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Updated Sunday, January 6, 2013 at 05:12 PM

For Seahawks, today now as bright as tomorrow

By Jerry Brewer
Times staff columnist

Here's how much faith the Seahawks inspire right now: They're a young team with a losing road record representing a franchise that hasn't won a road playoff game in 30 years. Yet they're favored to travel 2,800 miles and beat an opponent on a seven-game winning streak.

In the final month of a regular season that began with just-make-the-playoffs expectations, the Seahawks grew in stature, at least we think. They swelled from a team on the rise to one that has risen. At least we think. Now, even though the Seahawks likely will play away from home for as long as they're in the postseason, there is a legitimate belief that they're nonetheless a true Super Bowl contender.

It creates an interesting situation to monitor during this playoff run. Still fledgling, the Seahawks enter the postseason ahead of the game, in one sense. General manager John Schneider has built them to be good for quite a while. From their dynamic rookie quarterback Russell Wilson to their 23-year-old Pro Bowl safety Earl Thomas, they're a roster full of pups who already know how to win, and they should only get better. Even if they played an uncharacteristically skittish game and lost to Washington in disappointing fashion Sunday afternoon, the Seahawks would remain a team just beginning what should be a long, successful run.

This is not a make-or-break postseason for the Seahawks. But with the way they've played lately — five victories in a row, seven wins in their last eight games, including three monster blowouts — the present has become as important a storyline as the future.

Their time is now, even though they also have a reservation for later.

There's no reason to wait until next year anymore. They're plenty good today.

You must make the most of every opportunity in the NFL. The league is too balanced. Football is too vicious a sport; you're always one play, one awful injury to a key player, from having dreams denied. And it's too difficult to get 53 players and a coaching staff believing and executing the way the Seahawks currently are.

Over the past eight games, the Seahawks have been one of the most complete teams in the NFL. They had an erratic 4-4 start, but since then, they have been consistently good. And while they have weaknesses and areas of concern, this is an 11-5 team whose five defeats were by a combined 24 points. They didn't lose a game by more than seven points.

The Seahawks have had only two better regular seasons in their history. They went 13-3 during their 2005 Super Bowl season, and in 1984, they finished 12-4 and lost in the second round of the playoffs. Their 11-5 mark this season might have been uneven, but this already is one of the best teams in the Seahawks' mediocre history. And that 7-1 record in the second half indicates that this is a rapidly improving young team.

The Seahawks had a 4-1 record against teams that made the playoffs and a 6-1 record against teams that finished .500 or better. Their defense, which allowed a league-low 15.3 points, allowed less than 20 points in 11 of 16 games. No opponent scored more than Detroit's 28 points against them. In every way, this is an 11-win team that deserved to win that many. If anything, you're left lamenting that the Seahawks didn't win a few more of those close road games.

You don't beat these Seahawks. You have to outlast them. And that requires an amount of grit that few teams can muster.

Will the Seahawks make a deep playoff run away from CenturyLink Field, where they were undefeated in 2012? If you were betting good money, it would be safest to look at their 3-5 road record and say no. Winning on the road is hard during the regular season. It's often borderline impossible in the playoffs.

But can the Seahawks defy convention? It's what they do best, isn't it?

"Great football teams don't shy away from success," Wilson said.

By now, you know to believe in Wilson, the resolute rookie who didn't let his small stature or third-round draft position keep him from winning over this team. He will be prepared for everything the playoffs could present, and the challenge won't be too big for him. A good defense could force him to struggle, but he won't suffer from self-inflicted humiliation. He's not invincible, but he is infallible. Count it as another reason that the Seahawks have a great opportunity right now.

"We're good enough, more than good enough," said linebacker Leroy Hill, who was a rookie on the Seahawks' 2005 Super Bowl team. "We can play with anybody. We don't have to put any limitations on ourselves."

It's rare for a Seattle sports team to know no limits. During a 5-0 December that featured impressive road victories and eye-popping blowouts, the Seahawks appeared to reach that status.

The postseason will reveal the truth. Though the Seahawks believe in the promise of tomorrow, the forecast for today looks beautiful, too. They'd be wise to seize it.

Jerry Brewer: 206-464-2277 or jbrewer@seattletimes.com.

On Twitter @JerryBrewer



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