Being 5-3 at the halfway point wasn't part of the plan for the defending Super Bowl champions. Neither were injuries to seven starters or a surprising trade that sent the disgruntled receiver Percy Harvin packing. But the Seattle Seahawks have some momentum with back-to-back victories heading into the second half of the season.
Injuries have hurt the Seahawks, but the biggest problem was the loss of 11 players from last season that had 58 combined years of experience. Seattle missed that depth, but the young players who replaced them are starting to make bigger contributions and play quality football, which the Seahawks will need down the stretch.
Midseason MVP: It's scary to think where this team would be right now without Russell Wilson. He almost single-handedly won the Washington game, becoming the first QB to pass for 200 yards and rush for 100 in a Monday night game. He led the team on an 80-yard drive in OT to beat Denver and he had another 80-yard drive for a comeback victory on the road at Carolina. And in the loss at St. Louis, Wilson became the first QB in NFL history to pass for 300 yards and rush for 100 yards in a game. Wilson didn't play well in the victory over Oakland last weekend, but he isn't the reason this team has three losses. He's the reason they don't have more.
Biggest disappointment: Left tackle Russell Okung. Maybe this will change, but so far, this isn't the man who was a Pro Bowl player in 2012. It isn't even the guy who gutted it out the second half of last season on a bad toe and helped the Seahawks win the Super Bowl. In his defense, Okung is playing hurt, or he was. He missed the Week 9 Oakland game with a calf problem. Okung also has a labrum tear in his left shoulder. The coaches say he's fine, but he also is coming off foot surgery in the offseason that caused him to miss all of training camp and most of the preseason. He was playing better before sitting out Sunday, so that could be a sign he's capable of returning to a Pro-Bowl level if he can get healthy.
Best moment: Trading Harvin. In what was possibly the most shocking moment of the NFL season, the Seahawks traded the temperamental receiver to the New York Jets on Oct. 17. Everyone was surprised because Harvin was viewed as the explosive player the Seattle offense needed, but this was the right thing to do. Harvin had become a disruptive force in the locker room and a malcontent during games when he felt he wasn't getting the ball enough. The Seahawks had gotten away from the power-running offense they were last season, but this also was a decision to remove a player who was more of a negative overall than a positive, despite his amazing athletic gifts.
Worst moment: Trading Harvin. Initially, the shock of it, coming less than 48 hours before the game in St. Louis, probably was a factor in the horrible first half that caused the loss to the Rams. It also revealed problems in the locker room, dating back to a fight at the Super Bowl between Harvin and Golden Tate and an altercation in the preseason between Harvin and Doug Baldwin, which Baldwin confirmed. But the craziest story was one about some players resenting Wilson and saying he wasn't black enough, which was angrily denied by all the players.
Key to the second half: Getting through a brutal six-game stretch that's upcoming. Games 10 through 15 will be the defining stretch of the season -- two games against the Arizona Cardinals, two against the San Francisco 49ers, at Kansas City and at Philadelphia. That's four tough road games, two against NFC West rivals. Realistically, the Seahawks should hope to split those six, or possibly go 4-2, before closing out the regular season at home against the St. Louis Rams, another game they should win. So 11-5 is probably the best they can do, but whether that will be good enough to win the division is hard to say. They really need to win both games against Arizona.