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Sports

Patriots the choice, even with 14½-point spread

New England is more than a two-touchdown favorite on the road, at Jacksonville. This game needs to be examined.

The spread — Patriots, minus 14½ — is fair. If Jacksonville isn’t the worst team in the league, it’s one of the worst. The Jaguars are second-to-last in points per game (15.6) and fourth-to-last in points allowed per game (27.4). Playing at home provides no discernible advantage because Jacksonville’s fans have given up. Empty seats are everywhere.

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New England scores an astounding 36.1 points per game. NFL observers understand the Patriots are — to put it mildly — unlikely to lose to the Jaguars no matter where the game is played, so the question becomes, by how much will New England win? It’s rare in the NFL when a home team gets so many points, and as Pregame.com recently told us, in the last 23 games with a home underdog getting more than 8 points, the home underdog is 21-2 against the spread.

Those 23 games date back at least a few years, though. This season, the Patriots are 5-2 against the spread on the road and 8-6 vs. the number overall. Jacksonville is 1-6 against the spread at home, 6-8 overall. I think I’ve made up my mind.

This week’s picks (home team in caps):

New England (-14½) over JACKSONVILLE: The spread is an obstacle, but New England is worth the risk. Jacksonville has collapsed and what I’m worried about most is Tom Brady getting pulled during the third quarter after the Patriots have built a sizable advantage. Risking $110 to win $100.

CAROLINA (-9) over Oakland: The Panthers are finishing strong, having won and covered in three of their last four, and that trend will continue against Oakland. Before facing hapless Kansas City last weekend, the Raiders had failed to cover in six straight. Risking $110 to win $100.

BALTIMORE (+2½) over New York Giants: For the second straight week Baltimore is getting points at home, and for the second straight week, I’m biting. Risking $110 to win $100.

PITTSBURGH (-3½) over Cincinnati: This may not be Pittsburgh’s year, but I’m betting on the Steelers meeting the challenge against a Bengals unit that is 0-3-1 against the spread within their division. Risking $110 to win $100.

Last week: 2-1, plus $135. Season: 27-29-1, minus $253.

Ed Ryan can be reached at ed_ryan@globe.com.

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