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A Lot On The Line Versus 49ers

First place up for grabs when San Francisco visits for "Monday Night Football"


Cornerback Patrick Peterson notched his first NFL sack last season against the 49ers.

When Larry Fitzgerald has a message to his teammates, it's usually not sugar coated.

"We've dropped a couple of late and as bad as we've played over the last few weeks, we win one game and we're back in the division lead," Fitzgerald said. "The ball is literally in our court.

"We have to go up there and put up or shut up. That's what it comes to."

With the San Francisco 49ers coming to University of Phoenix Stadium for "Monday Night Football" and first place in the NFC West on the line, Fitzgerald made sure his point was clear this week.

The Cardinals are in a position to own a share of the division lead this late in the season for the first time since 2009, the last time they won the West and made the playoffs.

Unlike baseball, when games in April and May tend to be cast aside and overlooked, games in September and October in the NFL are as important as games in December. The Cardinals' schedule is back loaded, as well, with four of six division games scheduled in the second half of the season.

"I don't think it's ever too early because that has to be your focus every week, going in there and playing well and getting victories," linebacker Paris Lenon said. "You can't say, 'We can lose a few and then we'll pick it up later on.'

"You're going in there against every opponent with the intent to win and if you take care of business then it puts you in a good situation months later."

As if this game needed more hype.

It's at home. It's a division rival. It's Monday Night Football. And on top of it all, it's for a share of the division lead.

"It's huge," Lenon said.

Inside the locker room, the Cardinals aren't surprised they're in position to sit atop the West standings despite losing their last three games, including one to St. Louis, a division foe. The Cards' 4-0 start, which included a win over Seattle, provided enough of a cushion to soften the impact of the losses. 

But, wide receiver Andre Roberts said, those close games still sting.

"Losing games by three really hurts us because at one point we could be 5-2 but instead we're 4-3," he said. "That definitely matters at the end of the season when it comes down to being in first place.

"One win could make the difference."

Such is life in the NFL and that's why Monday night's game, with the spotlight solely on Arizona, is all the more important.

"It's going to be a dogfight," nose tackle Dan Williams said. "Everything's going to be earned. It's a division game. It's a rival.

"You're definitely going to have to earn your money this week."

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