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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

A Grip on Sports: The Seahawks aren’t even close to perfect but at this point in the season, who else in the NFC is?

A GRIP ON SPORTS • While wondering why no one will pay us almost $80 million not to work – we’re sure it’s worth it to everyone out there – we also wondered if the Seahawks can win the $100 million dollar prize this season. That is, the Super Bowl.

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• It’s the goal in Seattle every season, isn’t it? Ever since Pete Carroll and John Schneider proved it was possible a decade ago? Since then, they have come oh-so-close once more – too soon? – and then, well, not too close. But, most seasons, they are in the conversation.

A big part of that was having Russell Wilson at the helm, at least for a few years anyway. When they traded him away to start their rebuild, the conversation ended. Until the Hawks somehow made the playoffs last season. But they weren’t even close to contending for the ultimate prize. Everyone in the Northwest knew that.

This season? Closer. At least that was the presumption before the first kick. Since? Not so much. Even though we can make a case they are punching well above their weight. A healthy Seahawk team may just have it in them, as the NFC doesn’t seem all that daunting. And, yes, we understand neither are the Hawks. Daunting, we mean.

But undaunted? Maybe. Their 29-26 last-second win yesterday over Washington showed us that.

Look, the NFC is dominated by one team. Philadelphia. The same Eagles who struggled twice with the team Seattle just struggled with Sunday: Washington. It’s not opinion. It’s fact. The Eagles won at home on a game-winning field goal. Sound familiar? The second was also a one-score game.

But, you say, the NFC’s best resides in Dallas. The Cowboys are impressive. When they win. They have six times, five of which have been by 20 points or more. That’s hard to beat. Except Jerry Jones’ team can be beat. Heck, even Arizona did it. And we know how average Arizona is.

So maybe the best team in the conference plays in Detroit. The Lions are 7-2, with their only losses to Baltimore – the Hawks know how that feels – and at home against … oh, wait. The Seahawks.

OK, we have another one. The San Francisco Freakin’ 49ers. Nick Bosa. Fred Warner. Christian McCaffrey. Debo Samuels. Brock Purdy. They are a dominate force, with a … 6-3 record? The same as Seattle. OK, they had a bunch of injuries. Those injuries ignited a three-game losing streak. When healthy, they are the NFC’s most-dominate squad.

We’ll give you all that. But the facts are simple. Seattle and San Francisco are tied atop the NFC West after nine games. And if both take care of business next weekend, their meeting in Seattle on Thanksgiving Day will be epic. And decide exactly nothing.

That’s the thing about the NFL. It’s a week-by-week league. Heck, the 4-5 Buccaneers could upset the 49ers Sunday in Santa Clara. The Seahawks could be embarrassed again by the Rams in L.A. That’s all true. Possible. Unlikely, but possible.

And it doesn’t matter all that much. What does is how you are playing in January. Anyone in the NFC who makes the playoffs can be the conference’s Super Bowl flag holder. Then it’s just one game after two weeks of prep time. An undefeated team isn’t guaranteed to win that one. Ask New England. Or the Giants.

A puncher’s chance is all anyone can wish for.

The Hawks have flaws. We all see them every week. They also have strengths, though those are harder to discern, especially for the average fan who wants perfection.

Sorry folks, perfection hasn’t happened in the NFL in more than 50 years. And it certainly isn’t happening in 2023. In Seattle. We have what we have. It may not be enough to win the big prize. But it is enough to give us super Sundays more often than not.

And who can put a price on that?

