Had San Francisco avoided in week 14 what it does so well, then the NFL best bets would have yielded a far nicer pay day.

But the 49ers collapsed, leaving me still above .500, but not as sweet as a 5-1 record against the spread. With only three weeks remaining, it gets tougher to prognosticate, because there’s no way of knowing which teams have given up, and which ones will play through until the end of week 17.

Here’s the week 15 NFL best bets.

Carson Palmer isn’t the same quarterback he’s been in the past, but he should lead Arizona to a decent week in week 15. Flickr/http://bit.ly/1LFpzex

Last Week: 4-2 ATS

Overall: 43-38-2 ATS

New Orleans at Arizona (-3)

With three games remaining, this game really doesn’t matter. Technically New Orleans still has a shot at the playoffs, but it would take an obscene amount of things to occur for that to happen.

So both of these teams are in that dreaded zone of playing for a paycheck. That spells disaster for some teams as they give up. But something tells me that both teams are filled with quality veterans, who are professional enough to not quit.

If both teams are at their best, I’m taking Arizona. The Cardinals have been a train wreck out east, much like in week 14. They’ve been much better at home.

When traveling from west to east, Arizona is a dreaded 0-5. At home, Arizona is 3-0-1 in its last four games. New Orleans, on the other hand, is below-average away from home. The Saints are 2-4 on the road this season.

The matchup presents the league’s best statistical offense against the league’s best defense. The weak points for both teams — Arizona’s offense against New Orleans defense — definitely favors Arizona. And I also get the Cardinals at home against a team in the midst of back-to-back road games, going from east to west on a two-game losing streak where they’ve scored a combined 14 points in two games.

I may think New Orleans is professional enough to keep trying, but doing that much travel this late in the season is hard on any team, especially those who are pretty much eliminated from the playoffs. — Go Chalk with Arizona

Oakland (-3) at San Diego

Is there anyone left in San Diego for Philip Rivers to use as a skill position player?

Melvin Gordon is the latest victim in the injury train that has robbed Rivers once again from having solid weapons around him. Now he has to rely on Kenneth Farrow or Ronnie Hillman as his running backs, while Dontrelle Inman is his primary wide receiver.

That doesn’t instill much confidence, even if the Chargers are at home.

And this matchup doesn’t stack up for the Chargers. San Diego relies on its run defense to stop opponents. Oakland relies on its pass offense to move the chains. The Chargers are a top-10 rush defense, but are a bottom-10 pass defense.

And while the Raiders aren’t considered a great defense by any means, they’ve been getting better in recent weeks. They’re still not great, but they’re competent enough to stop a San Diego offense not equipped with even mediocre skill position players.

I also get the Raiders rested after a Thursday night matchup with Kansas City, while San Diego must travel back from Carolina after losing in week 15. Oakland will show it still belongs as a top playoff team, so this number is way too low for this game. — Go Chalk with Oakland

Tampa Bay at Dallas (-7)

Dallas hasn’t looked good in recent weeks, so plenty of people are sounding the alarms. Count me as someone who isn’t panicking.

The Cowboys have had a tough stretch in recent weeks. It started with a Thanksgiving game against divisional foe Washington, then reached into the next week at Minnesota on a Thursday night, and then finished with a road Sunday night game against the New York Giants.

It’s no wonder the Cowboys looked so bad in week 14 against the Giants.

I anticipate week 15 will be much better, especially since the matchup works out well. Tampa Bay owns the 12th worst rushing defense in the NFL, allowing 110.7 yards per game on the ground. Dallas, meanwhile, has the second-best rushing attack with 152.2 yards per game.

But that’s not all.

Tampa Bay needs to establish the run to have the best success. The Cowboys are second-best against the run in the NFL. That’s a bad sign for Tampa Bay.

All the talk this week is on Dak Prescott hitting a wall. Meanwhile Jameis Winston is the far more important quarterback in this game. And I don’t see Winston shining against a Cowboys team that has looked much better in the last two weeks against the pass. — Go Chalk with Dallas

Bonus Bets

Tennessee (+5.5) at Kansas City — Eventually the Kansas City express will be derailed. The Chiefs own the sixth-worst rushing defense, while Tennessee pounds the rock as well as anyone. This game screams of a letdown for the Chiefs, who have been winning big game after big game. The party ends in week 15 for the Chiefs. — Go Against The Chalk with Tennessee

Jacksonville (+6) at Houston — Houston goes from a six-point underdog to a six-point favorite in the matter of a week. That’s way too much of a swing for a team incapable of moving the chains with any regularity. Jacksonville has a good defense and is keeping games close. Even with a horrible record, the Jaguars have been within one score in four of the past six weeks. Both teams rely on their defenses to win games, so this game will be closer than many imagine. — Go Against The Chalk with Jacksonville

Indianapolis at Minnesota (-4) — Minnesota has the ability to go on a run. The Vikings are elite on the defensive side of the ball, which should dominate this game against a Colts offense that is…at best…inconsistent. Everyone believed they were fixed entering week 14. They weren’t, and there’s still problems. The pass defense is among the league’s worst, and that’s the only way Minnesota can move the ball. I expect this to be a one-side affair. — Go Chalk with Minnesota

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