Here’s what I think we can safely say about Russell Wilson and the NFL MVP voting in 2019 — he’s going to get some votes for the first time in his career.
That Wilson has never received a vote seems surprising on the surface, given that he has undoubtedly been one of the league’s most valuable players in every season since joining the NFL in 2012.
But as the end of the season draws nearer and the debate begins to truly heat up, it may be worth remembering how the voting works.
Unlike some sports, such as Major League Baseball, where voters vote for their top-10 players, each NFL MVP voter simply selects one.
So, 50 voters means 50 total votes. There’s no doubt a lot of voters have had Wilson on their lists for consideration. But you can pick only one.
The 50 voters are assembled by The Associated Press (the NFL considers the AP awards as its official awards) include beat writers in every city and a handful of national reporters. The AP hopes the assemblage represents “a cross-section’’ of media who cover the league.
And for the whole “the voters don’t know anything about football’’ crowd that typically arises each year (often from players themselves), among the voters last year were eight former players who work in the media, including Troy Aikman, Tony Dungy, Boomer Esiason, Rich Gannon, James Lofton and James Harrison.
Dungy memorably gave his vote to Bobby Wagner in 2014, saying that the linebacker and New England tight end Rob Gronkowski were the “biggest difference makers on (the) two best teams’’ in the NFL that year. That is the only vote for NFL MVP any Seahawk has gotten in the Pete Carroll era (the only Seahawk to win the award was Shaun Alexander in 2005).
Aaron Rodgers won the award the year Wagner got his vote in 2014 with 31 votes, a rare time in recent seasons when the winner hasn’t had 80 percent or more. Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes won it last year with 41 votes (Drew Brees got the other nine) and Tom Brady won it in 2017 with 40 votes (Todd Gurley got eight votes and Carson Wentz two).
This could be another year when the voters are split.
While cases can be made for five or six candidates, there appears to be a top three of Wilson, Baltimore quarterback Lamar Jackson and Houston’s Deshaun Watson.
That’s not my word on that, but rather the odds posted Friday by OddShark.com (you’re never going to go wrong following the money when it comes to these things).
OddShark had Wilson as the favorite at plus-225 (meaning, if you put $100 on Wilson you’d win $225).
Jackson was close behind at plus-250 with Watson third at plus-600. Rodgers and Christian McCaffrey were tied for fourth at plus-900 and players such as Dak Prescott, Kirk Cousins and Mahomes — who’d be among the leaders if he hadn’t missed two games — could still make a run.
Let’s review the cases for the top three.
Case for: Seattle is 8-2 despite a defense that ranks 24th in yards allowed and 23rd in points allowed, has just one proven veteran receiver (Tyler Lockett) and one emerging rookie (DK Metcalf). He lost Will Dissly early in the season, and has a running game that is not as productive as last year and remains more heavily dependent on Wilson to make it go than those who don’t watch the Seahawks every week may realize. His five game-winning drives and four fourth-quarter comebacks are each the most in the NFL and in each case two more than any other QB in the league other than Buffalo’s Josh Allen.
Case against: He’s never going to be six feet tall.
Case for: As great as Wilson has been, this is beginning to feel like a year defined by the increasingly spectacular plays turned in each week by Jackson, as the dynamic second-year QB has led the Ravens to a 7-2 record. He’s shown to be a far more accomplished passer than some might have anticipated (his rating of 101.7 is better than the likes of Tom Brady, Matt Ryan, Jimmy Garoppolo, Carson Wentz and Philip Rivers, to name a few). And with 702 yards rushing he’s on pace to shatter the record for most rushing yards by a quarterback in a season set by Michael Vick with 1,039 in 2006.
Case against: It’s hard to find much not to like about Jackson’s résumé. The next three weeks could determine where Jackson will fall in this race as the Ravens host Houston and Watson Sunday, play at the Rams and host the 49ers. Expect MVP voters to pay a lot of attention to how Jackson does against the NFC West teams that Wilson will play twice.
Case for: He’s tied for third in TD passes with 18 behind Wilson’s 23 (and he’s played one fewer game than Wilson) and is fourth in passer rating. And like Wilson, his running ability helps open up his team’s running game more than his own raw numbers may suggest (which I point out because it’s often pointed out how greatly Jackson impacts Baltimore’s rushing attack). Like Wilson, Watson is always a threat to run and has 279 yards rushing for a team that averages 5.0 per carry, third in the NFL behind only the 5.5 of the Ravens and 5.1 of the Panthers.
Case against: Houston’s somewhat slow start — 4-3 before winning the last two — has made Watson have to come from behind in this race. But he could surge greatly with big games the next three weeks against Jackson and the Ravens on Sunday, the Colts next Thursday night and the Patriots on Dec. 1 in a prime-time Sunday night game.