Updated NFC West Power Rankings: Week 9

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Oct 26, 2014; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Cardinals wide receiver

John Brown

(12) celebrates by dancing after a 75 yard touchdown during the second half against the Philadelphia Eagles at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

#1: Arizona Cardinals

Record: 6-1

Next: @Dallas

Who would have thought that one of the best games of the year would be a Week 9 matchup between Dallas and Arizona? Yeah, me neither.

I knocked the Cardinals in my recent rankings, and like any writer worth his salt, I’ll wear the customary egg-on-the-face with pride. These Cardinals are the ‘Cardiac Kids’ of today’s NFL; they find ways to win with their backs against the wall.

Next: Giants Defeat Royals 5-0 Behind Bumgarner

They’re doing it by using all the weapons at their disposal.

John Brown is thriving while Larry Fitzgerald runs decoy routes 95% of the time, and Andre Ellington has become the check-down back that Carson Palmer has always needed as a duck-footed quarterback.

But as usual with this team, a powerful defense has keyed their first half success.

The Cardinals are third in the NFL in run defense, allowing just 77.9-yards rushing per game. They’re keeping teams under 20-points on a weekly basis (save for Denver). When you do that, you have a chance to win any game.

The second half of the season, however, represents more than a few challenges for the ascending Cardinals:

They play Seattle twice and San Francisco, Dallas, Detroit, and Kansas City once. The Cardinals must shoot for 11 wins if they want to win the NFC West. I no longer doubt their chances, but the second half will test their moxie.

In Week 16, they host Seattle. In Week 17, they travel to San Francisco for their final game of the season. The stage is set for a typical western shootout in the final weeks of the season.

The Cardinals have a two-game lead in the NFC West, but the division will be decided in the final two weeks.

Football fans — prepare for a great finish to the 2014 season.