Find out how this NFL handicapper predicts the Patriots will deal with Seattle QB Russell Wilson on Sunday's matchup of No. 1 seeds in the Super Bowl, currently at pick'em on NFL odds.
Wilson About to Get Paid
Part of the reason the Seahawks have built the NFL's most-talented roster is because that Wilson has been such an incredible bargain as a 2012 third-round NFL Draft pick out of Wisconsin. He was given a four-year deal worth about $3 million, and he had a cap number of just $681,085 in winning the Super Bowl last season and only $817,302 this season. He wasn't eligible per NFL rules to get an extension. Now he can. And the Seahawks' salary flexibility is going to take a hit because they plan to make Wilson the NFL's highest-paid QB. In terms of average annual value, the highest belongs to Aaron Rodgers at $22 million per season. Part of the reason the Seahawks cut Percy Harvin and recently extended the contracts of defensive stalwarts Cliff Avril and K.J. Wright is to deal with Wilson's contract this offseason.
Wilson's value can really only rise with a second straight Super Bowl win, especially if he is named the game's MVP -- he is the +350 second-favorite at sportsbooks. At 26, Wilson is the youngest quarterback to start two Super Bowls, breaking the mark set by his counterpart Tom Brady, who was 28. In his first three seasons as a starter, including playoffs, Wilson is 42-13 with 11,523 passing yards, 82 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. Brady was 40-12 with 11,591 yards, 75 touchdowns and 41 interceptions.
Even with a huge raise for Wilson, Seattle is in pretty decent shape. The Seahawks' $92.7 million in committed money for 2015 ranks 23rd among all teams and their $116.7 million in committed cap space ranks 24th. The biggest free agent is cornerback Byron Maxwell, but the team also needs to sign Pro Bowl linebacker Bobby Wagner to an extension. He could be a free agent after the 2015 season like Wilson.
Just Manage the Game?
Sometimes Wilson is unfairly called just a game manager, but really that's ideally all Seattle would like him to be. It's not a knock on Wilson, just that Coach Pete Carroll wants to win by running the ball, not turning it over and with a ferocious defense. So while the Patriots are going to win or lose most likely depending on what Brady does against the Seattle defense, the Seahawks could win with simply middling stats from Wilson.
For example, in last year's Super Bowl Wilson threw for just 206 yards but he completed 75 percent of his passes and had two touchdowns and no turnovers. I guarantee you that Seattle would take that again Sunday. Wilson has thrown for less than 200 yards in seven games this season and the Seahawks won five of them. His one 300-yard game they lost.
Honestly, the Patriots won't worry as much about Wilson's arm as Seattle's read-option and whether Wilson can get out of the pocket. Expect the Pats to use Rob Ninkovich as a spy as they did successfully against Andrew Luck in the AFC title game. The Packers did much of the same in the NFC title game, keeping Wilson in the pocket, and Wilson had his worst game as a pro with four interceptions. All four came from inside the pocket, where Wilson threw 27 of his 29 passes. He was held to just 10 rushing yards on three scrambles and 25 total rushing yards on seven carries.
In his NFL career, Wilson has 89 more passes from out of the pocket than any other quarterback and he hasn’t thrown an interception on any of those passes in his past 32 games. He also leads the NFL in scrambles (153) and scramble yards (1,264), averaging 9.8 yards on scrambles in 2014, according to ESPN. Wilson's total QBR from the pocket is 3.7 points lower than the league average this season, while his QBR outside the pocket is 4.4 points higher than league average. Pats coach Bill Belichick has compared Wilson to Roger Staubach.
Most teams tend to blitz Wilson to keep him corralled, but Green Bay went totally the other direction -- except for on the game-winning overtime touchdown pass. It will be interesting to see how New England defends Wilson as the Pats really haven't seen the read option this season. Wilson has been pressured on 36 percent of his career dropbacks, the highest in the NFL. If the Pats do go with the blitz, that leaves some deep shots open. If not, it's basically on Ninkovich (or another spy) to make an open-field tackle. The Seahawks may be OK with that considering Wilson had one of the best rushing seasons for a quarterback in NFL history, carrying 118 times for 849 yards and six touchdowns. Also expect at least a few deep shots from the Seahawks.
NFL Free Props Pick: Wilson is given an 'over/under' of 42.5 rushing yards on NFL odds at sportsbooks. Take the 'over.'