CFL Week 1: Preview and Picks

CFL Week 1: Preview and Picks

CFL Week 1: Preview and Picks
CHARLES-ANDRÉ MARCHAND

Montreal Alouettes at Hamilton Tiger Cats -1½, 46½ 

The Tiger Cats are a much improved team since posting a 3-15 record last year. They will show a strong running game led by running backs Jesse Lumsden and Tre Smith. Wide Receiver Pat Woodcock should also add a threat in the passing game but this is a team that counts 20 new players and is still a few years short of becoming a serious contender in the East.

The Alouettes are still led by Anthony Calvillo at QB but the team is already injury plagued (Marcus Brady, Ben Cahoon, Elijah Thurman, Jarrett Payton, Mathieu Proulx) and with rookie coach Marc Trestman still learning the subtleties of Canadian Football, they will probably come up short in the season’s opener – although they will likely take advantage of the inexperience of  Hamilton rookies Jermaine Mays, Chris Thompson, Markeith Knowlton and Dominic Lewis who will make their debut in the CFL.

Pick: Tiger Cats

BC Lions at Calgary Stampeders +3, 55
           
The Stampeders will once again put a lot of points on the board, but defence should be a major concern for new head coach John Hufnagel and his team will probably allow as many points that they produce.

In BC, the Lions should be considered a serious contender for November’s Grey Cup game in Montreal. Since Wally Buono left Calgary to coach the Lions, he won 11 of 14 games against his former team, five of them at the Stampeders’ home field. The only question mark for BC is the secondary, which tends to give up too many yards in the later part of games and it allowed 68 points in the two preseason games.

With Dave Dickenson returning to Calgary as Henry Burris’ backup quarterback, the Stampeders may have the best combination at that position in the CFL. Nonetheless, the Lions should win this one by more than a field goal.

Pick: Lions

Toronto at Winnipeg -2½, 43½

Offseason acquisitions should help the Argonauts to improve on last year’s record of 11-7 and keep them on top of the East division. Kerry Joseph adds strength to the QB position where Michael Bishop may lose his starting job down the road. On the defensive side, the Argos have been weakened by the lost of cornerback Jordan Young and defensive back Ronald Flemons.

Winnipeg plays a very aggressive type of football that can end up drawing flags, but Kevin Glenn his one of the best QBs in the league and Charles Robert will win a lot of yardage in the running game. They also have one of the strongest defensive units in the CFL which will disrupt both the passing and the running game of their opponents and create plenty of turnovers. 

Pick: Argonauts

Edmonton at Saskatchewan -5, 53½   

Ricky Ray will still lead the passing game for the Eskimos, who need desperately to improve their running game to be playoff-bound this year. Edmonton improved defensively with the acquisitions of cornerback Jordan Younger and defensive backs Dario Romero and Fred Perry.

The reigning champs of the CFL, Saskatchewan Roughriders, will desperately miss QB Kerry Joseph, who was traded in the offseason to the Toronto Argonauts. Starting quarterback Marcus Crandell has not yet proven his reliability. The departure of running backs Corey Holmes and Jamal Roberston also raises many questions. The Roughriders should win their home opener but it may very well be decided on a field goal.

Pick: Edmonton

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Re: CFL Week 1: Preview and Picks

Tips for betting the CFL
By Reed Hogben

The general betting public usually leans to favorites, overs and home teams; therefore sportsbooks were probably happy campers after the 2007 CFL season.

Favorites and underdogs went a perfect 50 percent at 36-36 against the spread (ATS). Home favorites let bettors down at 25-28 ATS, while away Favorites made a little money at 11-8 ATS. Of those 36 covering underdogs on the year, 21 (58 percent) did so by winning the game straight up (SU). This is somewhat lower than the NFL norm of about 67 percent and should make you think twice about automatically betting the money line when you already like a dog.

There are some explanations for this phenomenon. First, is the difference in scoring - the CFL awarding single points on punts, kickoffs and missed field goals that are not returned out of the end zone. There also seems to be an increasing trend towards taking the field position safety which is when teams facing third down deep in their own territory purposely give up two points to move the ball out for a free kick, rather than punting. These extra one and two points help a dog get under the spread without winning straight up.

Second, there are more late game back door covers. With only three downs (harder to run for 10 yards) and the clock stopping after first downs (easier to prolong the game), the trailing team (often the underdog) can get two or even three possessions in the last few minutes.

The CFL is traditionally thought of as a higher scoring league than the NFL, which was the case last year with an average score of 49 points per game (including overtime). However, with many totals posted in the 50+ point range, the overall over/under record was 32-40.

Home teams were 42-28-2 straight up last year, but just 33-39 against the spread as the back door cover potential mentioned above somewhat minimizes the home field advantage.

Lastly, don't forget scheduling factors. The CFL plays an 18 game schedule to eliminate only two of its eight teams from the playoffs. There are eight less important inter-divisional games and 10 relatively more important divisional games. Much like college football, some of the divisional games are big rivalries and often there is a home-and-home.

After all is said and done, the regular season may not mean much. Last year in the playoff semi-finals, the No. 2 seeds won non-covering squeakers. In the finals, despite home field advantage and a bye, the No. 1 seeds both lost straight up. A non-covering Grey Cup win by Saskatchewan topped off a perfect 5-0 ATS for the playoff dogs and all five games went under the total.

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