The 2019 Canadian Football League season kicks off on June 13 giving avid football fans and bettors the chance to watch and bet some football in the summer months before another 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. In this week’s edition of PSW, I’ll take a look at the West Division which is loaded as every team has the potential to win the division in 2019.
(2018 Season: 13-5 SU, 9-9 ATS, 7-11 O/U)
The Calgary Stampeders will have a tough road to navigate in their attempt to repeat as Grey Cup champions. It’s not because they aren’t still extremely talented. They are. However, for the first time in years, there has been more personnel departures in the offseason for the Stampeders. The defense is without star LB Alex Singleton and pass rushing dynamo Ja’Gared Davis as the headliners from a group of defensive players that made up two-thirds of the starting defense last season that have departed the team. Last year’s defensive coordinator DeVone Claybrooks who architected one of the best defenses in the CFL the last few years left to take the BC Lions head coaching position. Brett Monson will take over the DC role and there could be some serious growing pains early in the season with tons of new starters in all of Calgary’s defensive starting units to go along with a new DC which comes with new systems and schemes being implemented. The offense isn’t without change either from last season. Calgary tied with Saskatchewan for least amount of sacks allowed and I expect their offensive line to still be one of the best in the league. Calgary is known for stout and depth laden offensive lines. The RB and WR skill position groups look strong even though the Stamps saw a couple receivers depart. Eric Rogers and Kamar Jorden will lead the WR group and, of course, Calgary is led by the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player of 2018 at QB, Bo Levi Mitchell. I don’t expect much dropoff at all from the Stamps’ offense. The defense is another story and could lead to this team being one worth betting Over the total early in the new season from a totals perspective.
(2018 Season: 12-6 SU, 10-8 ATS, 10-8 O/U)
Saskatchewan has a new head coach in Craig Dickenson the brother of Dave (head coach of Calgary) after Chris Jones stepped down as GM and head coach for an NFL gig. The Saskatchewan offense is the biggest question entering the season. QB Zach Collaros being able to stay healthy and be productive is the key. He hasn’t played more than 14 games in a season and he had more INT’s than TD’s last season. The Riders did bring in William Powell at RB and Manny Arceneaux at WR to bolster the skill position group. The offensive line is mostly an aging group so there is concern on its ability to pass protect and play well blocking for its offense. On the other side of the football, there are hardly any concerns or question marks. The Saskatchewan defense is loaded. They have a ridiculously strong defensive front led by Charleston Hughes and Micah Johnson. The LB corps is significantly better with the addition of Solomon Elimimian from BC and the secondary will be one of the league’s best anchored by Nick Marshall and Ed Gainey. This has the makings of being the CFL’s best defense in 2019. The other side of the football and the level of success on offense for Saskatchewan will determine its fate this season.
WINNIPEG BLUE BOMBERS
(2018 Season: 10-8 SU, 10-7-1 ATS, 10-8 O/U)
The Winnipeg Blue Bombers have progressively improved under head coach Mike O’Shea and got to the West Division Final last season. Now the Blue Bombers hope to take that final step and win the West and get to their first Grey Cup game since 2011. The Winnipeg offensive line was strong last season and should be again in 2019 allowing QB Matt Nichols time in the pocket (which he needs to be effective) to find targets down the field. They still have Andrew Harris at RB who has regained his status as one of the top RB’s in the CFL since arriving in Winnipeg. The Bombers need to develop some 3rd and 4th WR options behind Darvin Adams and Chris Matthews. The defense has seen some changes, but the defensive line will be very formidable with the signing in free agency of Willie Jefferson from Saskatchewan to join the likes of Jackson Jeffcoat and Craig Roh who were disruptive along that defensive front last season. Adam Bighill is back to anchor the LB corps and he is coming off a career season last year. The secondary is the one area that will see some changes to it and the pass defense may need some time to gel. Otherwise, this is a very solid and competitive team with plenty of continuity and one that will be a factor in the extremely competitive West Division.
(2018 Season: 9-9 SU, 10-8 ATS, 6-12 O/U)
The BC Lions may have been the busiest team in the CFL during the offseason. The roster has been transformed and on paper certainly appears to be much better and stronger heading into the 2019 season. The big splash was the signing of former Edmonton Eskimos QB and 2015 Grey Cup champion Mike Reilly although there is cause for concern. Reilly is 34 years old and is coming off a dismal second half of the season with Edmonton and he wound up with a career high 18 INT’s. For BC, he’s certainly an upgrade from Jonathon Jennings but there is still some questions about whether Reilly can regain his MVP status at the QB position. BC has the weapons on offense to thrive if Reilly can play well and make better decisions with the football. The Lions brought in Lemar Durant and Duron Carter at WR and them along with veteran Lions WR Bryan Burnham forms a nice trio at the position. Brandon Rutley and John White will battle for the starting RB spot and the offensive line appears to be serviceable especially with the addition of Sukh Chungh. On defense, there are plenty of questions. The defense is littered with new starters and maybe as many as seven but new head coach DeVone Claybrooks orchestrated an elite Calgary defense as the defensive coordinator there for years before taking this job. I have confidence in him to mold this BC defense into a quality group as the season moves along. It just may take a little bit of time for that to happen. This may be an Over team early in the season until the defense can gel and improve with all the new faces but they have the head coach in Claybrooks with a strong defensive pedigree and a veteran DC in Rich Stubler to ensure the defense improves sooner rather than later.
(2018 Season: 9-9 SU, 8-10 ATS, 9-9 O/U)
The Edmonton Eskimos are the only team from the West Division last year to miss the playoffs. They made plenty of moves to ensure they avoid a repeat performance in 2019 and it started with the signing of former Ottawa Redblacks QB Trevor Harris after Mike Reilly left for the BC Lions. Harris is a nice addition to the Eskimos as their new starting QB. Sure, he had his ups and downs last season but he still led Ottawa to a Grey Cup game where they lost to the mighty Calgary Stampeders and that is nothing to be ashamed about. The Eskimos offense has reloaded with WR Greg Ellingson brought in and he formed an incredible QB and WR tandem for the last couple of seasons in Ottawa with the Redblacks along with former Calgary WR DaVaris Daniels. The Eskimos did suffer a massive blow with the likely season-ending injury suffered in training camp by projected starting left tackle Sir’Vincent Rogers, who was also signed from Ottawa in free agency. However, the offense should be able to be relatively solid with Harris at QB controlling things. On the defensive side of the football, Edmonton struggled last season and hopes that new players all across the defense and a new defensive coordinator in Phillip Lolley make an impact. The defensive line looks fairly good but there are significant question marks at LB and in the secondary. Teams with solid offensive lines that can provide good pass protection and run blocking while neutralizing that Eskimos defensive line have the potential to pick Edmonton’s defense apart with so many new faces and open competitions taking place in a majority of positions at the LB and secondary spots entering the season. Edmonton could be in some highscoring shootouts this season especially early on. Nevertheless even with the defensive questions, their current Grey Cup futures price of 1200 down with the likes of bottom feeders like Toronto and Montreal seems like a bit of overreaction and this team might offer up some pointspread value following one of the worst seasons in recent memory for the Edmonton Eskimos a season ago.