The Daily Sweat: Cardinals vs. Rams? Good luck figuring either of them out

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The first scheduled Monday night wild-card playoff game is a good one, for the same reason it's not that great for bettors.

Arizona Cardinals at Los Angeles Rams was the most unpredictable of the six wild-card games. That's because neither team has much rhyme or reason lately. The Rams are 3.5-point favorites at BetMGM.

The Cardinals are particularly perplexing. Their last three games have been: loss to the Detroit Lions, win at the Dallas Cowboys and they fell to the 10-loss Seattle Seahawks at home with a chance to win the NFC West. How could you possibly guess what's coming next?

The Rams haven't been that wild, but it has been a much harder road than expected. Matthew Stafford is struggling with turnovers. Last week the Rams led 17-0, then at the end they just needed to stop Jimmy Garoppolo from driving 88 yards with no timeouts, and they lost in overtime.

Add in the confusion that the teams split the season series, with each team winning on the road. It's a tough game to pick.

I'll go with the Rams only because the Cardinals seem a bit broken. The Cowboys win seems like an anomaly for a Cardinals team that lost four of its last five. Losing DeAndre Hopkins to an injury has set back the offense. Maybe J.J. Watt's expected return gives Arizona a boost, but it seems like a team that has lost a lot of confidence. Perhaps opponents caught up to the Cardinals, like last season. It will get harder for the Cards if running back James Conner misses another game due to injury.

The Rams are the better side. But really, figuring out either team is impossible.

The Cardinals hope to get running abck James Conner back for a third meeting against the Rams. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
The Cardinals hope to get running abck James Conner back for a third meeting against the Rams. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Here's the first look at the sports betting slate for Monday:

An early holiday start for NBA

The NBA has a bunch of early starts for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. There are six tip-offs from between 12:30 p.m. Eastern to 3:30 p.m. The best game of the day is the Chicago Bulls at the Memphis Grizzlies. The Bulls are 27-14, the best record in the East. The Grizzlies are a surprising 30-15, tied for the third-best record in the West. Memphis is a 7.5-point favorite, which is a bit high due to some Bulls injuries.

There's also the Milwaukee Bucks at Atlanta Hawks, a rematch of last season's Eastern Conference Finals. Milwaukee is a favored by 5.5 points. A Utah Jazz at Los Angeles Lakers game to cap the day should have been better, but the Lakers' ongoing struggles gives it a different perspective. Still, it's an interesting matchup. Utah is a 5.5-point favorite.

More midday action

The NHL is starting early, too, with five afternoon games including the Red Wings at Sabres at 1 p.m. The best game of the college basketball day starts at noon Eastern when No. 7 Purdue plays at No. 25 Illinois. The Illini are a 1.5-point favorite. There are a few more games across college basketball but that's the clear highlight.

What's the best bet?

While we'll all be betting on the NFL game at night, maybe build the bankroll by taking Illinois. Purdue has had a few rough patches lately, while Illinois is on an 11-1 streak since falling to 2-2 on Nov. 22. I'll trust them to win at home in what should be an excellent college hoops matinee.