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Week 1 predictions: Russell Wilson, Seahawks will top Cardinals

Pete Carroll is a little different, so the Seattle Seahawks coach knows different when he sees it.

And Carroll doesn't mince words when he's asked what is unique about his new quarterback -- the explosive, irrepressible and, most noticeably, 5-foot-10 Russell Wilson.

"Everything is," Carroll said, on his walk out to practice Wednesday. "His smarts, his focus, his discipline, his attention to detail, his work habits, his athleticism, his competitiveness, his confidence. Really, however you can rank them, he's that high on the list in all those areas. Now, all of those things will be in question in the real season, and he needs to back all that up. But if you observe him, if you know him, you think it'll happen."

The 10 starting quarterbacks with one season or less of pro experience who will take the field in Week 1 all have stories of how they landed on the first team. Nine of the 10 were taken in the top 35 picks of the draft, and their teams are looking for reasons to play them. Not so for Wilson, the 75th overall pick in the 2012 draft.

The Seahawks initially planned to use a 4-4-1 format in splitting first-team reps between incumbent Tarvaris Jackson, high-profile free-agent import Matt Flynn and Wilson, to try and find their starter. But Wilson was so good in his first weekend at work, a rookie minicamp in early May, that Seattle scrapped the original script and decided to go forward with a 3-3-3 format instead.

"It was important for him to maximize that minicamp," Carroll said. "We tried to get him as much opportunity as we could there, get him ready to compete, to give him a lead-in by taking every snap. And it jumpstarted everything."

What's stunned many in the Seahawks organization has been the consistency of performance by Wilson relative to most rookies that come into the league. First-year players, almost systematically, hit a wall at some point during camp, and it can take a while to fight out of it. Wilson did hit a wall, like the rest of them, but it only took a day or two for him to bounce back.

That's why, when assessing Seattle's Week 1 game against Arizona, it might be wise to look at Wilson as something other than a snot-nosed rookie. Carroll and Co. don't plan to treat him like one. Last year, Carolina liked that Cam Newton had been adaptable from Florida to Blinn College to Auburn and was confident it'd carry over. Seattle feels the same way about Wilson, who made a similarly seamless transition from N.C. State to Wisconsin in 2011.

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"We have high hopes for him, that's for sure," Carroll said. "We have an expectation that he won't have the rough times some other guys have. I don't think he's ever suffered from that stuff. Maybe he will, but I'm anticipating he'll be out there and ready to go."

When Carroll is asked if starting Matt Barkley as a true freshman at USC in 2009 at all played into his comfort level with Wilson in Seattle, he responds quickly -- "Certainly" -- and says the most striking similarity between two very different players is that no situation seems too big for either.

More than anything else, this is about what Wilson has proven to Carroll. If Carroll was going to stick to his "Always Compete" mantra, Wilson had to be the pick. The feeling inside the building was that Wilson needed to be noticeably better than the competition to win the job. And he was, to the point where the only drawback seems to be his stature.

"(If he was 6-foot-4), he'd have been vying to be the first pick," Carroll said. "He has everything you look for -- all the records, the numbers, he did everything. He'd be right up there with Andrew (Luck), and you'd be trying to figure it out. That's my opinion. I just look at him, and think that there's nothing he can't do."

A little over the top? This weekend, we'll start to get answers.

***

Albert Breer went 162-89 with his predictions last season. How will he fare in Week 1? His picks are below, with home teams listed second:

Brian Urlacher gutting through his knee injury will set the same type of tone for Chicago that Jason Witten achieved for Dallas. The implication is clear: Chicago is in win-now mode. #INDvsCHI

Plenty of big talk out of Philly this offseason, and Mike Vick told me this week that his bravado is by design: "I think it motivates everybody to play at a certain level." That level should be a high one Sunday. #PHIvsCLE

The Rams are gonna grow up as the year goes on, and their defense has a chance to be nasty when fall turns to winter. But at this point, the firing squad of Matt Stafford and Calvin Johnson is just too much. #STLvsDET

Take a hard look at it, and the Texans might be the only team in the AFC with a better-than-good chance to be elite on both sides of the ball. Not the best spot for Joe Philbin and Ryan Tannehill to make their debut. #MIAvsHOU

On both sides of the ball, with new coordinators, the Falcons are looking to take on a more wide-open, gun-slinging look. And with Atlanta's receiver trio of Roddy White, Julio Jones and Harry Douglas, I bet the loss of Brandon Carr is felt in K.C. this week. #ATLvsKC

The question isn't whether or not Maurice Jones-Drew will take some lumps coming off his holdout; it's how many. And Adrian Peterson's coming off an ACL tear. So we should get a good look at how far Blaine Gabbert and Christian Ponder have come. #JACvsMIN

This won't be quite like the atmosphere in the first post-Katrina game at the Superdome, but it might be the closest thing since. After all the Saints have been through this offseason, Robert Griffin III is walking into a hornet's nest Sunday. #WASvsNO

What's been hiding behind Tebowmania and NoEndZoneGate in Jersey? A defense that has a chance, if it can stay healthy, to be among the league's best. Those guys will keep the Bills in check, and do some scoring of their own, at the Meadowlands. #BUFvsNYJ

Expect the Patriots to come out in up-tempo fashion, score early and put the pressure on Jake Locker to lead the Titans back through the air. And when it's over, Locker won't be the Titans' problem; Tom Brady will be. #NEvsTEN

Am I as sure about Wilson as Carroll is? Can't go that far. But I like him plenty -- definitely more than John Skelton -- and my guess is he can do enough to beat Arizona in the desert. #SEAvsARI

This isn't an indictment on the 49ers' defense, which I expect to be at the top of the NFL once again. It's more an endorsement of a Packers offense that, on paper, looks like it could be even better than it was last season. #SFvsGB

Cam Newton wasn't overly impressive in the preseason, but the Panthers also didn't take the chances they will Sunday. It will make for a tough debut for Greg Schiano. #CARvsTB

Two conclusions I'm drawing here. Peyton Manning will be fine. And so will Mike Wallace, who came in last Saturday to work all day one-on-one with his position coach and floored coordinator Todd Haley and the offensive staff with his knowledge of the new scheme. #PITvsDEN

Joe Flacco has been seen as a quarterback whose numbers are depressed by the system he plays in and what he's being asked to do. This year, with Terrell Suggs down and the Ravens going more fast-break on offense, that will change. #CINvsBAL

It's easy to sense the purpose Philip Rivers seems to be carrying into 2012. He'll need to play with it early on, with Vincent Jackson gone, and Ryan Mathews and Vincent Brown rehabbing. #SDvsOAK

Follow Albert Breer on Twitter @albertbreer.

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