Eric Walden's NFL Four Downs: A farewell to predictability in Week 13
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

First down: New England at Miami

11 a.m., TV • Ch. 2

The skinny • It's all so very anticlimactic, isn't it? Every preseason we're fed the same lines about what the other AFC East teams are doing to challenge the Patsies. This past summer, much was made of the Bills' spending spree on defense, including $100M for Mario Williams, and yet Buffalo has allowed a league-worst 319 points. Likewise, we heard the Jets planned to make waves by employing a Tebow-helmed Wildcat scheme 20 times a game, and he's barely touched the ball 20 times this season. And for all the speculation about whether Ryan Tannehill is the second coming of Dan Marino, the Fins have scored about half as many points as New England. Meanwhile, the Pats are about to clinch their fourth straight division title and their ninth in 10 years. So next summer, when everyone starts extolling the various virtues of The Other Three, take the advice of Public Enemy's Chuck D and "Don't Believe the Hype."

The line • Patriots by 71/2.

The pick • Patriots. Tom Brady may well be more annoying than Flavor Flav at this point, but he's a better quarterback.

Second down: Tampa Bay at Denver

2:05 p.m., TV • Ch. 13

The skinny • Initially, there was much rejoicing at the idea of oft-surgically repaired Peyton Manning capping his comeback season with the fifth MVP award of his career. Now, though, has come the inevitable backlash, primarily centered around the admittedly valid argument that even Tebow could look good against the schedule the Broncos have faced. With six games against "rivals" San Diego (4-7), Oakland (3-8), and Kansas City (1-10), Denver's end result is usually about as in doubt as The Avengers' climactic battle against the Chitauri. "Hmmm … we're outnumbered about 38,000 to 6, we're armed with a shield, a hammer, bow and arrows, gymnastics skills, a rocket suit and 'a giant green rage monster' … yeah, I think we'll be OK."

The line • Broncos by 7.

The pick • Broncos. Since Peyton Manning hasn't yet had the chance to take down an alien army, he'll have to settle for the Bucs, who are, at least, better competition than anyone in the AFC West.

Third down: Pittsburgh at Baltimore

2:25 p.m., TV • Ch. 2

The skinny • I'll concede that math has not been my forte ever since ninth-grade geometry permanently soured me on the subject. Perhaps that's why I still can't figure out how in a nation of 300 million people, in which there are thousands of high school football teams and hundreds of college football programs, we wind up with 37-year-old never-was has-been Charlie Batch starting at quarterback for an NFL team. For a second straight game. I recognize he's not usually the Steelers' starter, or even their top backup, for that matter. You're telling me there aren't 96 people in this country — a starter, a backup and a third-stringer for each of the 32 teams (maybe I'm great at math, after all) — better equipped to run an NFL offense than Charlie Batch? That makes less sense to me than those theorems Mr. Thomas made us memorize.

The line • Ravens by 8.

The pick • Ravens. No Ben Roethlisberger? No Byron Leftwich? No chance for Pittsburgh.

Fourth down: Philadelphia at Dallas

6:20 p.m., TV • Ch. 5

The skinny • Oh, Andy, I can't believe our time together is almost at its end. This may be the last chance I get to see you inexplicably throw a challenge flag on a play that has zero chance of being overturned. Anyway, I was just thinking of all the fond memories I have of your tenure. Those were six glorious seconds! Afterward, however, my mind drifted back to some of your less revered qualities … like your insistence on passing 93 percent of the time even when you have an accuracy-challenged quarterback and a Pro Bowl running back … and like the time you lost the Super Bowl because you refused to employ a hurry-up offense when you were trailing in the fourth quarter. I'll miss you, Andy. And by "miss you," I mean "will throw a party the day you and your stupid mustache are fired."

The line • Cowboys by 10.

The pick • Cowboys. Another testament to Andy's legacy is that he makes clueless Dallas counterpart Jason Garrett look competent by comparison.

… and 10 to go

Seattle at Chicago, 11 a.m. • It's just bad form for every Seahawks DB to fail drug tests at the same time. Spread 'em out, boys.

Minnesota at Green Bay, 11 a.m. • Aaron Rodgers may be the Pack's only opening-day player not currently injured.

San Francisco at St. Louis, 11 a.m. • Will Colin Kaepernick continue his meteoric rise? He's playing the Rams, so … probably.

Carolina at Kansas City, 11 a.m. • Nothing like facing the Eagles and Chiefs back to back to improve your lot, eh, Cam Newton?

Houston at Tennessee, 11 a.m. • If the Titans' offense goes crazy on the Texans, Houston officially has a problem.

Arizona at N.Y. Jets, 11 a.m. • Hey, Mark Sanchez, try not to run into anyone's butt this week.

Indianapolis at Detroit, 11 a.m. • Calvin Johnson has found his end zone mojo again, which is bad news for the Colts' secondary.

Jacksonville at Buffalo, 11 a.m. • So, who's excited for the Jason Babin Era?

Cleveland at Oakland, 2:25 p.m. • Raiders have lost four straight by a combined 90 points … I like the Browns' chances.

Cincinnati at San Diego, 2:25 p.m. • Hard to believe that at 4-7, Chargers are still the second-best team in their division.