TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) -Pro football in the desert is a laughingstock no more. The joke is on the rest of the NFC West.
The Arizona Cardinals are on the brink of clinching a division title, something this franchise has not done in 33 years.
And they could do it with five weeks to spare.
``I know that people have said `Well, the division's down,''' coach Ken Whisenhunt said on Monday. ``You can say all you want. We've played some pretty good football against some good teams.''
The Cardinals (7-3) improved to 4-0 against NFC West foes by beating the Seahawks in Seattle 26-20 on Sunday. With six games to play, Arizona has a four-game lead over San Francisco, its nearest competitor at 3-7, and the Cardinals have beaten the 49ers twice.
Arizona can clinch the division crown, and its first playoff berth in a decade, this weekend on three conditions.
-The Cardinals beat the New York Giants at home.
-San Francisco loses at Dallas.
-And Seattle either ties or loses at Washington.
my sixth year. I've never been 7-3, never beat Seattle up here. This was a big game for us, and we stepped up to the challenge.''
Even if the cards, pardon the expression, don't fall just right this weekend, Arizona's fate seems inevitable. While the Cardinals have tough games at Philadelphia on Thanksgiving night and at New England on Dec. 21, they still have division foes St. Louis and Seattle at home, where Arizona has won six in a row dating to last season. The Cardinals are 10-2 at home since Whisenhunt took over as coach.
``We're in good position,'' Whisenhunt said, ``but it's not a done deal yet.''
The Cardinals' last division title came in 1975, when they were the St. Louis Cardinals and played in the NFC East. The team has just one playoff appearance, and one winning season, since moving to the desert in 1988. That was in 1998, when Arizona made it as a wild card and upset Dallas in the first round.
Arizona has won three in a row - against St. Louis, San Francisco and Seattle - heading into Sunday's daunting showdown with the Giants (9-1).
``The things that we have going for us is we're playing good football and we've got them at home,'' Whisenhunt said. ``I feel like we've created an environment that makes it tough for teams to play in University of Phoenix Stadium. Our fans have been fantastic, so this will be just like a playoff game and that's exciting.''
or the first time since 1977, have the third-best record in the NFC behind the Giants and Carolina (8-2).
The unquestioned leader is Kurt Warner, who threw for 395 yards against the Seahawks, setting a franchise record with his fourth consecutive 300-yard passing game. The NFL record is six straight by Steve Young in 1998.
Boldin caught 13 of Warner's passes for 186 yards and Larry Fitzgerald 10 for 151 yards.
The 37-year-old quarterback ranks first in the NFL in completion percentage (70.9), first in completions (270), first in rating (105.5), second in yards (3,155) and second in touchdowns (20).
``He's very tough, very competitive,'' Whisenhunt said. ``There's no question that a great deal of our success is attributed to what Kurt's done. The competitive spirit that burns in Kurt really motivates our team.''
Whisenhunt has seen that team grow in confidence and togetherness as the season progresses.
``You can see it on the sidelines,'' he said. ``There's no panic. Guys enjoy being around each other. That's a very important part of winning in situations where it gets tough, because you have to be able to count on each other.
``To me that's the biggest thing that's happened here. We've become a much closer team.''

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