Cardinals have three-game lead in bid for rare division championship

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TEMPE -- Halfway through their season, the Arizona Cardinals have a three-game lead in the NFC West.

They play five of their final eight games at home, where they've won five in a row and are 9-2 since Ken Whisenhunt took over as coach.

Four of their remaining games are against division foes San Francisco, Seattle and St. Louis -- teams with a combined record of 6-18.

And three of those are at home, beginning with a visit by the 49ers next Monday night.

The Cardinals last won a divisional title in 1975, when the stars were Jim Hart, Terry Metcalf, Dan Dierdorf and Larry Wilson, and the coach was Don Coryell.

This franchise that has had but one winning season since moving to Arizona two decades ago is the team to beat in a division ripe for the taking.

Since the NFL and AFL merged in 1970, the Cardinals have had a three-game division lead just one other time. That was in 1970, when they started the season 7-0.

Their 5-3 record so far this year is their best at the halfway mark since 1984.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)