NFL Winners and Losers: At $140 million, potential MVP Russell Wilson might be bargain to Seahawks

Russell Wilson is one of the NFL’s blank check players. Meaning, the Seattle Seahawks should just hand him a blank check and tell him to write in whatever he wants.

There was contract angst this offseason. Wilson wanted an extension. He set a deadline of April 15 for Seattle to get it done. The only question was how much Seattle would pay. The answer was $140 million over four years.

Wilson has never won an MVP, but he has done just about everything else. He is a Super Bowl champion and one of the greatest quarterbacks of this generation. He looks like a future Hall of Famer. And he might win that MVP this season.

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Wilson was brilliant again on Sunday, as he puts together the type of season that could be historic. Wilson had 295 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions in a 32-28 win over the Cleveland Browns. When the Browns took a late lead, Wilson calmly led a game-winning drive in the final five minutes.

The Seahawks are 5-1. If they didn’t have Wilson, it’s fair to wonder if that record would be flipped. Wilson is the very definition of valuable.

The Seahawks have made some odd organizational decisions, but it doesn’t matter because Wilson erases so many mistakes. Seattle wants to play a run-first style in a pass-first NFL. They’ve let several superstars from the “Legion of Boom” era go. They have not done a great job getting Wilson a competent offensive line or a great set of receivers. Wilson just thrives with whatever he’s given.

Wilson has 14 touchdowns and no interceptions this season. His 117.6 passer rating on Sunday actually brought down his rating for the season. He came into Sunday with a league-leading 128.4 rating. The NFL’s single-season record is 122.5 by Aaron Rodgers.

MVP awards aren’t given out after six games, but Wilson has built a good foundation through Week 6. And he has reminded us all again that he’s a transcendent player, one capable of carrying his team beyond where it probably should go. Wilson is playing at a remarkable level with a set of receivers that is a bit light. Tyler Lockett is very good and D.K. Metcalf is an exciting rookie, but Wilson isn’t throwing to an endless parade of stars. And he lost tight end Will Dissly to an injury early on Sunday.

Wilson is worth all of that contract extension he demanded, and maybe more.

No matter what else is happening with Seattle, as long as the Seahawks have Wilson they’ll always be playoff contenders. There aren’t many quarterbacks you can say that about.

Russell Wilson scores a touchdown against the Cleveland Browns. (Getty Images)
Russell Wilson scores a touchdown against the Cleveland Browns. (Getty Images)

Here are the NFL winners and losers from Sunday’s Week 6 action:

WINNERS

Robert Saleh: The Fox cameras kept finding a young, energetic coach on the sideline during the 49ers-Rams games, and it wasn’t Sean McVay.

Over and over, Fox showed 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh pumping his fists, jumping around and screaming after a big play by the defense. He deserved all the air time he got.

The 49ers defense was awesome in a 20-7 win over the Rams that seemed a little more significant than just a normal Week 6 win. The Rams have been getting by all season, and the 49ers looked like the far better team on Sunday. Their win was decisive and dominant. They looked like the best team in the NFC West, if it’s not the Seattle Seahawks. The Rams aren’t part of that conversation at the moment. The Rams usually don’t have much trouble moving the ball. On Sunday, the 49ers held them to 165 yards. Jared Goff rarely had any time to set up and throw. Goff was sacked four times and had only 78 yards passing. The 49ers’ investments into the defensive line are paying off. San Francisco might have the best defensive line in the game.

The 40-year-old Saleh is the one orchestrating that defense. It has improved in each of his three seasons as 49ers defensive coordinator. San Francisco is 5-0, the last remaining undefeated team in the NFC, and there should be no more 49ers doubters left after Sunday.

Ron Rivera: The Panthers were 0-2, coming off a bad home loss to the Buccaneers. Rivera’s decision making was questioned after that game. It seemed his job security was shaky. And he had to go forward without Cam Newton.

The Panthers are 4-0 since then. Kyle Allen’s emergence is the biggest headline. Christian McCaffrey has been perhaps the best player in the NFL. The defense, led by the great Luke Kuechly, has been a driving force in the winning streak.

But don’t forget about Rivera. As he has done in the past, Rivera has navigated a rough start and has the Panthers playing very well. The 37-26 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was impressive. The defense and special teams forced seven turnovers. McCaffrey was great again with a pair of touchdowns. Allen threw for two touchdowns and generally looked good again.

Rivera’s biggest challenge may be in front of him. At some point Newton, the former MVP and face of the franchise, will return from a foot injury. But the Panthers are playing very well with Allen. If Newton isn’t going to be a runner anymore, it’s arguable that Allen might be their best option. It will be a difficult situation for Rivera to figure out although the Panthers should feel good about having him making the right decision.

Kirk Cousins: This is what the Vikings paid for. Not that one big game against a quality opponent means Cousins was worth that $84 million contract. But it helps.

Cousins has played well against bad opponents and has mostly disappeared against good opponents since signing with the Vikings last year. That wasn’t the case on Sunday. He torched the Eagles.

Stefon Diggs, who was reportedly unhappy with his role a couple weeks ago, went off for three touchdowns. Adam Thielen, who complained about the offense two weeks ago, also caught a touchdown.

The Vikings have a lot of good pieces. Their defense is full of playmakers. Dalvin Cook is having a great third NFL season. Diggs and Thielen might be the best 1-2 receiver punch in football. But the Vikings aren’t going to go to the next level without Cousins playing his best against Minnesota’s toughest opponents. Maybe Sunday was a breakthrough.

