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Analysis and a Best Bet for Week 4 of the CFL

By Ian Cameron  () 

HAMILTON TIGER-CATS @

MONTREAL ALOUETTES

Spread: Hamilton -12.5

Total: 56.5

This is the back end of a home-and-home series between the Ticats and Alouettes. Hamilton left no doubt in anyone’s mind it was the better of these two teams last week as it trounced Montreal 41-10 and easily covering as doubledigit home favorites. The Ticats are off to their best start of the season since 2004, which was the last time they opened 3-0 and they are also an unblemished 3-0 ATS as well. Hamilton’s offense has been firing on all cylinders the last two weeks with an explosive passing game with a slew of receivers chipping in to the success and the emergence of Sean Thomas-Erlington as the team’s new starting RB and he has been sensational. Hamilton has dropped 105 points in the last two games and to think that WR Luke Tasker didn’t suit up in either contest illustrates how scary good this offense can be. Hamilton’s defense was its area of concern, but the Ticats upgraded the defense in the offseason and it is showing so far as Hamilton has yet to allow an opponent more than 17 points in a game. Hamilton just walloped Montreal a week ago and this game comes down to focus more than anything for the Ticats. Do they have that same intensity against the same team they just beat up a week ago, especially with much tougher opponents and bigger games on deck in the next two games as they face West Division powers Calgary and Winnipeg in consecutive home games after this one. Montreal’s offense couldn’t gain any traction last week with QB Vernon Adams Jr. completing just 14 passes for 173 yards while the Alouettes defense under new DC Bob Slowik has not been able to get any stops. Montreal’s defense was a bottom tier unit last season and the defense has started out 2019 in similar fashion, allowing 73 points in the first two games combined and the Als rank dead last in total yards allowed per game. From what I’ve seen of these two teams so far, Hamilton is the far superior team and is capable of defeating Montreal decisively again. The Ticats are 4-0 SU and ATS in their last four visits to Montreal and they won each of those games by 12 or more points. It would be Hamilton or pass for me in this game, although there is concern of some complacency for the road favorite here. The last 3 games in Montreal between these two teams have soared Over the total. Last week’s total was as high as 59 and this week’s rematch is lined at 56.5. If the weather cooperates, the Over may be worth a look here.

WINNIPEG BLUE BOMBERS @

OTTAWA REDBLACKS

Spread: Ottawa -4.5

Total: 54.5

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers didn’t play their best game last week. They had their fair share of mistakes and lots of sloppy play at times but the most important thing is they won the game. The Blue Bombers got out to a big lead but had to hang on for dear life to knock off the Edmonton Eskimos 28-21. It was a very peculiar game as Edmonton outgained Winnipeg by 162 yards despite losing. Winnipeg had a -3 turnover margin in the game despite winning. However, good teams find ways to win when they don’t play their best and Winnipeg showed it in that game as its offense connected on a few big plays namely from QB Matt Nichols to speed demon WR Lucky Whitehead and the defense came up with key situational stops at critical times in the game especially when Edmonton was trying to mount its comeback late in the game. The Bombers take their 2-0 record on the road to face the 2-0 Ottawa Redblacks in this battle of undefeated teams. Ottawa returns to action this week after having a bye last week. The Redblacks offense was a major question mark and area of concern entering 2019 but so far, so good for QB Dominique Davis and this completely retooled offense. Ottawa has a revamped offensive line, plenty of new receivers and a new starting RB, a new offensive coordinator and yet they’ve scored 32 points in each of their first two games and have looked surprisingly more cohesive as a unit than anybody had reason to expect with so many changes in the offseason. The Ottawa defense wasn’t great against Saskatchewan, but emerged with the win thanks to outscoring them. The Redblacks are 2nd against the run (albeit early in the season) and that will be put to the test by Winnipeg’s ground attack, featuring the best RB in the CFL in Andrew Harris and Winnipeg’s defense in general has been good early in the season and will be one of the tougher early-season tests to show if this Ottawa offense can keep up its somewhat surprising strong output to begin the season. Winnipeg is a fantastic 21-8 ATS in its last 29 tries on the road and 3-0 SU and ATS in the last 3 trips to Ottawa since 2016. I’ll tip my cap to Ottawa for its 2-0 start, but this is a step up in class for them here IMO and I feel the better team is catching points in this matchup.

