We start by putting our Bud Light Spotlight on the non-playoff team that was significantly better than last year’s divisional champs that won a playoff game.

I know what some might think. With a game left, the Seahawks have the same number of regular-season wins as they did in 2010. But this year’s team was more competitive. It had more depth. And it’s now better set up for future success than it has been since 2005.

Yes, it desperately needs a quarterback who can make plays down the stretch. It needs a more consistent pass rush. It needs to re-sign Marshawn Lynch, and it needs a healthy offensive line.

But 16 players went on injured reserve this season, and they still almost earned a playoff spot, rather than backing into one in a weak division like it did last year.

Last season, every Seahawks loss was ugly – by 15 points or more. Seattle lost its nine games by an average of 21 points – an embarrassing number by NFL standards.

Compare it to this year, when three losses came by three points or less. They were never consistently blown out.

This team has momentum. It has confidence. And it’s forming an identity fueled by a physicality unseen around these parts in years.

That’s why I loved seeing this in yesterday’s game. Not the fighting, per se. But I loved watching the Hawks stand up to a blue-collar team like the Niners, whose style promotes imposing their physical will. It was a refreshing hostility on the Seahawks part – one that seemed to scream, “Not here. Not today. Not in our house.”

It’s a reason the Niners-Seahawks rivalry will be so fun to watch going forward. But also a reason this Seahawks team will be fun to watch every game next year.

When was the last time you felt somewhat comforable with the Seahawks traveling east? When was the last time you felt they had a legitimate chance to beat anyone in the league, aside from maybe Green Bay?

It’s because of a refreshing attitude and a belief system fueled by road wins over the Giants and the Bears. A home win over the Baltimore Ravens. And a dominant defense, in which half of its starters are either first or second-year players.

I’ll admit we can be critical at times. But this is not one of them. Because right now, there’s simply no comparison: This year’s team was head-and-shoulders better than the one we saw make the playoffs a year ago.