Arguing which NFL quarterback is most valuable to his team is a twisted debate with no definitive answer. The most popular answer would be Tom Brady.
But two other strong candidates are going head to head Sunday night in Seattle, where Russell Wilson will represent the Seahawks’ best shot at an upset. Imagine how hopeless this home underdog would be if Wilson were replaced by a mediocre quarterback.
Operating behind a leaky offensive line and with a lame running game, Wilson must be an improvisational magician to keep the Seahawks in the hunt. Wilson has 23 touchdown passes this season to rank third in the league behind Carson Wentz (28) and Brady (26).
Wentz and the Philadelphia Eagles (10-1 straight up, 9-2 against the spread) are 5-point favorites in a game that figures to be their toughest test since mid-October. The Eagles have won each of their past five games by double digits, yet their past four opponents — Chicago, Dallas, Denver and San Francisco — were offensively inept.
Seattle (7-4) has not lost a game by more than three points since Week 3, and that’s mostly a credit to Wilson, who will need to be a dynamic playmaker against Philadelphia, which ranks No. 1 in run defense (65.1 yards per game) and No. 3 in scoring defense (17.4).
The back end of the Seattle defense is depleted without strong safety Kam Chancellor and cornerback Richard Sherman. Expect the Eagles to grind out a win in one of the league’s loudest, toughest atmospheres, but Wilson will put up a fight. I’ll take the points.
Four more guesses for Week 13 (home team in CAPS):
* 49ers (plus-3) over BEARS: Finally, San Francisco is starting its franchise quarterback. Jimmy Garoppolo should energize a one-win team through his presence and his play. Mitchell Trubisky is the future in Chicago. He’s young and he’s got little help, but he’s the real deal, and that will show when his surrounding cast improves. In this matchup, Garoppolo is the better quarterback. And the Bears are 0-6 as home favorites under coach John Fox, who should have no future in Chicago.
* Vikings (plus-3) over FALCONS: Case Keenum has completed 66 percent of his passes with 14 touchdowns and five interceptions to trigger a seven-game win streak for Minnesota (9-2). Mike Zimmer’s defense ranks fifth in the league in yards allowed (290.4 per game) and scoring (17.7), and Xavier Rhodes, the Vikings’ Pro Bowl cornerback, is capable of matching up with Julio Jones. Both teams are in bet-on form, but the ‘dog is the slightly better team.
* PACKERS (-2½) over Buccaneers: If Green Bay loses this game to a Tampa Bay team in disarray, coach Mike McCarthy should be fired by Monday. The Packers are 1-4 straight up and 2-3 ATS without Aaron Rodgers at quarterback. Brett Hundley is improving, but Hundley is 0-3 as a Lambeau Field underdog. Jameis Winston, who rates as no upgrade over Ryan Fitzpatrick at this point, is returning for the Buccaneers.
* Giants (plus-8½) over RAIDERS: When dysfunctional teams in bet-against form collide, take the points. It’s not that easy in this case, of course, because who knows if the Giants will give a big effort after coach Ben McAdoo’s clumsy benching of Eli Manning? This probably will be Geno Smith’s first and last start for the Giants. Derek Carr is without his top two wide receivers. Still, Carr will deliver an ugly win for Oakland, which is 2-6-1 ATS in its past nine games.
Last week: 1-4 against the spread