BC LIONS @

TORONTO ARGONAUTS

Spread: BC -6.5

Total: 57

Toronto looks like the worst team in the CFL after the first three weeks, going 0-2 SU and ATS in ugly blowout losses to Hamilton and Saskatchewan while being outscored 96-21. The CFL is a long season with 18 regular-season games for each team and 20 weeks of action, so there is plenty of time for the Argos to right the ship, but right now, there isn’t much they can feel good about or confident about with their football team. The offense has been dismal with QB James Franklin completing only 66.7% of his passes with just a single TD and 3 INT’s. He’s played behind an offensive line that has been overwhelmed in the trenches through the first two games. The defense has not been much better as the Argos have been gashed both on the ground and through the air to the tune of allowing 436.5 passing yards and 126.5 rushing yards per game in their two losses, which ranks them 8th and 9th (last), respectively, in those categories in the CFL. It speaks to how bad Toronto has been that an 0-3 BC Lions team is favored by almost a TD on the road in this game. However, it’s hard not to envision BC as the team with the better squad based solely on its roster on paper. Unfortunately for the Lions, they have not played well in the second half of each of their first three games as they’ve been badly outplayed beyond halftime this season and all the changes with this squad in terms of offensive and defensive personnel, plus the implementation of their new coaching staff and schemes has led to a distinct lack of cohesion and continuity. The Lions should have gotten their first win of the season last week against Calgary as they dominated and controlled most of the game. They led 32-21 with under 4 minutes left. Calgary drove down the field and punched in a TD with backup QB Nick Arbuckle leading the offense after Bo Levi Mitchell was injured. That made it 32-29 with the successful 2-point conversion. Calgary recovered an onside kick after that and scored another TD in the last minute to take the lead and go on to win 36-32 in stunning fashion. It was a brutal defeat for BC which makes it hard to see there were a lot of positive steps in the right direction for the Lions in spite of the loss. Mike Reilly played his best game of the season at QB and so did the entire offense and the defense was much better for 3.5 quarters until the late onslaught by Calgary after struggling the first two games. However, the end result was another disappointing loss. The sense of urgency should be high for BC here against a reeling Toronto squad that also has the disadvantage of playing a Monday night game in Saskatchewan and now suiting up just five days later here on Saturday against BC.

CALGARY STAMPEDERS @

SASKATCHEWAN ROUGHRIDERS

Spread: Saskatchewan -3

Total: 51

The big question going into this game is the status of Calgary QB Bo Levi Mitchell who injured his throwing shoulder late in Saturday’s shocking comeback win against BC. Mitchell was replaced by Georgia State product Nick Arbuckle who engineered a miraculous comeback for the Stampeders. Mitchell is questionable for this game but we should have a better idea later in the week of his playing status. If he doesn’t play, this would be Arbuckle’s first start with Calgary. He only threw passes in six games last season, usually during the end of games in which Calgary was up big. He played well in relief last week but now starting on the road against a Saskatchewan defense that got a lot of its swagger back in a convincing 32-7 win against Toronto although some of that is likely due to the Argos offense being so putrid. All that being said, Saskatchewan was expected to have a strong defense and I think it will start to resemble the defense we saw Monday night against Toronto as the season progresses. This will not be an easy game for Arbuckle if he indeed starts at QB in the toughest environment in the CFL for any road team. Calgary’s defense continues to be riddled with problems in terms of performance and overall health. The Stamps defensive line is perilously thin as they’ve already seen as many as four different starters along the defensive front suffer injuries in the first two games of their season. That is in addition to the multitude of key players they lost in the offseason along the defensive line, at LB and in their secondary. The end result for Calgary’s defense, which has been one of the best in the CFL for years, is a unit that has declined significantly so far as the Stamps have surrendered 32 points in each of their first two games and rank 7th in the league in total yards and rushing yards allowed. Saskatchewan’s offense despite losing #1 QB Zach Collaros to injury in Week 1, hasn’t skipped a beat with Cody Fajardo taking over the reins. He is 3rd in the CFL in passing right now and has led the Riders’ offense to 41 and 32 points in each of his first two starts for Saskatchewan. The Roughriders are currently Top 3 in all major offensive categories heading into Week 4. I’ll give the Calgary Stampeders credit for their incredible comeback win last week but this is a stern challenge here with a young starting QB potentially and a shaky defense on the road. Calgary is 3-0 to the Over this season in large part due to the struggles of its defense.

CFL Week 4 Best Bet: BC -6.5 -110

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