CFL Picks: How To Bet Canadian Football Week 1

Ian Cameron

Wednesday, June 22, 2016 6:31 PM UTC

Wednesday, Jun. 22, 2016 6:31 PM UTC

Sports handicapper Ian Cameron provides a betting preview of Week 1 of the Canadian Football League season. Don't make a move without reading this betting preview.

Winning 2-Team Parlay To Bet Canadian Football Week 1


Hamilton Tiger-Cats vs. Toronto Argonauts
The Toronto Argonauts will finally have a place to call home as they open up BMO Field and play their first game in their brand new home. The Argos played at the Rogers Centre for decades and it became a minimal home field edge for the team due to lackluster quarter capacity crowds and playing in a big environment with little crowd noise. Toronto should have more of a home field edge this season at BMO and they have made some moves this offseason to ensure this team is better, more competitive and can at least make a run at being in the 2016 Grey Cup game in November which Toronto is hosting this season. Toronto was very active in free agency in the offseason making a number of moves bringing in the likes of Josh Bourke which was a great addition to bolster their suspect offensive line which has been one of the catalysts for veteran QB Ricky Ray not being able to stay on the field for a full season in recent years. Brian Bulcke has a chance to be a solid addition on the DL but health is an issue for him.

They also added Bryan Hall and Justin Hickman to the defensive front and Keon Raymond in the secondary. Veteran CFL defensive coordinator Rich Stubler takes over that role this season for the Argos and his defenses in BC and Calgary have performed well over the years so his addition to the team combined with some upgrades should make the Argos a better team. The Hamilton Tiger-Cats have been a consistently strong fundamentally sound team and organization since day one of the Kent Austin era but that consistency will be tested in 2016. Hamilton will begin the season without their #1 QB Zach Collaros who was on his way to an MOP season last year before a torn ACL in September ended his year but Jeremiah Masoli played well late in the season last year and has looked solid in training camp and is capable of adequately filling the void as the Ticats QB until Collaros return. Defense is where the questions exist for Hamilton especially the secondary. It lost some key players from last season and has been hit hard by the injury bug in training camp and the preseason.

Hamilton is already trying to find 3rd and 4th stringers to fill starting roles in their defensive backfield and that is going to be something to watch for the Ticats early on. The situation clearly favors Toronto opening their new stadium and they will be looking to avenge their East Semifinal loss in the playoffs last year to Hamilton but it is all well reflected in the number. I expect the Argos to win a very exciting opening game of the season which should also feature plenty of points.

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Ottawa Redblacks vs. Edmonton Eskimos
The Grey Cup rematch takes place on Saturday night between Ottawa and Edmonton. The Eskimos defeated the Redblacks to capture the title last season and Edmonton is likely to have one of the most potent offenses in the CFL this season especially with Jason Maas taking over as head coach after being OC in Ottawa. Maas will bring a faster paced, up tempo, no huddle offense with him to Edmonton which could spell trouble for opposing defenses trying to slow down an offense that was already very good down the stretch of last season. Ottawa will be looking to recapture the magic of a turnaround 12-6 season in the second year of their existence as a franchise after a dismal 2-16 season in 2014. The key will be for 41 year old QB Henry Burris to stay healthy although he is unlikely to duplicate the incredible season he had in 2015. He still has a solid group of receivers to throw to and the offensive line remains a fairly stable group.

