Believe it or not, the Arizona Cardinals are about to play a midseason game with the division lead at stake. Perhaps it most has to do with being moved into the new NFC West.
At 4-2, Arizona is tied for first place with San Francisco and can move ahead by beating the 49ers on the road Sunday. The oddsmakers don't think much of Arizona's chances -- it's an 8-point underdog.
The oddsmakers are right.
Arizona's game last week was hardly a work of art. It was a 9-6 overtime victory over Dallas in which the Cowboys botched an extra point and Quincy Carter threw enough horrible passes to get himself benched.
The Cardinals weren't particularly artistic either, as Bill Gramatica missed three field-goal attempts. But it was a win, so coach Dave McGinnis will take it.
''Everything else will come to us if we do what we're supposed to do, and that means winning games however we have to win them,'' he says. ''But there are things we have to do better. We have to score touchdowns.''
The Cardinals pulled into a tie with the 49ers because San Francisco lost in New Orleans. You really can't blame the 49ers -- they ran out of steam in the fourth quarter after leading 24-13. In part, that's the result of playing a Monday night game in Seattle, traveling back home, then playing an early game (10 a.m. Pacific time) on the road. This week, they sleep in their own beds for the start of their new division rivalry. Terrell Owens (sans pen) will be ready.
Oakland (minus 3) at Kansas City
The over-under on this game is 55 1/2.
Rich Gannon won't let the Raiders lose three straight.
Denver (plus 3) at New England
Is there any reason the Patriots will play better after a bye?
Atlanta (plus 3 1/2) at New Orleans
Michael Vick runs rings around the Saints. His cousin, Aaron Brooks, can't match him.
New York Giants (plus 7) at Philadelphia (Monday night)
The Giants aren't as bad as some people think. Nor as good as they think.
Pittsburgh (minus 2 1/2) at Baltimore
The Steelers seem to have their act together under Tommy Maddox. Ray Lewis or no Ray Lewis, it's ...
Seattle (plus 2 1/2) at Dallas
Chad Hutchinson will start at quarterback for Dallas. Oh yes, and Emmitt Smith tries to pass Walter Payton's record.
Tampa Bay (minus 7) at Carolina
With Rodney Peete's injury, the Panthers have stopped growling. Rookie Randy Fasani might start at quarterback.
Indianapolis (pick 'em) at Washington
Steve Spurrier goes back to one of his Florida QBs, Shane Matthews. Indy has Peyton Manning.
Cleveland (plus 3) at New York Jets
The Jets are wearing all green again. Will the Browns wear orange again for Halloween?
Chicago (plus 1) at Minnesota
The Vikings are favored, which tells you what's happened to the banged-up Bears. Chicago won the first meeting on a TD with 28 seconds left.
VIKINGS, 23-20 (OT)
Detroit (plus 7) at Buffalo
Are the Bills contenders? For this day at least.
Tennessee (minus 5 1/2) at Cincinnati
The Bengals are the NFL's most consistent team.
Houston (plus 10) at Jacksonville
Houston's consistent, too.
LAST WEEK: 9-5 (spread), 11-3 (straight up)
SEASON: 48-53-1 (spread) 63-39 (straight up)
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