ATLANTA - So much for that undefeated season.

Now the Atlanta Falcons can get back to more realistic goals.

Like a division championship. And home-field advantage in the playoffs.

The Falcons (8-1) will be looking to shake off their first loss of the season when they host the slumping Arizona Cardinals today, a game that can't come fast enough for a team dealing with the unfamiliar sting of defeat.

"We're just ready to get this taste out of our mouths," Atlanta cornerback Dunta Robinson said. "We hate losing."

Even with a 31-27 setback at New Orleans, the Falcons are still riding high as they face Arizona (4-5). They hold a three-game lead over Tampa Bay in the NFC South and are one game ahead of Chicago for the best record in the conference.

But they don't want one loss to turn into a different kind of streak, especially facing a team mired in a five-game skid.

"What you've done in September and October ... it doesn't matter," Robinson said. "We have to be playing our best football starting right now. It has to carry us right into 2013. The road is still long, man. We're not excited about anything we've done up to this point."

Through the first four weeks, the Cardinals were even with the Falcons in the NFC standings. But Arizona hasn't won since, its season on the brink of falling apart.

The Cardinals were off last week, giving them a chance to regroup even though it's tough to get over what's happened.

"It would have been nice to go into a bye with a couple of wins under our belt," said Larry Fitzgerald, the Cardinals' star receiver. "But it's good to have a bye week before you go against the best team in the NFL. We're fortunate we had it.

"I'm a professional," Fitzgerald said. "There's good days, there's bad days. That's life. I've got to find a way to push through and be a good teammate, regardless of the circumstances."

The matchup

• What: Cardinals at Falcons, 11 a.m., Channel 11

• The line: Falcons by 10

• Record vs. spread: Arizona 3-6; Atlanta 6-3

• Series: Cardinals lead 15-11

• Notable: Falcons 29-1 when QB Matt Ryan has 100-plus quarterback rating. Only loss came last week, when Ryan threw career-best 411 yards and three TDs against Saints. With Cardinals RB Beanie Wells still recovering from turf toe injury, league's worst running game is manned by 5-foot-7 LaRod Stephens-Howling and 5-9 William Powell.