On defense, Ottawa has holes to plug after losing key veterans on that side of the football including the likes of Shawn Lemon, Justin Capicciotti, Keith Shologan and Jovon Johnson and those absences will be felt and the defensive line and secondary changes will be the biggest obstacles for Ottawa to overcome early in the season. The Edmonton Eskimos have a new head coach in Jason Maas, a former CFL QB, who was the architect of a very prolific Ottawa Redblacks offense as their OC last season. Maas will be installing his familiar up tempo, no huddle offense in Edmonton and the Eskimos took very well to the change in offensive scheme in training camp and this offense could be downright scary for the opponent as the Eskimos were hard to stop late in the season led by QB Mike Reilly who has quickly become an elite QB in this league. Edmonton does have some personnel issues to deal with though as Chris Jones managed to woo several of his starters in Edmonton with him to Saskatchewan including WR Kendial Lawrence, WR Shamawd Chambers, OL Andrew Jones and DB Otha Foster who have all gone with Jones to Saskatchewan. Meanwhile, two key members of last year’s very solid Edmonton secondary left for the NFL with Dexter McCoil signed by the San Diego Chargers in the offseason and Aaron Grymes heading to the Philadelphia Eagles. In addition, starting DL Willie Jefferson will be in Washington Redskins training camp next month so there are some holes to fill on defense for Jason Maas in his first year as head coach and matters got even worse with the season ending ruptured Achilles injury in training camp to one of their top corners John Ojo.

On the positive side, Edmonton signed veteran receiver Chris Getzlaf from Saskatchewan to bolster an already solid receiving corps led by Adarius Bowman and Derel Walker. Edmonton has their entire offensive line intact from last season’s Grey Cup winning team so there is no reason this team shouldn’t have one of the best offenses in the CFL this season especially with the newly implemented no huddle attack but it is on defense where the question marks are especially in the secondary where the pass defense will have some personnel holes to fill. I expect this to be a very well contested game. Ottawa may provide a bit of value as an underdog and we may see a game in which both offenses shine.

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Calgary Stampeders vs. BC Lions
The Calgary Stampeders were upended by the Edmonton Eskimos in last year’s West Finals as they attempted to repeat as Grey Cup champions after winning it all in 2014 but year after year, this team is in the hunt to win a division title and a Grey Cup and I expect nothing less from the perennially consistent Stamps in 2016. They should enjoy an absolutely seamless transition with long time head coach John Hufnagel retiring from coaching (although he remains the GM) and handing over the reins to offensive coordinator Dave Dickenson who has been with the Stampeders in a coaching capacity since 2009. Calgary Stampeders will have a new face at running back after veteran RB Jon Cornish retired after last season due to his recent injury problems but Jerome Messam who was brought in to Calgary late last season was resigned and figures to be the starting RB for the Stamps this season.

Calgary should have a very good offense again led by QB Bo Levi Mitchell who is clearly one of the best QB’s in the CFL and although they lose a pair of dynamic receivers from last season with Eric Rogers and Jeff Fuller departing for the NFL, the team did bring in veteran WR Bakari Grant in the offseason to join the likes of Anthony Parker, Joe West and Marquay McDaniel. Rogers being gone really hurts as he led the CFL in TD’s and receiving yards but the Stamps did a solid job addressing that void. The defense should be extremely good once again as they have added to an already strong defense by bringing in Taylor Reed at LB from the Hamilton Tiger-Cats which should provide a strong replacement for the departed Juwan Simpson and Reed should form an awesome LB combo with Deron Mayo. Charleston Hughes remains the ring leader of a ferocious defensive line for Calgary and the secondary is loaded with playmakers so the stop unit should be one of the best in the CFL again for Calgary in 2016.

Wally Buono (who has been in the CFL as a coach and GM for 30+ years) has returned to the sidelines to take over as head coach of the Lions after being only the GM for the last 4 years and it would be unwise to forget the last time he patrolled the sidelines with BC as head coach, they won the Grey Cup back in 2011. Buono kept both BC coordinators last season with Khari Jones returning as OC and Mark Washington returning as DC. However, before we assume this team is a Grey Cup contender again just because Buono is back as the HC, there are still several questions on this football team. Can Jennings have a very productive full season as a #1 QB and continue to improve? Can the defense get back to being one of the better units in the CFL with a healthy Solomon Elimimian back on the field? The BC Lions will be an immensely better defense with Elimimian back as he is one of the single biggest impact players in the CFL and him alongside Adam Bighill are a daunting combination at LB.