Sean Payton and Dennis Allen: While there are plenty of good early candidates, it would be hard to argue against Payton as NFL Coach of the Year if the balloting happened today. And Allen might be among the league’s top assistants.

The Saints lost quarterback Drew Brees for what was to be about six weeks. It seemed 3-3 would be a good outcome in Brees’ absence. The Saints are 4-0. They have mostly transformed their identity, and are now a grind-it-out defensive team. That’s where Allen comes in.

Allen has been the Saints’ defensive coordinator since 2015. In that time, New Orleans’ defense has gone from one of the worst in the league to one that has carried the team to four straight wins while Brees is out. They shut down the Jaguars on the road Sunday in a 13-6 win. Allen, who had a miserable stretch of two-plus years as Oakland Raiders head coach, might be getting himself back in the head-coaching candidate mix. At very least, he’s having a fine season. The Saints will get Brees back, and he should be pleased at New Orleans’ record when he returns.

LOSERS

Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota: Since the top two picks of the 2015 draft are connected forever, it made sense they hit new lows together on Sunday.

In London, Winston threw five interceptions and lost a fumble in a loss to the Carolina Panthers. It was the kind of performance that Buccaneers fans know all too well. Winston has good moments, but they’re overshadowed by the many mistakes. The Buccaneers don’t have much else behind Winston so he’ll presumably continue to start, but they can’t feel good about offering him a big extension.

The chances of Mariota getting an extension from the Titans don’t look great after Sunday. Mariota might have been even worse than Winston, who at least moved the ball between his turnovers. Mariota was 7-of-18 for 63 yards and two interceptions and the Titans trailed 13-0 when he was benched for Ryan Tannehill. Even if Mariota gets another start in Tennessee’s next game, his inconsistency is a big problem.

Mariota and Winston have failed to establish themselves as top-end quarterbacks, and they each entered this season on the final year of their contract. It was a make-or-break season for both, and it’s not going all that well for either.

Matt Bryant: It’s not Bryant’s fault the Falcons lost. The defense could have gotten more stops. No one player loses a game.

But Bryant looked like he felt sick after his missed extra point with 1:53 left. Devonta Freeman scored to cut Arizona’s lead to 34-33, and Bryant’s extra point was going to tie it up. Even at 44 years old, Bryant is still reliable. When he lined up he had hit all 13 of his extra-point attempts this season, and 566-of-573 in his career. And he missed wide left. The Falcons lost 34-33.

The Falcons are having a rough season. They’re 1-5. There will be many questions about coach Dan Quinn, who is the favorite to be the second NFL coach fired this season. Bryant wasn’t the problem on Sunday, but that miss had to feel miserable.

Eagles defense: The Eagles have yet to find consistency this season. Injuries have played a big role. But they could play a lot better, especially on defense.

Kirk Cousins and Stefon Diggs will get the credit for what happened Sunday. But don’t forget to blame the Eagles’ secondary. Diggs was running by that group like it wasn’t there. Cousins picked them apart. The Eagles’ cornerback situation was a potential issue, and injuries to Ronald Darby and Avonte Maddox haven’t helped. Injuries aside, the Eagles need to figure out their defensive issues.

Philadelphia started the season in a 1-2 hole, then a big win at Green Bay seemed to get them back on track. After a brutal performance in Minnesota, the Eagles have more questions to answer.

The Dolphins’ chances of not going 0-16: The NFL season is long, strange things happen and most teams get more than one chance to win a game.

The 2019 Dolphins, however, are not most teams.

Miami, off to perhaps the worst 0-4 start in the NFL’s modern era, had a chance to leave the Washington Redskins, Cincinnati Bengals and New York Jets to deal with the 0-16 questions. Ryan Fitzpatrick came in for the ineffective Josh Rosen and led the Dolphins to a couple scores in the second half against Washington, which was also winless and terrible. Miami’s second touchdown came in the final seconds and cut Washington’s lead to 17-16. The Dolphins went for the two-point conversion, which was the right decision. Then Miami called a bad inside screen pass to running back Kenyan Drake, which was not a good decision. Drake dropped it, but he had no chance to score even if he did catch it.

Miami could get a win before the season is over, and nobody remembers the 1-15 or 2-14 teams through history. It’s also possible Sunday was the best shot the Dolphins will get at a victory all season, and they couldn’t get it done.

Patriots haters: Should we start Super Bowl promos with the New England Patriots as the AFC champions?

The AFC looked like a two-team race a couple weeks ago. Now it looks like Secretariat blowing away the rest of the field, with the Patriots leading by a million lengths. The Chiefs are vulnerable. Their injuries have piled up, and they dropped a second straight home game to the Houston Texans. Losing to the Indianapolis Colts or Texans isn’t that bad, even at home, and the Chiefs should be better when they’re healthy. But they’re already two games behind the 6-0 Patriots. It would be a major upset if New England doesn’t get home-field advantage through the playoffs.

Every other team in the AFC has at least two losses except the Buffalo Bills, and the Bills already lost at home to the Patriots. It’s hard to imagine anyone beating the Patriots in January at Gillette Stadium.

The Chiefs have some things to figure out and probably will. They’re still likely to win the AFC West and maybe even be the No. 2 seed in the conference. It’s looking like no other team is close to the Patriots’ class.

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Frank Schwab is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdown.corner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab



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