Seahawks look to second half

Pete Carroll calls it “halftime” of the NFL season. No, they don’t hand out orange slices and have the drill team march around.

But eight games into the season is a fair time to evaluate, assess, adapt … and take a peek at where the competition stands.

“This is a very important week for us to get going and turn our sights toward what (lies) ahead,” Carroll said Wednesday.

With two lopsided losses tacked onto the surprising 4-2 start, Carroll said he has seen a broad range of performances and hopes the return to health of some key players will bring about more consistently positive results.

Immediately ahead are the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday in Glendale, Ariz. And the game could stand as a crucial springboard into the second half of the season.

Although the Seahawks did not play their best, they beat Arizona, 22-10, at Qwest Field three weeks ago. But the Cardinals are the defending NFC West Division champs and have won four straight over the Seahawks in Arizona.

Carroll said he hasn’t talked to his team about the divisional relevance of playing the 3-5 Cardinals. But he said they understand the simple win-loss mathematics involved.

Yes, the St. Louis Rams have the same 4-4 mark as the Seahawks, but the Cardinals could be the team expected to make the strongest run in the division in the second half.

Arizona has five of its final eight games at home against teams with a cumulative 21-43 record. Two of those road games are against San Francisco (2-6) and Carolina (1-7). In fact, their final four opponents, Denver (2-6), Carolina, Dallas (1-7) and San Francisco have just six wins among them.

So, getting a head-to-head sweep of the Cardinals secured on Sunday seems extremely important.

The Rams have a fairly easy path, too, facing opponents with a 28-35 combined record. They have to travel to New Orleans (6-3) and finish the season against the Hawks in Qwest Field, a venue that could be a particular concern if playoffs are on the line.

“I think the Rams are playing really good football,” Carroll said. “They’re a very solid team, well balanced; they keep the scores down week in and week out, their quarterback (rookie Sam Bradford) is doing a great job for them, and they’ve got a terrific tailback (Steven Jackson). That’s a good football team and they’re only going to get better, and not being able to (beat) them the first time makes it that much more of a challenge the next time around.”

San Francisco is the surprise divisional doormat, having been considered the favorite in most preseason polls.

“You know that the 49ers are just hungry as can be, and they’re trying to crank this thing up and turn this second half around as well,” Carroll said.

That won’t be easy. The Niners are 2-6 and have a difficult schedule (33-33 opponents’ records) featuring a game at NFC North Division leader Green Bay (6-3).

The Seahawks’ slate of remaining opponents (32-33 record) contains five teams with legitimate postseason hopes (New Orleans, 6-3; Kansas City, 5-3; Atlanta, 6-2; Tampa Bay, 5-3 and St. Louis).

Even after a two-game skid in which the Seahawks were outscored 74-10, Carroll said the return of quarterback Matt Hasselbeck (concussion) and defensive tackle Brandon Mebane (calf) – along with the possible return of left tackle Russell Okung (ankle) – has the team feeling upbeat.

“The feeling is we’re getting some guys back we’ve been waiting for. … It feels better than it has,” Carroll said. “There’s a good feeling in the (locker room) that guys are coming back. We’re starting off again; it’s really like we’re starting all over again.”