By Dave Thomas

Sitting with a record of 4-4 at the halfway point of the season, the Seattle Seahawks have their sights set on a big second half run, concluding with capturing a third straight NFC title. Well, at least that is the hope in the Pacific Northwest.

Winners of their last two games, the Seahawks have stabilized a season that looked a tad in peril just a few weeks ago. With key players getting healthier, along with newer acquisitions like tight end Jimmy Graham getting comfortable in their roles on the team, Seattle could very well be the one team in the NFC that no one wants to play down the stretch. Seattle, which has its next three games in the friendly confines of the Pacific Northwest versus NFC West-leading Arizona, San Francisco and Pittsburgh, has a chance to go into the final full month of the regular season in December at 7-4.

Then again, don’t automatically checked off the victory column when it comes to beating the first-place Cardinals, the dismal but rival Niners, and the up-and-down Steelers.

Big Names Need To Step Up

While starting quarterback Russell Wilson (1,878 yards passing, nine TD’s) tends to get the most attention on the Seahawks, not many will argue that starting running back Marshawn Lynch and starting corner Richard Sherman, both of whom could be identified as the respective faces on offense and defense, need to have big games down the stretch for Seattle to be in the playoff mix. To date, Lynch, who has missed a pair of games with a hamstring injury, has rushed for 375 yards and a pair of touchdowns in five-and-a-half games (missed one half earlier in the season with an injury). Meantime, Sherman has 25 total tackles (17 solo) on the defensive side of the ball. While neither has been a big bust to date this season, both need to turn it up a notch or two in the final eight games of the regular season.

So, who has stood out and who has not been putting up big numbers and/or big play through eight games for the Seahawks?

XCELLING AHEAD OF SCHEDULE:

Thomas Rawls – With Lynch missing two-and-a-half games, this rookie has definitely stood out for Pete Carroll’s team. Rawls has compiled 376 yards on the ground in 69 attempts. Rawls, who has been dinged up the last couple of weeks, can certainly give the Seahawks that one-two punch (with Lynch) to keep opposing defenses honest in the second half of the season.

Jimmy Graham – The former New Orleans tight end got off to a slow start, but he is showing fans in the Pacific Northwest why he is one of the game’s best at his position. Through eight games, Graham has 38 catches for 450 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Giving Wilson and the Seahawks a dynamic threat at the tight end position, Graham could easily hit 1,000 yards receiving when all is said and done through 16 games.

K.J. Wright and Bobby Wagner – Along with leading the defense in tackles, respectively, both Wright (team-leading 58 total tackles) and Wagner (51 total tackles) have been key in helping to a degree shut down opposing offenses a number of games this season. Both will need to be healthy in the second half of the season to keep Seattle’s D pressuring the opposition.

Kam Chancellor – Despite his holdout throughout summer practice, the pre-season and the first couple games of the regular season, Chancellor has been a stud in the first half of the season. Chancellor has 38 total tackles (27 solo). His presence while Sherman struggles to some degree continues to be important.

Steven Hauschka – Seattle’s Mr. Reliable continues rolling along, having hit on 18-of-19 field goals through eight games.

NEED MORE OUT OF:

Richard Sherman – Even though his defensive numbers are not terrible, Sherman needs to pick things up a tad in the second half of the season. Sherman’s flamboyance on the field certainly brings him attention, so a big second-half performance would certainly help this team. Sherman’s performance against Dallas’ Dez Bryant in a 13-12 Seattle win to end the first half of the season is a prime example of how much of an impact Sherman can be when on his game.

Marshawn Lynch – Still one of the most feared running backs in the league, Lynch needs to be healthy in the final eight games (and hopefully for Seattle fans in the post-season) for the Seahawks to make the playoffs and then get on a run. While his numbers are not terrible, Lynch needs to be more dominant in the second half of the season for Seattle to keep the winning streak going.

Dave Thomas has been covering the sports world since his first job as a sports editor for a weekly newspaper in Pennsylvania back in 1989. He has covered a Super Bowl, college bowl games, MLB, NBA and more. His work can be found on Examiner.com.

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