Sports handicapper Ian Cameron provides an introductory betting overview of the Canadian Football League prior to the upcoming 2016 CFL season which kicks off on Thursday, June 23.
The 2016 Canadian Football League (CFL) season kicks off on Thursday, June 23rd and I will be providing plenty of CFL betting analysis and picks throughout the season with videos and articles throughout the CFL season right here at Sportsbook Review. For those who are not too familiar with the CFL style of football, here is an introduction to the Canadian Football League and how to go about trying to bet the CFL and make profits from it.
CFL vs. NFL: The key differences between two styles of football
The biggest difference between the CFL and NFL right off the bat is that offenses only get 3 downs to convert a 1st down in the CFL compared to 4 downs in the NFL. 1st down becomes a far more important down in the CFL because of that and the 3 downs style of play in Canada is what leads to the CFL generally being a more wide open, passing oriented league. The CFL plays on a 110 yard field that is also over 10 yards wider than an NFL field. The end zone is 10 yards longer than the standard NFL size end zone so there is plenty of room for QB’s to throw the ball and much more space for receivers to run routes down the field along with a much greater amount of ground having to be covered by opposing players in the secondary.
There are 12 players on the field for each team for every play in the CFL but only 11 players for each play in the NFL. There is 1 extra player on each side of the football for every CFL team. On the offensive side of the football, that extra player is called a “slotback” and that is an offensive position player who acts like a wide receiver but stands much closer to the offensive line when the football is snapped and can act as either an eligible receiver or a blocker for either a run or pass play. The CFL slotback acts very much like a tight end would in the NFL. On the defensive side of the football, the extra player is called a “halfback” and that is a defensive position player who lines up in the secondary but is often assigned the duty of covering the offensive slotback in the middle of the field and the halfback often is used to contain run plays and prevent them from breaking to the outside.
There is a single point rule in the CFL called a “rouge” which adds a unique element to the Canadian game. A single point is awarded to a kicking or punting team if an opposing player catches or recovers a kickoff, punt or missed FG in the end zone but is prevented from returning the football back on to the field of play or if the player on the punting or kicking team takes a knee in the end zone or if that player runs out of bounds with the football from the end zone. CFL teams frequently concede an intentional safety when they are forced to punt deep in their own zone as most teams prefer to give up 2 points and kickoff to the other team from the standard 35 yard line and spare themselves punting the football and giving the opposition excellent field position.
The way the CFL deals with missed FG’s and extra points after TD’s is much different than in the NFL as well. In the NFL, the football and the play is dead after a missed FG or extra point. However, things are different in the CFL. On a field goal attempt, the defending team may return a missed field goal to the opposing team's end zone for a touchdown. On an extra point kick attempt after a touchdown, the defending team may return a missed extra point to the opposing team's end zone for 1 point. If the convert was a run or pass play as a 2 point conversion attempt, the defending team may return a fumble or interception on that conversion attempt to the opposing team’s end zone for 2 points. Punt or kick coverage teams must give a 5 yard empty zone around the opposing kick returner until he has received the ball. This is called the No Yards rule.
There are no such things as a fair catch or a touchback in the CFL unlike the NFL which means there is a return on every single kickoff, punt, missed FG or missed XP in CFL games. With the CFL field being 5 yards longer on each side than the NFL, kickoffs occur from the kicking team's own 35 yard line in the CFL as opposed to the 30 yard line in the NFL. All of those elements combine to make the kicking game a much greater strategic element of the CFL game than in the NFL.
Here are some other rule differences between the CFL and NFL. The CFL has a shorter 20 second play clock for the offense compared to 40 seconds in the NFL which means there are more offensive plays and snaps at a moderate tempo than there would be in an NFL game. Defensive linemen must line up 1 yard opposite the line of scrimmage prior to a play in the CFL. In the NFL, defensive linemen line up immediately opposite the line of scrimmage. Prior to the snap of the football in the NFL, no member of the offense may move, with the exception of one eligible receiver, who may move only parallel to the line of scrimmage.
Prior to the snap of the football in the CFL, all offensive players, except for the QB and the offensive linemen, are allowed unlimited motion provided that they remain more than one yard behind the line of scrimmage. One of the biggest rule chances to take place in the last few years is that defensive and offensive pass interference along with illegal contact on a receiver are all penalties that are now subject to a coach’s challenge in the CFL unlike NFL or College Football. In terms of player personnel, there are 39 full time roster positions on every team in the CFL which must be made up of 19 Canadian players, 17 imports (non-Canadians and pretty much always Americans) plus 3 QB’s who do not have to be Canadian. That is compared to 45 full time roster positions with NFL teams.
CFL Betting Trends & Strategies
OK now let’s discuss some betting trends from last season to be aware of entering the new season. If you want to be successful betting on the CFL, you have to be willing to accept that parity exists and never overreact to the result of one game or even one month of a team’s season. I’m going to throw out two CFL ATS #’s at you from last season to prove my point that parity exists in this league. Home teams only cashed tickets for their supporters at a 37-42 ATS (47%) clip last season in the CFL. Teams that were favored only won games SU 63% of the time last season and only cashed tickets at a 36-43 ATS (46%) clip in the 2015 CFL season. The team that was supposed to win proved to be a losing ATS proposition more often than not last season in the CFL and that reflects my point that parity reigns in the CFL and often times underdogs and road teams can be good bets and offer up value in the betting markets.
The key to winning in the CFL is to treat every game involving two teams as its own entity from a matchups and situational standpoint. Toss out the records of the teams and focus in on handicapping each game from a matchups and situational standpoint. The same applies for totals betting. Just because a team played awful defensively in one week and their game ended up flying over the total as a result, that doesn’t automatically mean the same thing will happen in their next game against a different opponent. Treat every game despite the records of the two teams as its own entity requiring its own autopsy. The CFL is the poster child for being a league where any team can win on any given week.
There’s no need to wait until September to get your football betting fix and I offer you the chance to join me for the wild and profitable ride throughout the 2016 CFL season!