As the lines that separate the best NFL teams from the worst continue to blur, it seems like, every week, we have a new set of completely unexpected blowouts.
Take Week 10, for instance. Just about everyone and their great-uncle Fester predicted that the Denver Broncos would abjectly destroy the Carolina Panthers—and they did. But did anyone have the Cincinnati Bengals walloping the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants?
Didn't think so.
As we head into the bulk of Week 11's slate of games on Sunday, it becomes apparent that we will be in store for even more shocking eviscerations.
To gauge what would be an unexpected blowout, we'll obviously use the most objective criteria possible: point spreads. Oddsmakers have no ulterior motive other than making money, so it stands to reason that any line lower than five points is expected to be a close contest.
With that in mind, here is a look at a few games that will turn into unexpected blowouts in Week 11.
(All odds are courtesy of Bovada.)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Carolina Panthers (+2)
If you're looking for two squads whose seasons are on diametrically opposite paths, look no further than this clash of NFC South foes.
Coming into Week 11, the Buccaneers have won four of their last five games, doing so with a suddenly brilliant offensive attack. Since coming back from a Week 5 bye, Tampa Bay has scored a whopping 35.6 points per game.
Leading that attack has been quarterback Josh Freeman and running back Doug Martin.
Freeman, who started the season much like he did his disappointing 2011 campaign, has been brilliant of late. The Buccaneers signal-caller has thrown for 293.4 yards per game and has 13 touchdowns against just one interception in the team's brilliant run.
Martin, meanwhile, has gone from an afterthought to being considered on the verge of stardom. Though obviously skewed by his 251-yard performance in Week 9, Martin has averaged 123 rushing yards per game and scored seven touchdowns in the past five weeks.
On the other side of the field, things just keep getting uglier for the Panthers. They are just 2-7, and the whole team—particularly quarterback Cam Newton—has taken a massive step back this season.
With a two-point spread, this game just feels like easy money. Ride the red-hot Bucs as they get to 6-4 with an easy victory on Sunday.
Score Prediction: Buccaneers 31, Panthers 16
New York Jets at St. Louis Rams (-3.5)
Lost in the shuffle in the team's latest episode of Tebowmania is the fact that the Jets actually have a football game to play on Sunday. And considering the way the Jets have played in their last two games, the Rams couldn't have picked a better time to pick up a relatively easy win.
In those two contests, New York has been outscored a combined 58-16, as Rex Ryan's squad failed in every facet of the game. Quarterback Mark Sanchez has been particularly dreadful, putting up QBRs of 12.1 and 6.2 against Miami and Seattle, respectively.
Granted, St. Louis hasn't been much better of late, but it showed great signs of life in last week's 24-24 tie against the San Francisco 49ers. Sam Bradford looked brilliant in the pocket against a tough San Francisco defense, taking full advantage of Danny Amendola's return.
The Rams have been an infinitely better squad with their star receiver on the field, and with Amendola getting closer to 100 percent, Sunday should be a pretty easy win over a reeling Jets team.
Score Prediction: Rams 24, Jets 16
Cincinnati Bengals at Kansas City Chiefs (+3.5)
Of the Week 11 spreads, this is by far the one that makes the least sense to me.
The Bengals are coming off a 31-13 evisceration of the New York Giants, a team that many still consider a Super Bowl contender, and have one of the more underrated and explosive offenses in football.
Sure, the Chiefs played hard last week against the Pittsburgh Steelers, and Arrowhead is always a daunting place to play. But there is no objective measure by which they still aren't one of the three worst teams in the NFL.
Matt Cassel is most often pointed to as the root cause—and deservedly so. His 12 interceptions are tied for second in the league, and Football Outsiders' defense-adjusted yards above replacement (DYAR) metric places Cassel as quite easily the worst signal-caller in the league.
According to that metric, Cassel has thrown for 460 fewer yards than a replacement-level quarterback would against similar opponents. For reference, the second-worst quarterback, the Cleveland Browns' Brandon Weeden, has been worth a loss of 341 yards.
So, essentially, until Cassel shows improvement or the Chiefs go to Brady Quinn full-time, any spread below a touchdown is a gimme. Bengals win and do so in dominating fashion.
Score Prediction: Bengals 34, Chiefs 10