are not worth discussing because it is obvious.
The other two offenses?
The Packers and the Ravens.
Packers Offense: Where can they improve in 2023?
The 2022 Packers offense ranked:
- #16 in EPA/play
- #14 in success rate
- #8 in early down success rate
But on first drives of the game, they ranked:
- #30 in TD rate
- #27 in points/drive
- #26 in yards/play
- #25 in EPA/play
They absolutely need to improve their efficiency and play calling on the first drives of games because their offense last year was too good overall to be that bad on the opening drive.
And instead of jumping to an early lead, allowing Green Bay to open up the playbook and keep their opponents playing from behind, the Packers led at halftime in only 7 games last year.
Similarly, the Packers struggled mightily in the red zone.
Green Bay Red Zone Rankings:
- #25 in EPA/play in the red zone
- #24 in TD rate inside the red zone
- #32 in goal-to-go efficiency (50% vs. an NFL average of 72%)
The offense is good enough.
This is coaching.
This is on Matt LaFleur to get his best plays in the game, adjust for what the defense is trying to take away, and produce points consistent with the team’s overall efficiency between the 20s.
Can he do it in 2023?
I’m fairly confident he has the ability.
If you look at 2020 and 2021 combined, the offense ranked #3 in both red zone efficiency AND goal-to-go efficiency.
It will be even more critical LaFleur is prepared to get his best calls in with a new quarterback. There may be more errors, making it even more important to capitalize when the opportunity presents itself.
Ravens Offense: Where can they improve in 2023?
The other team I believe can take a huge step forward in point output in 2023 based on positive regression on opening drives and in the red zone is the Baltimore Ravens.
The 2022 Ravens offense ranked:
- #19 in EPA/play
- #21 in success rate
- #17 in early down success rate
With Lamar Jackson through Week 13, this team was:
- #14 in EPA/play
- #11 in success rate
- #10 in early down success rate
But on first drives of the game all season long, they ranked:
- #31 in TD rate
- #29 in points/drive
- #23 in yards/play
- #22 in EPA/play
And even with Jackson, they still ranked #24 in points/drive on opening drives.
The peak-Lamar Ravens scored TDs on 50% of their opening drives back in 2019.
#1 best in the NFL.
But it’s declined every year since.
Ravens Opening Drive TD Rate:
- 2019: 50.0%
- 2020: 25.0%
- 2021: 11.8%
- 2022: 5.9%
In 2019 & 2020 combined, the Ravens’ scored TDs on 35% of first quarter drives.
#1 in the NFL.
They would build fast leads, force teams to play from behind, and have 100% of their offense open to them.
But their 1st quarter TD rate the last two years?
#29 in the NFL.
From #1 best to #4 worst.
And it has impacted their play calling and ability to be less predictable in the second half of games.
That was Greg Roman. The offense was stale and too predictable. They weren’t creative enough out of the gates and defenses anticipated what they were trying to do.
For an offense as run-centric as the Ravens, it’s even more vital to play with a lead. Because they don’t get enough reps passing the ball to suddenly turn it on easily and rally from behind, as a team like the Chiefs might.
For that reason, under new OC Todd Monken, the Ravens absolutely must prioritize building quick leads in 2023.
The last 4 years under Greg Roman, the Ravens offense in the first half ranked:
- #1 most run heavy
- #3 slowest pace
It was sluggish, predictable and ineffective. And it must change in 2023.
I’m confident it can improve drastically this year because this team was successful on opening drives in 2019 and 2020 with Jackson at the helm.
Ravens Opening Drive Rankings 2019-2020:
- #2 in touchdowns/drive
- #3 in points/drive
- #3 in yards/drive
- #4 in EPA/play
The red zone is another area where I anticipate another jump in efficiency for the 2023 Ravens.
Inside the red zone last year the Ravens ranked:
- #28 in EPA/play
- #30 in touchdown rate (46% vs. an NFL average of 56%)
Even with Jackson through Week 13, they ranked #23 in touchdown rate.
They were also bottom 10 in goal-to-go efficiency.
None of this is commensurate with the offense over the rest of the field last year, which ranked fringe top 10 with Jackson.
In fact, over the course of the entire season, the Ravens drove into the red zone at the #5 highest rate of any team but simply could not buy a touchdown when there (#30).
There is no reason a top-five offense at driving into the red zone should rank #30 in scoring touchdowns when down there.
There is no doubt the play designs and calls with Roman at the helm were getting too stale and predictable in the red zone.
I believe with Monken’s new offensive direction, the 2023 Ravens will be scoring in the red zone at a rate more in line with their overall offensive efficiency.
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