Now that we are past the halfway point of the 2019 season, this is a good time to talk about the MVP candidates, especially since my pick is playing in the Game of the Week.
Through nine weeks, Russell Wilson is the clear choice for MVP if we had to award it today. He leads the NFL in touchdown passes (22), TD% (7.5%), INT% (0.3%), passer rating (118.2) and QBR (78.6). He’s the main reason Seattle, with a pretty weak defense, is 7-2 and has also led four 4QC/GWD (also leads the league).
Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson, Dak Prescott and Lamar Jackson have also done great things this year — wow, Bill Polian might have a stroke — but Wilson has been the most consistently spectacular. I don’t think this is a tough choice as of right now, but things could change in a hurry.
The Seahawks are scheduled to play five straight games against winning teams, including four straight in prime time. This could either lock the MVP up for Wilson on big stages, or see his campaign go down in flames should Seattle falter and miss the playoffs.
While the close wins to overcome the defense have been strong evidence for Wilson’s MVP campaign, the upcoming schedule should definitely give some pause to whether or not they can sustain this success. The Seahawks are just +18 in scoring differential this season. That makes them the 9th team since 1940 to start 7-2 or better with a scoring differential no greater than 20 points:
I will point out that all of those teams made the playoffs. Some reached conference title games and the Super Bowl (1976 OAK even won it all), but this isn’t done often. The NFC is very competitive with what looks like nine teams fighting for six playoff spots. The 49ers (8-0) are the last undefeated team and could force the Seahawks into a Wild Card berth at best. Should Seattle slip in these head-to-head games with their direct competition for those wild cards (Vikings/Eagles/Rams/Panthers all come to mind), then you could see a scenario where a 10-6 Seattle team is left out of the playoffs. Even if Wilson still has the stellar numbers, I can’t imagine anyone voting for a MVP on a non-playoff team. I wouldn’t outside of extreme circumstances, which I don’t think will be present this year since the other QBs are going to have their own cases.
Mahomes still has the best shot in my view, especially if he helps KC run the table (that would mean a win in NE in Week 14). I don’t think missing essentially 2.75 games will detract voters enough, and if they care to dig into the numbers a little deeper, Matt Moore’s QBR (57.7) is nearly 20 points below Mahomes’ (77.2).
Back to the NFC West, the 49ers had one of their best challenges this year in Arizona last time out. Now they will host Wilson and the Seahawks on Monday night. I was not buying into the hype of the SF defense based on the schedule it started the season with — similar to the Patriots’ first eight games compared to what the Ravens brought to the table last week. With the 49ers, there have been great resources poured into the DL over the years. Nick Bosa, Dee Ford and Kwon Alexander (injured reserve) were big additions this year. It is the third year for Kyle Shanahan/Robert Saleh as a HC//DC duo. But I still think the schedule has been very advantageous and the 49ers will have to prove their success when they play Seattle (2x), Green Bay, Baltimore, New Orleans and the Rams again. The schedule is about to get a lot tougher and we’ve seen (a la 2013 Chiefs) how that can expose a paper tiger.
Now if Wilson can pull off this road win, then that’s just going to be another pro argument for his MVP case. He has rarely produced big numbers against the 49ers in his career. While he’s 12-3 against them, he’s never thrown for more than 260 yards in any of those games. The 49ers also have an offense that can score this year with a much better QB, so this probably isn’t going to be a game Seattle can win with < 21 points (Note: do have to monitor if George Kittle will play or not). The 49ers aren’t as stout against the run (20th in DVOA compared to No. 1 vs. pass), so I wouldn’t be surprised if the Seahawks revert to their run-heavy approach this week, putting the onus on Wilson to make things happen on 3rd downs and in the 4Q.
Monday is a very important game for both of these teams. The rematch isn’t until Week 17 where the 49ers could possibly be locked into a bye and could rest starters. Hey, maybe that helps the Seahawks make the playoffs in the end, but as long as the division title is still up for grabs, it would be a real MVP move for Wilson to ball out and get the win on Monday night.
I don’t think that’s going to happen, so expect this to be a topic again down the road.
NFL Week 10 Predictions
I had the Raiders winning 27-23 on TNF and they won 26-24.
I’m glad to see Mahomes back. Need everything you can get to spice up a Tennessee game. I think the Browns can beat Buffalo, but at this point I’m just not going to trust them and roll with the better defense. I like Arians to hang a good number on his old team. I actually think the Jets step up in the terrible New York battle. I have no idea what to expect from Cincinnati QB Ryan Finley. Can he get a backdoor cover like Dalton did against Baltimore? I’m just going to lean on the Ravens to keep rolling. Doing stupid things like trusting the Jets and Bears is probably why I haven’t done so well this year at picking games, but here I am again going with Chicago after reading some shaky reports on Stafford’s health. I think the Steelers can slow down McVay’s offense, but I don’t trust Mason Rudolph against a defense with elite players when he might not have a healthy JuJu available (James Conner already out).
Finally, I noted that Kirk Cousins (0-25) and Dak Prescott (3-13) are a combined 3-38 in their careers when their passer rating is under 85.0. That’s the biggest disparity from record in games above 85.0 among active QBs. So it would be surprising to see one of them win without playing modestly well Sunday night. I figure a Kirk Cousins team on the road against a good pass rush and team that can score sounds like a Vikings loss to me, but we’ll see.