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Dublin: 6 °C Wednesday 19 December, 2018
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Last Christmas for the Brady and Belichick partnership and your NFL Week 16 preview

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

He knows if you've been good or bad.
He knows if you've been good or bad.
Image: Andrew Matthews

THEY JUST BEAT the Pittsburgh Steelers to all but secure the first seed in the AFC and home advantage throughout the playoffs, so you think that win would be dominating the conversation in Foxborough.

However, the biggest story in New England this week is that Patriots coach Bill Belichick reportedly stripped Tom Brady’s longtime trainer, business partner and all-round ‘guru’ Alex Guerrero of his special privileges — such sideline access — leading many to believe there may be a rift between the future Hall of Fame coach and his future Hall of Fame quarterback.

Both were snippy yesterday when pressed on the issue, refusing to discuss it directly and it’s hardly ideal preparation for the postseason. And long-term, this may well signal the beginning of the end for the best coach/quarterback duo we’ve ever seen.

Brady credits Guerrero for helping to extend his career and there’s no doubt that playing at an MVP level into this 40s is impressive. However, though he has billed himself as a doctor in the past — he’s not — Guerrero is a big believer in alternative medicine and was investigated by authorities in the US for peddling ‘Neurosafe’ a product he claimed — with no evidence — that could prevent and cure concussions.

The bigger problem, from the Patriots point of view, is that nearly half the New England roster are now being ‘treated’ by Guerrero and, local media reports, have in recent times ignored the Patriots medical team in favour of Guerrero’s advice.

After rumours that New England allowed Jimmy Garoppolo to leave for San Francisco against Belichick’s wishes, this latest chapter begs the question, is this the last season we see both Brady and his head coach together in New England?

Stranger things have happened in the NFL.

Saturday – 9.30pm

Indianapolis Colts @ Baltimore Ravens (-13.5)

Source: UPI/PA Images

Five times this season, the Colts have blown a fourth quarter lead. They won’t have to worry about it in this game though as they’ll be well out of it by then. Still though, that spread is prohibitively high.

Verdict: Colts to cover

Sunday – 1.30am

Minnesota Vikings (-9) @ Green Bay Packers

It’s such a shame the Packers don’t have something to play for but at least you can grab an early night content with the knowledge the Minnesota will comfortably take care of business.

Verdict: Vikings to cover

Sunday – 6pm

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Carolina Panthers (-10)

The Panthers have a top-1o defence and offence on paper and are getting hot at the right time. The Bucs defence is non-existent even if the Falcons made them look much better than they are on Monday Night Football.

Verdict: Panthers to cover

Cleveland Browns @ Chicago Bears (-6.5)

Cleveland Browns head coach Hue Jackson has a 100% record on Christmas Eve and 20% record in every other game. You know what to do.

Verdict: Browns against the spread

Detroit Lions (-4.5) @ Cincinnati Bengals

Source: Travis Pendergrass/PA Images

This spread, just 4.5 points when one team is in must-win to reach the playoff mode while the other has given up on their coach and their season, makes no sense to me.

Verdict: Lions to cover

Miami Dolphins @ Kansas City Chiefs (-10.5)

After looking like Dan Marino in their victory over the Patriots in week 14, Jay Culter returned to Jay Cutler form last week to end Miami’s slim playoff hopes. The Chiefs, after a mid-season blip, have looked back to their best of late, particularly on offence.

Verdict: Chiefs to cover

Buffalo Bills @ New England Patriots (-12.5)

Who’d have thought, when they inexplicably benched Tyrod Taylor for Nate Peterman — resulting in the latter throwing five interceptions in one game — mid-season, the Bills would still be in playoff contention this late on? Sadly for a fan base devoid of postseason football this millennium, that run is likely to continue.

Verdict: Patriots to cover

Atlanta Falcons @ New Orleans Saints (-5.5)

The Saints made hard work of the Jets last week which is slightly worrying but we’ve said for years that if they could pair a top-16 defence with their offence they would be real Super Bowl contenders. That’s exactly what they’ve done this season.

Verdict: Saints to cover

LA Chargers (-6.5) @ New York Jets

Source: John Sleezer/PA Images

Losing to a divisional rival in the way the Chargers did against the Chiefs last weekend is something that happens in the NFL — just look at the Pats and Dolphins — but when you start the season 0-4 like LA did, you just can’t afford those types of games.

Verdict: Chargers to cover

LA Rams (-7) @ Tennessee Titans

For yet another year, the Titans have looked like they’re going to be the team to beat in the AFC South only to fall by the wayside late on. The Rams, on the other hand, are genuine Super Bowl contenders, not something I thought I’d be writing last August.

Verdict: Rams to cover

Denver Broncos @ Washington (-3)

One of the few games this week with nothing on the line.

Verdict: Washington to cover

Sunday – 9.05pm

Jacksonville Jaguars (-4) @ San Francisco 49ers

It could be that I remain convinced Jimmy Garoppolo is Tom Brady in waiting or it could be that I just can’t believe Blake Bortles is the great quarterback we’ve seen over the past three weeks, but this has the feeling of a trap game for the Jags.

Verdict: 49ers against the spread

Sunday – 9.25pm

New York Giants @ Arizona Cardinals (-3.5)

Source: Bill Kostroun/PA Images

Another game that means nothing other than maybe the last sighting of Eli Manning in the blue of the Giants?

Verdict: Giants against the spread

Seattle Seahawks @ Dallas Cowboys (-5)

The Seahawks have been ravaged by injuries down the stretch while Dallas gets to welcome back Zeke Elliott. Given there is a 10-point differential for the Cowboys when their running back is on the field, that does not make for a fair contest.

Verdict: Cowboys to cover

Monday – 9.30pm

Pittsburgh Steelers (-8.5) @ Hoston Texans

The Steelers have every right to feel aggrieved about the result of their match-up with the Patriots last week. Though the referees correctly applied the rules, the rules themselves are idiotic if they deny clear touchdowns such as Jesse James’s.

Verdict: Steelers to cover

Tuesday – 1.30am

Oakland Raiders @ Philadelphia Eagles (-9)

The Raiders too were denied a win by another terrible NFL rule — the touchback — against the Cowboys and even though Philadelphia’s defence struggled last week, they should get back to form against an inept Oakland offence.

Verdict: Eagles to cover

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About the author:

Steve O'Rourke

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