In my opinion, it’s obvious that Russell Wilson is the NFL’s MVP front-runner through Week 9.
His astounding 378-yard, five-touchdown, zero-interception performance during Sunday’s overtime win against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers separated Wilson from other contenders. The Seattle Seahawks quarterback now has a league-leading 22 touchdown passes to just one pick. Wilson’s touchdown percentage (7.5%) and interception percentage (0.3%) are also tops in the NFL. So is his QB rating (118.2) and Pro Football Focus grade (91.0).
Here are a few more ridiculous stats from Seahawks PR: Wilson is the only player since the 1970 merger to have 22 touchdown passes with just one or fewer interceptions. He ranks first in the NFL with 31 game-winning drives in the fourth quarter and overtime since 2012 (regular season and postseason), including four this season.
But here’s my one piece of advice to Seahawks fans: Do your best to stay above the fray of the MVP debate. Find a way to avoid getting triggered when a national pundit declares Aaron Rodgers or somebody else as their MVP choice on Twitter. And I understand that it won’t be easy, but hear me out.
The Seahawks have the toughest schedule in the NFL over their final seven games as all but one come against teams with winning records. Two of those matchups are against the league’s only remaining undefeated team – the San Francisco 49ers. So that’s to say that Wilson is bound to have a game or two that isn’t otherworldly. And after those games, many will be quick to jump off of his MVP bandwagon.
That will be frustrating because you’re well aware that Wilson is carrying these Seahawks to unprecedented levels. Seattle is 7-2 while scoring 27.55 points per game, but the margins of victory have been slim as the Seahawks have allowed 25.55 points per game. The defense has had negative expected points in all nine games this season and a combined -28.08 points over the last two games against the one-win Falcons and the two-win Buccaneers.
Seattle’s defense ranks 24th in passing yards per attempt, 23rd in rushing yards per attempt, 25th in total yards and 22nd in points allowed. The Seahawks rank tied for 26th with just 15 sacks through nine games, and if you’ve watched every contest, you know that the pass rush has been even more feeble than that number suggests.
You get the point.
What’s most impressive with Wilson is that much of his production has come in crunch time. Consider that on Sunday, Wilson engineered three-straight “game-winning” drives. A three-play, 75-yard touchdown drive gave Seattle a 34-27 lead with 4:25 left to play. That was the 53-yard touchdown pass from Wilson to DK Metcalf.
After Seattle’s defense allowed a game-tying touchdown, Wilson again marched down the field on a six-play, 53-yard drive that set up Jason Myers’ 40-yard field goal attempt. Myers missed and the game went to overtime. Thankfully Geno Smith called heads and the Seahawks won the coin toss. Wilson proceeded to lead a 10-play, 75-yard drive that culminated in Jacob Hollister’s 10-yard walk-off touchdown.
Wilson has played his best ball when the stakes have been highest, and he’s done so without a cast of superstars surrounding him. Outside of Tyler Lockett (especially when you consider the loss of Will Dissly), Seattle lacks consistent playmakers in the passing game. Now, DK Metcalf took a massive step in the right direction with his six-catch, 123-yard outburst against the Bucs, but the point remains. Jaron Brown, David Moore, Jacob Hollister and Luke Willson aren’t scaring anybody. And who knows what the Seahawks will get out of Josh Gordon.
The phrase “generational talent” has been reduced to a sarcastic overtone, commonly thrown around as a way to prove the relative unimportance of running backs. But Wilson is a generational talent. He’s a five-time Pro Bowler, Super Bowl champion and, barring something drastic and unforeseen, he’ll be enshrined in Canton, Ohio someday.
There’s a style and flare to Wilson’s game that is uniquely his. He’s truly the first of his kind. He’s the 5-foot-11 third-round pick who many analysts were certain would never be able to see over his offensive line. He’s overcome the notion that he needed to be carried by an equally generational defense. He’s overcome the ridiculous claims that he can’t make throws from the pocket.
“That style isn’t sustainable,” they said.
“Defenses will figure him out,” they groaned.
But here we are. Wilson, now 30 and in his ninth season, is still carving up defenses on a weekly basis. His timing is exquisite. His deep ball accuracy is unparalleled. His off-script scramble drills break the wills of opponents.
Just when you think you’ve seen it all, Wilson pulls another rabbit out of his hat – and I use that cliché intentionally, because there’s an unquestionable magic to Wilson’s game. Even Bobby Wagner, a player who was part of the same draft class as Wilson, who has had a front-row seat for all of the quarterback’s heroics over the years, says he’s still regularly amazed by Wilson.
“I’ll never get used to it because he’ll always do something to surprise you,” Wagner said following Sunday’s win.
This is all before I even mention Wilson’s leadership within the team and impact in Seattle’s community as a whole. Or how Wilson revolutionized how quarterbacks are evaluated. There’s no way that Baker Mayfield or Kyler Murray – two other sub-six-foot quarterbacks – get taken first overall without Wilson’s success. Those are different columns for different days.
Wilson has reached a level of near-perfection to where fans are shocked when he throws an interception, misses a throw or makes a bad decision. I preemptively sympathize with whichever quarterback is tasked with replacing him someday.
Thankfully for Seahawks fans, Wilson should be able to play at an elite level for another decade if he wants to. When it’s finally all said and done, he’s a player who you’re going to boast to your kids, or your grandkids, or anyone else who wants to listen and say: “I got to watch Russell Wilson.”
Cheesy? Maybe. But it’s true. What you’re seeing is special, and it’s important not to take a second of it for granted.