1. Russell Wilson
You heard me … Russell Wilson!
You know where I stand: I believe the quarterback position comes down to 50 percent charisma/personality/leadership/intelligence/coolness-under-pressure, 25 percent hard work and 25 percent talent. If you're the smartest, coolest and most charismatic guy in the huddle, if you're the one who stands out even when 53 dudes are busting each other's balls in the locker room after a practice, if you're the one everyone likes, if there's just something indefinable about you that makes people say, "There's just something special about the way that dude carries himself," you're halfway there. Playoff hockey teams become unbeatable once they believe, "Nobody is scoring on our goalie, he's locked in." (See: Quick, Jonathan, 2012.) Playoff basketball teams become virtually unbeatable when they believe, "Our guy is better than everyone else's guy, period, end of story." (See: James, LeBron, 2012.) And football teams turn into playoff teams when they believe, "I would run through a wall for my quarterback." We have decades and decades of evidence to back this up.
Well, have you read the preseason stories about Wilson? People gush about him like they're Tom Cruise gushing about his latest co-star — Wilson turns people into smiling, raving, super-intense Level Seven Thetans. I've never seen anything like it. Wilson outworked everyone on the Seahawks this summer, showing up every morning at 6:30 a.m. to study film. By mid-August, he was stealing Matt Flynn's job away, and maybe even Pete Carroll from his wife — a giddy Carroll has done everything short of trying to hyphenate his last name to Carroll-Wilson. And every time a national media member crosses paths with Wilson, they're reduced to a trembling pile of goo: like ESPN's Jon Gruden, who recently gushed, "When Russell Wilson walks in the room, you feel his presence. He has an incredible vibe about him that's outstanding for an offensive football team and a team."
You can feel his presence??? Thank God Russell Wilson decided to become a quarterback instead of an evil cult leader — we could have had the next Manson on our hands. Anyway, you know how much I love this stuff. I spent a good three hours Googling Russell Wilson stories last week and getting more and more sucked in. Did you know he transferred from North Carolina State to Wisconsin after his junior year, only none of the NC State fans held it against him — if anything, they kept rooting for him??? Did you know Wisconsin fans gush about Wilson the same way they once gushed about Dwyane Wade? Did you know that Wilson once struck a deer with his car, then brought the deer back to life just by touching it? (Fine, I made that one up.) Did you know Wilson repeatedly says things like "I want to be great" and actually seems like he believes it?
I feel like Russell Wilson fell out of the sky for me. He vindicates everything I ever thought about football — that it takes more than just talent, that it doesn't always have to make sense, that it's more of a chemistry/personality/intangible sport than we think, that there's no safer bet than a talented kid with a chip on his shoulder who spent his entire career proving people wrong (and can't wait to do it again). He's a shorter Drew Brees with even more to prove. He's the ultimate litmus test — a QB who fell 50 picks too late because of his height, and now he wants to shove that indignity in everyone's face. Throw in Seattle's sneaky-good defense, its killer home-field advantage, a quality running game and a city that's been dying — repeat: dying — to have a sports hero again, and to absolutely nobody's surprise, I'm riding shotgun in the Cult of Russell this season.6
Will the Seahawks win 11-12 games? I say yes.
Will they win the NFC West? I say yes.
Will they make the Super Bowl? (Deep breath.) YES! I'm picking a Ravens-Seahawks Super Bowl. And if when it happens, you'll hear more about Wilson than any other quarterback this season: More than Brady, more than Rodgers, more than Peyton Manning, more than Tim Teb— actually, you won't hear more about Wilson than Tim Tebow. ESPN and the NFL Network will make that impossible. But everyone else? Hell yeah! And on that note, let's breeze through the Week 1 picks …