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By the numbers: Russell Wilson at the halfway point

NFL: Washington Redskins at Seattle Seahawks Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

At the midpoint of the 2017 NFL season, Russell Wilson is on pace for his most prolific passing season ever, both in terms of yards and touchdowns:

Wilson’s stats through 8 games, 2012-2017

Wilson’s passing efficiency has been well above league average every single year of his NFL career (including 2 standard deviations above league average in 2015!) but one of the criticisms of Wilson in the past has been that he had lower volume compared to some of his peers.

Well now we can cross that one off the list.

I’d be lying if I said this stat didn’t surprise me: Russell Wilson leads the league in yardage (pass + rush) through 8 games and accounts for 85% (!) of the Seahawks offense. How that compares to other notable MVP candidates: 78% for Tom Brady (Patriots), 77% for Alex Smith (Chiefs), and 76% for Carson Wentz (Eagles), as Aaron Levine of Q13 Fox pointed out this week.

Russell Wilson is carrying this team on his back, as the kids would say.

2017 NFL Yardage Leaders (Pass + Rush), Games 1-8

Rank Quarterback Team Games Pass Yds Rush Yds Total Yds
Rank Quarterback Team Games Pass Yds Rush Yds Total Yds
1 Russell Wilson SEA 8 2305 271 2576
2 Tom Brady NWE 8 2541 28 2569
3 Alex Smith KAN 8 2181 154 2335
4 Matthew Stafford DET 8 2212 68 2280
5 Kirk Cousins WAS 8 2147 125 2272
6 Carson Wentz PHI 8 2063 203 2266
7 Matt Ryan ATL 8 2157 79 2236
8 Drew Brees NOR 8 2214 3 2217
9 Cam Newton CAR 8 1841 255 2096
10 Jared Goff RAM 8 2030 45 2075

Darrell Bevell certainly has trust in his QB’s ability to carry the load as well; Bevell has called the highest percentage of pass plays of his career over the last two seasons - even more than he did with gunslinger Brett Favre in Minnesota:

OC Darrell Bevell Pass/Run Play Distribution, 2007-2017

Year Team Games Plays Pass% Rush % Plays/Game
Year Team Games Plays Pass% Rush % Plays/Game
2007 MIN 16 966 49% 51% 60.4
2008 MIN 16 1015 49% 51% 63.4
2009 MIN 16 1053 56% 44% 65.8
2010 MIN 16 982 55% 45% 61.4
2012 SEA 16 974 45% 55% 60.9
2013 SEA 16 974 48% 52% 60.9
2014 SEA 16 1021 49% 51% 63.8
2015 SEA 16 1035 52% 48% 64.7
2016 SEA 16 1012 60% 40% 63.3
2017 SEA 7 463 59% 41% 66.1

Even in spite of the early-career reputation of being a “low volume” quarterback, Wilson has always ranked highly in the percentage of the offensive load that he carries. 2017, however, is off the charts - primarily because of this:

2017 Seahawks Rushing Leaders, Games 1-8

Rank Player Games Rush Yds
Rank Player Games Rush Yds
1 Russell Wilson 8 271
2 Chris Carson 4 208
3 Eddie Lacy 6 128
4 Thomas Rawls 6 98
5 J.D. McKissic 5 66
6 Tyler Lockett 8 44
7 C.J. Prosise 4 20

Wilson through 8 games is both Seattle’s leading passer and leading rusher – something which few QBs in NFL history have done, and which no QB has done over a full season since Cam Newton in 2012.

Most Seahawks fans would likely prefer Wilson not having to shoulder nearly as significant a load, and hopefully last week’s performance by Thomas Rawls is a sign of an improved run game going forward.

Advanced stat rankings

Passer Rating: 11th

ANY/A: 8th

ESPN QBR: 12th

Football Outsiders DVOA: 13th (not yet updated through Week 9)

TheGridFe TAY/P: 9th

Wilson’s advanced stat rankings suggest he’s hovering right around the 10th best QB of the season, so he definitely has some room for statistical improvement over the second half of the season. But he has also shown that his ability to come through in the clutch with late game heroics is as sharp as ever, having led two 4th quarter comebacks/game winning drives (nearly a 3rd vs Washington) with a 129.7 passer rating in the 4th quarter through 8 games - by far the highest in the NFL:

2017 4th Quarter Passer Rating Leaders, Games 1-8

Rank Player Attempts Rate
Rank Player Attempts Rate
1 Russell Wilson 86 129.7
2 Aaron Rodgers 56 115.1
3 Drew Brees 70 107.6
4 Philip Rivers 97 102.3
5 Eli Manning 85 100.1
6 Alex Smith 79 99.8
7 Tom Brady 69 99.5
8 Marcus Mariota 45 99.0
9 Matt Ryan 83 97.2
10 Deshaun Watson 59 95.9

Award outlook

Pro Bowl:

A week ago Wilson was looking like a shoo-in for the Pro Bowl, but the loss to Washington makes the outlook a bit murkier. Win record is a significant factor in Pro Bowl selections (particularly for QBs) and the top of the NFC is crowded with good quarterbacks who currently have winning records. 2017 Pro Bowl voting hasn’t yet begun but historically has started as early as mid-October, so Wilson needs to have a strong stretch of games immediately to solidify his spot.


The Washington performance also delivered a hit to Wilson’s MVP odds, sending him from 8-1 before the loss to 12-1 today (via Unibet). He still ranks 4th in MVP odds, behind only Carson Wentz, Alex Smith, and Tom Brady. Luckily MVP voting doesn’t begin until after the regular season is over, so the race is still wide open (Philip Rivers led the MVP race at the midway point of 2015 for example, and at the end of the season didn’t receive a single vote. A lot can change in the next 8 weeks.)

Overall, it’s not fair to say that this is Wilson’s best career season because 2015 exists. That being said, through eight games of 2015, Wilson had thrown nine touchdowns, six interceptions, and had a rating of 95. It wasn’t until his 10th game of the season that he began one of the hottest 10 stretches by a quarterback in NFL history. And that is something consistent with his entire career: He gets better as the season goes on.

The fact that he’s already thrown 17 touchdowns and leads the NFL in combined passing+rushing yards through eight games means that we have no idea where he’ll finish and how he’ll get there. He’s doing something he’s never done before and while that does include expected growing pains, it’s also encouraging that he’s done it by having a lot more successes than he has failures.

Let’s see what happens next.