Sports

Cardinals improve to 5-4, find themselves in NFC playoff hunt

  • Arizona Cardinals inside linebacker Daryl Washington (58) celebrates as time expires against the Houston Texans during an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 10, 2013, in Glendale, Ariz. The Cardinals won 27-24. (AP Photo/Matt York)

    Arizona Cardinals inside linebacker Daryl Washington (58) celebrates as time expires against the Houston Texans during an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 10, 2013, in Glendale, Ariz. The Cardinals won 27-24. (AP Photo/Matt York)  (The Associated Press)

  • Houston Texans quarterback Case Keenum (7) is sacked by Arizona Cardinals outside linebacker John Abraham during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 10, 2013, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

    Houston Texans quarterback Case Keenum (7) is sacked by Arizona Cardinals outside linebacker John Abraham during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 10, 2013, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)  (The Associated Press)

  • Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (11) talks with quarterback Carson Palmer (3) during the final minute of an NFL football game against the Houston Texans, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2013, in Glendale, Ariz. The Cardinals won 27-24. (AP Photo/Matt York)

    Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (11) talks with quarterback Carson Palmer (3) during the final minute of an NFL football game against the Houston Texans, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2013, in Glendale, Ariz. The Cardinals won 27-24. (AP Photo/Matt York)  (The Associated Press)

At 5-4, the Arizona Cardinals can truly, with a straight face, be called a playoff contender.

Under first-year coach Bruce Arians, the Cardinals have matched their win total from last season with a team built around a strong defense and special teams. The offense has a ways to go but performed better in the team's last two outings, home victories over underachievers Atlanta and Houston.

Sunday's 27-24 win over the Texans leaves the Cardinals a game behind wild card front-runners San Francisco and Carolina.

And Arizona has beaten Carolina.

Next up is a game at Jacksonville, where the Jaguars are 1-8 after beating Tennessee.

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

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Follow Bob Baum at www.twitter.com/Thebaumerphx