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Analysis and a Best Bet for Week 3 of the CFL

By Ian Cameron  () 

EDMONTON ESKIMOS @

WINNIPEG BLUE BOMBERS

Spread: Winnipeg -4.5

Total: 58

This is the best game of the week on paper as the 2-0 Edmonton Eskimos face the 1-0 Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Edmonton has looked impressive in two wins to open the season against Montreal and BC, outgaining them by a combined 490 total yards. QB Trevor Harris has thrown for 655 passing yards and 6 TDs without an INT while the Eskimos’ defense has been the massive surprise. It was expected to be a totally rebuilt defense entering the season, but the group has stepped up big time, allowing just 48 combined points and 263 total yards. It is led by a defensive line that has been getting into the backfield and disrupting the passing game. The defensive line playing as well as it has masks all the personnel changes and injuries at linebacker and in the secondary. The key difference with Winnipeg in comparison to BC and Montreal is its offensive line is elite and much more equipped to handle the vaunted Edmonton pass rush. QB Matt Nichols was good in Winnipeg’s road win at BC in Week 1, the Blue Bombers have the best RB in the CFL in Andrew Harris and a strong ground attack is not something Edmonton had to fear against either BC or Montreal. The Eskimos are still dealing with cluster injuries on defense, which will be harder to overcome against a better opponent. The Winnipeg defense should be strong this season, and it was in a victory over the Lions. The Eskimos certainly had their way with a bottom-tier Alouettes’ defense and a Lions defense with 7 new starters on it. Winnipeg is off a bye and should be fully fired up for its home opener on Thursday. The Eskimos have impressed so far, but this is a step up in class facing the team I expect to win the West and be in the Grey Cup. I’ll lean toward the home favorite here laying less than a TD.

MONTREAL ALOUETTES @

HAMILTON TIGER-CATS

Spread: Hamilton -13

Total: 57.5

It’s not possible to look more dominant than the Hamilton Tiger-Cats did last week in a 64-14 beatdown over the Toronto Argonauts. Hamilton won the yardage battle 604-322 and completely owned the game in all three phases. The Ticats are 2-0 and return home to face the Montreal Alouettes in what seems like an easy win for Hamilton, but I’m not so sure it will be. Hamilton may be guilty of a slight letdown here playing on a short week after a satisfying dismantling against Toronto. Montreal’s 32-25 loss to Edmonton in Week 1 was an odd game to analyze. The Alouettes were dominated in the box score overall, even though they only lost by a TD. Montreal was outgained 608-325, but #1 QB Antonio Pipkin was injured during that game and backup QB Vernon Adams Jr. had to take over. That is when the Alouettes got back into the game as Adams led them on 2 TD drives in the second half. Adams will start at QB in this game with Pipkin out indefinitely with an ankle injury. Adams has shown in flashes to be capable of playing and starting at the CFL level and now will get his chance albelt against a stingy Ticats defense that has surrendered just 31 points in the first two games combined. Hamilton made a concerted effort to upgrade its defense in the offseason at LB and specifically along the defensive line. So far, it has paid dividends. Hamilton has yielded just 92 rushing yards per game and notched 7 sacks in the first two weeks. The Montreal Alouettes have been at or near the bottom of the CFL the past 2 seasons. But the fact remains that when it comes to the pointspread, they have been undervalued and consistently making money for their backers. Montreal is 6-0 ATS dating to last season as well as 8-1 ATS in its last 9 road games and each of its last four losses have been by less than a TD. This seems like a decent enough spot to back the doubledigit underdog here. As long as the Alouettes don’t shoot themselves in the foot with mistakes and turnovers, they have the potential to hang around in this game. 

