WASHINGTON — Every once in a while in the NFL, a prime-time game provides certain players an opportunity to make a loud and clear statement about their game — for better or for worse.
On Sunday Night Football, Russell Wilson made one helluva compelling case that he’s the league’s Most Valuable Player.
Wilson’s Seattle Seahawks dominated a Philadelphia Eagles team that came west riding a nine-game win streak to an NFL-best 10-1 record, in a game that saw Wilson vastly outplay MVP frontrunner Carson Wentz. While Seattle’s injury-riddled defense deserves credit for shutting down an Eagles offense that had scored at least 28 points in each of their prior seven games, Wilson was clearly the reason the Seahawks won the game.
Wilson accounted for 258 of Seattle’s 310 offensive yards Sunday night, and he passed for all three of their touchdowns. He even provided some razzle dazzle:
Whoa. 😱 #Seahawks https://t.co/aFihjtKGyw
— NFL (@NFL) December 4, 2017
What may be lost on folks outside the Pacific Northwest is that Wilson has been doing this all year long. He’s accounted for roughly 86 percent of the team’s offensive yardage (3,688 of Seattle’s 4,304 yards) and 29 of their 30 offensive touchdowns.
Russell Wilson has accounted for 96.3% of Seattle's TDs this season (highest % by any player in Super Bowl era). Only 1 offensive TD has been scored by Seahawks this season that did not involve Wilson (Week 4: 30-yard rush by J.D. McKissic)
— Gil Brandt (@Gil_Brandt) November 30, 2017
If that doesn’t move you, maybe this will: Of Wilson’s 26 TD passes this season, 15 have come in the 4th quarter, which ties Eli Manning’s record set in the Giants’ 2011 Super Bowl season. Considering how much Wilson has carried Seattle’s offense this season, expect that number to grow.
Thus, Wilson should be the slam dunk, obvious choice for MVP if we take “Most Valuable Player” literally. Answer this question: If you take this player off the team, do they completely fall apart or is it still a pretty good club? Oftentimes in the NFL — and professional sports in general — the MVP award is treated more like a Most Outstanding Player award, given to the best player on the league’s best team.
That’s why Wentz was considered the frontrunner for the award heading into Sunday Night. His progression in his second NFL season is remarkable, and it’s a huge reason why Philadelphia has emerged as a legit Super Bowl contender seemingly overnight.
But the Eagles have the league’s second-ranked rushing attack. Their defense is ranked sixth in scoring, third in yards allowed, and it’s the top-ranked unit against the run. As great as Wentz has played this year, he’s far from alone in his efforts.
Ditto for Tom Brady. Sure, the New England Patriots defense was hemorrhaging points and yards in the first month of the season. But they’ve given up a league-best 11.8 points per game since Week 5. The Pats’ run game is ranked in the top 10.
Wilson is almost singlehandedly leading a unit that’s had a shaky (and, at times, outright lousy) offensive line, and ranks just 21st running the ball. In fact, that ranking would be significantly worse without Wilson’s own team-leading 432 rushing yards; it’s more than twice as many yards as Eddie Lacy’s 179, despite Wilson attempting only two more runs than Lacy.
So by the “most valuable” standard rather than the “most outstanding,” if you take Wentz off the Eagles or Brady off the Patriots, those are probably still division winners and almost certainly still playoff teams. If you take Wilson off the Seahawks, they’re likely closer in the NFC West standings to the last place 49ers than the first place Rams.
Yes, the Seahawks’ defense is still a top 10 unit both in yards and points allowed but they’re clearly not the same dominant force without Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor and Cliff Avril. The band-aid over that defense could come off at any time, especially with a crucial Week 15 rematch with the Rams and red hot passers like Wentz, Drew Brees, and Case Keenum on the playoff docket.
But Seattle only goes as far as Wilson takes them. So far, he’s carried them to an 8-4 record that has them sitting firmly in the playoff picture as the 5-seed. If he somehow drags the Seahawks to a fourth division title in five years — and better yet, to my lofty preseason expectations — there is no other choice for MVP.
There is, however, one more game to check out in the NFL Week 13 Recap.