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January 4, 2018

Nye’s Crystal Ball: 10 bold predictions for 2018

The Associated Press

With 2017 officially in the rear view mirror, it’s time to start looking forward.

After looking into his crystal ball, Jamie Nye has 10 bold predictions for 2018:

CALGARY’S REIGN ATOP THE WEST ENDS IN 2018

Of late, the Calgary Stampeders leading the way in the West Division is as easy to predict as a Harlem Globetrotters match. They’ve hosted the Western Final in four of the last five years.

But I’m sensing the decline in the Stampeders after a 13-win season and another Grey Cup disappointment. The competition in the West is too much to ignore. The Eskimos will be healthier, the Bombers don’t show signs of a decline, the Riders are on the rise and if the Lions can maintain the start they had last year, the Stampeders will likely be the team to suffer.

Ten wins, maybe 11 won’t be good enough for first in the West and could we see the Stamps miss out on hosting a playoff game for the first time since 2011? I think it could happen.

ZACH COLLAROS SHOWS AGAIN THAT HE CAN BE A TOP QB

There was no doubt who the best quarterback in the CFL was a few years ago when Zach Collaros was leading the Hamilton Tiger-Cats before an injury derailed his season.

Now with a high salary and quarterbacks piling up for the Tiger-Cats, it appears Collaros is on the outs with the Tiger-Cats. A new landing spot may be just what Collaros needs and he’ll get his opportunity again in 2018 and I think we see Collaros back in the conversation as a quarterback to look out for for years to come.

He turns 30 this season and that has always been the age of maturity for most quarterbacks in the CFL when they seem to take it to the next level. All Collaros needs is a new lease on his career.

And if he stays in Hamilton, I don’t think it’s out of the question Collaros can win his old job back.

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Don’t rule out the possibility of Zach Collaros starting in Hamilton, says Nye (Johany Jutras/CFL.ca)

JAMES FRANKLIN PROVES THE HYPE WAS REAL

The Toronto Argonauts traded for the negotiating rights to James Franklin, taking the gamble he’s the next great quarterback in the CFL. I think he’ll show right away that is the case, as soon as this pre-season.

Will it be with the Argonauts is next question that needs to be answered as no contract has been signed yet, a month away from free agency.

FREE AGENCY GETS CFL SPINNING

With the one-year contracts and the uncertainty of the new collective bargaining agreement, we’ll see another busy CFL free agent period in the month of February. Big names are likely to be released before then as well as teams start to get their 2018 books in order.

All-star calibre players will find new homes in 2018 and some news always comes early, so we won’t have to wait until February for CFL news.

JAMES WILDER JR GOES FROM TOP ROOKIE TO TOP PLAYER IN 2018

One player who took the CFL by storm in 2017 was James Wilder Jr. Once he was given the lead back duties in Toronto, it added a new dimension to that offence and he was able to run and catch his way to top rookie honours last season.

I think Wilder will have bigger news to make in 2018 as one of the young stars of the Canadian Football League. Is it too bullish of me to start the MOP chants at BMO Field?

Could James Wilder Jr. go from top rookie to Most Outstanding Player this season? (Johany Jutras/Argonauts.ca)

JUNE JONES WINS COACH OF THE YEAR

Sticking to awards, June Jones takes the 2018 Coach of the Year title! I see a team that believes again in Hamilton and they definitely have the talent to take the East this season. A drastic improvement in play carries over in 2018.

While I won’t predict an East Division title as I think the Argonauts will be tough to dethrone, a home playoff game would definitely be deserving of a June Jones Coach of the Year award.

CHRISTION JONES TAKES OFF IN SASKATCHEWAN

While I’m predicting James Wilder Jr. to become an even bigger household name, I think Christion Jones of the Saskatchewan Roughriders will become a human highlight package in 2018.

Jones already has shown the big-play potential on returns with three punt returns for touchdowns, including one that was nearly the winner in the Eastern Final.

But I think Jones has more to offer this coming season for the Green and White on special teams and getting more opportunities on offence as well. I’m sure he’ll land on the CFL top 10 plays of 2018.

MANZIEL WATCH FIRES UP THE NEW YEAR, BUT NO INSTANT STAR

Johnny Manziel and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats only have a few more days to come to an agreement after the 10-day window was opened up near the end of 2017.

Manziel watch will be on once again and while I do believe you’ll see Manziel in a CFL training camp this season, I’m not predicting instant super stardom from the former Heisman Trophy winner.

Maybe something to watch out for in 2019, however.

Yet to sign a contract, Johnny Manziel will be a talked-about story this coming season (The Associated Press)

CHANDLER FENNER TOP DEFENSIVE PLAYER

Let’s go to the defensive players. Solomon Elimimian is hard to surpass in BC as the team’s top defensive player but I think Chandler Fenner has the goods if he sticks around. Fenner could also be a name that makes a free agent move this off-season and I don’t care if he does. He’s shown the athleticism to get down field on special teams and added over 70 defensive tackles.

Fenner has more to come and I’m looking for an all-star year from the third year player.

HEALTHY ESKIMOS WIN AT HOME

A Grey Cup prediction in January? YEP!

The Edmonton Eskimos have one of the best leaders in the game in Mike Reilly and with a much healthier lineup this season, I think the Grey Cup hosts are going to have a special 2018 season, capping it off with the Grey Cup at Commonwealth Stadium in November.