As we hit the Week 11 mark and continue getting ever closer to playoff football, having to trudge through disappointing blowouts will become exponentially more prevalent.
The talking heads among us would like to say that it has to do with intrinsic motivation, and I guess to some extent it does. Players and coaches on a 6-4 team battling for a playoff spot are inherently more desperate to win than a 2-8 squad. That's just human nature.
But it's also far simpler than that. Good teams get better as the season goes along because they have more talent and better coaching.
Take this week's contest between the Houston Texans and Jacksonville Jaguars, for instance. Arian Foster is a better running back than Rashad Jennings, Gary Kubiak is a better coach than Mike Mularkey and, well, everyone is better than Blaine Gabbert. So...of course Houston will dominate.
However, not all upsets are that simple.
With that in mind, here is a look at a few other teams bound to blow out their overmatched competition.
Atlanta Falcons (vs. Arizona Cardinals)
Though they came into Week 10 as the NFL's last remaining unbeaten team, the Atlanta Falcons' 31-27 loss to the New Orleans Saints could not have come as much of a surprise. In fact, some of us may have even called the upset while missing the exact final score by a mere one point.
But that loss should do nothing to change our evaluation of the Falcons. They are the same good-but-not-great team that walked into New Orleans and are somewhere between the fourth- and sixth-best team in the league, depending on the day.
The Arizona Cardinals, meanwhile, continue devolving into what we thought they would be in the preseason: one of the worst teams in football. Arizona has lost five straight contests after being the league's most surprising 4-0 team, as its offense has taken a dive straight off the cliff.
Quarterback John Skelton has thrown just two touchdowns while playing in parts of five games this season and now has a streak of 12 straight appearances where he's thrown at least one interception. To say the team misses even the mediocrity of Kevin Kolb is a massive understatement.
Simply put, teams like the Falcons don't lose to teams like the Cardinals at this point in the season—especially not after losses like last week.
Score Prediction: Falcons 31, Cardinals 13
New Orleans Saints (at Oakland Raiders)
While there aren't many takeaways for Atlanta following last week's win, there are a bevy of them for the Saints. Most notable is that this team's upturn in play is in no way, shape or form an aberration.
New Orleans will never have anything close to resembling a mediocre defense, but the team's new emphasis on aggression will help create huge plays.
And, as anyone who has watched Carson Palmer in recent years can tell you, those big plays will be available against the Oakland Raiders on Sunday. Though he's putting up gaudy fantasy numbers, the Oakland signal-caller still struggles with ball control and has thrown at least one interception in a Skelton-like seven of his last eight games.
Still, we all know the Saints aren't winning any contests because of their defense. It will be up to Drew Brees, Jimmy Graham and the remainder of the team's passing attack to eviscerate the Raiders' secondary—something the Baltimore Ravens made look mighty easy last week.
Joe Flacco threw for 341 yards and three touchdowns, helping trounce Oakland 55-20. You can't expect that big of a beatdown to become a weekly occurrence, but considering the way New Orleans is firing on all cylinders offensively, I feel pretty comfortable with picking a blowout here.
Score Prediction: Saints 38, Raiders 23
New England Patriots (vs. Indianapolis Colts)
There comes a time in every overachieving team's season where it has a comeuppance against an elite squad and everyone begins the "writing them off" stage.
Sunday should be that game for the Indianapolis Colts, a team that comes into Week 11 as by far the most surprising 6-3 squad in recent memory. Outside all the roster upheaval and suspect talent at key positions is the fact that the Colts have been without their head coach, Chuck Pagano, for most of the season.
Where being without Sean Payton destroyed the Saints early in the season, Pagano's battle with leukemia has only galvanized this Indianapolis team. It's a touching, beautiful story right out of Walt Disney's famous vault.
Unfortunately for the Colts, there are two antagonists, one hooded and one square-jawed like Sawyer from season one of Lost, that are going to stand in the way of this happy ending. The Patriots are firing on all cylinders offensively and may be able to get some help in pass defense from newly-acquired cornerback Aqib Talib.
Either way, even if it's a shootout, this is a game that New England should win handily based on the talent involved.
Score Prediction: Patriots 34, Colts 17
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