- Associated Press - Thursday, December 9, 2010

ENGLEWOOD, COLO. (AP) - Head West, young man, and leave behind any notions of finding good football.

Only one of the 11 NFL teams west of the Mississippi owns a winning record heading into the final four weeks of this oddball season _ not counting New Orleans, which straddles the river that serves as the league’s very own continental divide.

Yet, in this wild and wretched West, the only team that’s already been eliminated from the playoff race is the Denver Broncos (3-9), who were vexed by an embarrassing videotape violation and a bad personnel moves that led to too many losses and cost coach Josh McDaniels his job this week.

Even the region’s lone winners, the Kansas City Chiefs (8-4), have dealt with a fair amount of drama, from coach Todd Haley’s handshake snub of McDaniels last month to quarterback Matt Cassel’s emergency appendectomy on Wednesday.

The Chiefs might have to make their playoff push with quarterback Brodie Croyle, who is 0-9 as an NFL starter, beginning Sunday at San Diego, where the Chargers (6-6) are no longer December’s darlings.

The Chargers’ loss last week to Oakland damaged the playoff hopes for the four-time defending AFC West champions and snapped their streak of 18 straight December victories.

The Cardinals know the feeling; they’ve lost seven straight games after going 10-6 last year.

“I love the game, but it does wear on you,” Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald said. “You get tired of losing.”

Some teams actually view the mediocrity as progress.

The Raiders, Seahawks and Rams _ all 6-6 _ have already surpassed last year’s win total.

The Rams’ six wins matches the number of games they won the previous three years combined and they own the tiebreaker over the Seahawks atop the NFC West.

This is the Raiders’ best year since 2002, but they’ve had their torments, too, like Sebastian Janikowski missing a 32-yard field goal at the end of a 24-23 loss at Arizona and Richard Seymour’s ejection for slapping Ben Roethlisberger.

Seattle is playing .500 ball even though it ranks 28th in the NFL in total offense, 30th in rush offense, 30th in total defense and 30th in pass defense.

“Some games our numbers are horrible and some games are numbers are pretty darn good,” coach Pete Carroll said. “That inconsistency has left us so that statistics aren’t very important this year.”

All that matters is the rest of the West isn’t all that good, either.

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