Everyone in America has probably heard the name Richard Sherman by now. A similarly sized population knows the name Russell Wilson. Name recognition on the Seahawks starts to drop off after those two. Marshawn Lynch is well known among NFL fans, but less so outside that group of people. There is some irony that the only guy with Lynch's level of name recognition on the Seahawks, Percy Harvin, is better known outside Seattle than in. Seahawks fans have not even seen him play a full game in the green, gray and blue. Nobody else on the roster comes close to those four. That will change over the next week. Careers will change. Free agent contract values will grow or shrink. Let's look at the Top 10 Seahawks players who could put their stamp on this game and turbocharge their careers.
I could not keep it to just ten players, so here are the Top 11:
#11 - Walter Thurmond III
Thurmond is almost completely unknown among NFL fans. Even Seahawks fans that are not die-hards would not know who he is. He will be going against Wes Welker, who all NFL fans do know. A great game for Thurmond could go a long way toward recouping the salary he lost for himself due to the marijuana suspension this year as he becomes an unrestricted free agent after this season.
#10 - Kam Chancellor
No matter the outcome of the game, the Broncos players will leave the game in pain thanks to this man. His hits are becoming legendary in the NFC West. He has the game, the talent, and the looks to win sponsorships galore. He just got his new contract, but this game could give him a new level of respect afforded to the league's super stars.
#9 - Doug Baldwin
Baldwin is almost completely unknown across the NFL. Front offices and scouts know him, but few others do. Most people that are aware of Baldwin consider him a 3rd down possession receiver. His numbers do not support that. He is every bit as explosive as Victor Cruz, and a better route runner. He could shred the Broncos if healthy, and burst onto the national stage. Make yet another clutch sideline catch, and Baldwin will increase his earning power. He would be higher on this list, but as a restricted free agent, his salary is largely pre-determined. It could increase the likelihood of a trade as other teams could decide to make Seattle an offer they cannot refuse.
#8 - Golden Tate
Tate has some name recognition because: (a) that's a cool name (b) he played at Notre Dame (c) his controversial touchdown against Green Bay (d) his controversial taunt on Monday Night Football versus the Rams. Most people do not really know his game. Tate has a flair for the dramatic, and tends to shine on the big stage. He will have chances to make his trademark high-point catches against Broncos defenders who have not demonstrated great ball skills this year. He is also an unrestricted free agent after this year. A Super Bowl MVP is not out of the question.
#7 - Michael Bennett
An unrestricted free agent next season, Bennett has arguably been the second or third most valuable player on the best defense in the NFL. He plays with passion, has a great sense of humor, and has a memorable look with that crazy beard. The cameras will find him, and it will most likely be after a great play. This game could be bittersweet for Seahawks fans as it might price him out of their budget.
#6 - Byron Maxwell
People know Sherman. A lot of people knew Brandon Browner. A tiny percentage of the viewers will know Byron Maxwell headed into this game. He is guaranteed to be more well known after. Peyton Manning will test him early and often. Maxwell has made fantastic plays when challenged in the last six games. A critical pick, great coverage on Eric Decker and/or Demaryius Thomas could change Maxwell from a good corner to one that gets Pro Bowl consideration next year. He becomes a free agent in 2015.
#5 - Bobby Wagner
Luke Kuechly is a monster, and deserves the recognition he gets. Same goes for Patrick Willis and NaVarro Bowman. Wagner deserves to be in that conversation after a sterling second half of the year. He has five interceptions in two seasons as a linebacker. There are only 19 cornerbacks that have more than that in the same time span. Only 8 linebackers since 1970 have started their careers with more interceptions in their first two seasons than Wagner. There will be chances with the crossing routes Denver runs. He is also an occasional blitzer who had 5.0 sacks on the year. He has the face sponsors love, and this could be the game that vaults him into the Pro Bowl and All-Pro stratosphere.
#4 - Russell Wilson
Wilson is already well know and guaranteed to be well-paid in another year or so. What is at stake for him is legacy. Legacies lead to places like the Hall of Fame. Winning a Super Bowl in only his second season in the NFL would put him in rarefied air. He is already well sponsored, but this game could put him on par with guys like Aaron Rodgers and Manning in terms of star score for sponsors. It would also eliminate any talk of limits to what he could accomplish.
#3 - Richard Sherman
Sherman is known for the wrong reasons in many cases. He is a brilliant, giving person and the best player at his position in the NFL. He will get plenty of chances to get his name out there this week, and will get all sorts of attention during the game. Coming through with another big play and showing more of his sense of humor instead of his anger will allow people to respect and like him instead of degrade and hate him. That doesn't matter to him, but it does to the companies who would have them as a spokesperson. He is already a favorite to win Defensive Player of the Year. Games like this can make you a Hall of Famer.
#2 - Marshawn Lynch
Nobody is more reserved on the Seahawks off the field. Nobody is more impressive on it. Imagine what it would be like to get a beast mode run or two in this game. Beacon Plumbing might start freakin' after Lynch's dance card fills up. Lynch is considered a great running back right now. An MVP performance in this game could start inching him toward Hall of Fame credentials if he can have another few great years. His mentality and style of play was made for this stage. Casual fans will be captivated by what they see. Lynch could become an international star and get all the Skittles and Hi-Chews he wants.
#1 - Earl Thomas
Earl Thomas very well could be the best player on this team. He deserves the DPOY award, even as great as Sherman is. The best defense in the NFL, and one of the best in history is built around his skills. He has been soft-spoken most of his career, and has remained out of the spotlight because of it. When the whole world sits down and watches Thomas play, he could join the conversation for best players in the NFL. He is entering the final year of his deal next year, and the Seahawks certainly will want to re-sign him. This could mean respect, sponsorships and an even bigger contract extension.