The Seahawks are 3-0 to start the 2020 NFL season despite battling injuries, poor defense, inconsistency in running the ball and an inability to protect leads — all because they have an elite quarterback who’s playing the position better than anyone else in the league.
Forget Russell Wilson winning his first league MVP award for his unprecedented three-game statistical performance — that’s a lock now as he’s an unstoppable front-runner. Move on to him chasing history — the best single season ever by an NFL quarterback.
Wilson, fresh off outdueling previous MVPs Matt Ryan and Cam Newton in thrilling wins over the Falcons and Patriots in Weeks 1 and 2, respectively, came through again in Week 3 with Dak Prescott and Cowboys on the other side.
SN’s NFL QB RANKINGS: Wilson entered Week 3 at No. 1
In three consecutive high-scoring affairs, Seattle has posted 111 points total, thanks to Wilson throwing 14 touchdown passes total, the most by any quarterback after three games.
It’s simple why Wilson hasn’t won MVP since entering the league, even though he starred immediately in this rookie season, has never had a losing season and has made every start for the Seahawks since 2012. Before Newton and Ryan, Aaron Rodgers (twice) and Peyton Manning — with a 2,097-yard rushing season by Adrian Peterson in between — put up eye-popping, proficient and efficient passing numbers. After Newton and Ryan, Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson put up back-to-back top-10 all-time seasons.
With the NFL’s quarterback play at such a high level, Wilson had to put up astronomical stats to have a chance. Message received.
#LetRussCook has happened more out of necessity because the Seahawks aren’t as well-positioned to win games with the traditional running game and defense as they thought they would be because of those injuries and other personnel issues. Because of Wilson, the bottom-line results are there, and the Seahawks shouldn’t shy away from riding his big arm, strong legs and ultra-durable frame.
Let’s start with Wilson’s TD-pass pace, which stands at 75 over a full 16 games. That would shatter the 55-touchdown mark Manning set with the Broncos in 2013 by a healthy 20. Even if Wilson cools off a little, he can get to 56 TDs by averaging a little more than three touchdown passes a game the rest of the way.
Let’s go next to passer rating. Wilson was leading the league at 140.0 going into the Cowboys game, and then he led another late fourth-quarter comeback for a 38-31 win. Wilson rated “only” 130.7 in Week 3 (27-of-40 passing, 315 yards, five TDs, 7.2 yards per attempt). He’s down to 139.0 going into Week 4 at the Dolphins. When Rodgers won MVP in 2011, he set the single-season record with a 122.5 rating. That’s a big 2-for-2 for Wilson.
Let’s also look at completion percentage. Wilson cooled off in this area as well in Week 3 at 67.5 percent after coming in at 82.5 percent. With his pinpoint downfield accuracy on even the deepest of balls, he’s “down” to 76.9. That also is a record pace, ahead of MVP-less Drew Brees’ 74.4 percent in 2018.
Let’s not overrate passing yards in this equation. Wilson, with his 925 yards, isn’t on pace to hit 5,000, something only eight players — Brees five times — have done. But Wilson’s projected total of 4,933 would blow away his own career high and tie him for 17th in a single season with Eli Manning, right behind Ryan’s 4,944 from his 2016 MVP run. Three out of four is still pretty elite.
Let’s turn to passing yards per attempt for a better read on what Wilson is doing, then. He came into Week 3 at 9.68 yards per attempt. That is now down to 8.98 yards per attempt. The single-season record remains unbreakable, given the Browns’ Tommy O’Connell averaged 11.17 on his era-appropriate 110 total attempts in 1957.
When looking at modern-era passers and not old-school Hall of Famers such as Sid Luckman, Otto Graham and Norm Van Brocklin, Wilson is also chasing history in that category. Kurt Warner averaged a ridiculous 9.9 yards per attempt in 11 games with the Rams in 2000, the year between his two MVP seasons. Ryan was at 9.3 in 2016 and Rodgers was at 9.2 in 2011.
In terms of adjusted yards per passing attempt, which also factors in values for TDs and interceptions, Wilson went into Week 3 at a league-best 11.8. Now we’re cooking, because that would easily be the highest single-season mark ever. He was at 11.3 after the Cowboys game.
There’s still a belief that single-season passing touchdowns are the most marquee of QB records, like home runs in baseball. Some might call passer rating archaic, but it’s a good measure of who’s closest to the highest level of efficiency, the perfect 158.3. It also has a good track record in profiling which quarterbacks are Super Bowl winning-caliber. Wilson has been there and done that, and he’s looking for another ring seven years after his first.
Speaking of Super Bowls, Rodgers (twice), Manning (five times), Newton, Ryan, Mahomes, Jackson and Tom Brady (three times) all have something else in common: None won the Super Bowl after winning regular-season MVP. The last one to pull off the feat was Warner 21 years ago. Joe Montana and Steve Young also were able to finish with rings for the 49ers in 1989 and 1994, respectively, as they put their stamps on stellar statistical runs.
Let’s say Wilson does keep this up, that he keeps carrying the Seahawks and uses big-play wide receivers Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf to produce a season of downfield passing the NFL has not seen since the merger. For him to separate into a special category of his own, a second Super Bowl victory will be the most important number of them all.