No team has ever won three straight NFC Championships, and when the Seattle Seahawks started the season at 2-4, it certainly looked like they wouldn’t become the first. But after a thorough beating of the Minnesota Vikings on their home turf on Sunday, the rest of the NFC is back on notice: The Seahawks aren’t done just yet.
That has a lot to do with their suddenly surging quarterback, who should no longer be considered in a class below the NFL “elites.”
Led by Russell Wilson, Seattle put up 433 total yards of offense in the 38-7 rout, with Wilson throwing for three touchdowns and adding another on the ground. Wilson has been on an absolute torrid pace over the last three games: completing 76.6 percent of his passes, averaging 293 yards per game, throwing for 11 touchdowns (and no interceptions) and running for 95 yards and a score. No quarterback this season has had a tear quite like the one that Wilson is currently on, which should at least put him in the MVP conversation if the Seahawks continue to win.
Wilson has been quietly consistent despite Seattle’s early season struggles. He’s thrown at least one touchdown in all 12 games this season, he’s had a passer rating of 80 or better in all but one game and his passer rating on the season is now up to 106.2. Only 13 quarterbacks have ever posted a passer rating of at least 106 for a full season, and many of them – Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning, Steve Young, Joe Montana – have been MVPs.
What’s perhaps even more impressive than the numbers though is the context.
The Seahawks have notably had one of the worst offensive lines in the league this season. Wilson was sacked for an NFL-high 38th time on Sunday (though that has improved over the last five games, allowing him to spread his wings and fly), yet he’s only improved as a pocket passer as the year has gone on.
And he’s done it with a corps of wide receivers that does not include a single Antonio Brown or Rob Gronkowski – or even a Jimmy Graham. And while many have argued that Marshawn Lynch has been carrying Wilson for much of his career, now Wilson has been playing primarily without Beast Mode…and looking better than ever.
There’s also the competition he’s faced.
The Vikings came into Week 13 as the second-ranked scoring defense in the NFL. The 38 points Seattle scored on Sunday were the most Minnesota has allowed all season. Even Rodgers faced them just two weeks ago and finished with a modest 212 yards and two touchdowns, but completed just 47 percent of his passes. But there are still four games left, and Seattle would at least need to make the playoffs – if not win out, with Wilson continuing to play at a sky-high level – for him to actually get MVP consideration, right?
It might happen. The Seahawks’ next three opponents are all using backup quarterbacks and should allow for at least the softest schedule in the league: The Baltimore Ravens, Cleveland Browns and St. Louis Rams. The Ravens and Browns have two of the worst pass defenses in the NFL, while the Rams are spiraling out of control having lost five straight. Wilson also happens to own the second-highest December passer rating in NFL history at 102.8, just 0.1 points behind Rodgers.
Then in the regular-season finale, Wilson and Seattle will face their toughest foe: The Arizona Cardinals.
In a Week 10 loss to the Cards, Wilson had his worst game of the season, completing just 43.7 percent of his passes with a rating of 67.2. That defeat – at home, nonetheless – looked to have killed Seattle’s chances of winning the NFC West. But my, how things have changed in the three weeks since: The Seahawks have won three straight, and if they keep rolling, that Week 17 showdown in Arizona might determine divisional supremacy…and a whole lot more.
Like maybe the NFC title. It certainly seems possible, thanks in no small part to Russell Wilson – the 5-foot-10 quarterback who’s playing bigger than any other QB in the league.