Andrew Harris may have to carry the Bombers if they’re going to win without their QB (The Canadian Press)
The CFL season kickoff has a bit of a different feel than two weeks ago when the marquee would have read Matt Nichols against his former team and reigning MOP Mike Reilly. Now Chris Streveler has to be the man for the Bombers with Nichols on the shelf.
The Edmonton Eskimos’ inability to beat the Bombers last season cost them a home playoff game, but they were able to finally beat Winnipeg on the road in the playoffs. Those divisional games in the West will be imperative for success in the league’s toughest division.
While Edmonton has a few questions to answer with some big changes, it doesn’t come close to the questions surrounding the Bombers without Matt Nichols. I just can’t bring myself to pick the home team when it’ll be Mike Reilly on one side of the field and raw rookie on the other.
PICK: EDMONTON (90% confidence)
Toronto at Saskatchewan
Friday | 9 p.m. ET
Will we see a rusty Ricky Ray after not taking a snap in the pre-season? (Johany Jutras/CFL.ca)
The Toronto Argonauts may be one of the most stable teams from last season. There aren’t a bunch of big changes for the team, while the Roughriders had another makeover this off-season.
The hardest thing to make of these teams is exactly what we’ll see as some key figures didn’t play in the pre-season. Ricky Ray didn’t dress for the Argonauts though I doubt there will be much rust. He should be under pressure however as Charleston Hughes and Willie Jefferson will be unleashed as the Riders chose to keep the pass rushers caged up in the pre-season. Look out.
The concern for me is the play of the offensive line and the quarterbacks in the pre-season and while we didn’t see Ray, it’s not like he needs a lot of work to get going. Maybe I shouldn’t put too much weight on the pre-season but I was going to pick the Riders a few days ago, now I don’t see it happening with some chemistry still clearly needed to grow.
PICK: TORONTO (33% confidence)
Hamilton at Calgary
Saturday | 7 p.m. ET
The Ticats’ speed could help them bridge the gap on the favoured Stamps in Week 1 (Johany Jutras/CFL.ca)
You’d have to go all the way back to 2004 to find the last time the Tiger-Cats have been able to win on the road in Calgary. Sorry but I don’t think the trend ends this season.
The Stampeders are hoping to see a healthy Bo Levi Mitchell re-stake his claim at the top of the league and with the addition of Eric Rogers, it’s going to be an amazing receiving corps for him to throw to. The most interesting factor for this game is if the speed of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats offence can take advantage of a defence that has seen some changes over the off-season.
But man to man, the Stampeders are the better team.
PICK: CALGARY (90% confidence)
Montreal at BC
Saturday | 10 p.m. ET
The long road trip west combined with a late kickoff time has rarely gone Montreal’s way in B.C.
Bryan Burnham and the Lions are trying to start their season on a positive note at home vs. the Als (The Canadian Press)
Montreal also has a quarterback trying to prove once again he can start and win in the league with Drew Willy.
Overall, however, after the Alouettes’ disaster last season, they’ll have to prove it on the field before I start picking them here.
PICK: BC (95% confidence)
TSN CFL FANTASY: NYE PICKS HIS ROSTER
The TSN CFL Fantasy game returns for another season after launching last year. Each team will consist of six active offensive players (one quarterback, two running backs, two wide receivers, and a flex player) as well as a defence selected from one of the CFL’s nine teams, all while staying under a salary cap.
Best of all, TSN CFL Fantasy managers compete for the grand prize, of $10,000!
With Week 1 approaching fast, Nye makes his picks below:
You get one point per reception so running backs who can catch out of the backfield increase in value.
Week 1 is always an interesting week as teams haven’t shown any new tricks or quirks to their offences. Also it could be a week where you see an unknown first-year guy take off and if you play your cards right, you could be set up to get ahead of the game. Read, read, read on the reporters who cover the teams and watch the depth charts closely as we get closer to game day.
QB – Bo Levi Mitchell
The Calgary Stampeders pivot has an amazing group of players around him and is feeling much better after shoulder problems last year. I’m banking on a strong week out of the gate for the Stamps quarterback against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats defence, which underwent a big transformation with a new coordinator coming on.
RB – C.J. Gable
Underutilized in Hamilton, Edmonton gave him more touches and thus got more production from the running back. He also was able to catch a few passes out of the backfield and while it was nothing like you see from James Wilder Jr. or Andrew Harris, I’m going on a bit of hunch that early on in the season, as Mike Reilly gets acclimatized to a different-looking receiving corps, some dump offs and screens to Gable to slow down a pass rush could be in the game plan.
RB – Andrew Harris
C’mon… that is great value for a running back who will be looked upon to carry the load and catch the ball from rookie quarterback Chris Streveler. Yes, plenty of attention from the defence should go Harris’ way, but that’s been the case for years and he still produces.
WR – S.J. Green
With PPR, quantity is everything and Ricky Ray loves throwing the ball to the big target! Green led the league in targets last season so you can see there is tremendous value in looking for Green to easily pick up five points a week just on catches alone.
WR – Emmanuel Arceneaux
Another target machine is No. 84 in BC. Jonathon Jennings looked Arceneaux’s way the most last year and while Bryan Burnham led the team in receiving yards, Arceneaux made up for the difference with more receptions. But it’s playing hunches when it comes to these two receivers because they’re both solid plays each week but can be dangerous to play them both unless it is a favourable matchup and to be honest, this could be the week that pays off for you.
FLEX – Christion Jones
I’m going to have fun with the flex spot this year to make it my ‘flyer’ of the week pick (a player with a low value but could be big upside). Jones is the return man in Saskatchewan and could break a game open like we saw a few times last year. So he gets some points for you there. Also, I think Jones has the ability to be used more in the offence as well as a receiving threat. With the veteran cuts made this week, I’m going to play a hunch that Jones does play a small role in the offence this season similar (but to a less extent) as Chris Rainey does in BC.
DEFENCE – BC
Every week I feel you pick a defence that you think faces an offence you don’t think can put up the points and could turn over the ball. Edmonton against a rookie quarterback will be a favourite choice but I’m going to avoid playing a defence on the road against Andrew Harris and company. Instead go with a BC defence that appeared to have a different tempo and quickness to them in the pre-season with all the changes they made against a Montreal offence that will have to make a believer out of most of us that they can improve with Drew Willy at quarterback.
Get all the top stories from across the league delivered to your inbox.