BC LIONS @

CALGARY STAMPEDERS

Spread: Calgary -10.5

Total: 52.5

The BC Lions have not started out the DeVone Claybrooks era very well and will look to avoid their third consecutive loss to start the season as they travel to Calgary to face the defending Grey Cup champion Stampeders. Claybrooks, the former Calgary defensive coordinator who is now a firstyear head coach with the BC Lions, has his hands full trying to put together a strong defense. The Lions have 7 new players on the defensive side of the football all of which learning new terminology with new coaches and schemes. The result has been nothing but ugly for BC on defense, allowing 72 points and 381 yards per game against Winnipeg and Edmonton in their two losses. The defense will likely improve in time but it’s very clear it’s going to require time for that to happen. Calgary is off a bye week and a Week 1 loss to the Ottawa Redblacks on this field by a score of 32-28. Both of those are important to note because the Stamps have been fantastic in these spots over the last decade during the John Hufnagel and Dave Dickenson coaching eras. Calgary is 27-12 ATS in their last 39 tries off a loss and 17-6-3 ATS in their last 26 games following a bye week. Calgary’s offense led by the best QB in the CFL, Bo Levi Mitchell, didn’t have their best performance against Ottawa and were held to only 318 total yards against a Redblacks defense that gave up 41 points a week later albeit in a winning effort against the Saskatchewan Roughriders. The offensive line struggled, the run game was shut down and the passing game was not in rhythm in that loss for Calgary. The defense was also a problem as it allowed Dominique Davis and the Ottawa offense to move the football with a great deal of success, but the Stamps have an injurydecimated defensive line already in the young season and are dealing with a ton of new faces on that side of the football. So, the defensive struggles may continue here, especially up against a veteran QB in Mike Reilly leading a Lions offense that has yet to play well for four full quarters in a game to this point. Both teams come into this game fully motivated and focused. It’s too many points for me to lay with Calgary, although the technical data points toward them, but BC has not had any sort of cohesion yet and until I see some of it, I’m hesitant to back them at least for now.

TORONTO ARGONAUTS @

SASKATCHEWAN ROUGHRIDERS

Spread: Saskatchewan -11.5

Total: 53.5

This is another matchup of teams seeking their first win of the season as the Toronto Argonauts face the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Saskatchewan is 0-2 with road losses at Hamilton and Ottawa (who are a combined 4-0 to begin the season), but now the Riders return home to face the Toronto Argonauts who are heading to Saskatchewan after one of the most embarrassing and humiliating losses in franchise history in an ugly 64-14 blowout defeat against Hamilton. Nothing went right for Toronto from the 2nd quarter onward in the game. It turned the ball over too much. Hamilton’s offense sliced and diced the Toronto defense in the final 3 quarters and the Argos offense was ineffective with QB James Franklin struggling with accuracy and the offensive line unable to keep the Ticats defensive front away from their QB and surrendering 4 sacks. Even the Toronto special teams didn’t play well giving up a kick return TD after a missed FG attempt in the second half. It was a complete failure by the entire team and one would think passion and pride has to set in for Toronto heading into this game after such a brutal and ugly loss. However, Saskatchewan isn’t in any position to take this game lightly, looking to notch its first win of the season. The Riders got a solid offensive performance from QB Cody Fajardo, who continues to start in place of the injured Zach Collaros, but their heavily hyped defense has had a tough first two weeks, especially last week as Ottawa’s offense shredded them for 447 total yards. The Argos defense has some talent on it up front on the defensive line but it gets thin at LB and in the secondary, especially after seeing Jermaine Gabriel sustain an injury in last week’s loss which weakens that Toronto pass defense even further. I don’t know if I can trust Toronto’s offense with James Franklin at QB based on what I saw last season and again last week as the offense bogged down repeatedly with too many bad decisions by Franklin and too many 2 and outs. Now he must go on the road and try to lead this offense against a Saskatchewan defense that in theory should be able to get great pressure on a suspect Argos offensive line with the caliber of pass rushers and defensive linemen that the Riders have. I think this is the game where Saskatchewan’s offense regresses a bit and its defense steps up big time against a limited Toronto offense and looks more like the Riders defense we expected entering the season. Toronto was winless on the road last season, which keeps me from taking them as double-digit underdogs here even though this is a “step up” spot for them after an embarrassing loss. I’m targeting the total instead as 53.5 looks awfully high in this game and the Under is 5-2 in the last 7 meetings between Toronto and Saskatchewan.

CFL Week 3 Best Bet: Toronto/Saskatchewan Under 53.5 -110

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