On offense, they resigned their top WR Emmanuel Arceneaux which is huge. The offensive line was spotty at times last season but they have a solid mix of young players and veterans this season and should takes strides forward and playing in front of a mobile QB should help their cause too. Calgary has dominated this series but they were not quite as strong on the road last year and went just 2-4 ATS as road favorites last season.

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Montreal Alouettes vs. Winnipeg Blue Bombers
I will provide a spotlight game which I will call my play of the week in the CFL in each of my weekly CFL articles. This week, I’ll be looking at Friday night’s Montreal/Winnipeg game as my featured play this week. To put this pointspread in perspective, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers are 21-51 SU over the last four seasons failing to make the playoffs in each season. They have a flat out brutal record since their new stadium Investors Group Field opened prior to the start of the 2013 season with Winnipeg going 7-20 SU in 27 home games over three seasons in this facility and I'm not at all convinced Winnipeg is ready to take steps forward in 2016 after another bad, losing season in 2015. Winnipeg has major question marks along an offensive line that underachieved despite some solid additions prior to last year and those issues reared their ugly head in the preseason as the OL had difficulties once again holding up in pass protection for what has become an injury prone QB in Drew Willy and the ability for that offensive line to pass protect for Willy is an absolute concern and one of the things the Blue Bombers simply must shore up to have any sort of successful season because the QB depth for this team is not all that great. Matt Nichols is a solid backup option but he is still very erratic and after that, the drop off in production and experience in the CFL is immense.

Making matters worse for a still questionable OL is the preseason injury to starting center Jeff Keeping who will be out 8 weeks with a knee injury and that puts even more duress on this offensive line coming into the new season. The team brought in former BC Lions RB Andrew Harris to become their #1 back but he's had injuries and a drop in production in recent seasons so his durability and how much gas he has left in the tank is up in the air. Willy was lost for the season in Week 7 and after that, Winnipeg was forced to play Brian Brohm and Robert Marve and neither played well and both actually ended up retiring from football after the season and Nichols came to the team late but never got on track either and it's worth noting Winnipeg in their 5-13 season last year never beat a single team with a winning record. Winnipeg hired former head coach Paul LaPolice to take over as offensive coordinator so there could be some time taken for the unit to gel and that was on display in the preseason. The defense should be solid but there is only so much they can do if their offense can't sustain drives which was a problem last season and those issues resurfaced in the preseason for the Blue Bombers. On the flip side, Montreal missed the playoffs last season for the first time in two decades and it didn't sit well with a lot of the veterans on this Alouettes team and they have spoken openly about coming out of the gate strong and looking to atone for last year's disappointment.

The reports out of Montreal training camp indicate a very intense, focused and business like attitude from this team. They are better equipped for success out of the gate with Kevin Glenn, a CFL veteran, as their #1 QB as the QB position was a major problem area last season for Montreal and even if Glenn doesn't make it through an entire season, the Als have seen Rakeem Cato progress and develop well in training camp and he has established himself as their #2 option at QB. The return of Duron Carter from an NFL stint should bolster Montreal at WR and they have a pair of quality veteran slotbacks in S.J. Green and Nik Lewis. The defense looks solid on paper as it has been the last few years under the guidance of DC Noel Thorpe and their strength is getting pressure on the QB which is a potentially good matchup here against a very suspect Winnipeg offensive line which is also missing their starting center. Winnipeg was 0-2 ATS in their two games against Montreal last season with their only win over the Alouettes coming by just 2 points and they were outgained by Montreal in both contests by a combined 152 yards. I think we have a wrong team favored situation here making Montreal a live underdog here in a game they should be able to win outright in what has the chance to be a lower scoring game as well.

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Free CFL Picks: Montreal +2.5 & Under 50.5 
Best Line Offered: at TheGreek

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