2019 CFL Season Betting Preview - East Division

By Ian Cameron  () 

The 2019 Canadian Football League season kicks off on June 13, giving football fans and bettors the chance to watch and bet some football in the summer months before the NFL and college football season. The Calgary Stampeders will look to repeat as Grey Cup champions after defeating the Ottawa Redblacks in last year’s title game. I’ll be providing a two-part season preview of the upcoming CFL campaign and in this week’s edition of PSW, I’ll take a look at the East Division.

OTTAWA REDBLACKS

(2018 Season: 11-7 SU, 9-9 ATS, 7-11 O/U)

The Ottawa Redblacks will have to navigate their way through plenty of personnel changes and turnover in the offseason if they hope to repeat as East Division champions and return to the Grey Cup game after losing to Calgary in last year’s title game. Ottawa lost QB Trevor Harris, WRs Greg Ellingson and Diontae Spencer, RB William Powell and starting left tackle Sir’Vincent Rogers in free agency. Their former offensive coordinator, Jamie Elizondo, left the team two months prior to the start of training camp. The Redblacks will have an open competition for the starting QB spot in training camp between Jonathon Jennings and Dominique Davis. The offensive line will need to find a new starting left tackle, which is pivotal, but the rest of that unit seems to be fine. On defense, the Redblacks allowed the 3rd fewest points last season and could be just as strong if not better on that side of the football this season. The defensive line is a veteran unit that returns most of its starters from last season’s team. The linebacking corps has undergone some changes, but there is a lot of upside in terms of potential with the projected starters at LB. The Ottawa secondary could be quite strong. It added a solid veteran Chris Randle from Winnipeg to form a great CB duo with Jonathan Rose (led the CFL in interceptions last season), plus the return of their outstanding safety Antoine Pruneau. It will be hard for the Ottawa Redblacks to duplicate what they did last season, especially with so many question marks up and down their team on offense. But the defense could be very good and what carries the team, especially early in the season. I’ll be looking for spots to bet against Ottawa. I also think they will be more of an Under team in the first few weeks until the offense sorts itself out.

HAMILTON TIGER-CATS

(2018 Season: 8-10 SU, 7-10-1 ATS, 10-8 O/U)

Hamilton could be the team to beat on paper in the East entering the 2019 season. The Ticats have a new head coach in Orlondo Steinauer promoted from within after serving as defensive coordinator a year ago. He is ready for the opportunity and has a bright football mind. Let’s not forget Steinauer is responsible for turning around a horrible Fresno State defense in college football in the 2017 season in his one season there as the DC working under head coach Jeff Tedford. Former head coach June Jones has left the team to pursue XFL opportunities, but the coaching transition should be seamless. The talent on both sides of the football for this team is there in droves and so is the depth. Jeremiah Masoli returns at QB for Hamilton and is firmly entrenched as one of the top QBs in the CFL. He led the CFL with 405.6 yards per game through the air last season. The offensive line should be strong, especially after the Ticats spent two draft picks on offensive linemen in this year’s CFL Draft, including Jesse Gibbon with the 2nd overall pick. The receiving corps is led by Brandon Banks and Luke Tasker, but Mike Jones and Bralon Addison are great complementary targets as well. The RB corps will be led by Cameron Marshall and Sean Thomas-Erlington. On the defensive side of the football, the line is improved big time after the acquisition of Ja’Gared Davis from Calgary to add to Adrian Tracy and Ted Laurent and now a team that lacked pressure on the QB consistently last season should be much better in that area this year. The LB corps with veteran Simoni Lawrence, Justin Tuggle and the returning Rico Murray should be strong and the secondary -- if Delvin Breaux can finally stay healthy for an entire season -- could provide the Ticats with their best pass defense in many years. This team is the favorite to win the East Division right now. For the Ticats, it’s all about putting it together on the field. This should be a “bet on” team.

MONTREAL ALOUETTES

(2018 Season: 5-13 SU, 11-7 ATS, 7-11 O/U)

It was another terrible year for the Montreal Alouettes going 5-13, but the Alouettes did put their best foot forward down the stretch finishing 4-5 in their last 9 games. Johnny Manziel is gone --an experiment that failed miserably. The team does have some promise, although it may still take more time before that promise is fulfilled. The pieces are young on offense as Antonio Pipkin showed some glimpses of quality QB play for the Alouettes once he became the starter. They have some solid skill-position talent with RB William Stanback along with WRs Eugene Lewis, B.J. Cunningham, plus a solid signing in DeVier Posey. Unfortunately, the offensive line was “offensive” in the bad sense of the word last season. It was young and not talented as the Alouettes surrendered the most sacks in the CFL last season and that unit is still a major work in progress. They should be better, but they are going from a team that had one of the worst offensive lines in ages in the CFL so there is nowhere to go but up. The defense was horrible last season with only lastplace Toronto giving up more points. They have a new defensive coordinator in Bob Slowik, who was hired by second-year head coach Mike Sherman after a stint in the NFL. I’m not sure I like that hire one bit. Montreal added Taylor Loffler at safety and Bo Lokombo at LB to bolster the defense, but this is still a stop unit that has a lot to prove after being run over by every CFL offense last season. The defensive line didn’t get a lot of pressure last season, and it has two aging veterans in John Bowman and Gabriel Knapton projected to start at the defensive end spots, and I’m not sure that’s a great idea. Too many questions here to consider Montreal a bounce back team, and it could be another tough season ahead. I think this team will be an Over team from a totals perspective game to game with an offense that has some upside to it, but a defense that will need plenty of work to improve.

TORONTO ARGONAUTS

(2018 Season: 4-14 SU, 6-12 ATS, 9-9 O/U)

Toronto went from first to worst. The Argos won the Grey Cup in 2017 and followed that up by being the worst team in the CFL last season, finishing 4-14. Marc Trestman went from Grey Cup to being out of a job as he was fired somewhat surprisingly after last season. Corey Chamblin, who was previously the head coach for the Saskatchewan Roughriders and won a Grey Cup there in 2013, has taken over the position. The Argos will give James Franklin another chance to prove he can be starting QB material in the CFL after a rough season last year when he struggled with consistency and also decision-making as he threw more INTs than TDs. Veteran CFL OC and also former head coach of the Montreal Alouettes, Jacques Chapdelaine, is the new OC so there will be a new system, scheme and playbook for this revamped Argos offense to learn in training camp. The offensive line lost Chris Ven Zeyl in the offseason and enters the 2019 season with plenty of question marks. The signing of Derel Walker at WR is massive and will give the Argos a much needed big-play weapon down the field and RB James Wilder Jr. has shown he has the capability of being a good RB in the league. The offense is a work in progress to be sure, but the defense has a higher ceiling. Chamblin is a defensiveminded head coach and will most assuredly have a positive impact on an Argos defense that gave up the most points in the CFL last season. Nobody got fewer sacks than Toronto last season, but Chamblin likes to dial up pressures and blitzes, which should help along with the return of Shawn Lemon, one of the better pass rushers in the league. The secondary is dealing with plenty of new faces, which is why it will be imperative for that improved pass rush to get home and lend assistance to a pass defense that could take some time to gain cohesion. Toronto was 0-9 SU on the road last season and that combined with the worst home-field edge in the CFL means the Argos could once again be an overvalued squad, particularly when playing at BMO Field, which has not been a boisterous atmosphere in recent seasons. Toronto will need time to improve, but the Argos will most likely be a good “bet against” squad on their home field once again.

Next week: CFL West Division preview

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