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WSU: The Cougars are paying the price of their injuries, at least on the defensive side of the ball. The secondary is short-staffed and it shows, even against the run. That part of the equation, the run defense, combined with some red zone issues, is what Greg Woods examines in his look back at Saturday’s loss. … The women’s basketball team finished off its season-opening homestand with another victory, this one 64-47 over visiting Idaho State. … Gardner Minshew did just enough to help the Colts win Sunday. That leads off Taylor Newquist’s look at the local players in the NFL. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12 and the nation, the big court battle is scheduled for Tuesday in Colfax. A settlement is possible. The compromise is obvious. The 10 get to keep this year’s money, the two get to run the conference from here on out. Let’s see if smart people can make smart decisions. Jon Wilner rates it 50/50. … He also looks back at the weekend in football. … The weekend also included some high-profile coaching changes. … Washington is exciting. Maybe too exciting. Each week seems to be a struggle. But the bottom line is the Huskies win. Every week. Including against the defending champs. … Their game Saturday in Corvallis is something special, even if ESPN was too chicken to show up. It’s the first time in more than 100 meetings between these schools both Washington and Oregon State will be ranked in the top 10. The Beavers are 10th this week. And, hey, it could the last meeting between the schools. … Oregon still will be ranked sixth when it visits Arizona State. That’s been a tough place for Northwest schools recently. … There have been way-too-many flags thrown against Colorado. They really hurt in the loss to Arizona. … Utah is headed to a bowl. Which one? … The perfect defensive coordinator just became available for USC. Lincoln Riley should hire him today. Before Bill Plaschke decides there needs to be another coaching change in Los Angeles. … The Trojans are dealing with injuries. … Chip Kelly is learning how hard it is to win in college without a dependable quarterback. … Stanford has big problems ahead of The Big Game. … In basketball news, Nevada headed to Seattle and handed Washington its first loss of the season. … The conference is pretty good. … Colorado is a reason why. … Arizona will host Southern tonight. … On the women’s side, Stanford showed its got something in its tank by drubbing ninth-ranked Indiana. … Oregon State handled Villanova, which is a good win. … Colorado has yet to lose after defeating Oklahoma State. … Arizona handled Loyola Marymount.

Gonzaga: The Bulldog women finally came home and had little trouble with Toledo, winning 91-70. Greg Lee was in the Kennel and has this game story. … Elsewhere in the WCC, Saint Mary’s lost at home to Weber State. … Boise State handed USF its first loss.

EWU: The Eastern men lost on the road against a Power 6 opponent again. This time, the Eagles fell 85-73 at Cincinnati. … Elsewhere in the Big Sky, Montana facing UC Davis in football is a conference game. In basketball, it’s nonconference. Weird, huh? Either way, the Griz won. … Northern Arizona lost at Grand Canyon. … Weber State’s win at No. 23 Saint Mary’s is a big deal for the Wildcats and the conference. … The win over Idaho on Saturday is just big for Weber State.

Whitworth: The NCAA, at the Division III ranks, always puts cost above everything else. That’s why the Pirates will be playing Chapman on Saturday in a rematch of their season-opening game. Ethan Myers has that news. And it’s why Linfield, among the nation’s top-ranked teams going into last Saturday’s loss to Whitworth, isn’t in the playoffs. One loss and done. There wasn’t another West Coast team to match up with Linfield, so the NCAA didn’t want to spend the money to fly the team to Texas or somewhere for a first-round game. Much easier (and cheaper) to bus schools around the Midwest. What a joke (and it has happened to Whitworth more than once).

Seahawks: Geno Smith was average to poor much of the game yesterday. But when the Hawks needed him to put the ball in the air, find his star receivers, move the team down the field and score a couple times late, he did just that. It’s that Geno Smith Dave Boling celebrates in his column today. … Smith was light out at the end. And put the Commanderslights out. Though that’s happened often for Washington D.C.’s football team. … There are always grades. … And things to learn. … Boye Mafe seems to have learned a few in one year. And Devon Witherspoon is teaching some as a rookie.

Kraken: This franchise was among the most beloved in Seattle last season. This year? Not so much. Yet. Winning more would cure that.

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• It was a busy weekend for us. We’re looking forward to a day of rest. And attending a whole bunch of college basketball games this week. Also, for all you Washington basketball players starting practice today, good luck. Until later …