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August 3, 2021

Football’s Back: Kickoff Power Rankings

The Canadian Press

TORONTO — As you read this, it’s been 619 days since we last saw a CFL game. That drought will end at 621 days on Thursday night, when the Winnipeg Blue Bombers finally get to begin the defence of their Grey Cup championship. They’ll appropriately face the team they topped to get that banner that’s being raised at IG Field on Thursday night, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

While we may not fully have a sense of normalcy in our lives yet, it’s getting there and if you’re a fan of football, this week should help move you closer to it. We’re heading into a full slate of games in Week 1 and if you’re in Winnipeg, Regina, Edmonton or Calgary, you can go and see the action live, if your team’s game isn’t sold out already.

What will we see when things kickoff this week? We’re admittedly not entirely sure. Teams have had two full off-seasons to work on their rosters. Some (Winnipeg, Hamilton) have tweaked a championship-calibre team. Others (Toronto) have completely revamped and will be fascinating to watch over the next 14 weeks.

Continuity and experience played a big role in the shaping of our Week 1 power rankings. At this point, though, the rankings feel secondary to the fact that we finally have football back! Here’s how CFL.ca sees the teams stacking up in this joyous Week 1:


1. Hamilton Tiger-Cats

Record: 0-0
Last week: —

The Ticats have kept the bulk of their 15-3, Grey Cup finalist team together, including the quarterback duo of Jermiah Masoli and Dane Evans. The Ticats should be just as dangerous in all three phases of the game as they were in 2019. That they came through training camp healthy helped them lock down the No. 1 spot.


2. Saskatchewan Roughriders

Record: 0-0
Last week: —

The Riders had their depth tested over the last month, losing an astonishing five players to Achilles injuries. Their defence may take a hit without Larry Dean at linebacker, but their offence is tantalizing enough for us to rank them second. We’ve talked about what offensive coordinator Jason Maas might be able to do with Cody Fajardo for over a year-and-a-half. On Friday, we begin to find out.


3. Winnipeg Blue Bombers

Record: 0-0
Last week: —

Buy-in hasn’t been an issue for the Bombers for years under coach Mike O’Shea and GM Kyle Walters. The team brings back almost all of its key championship-winning pieces to attempt to run it back in 2021. Two questions we’d like to see answered in the coming weeks: What will quarterback play look like with Zach Collaros at the helm for a full season? Second and maybe more pressing, what’s the status of Andrew Harris for Week 1 and beyond? Will the Bombers lean on RBs Johnny Augustine and Brady Oliveira more this season?


4. Montreal Alouettes

Record: 0-0
Last week: —

The feel good story of the 2019 season has been renewed and GM Danny Maciocia hopes improved for a run at the Grey Cup in 2021. Vernon Adams Jr. will look to build on the breakthrough season he had playing for head coach Khari Jones and has no shortage of weapons around him. The Als’ defence was something of a leaky dam in 2019. If new DC Barron Miles can patch things up, we could be looking at a second beast in the East, nipping at Hamilton’s heels.


5. Edmonton Elks

Record: 0-0
Last week: —

With a new name, new head coach and as we saw at the end of training camp, a new look defence, the Elks are confident about their chances in 2021 and they should be. Edmonton’s offence is loaded and Trevor Harris is in a good spot to take a run at MOP this year. The Elks’ d-line is young and hungry. If their new-to-the-game linebacking corps is as good as they think it is, they could jump up these rankings in the coming weeks.


6. Calgary Stampeders

Record: 0-0
Last week: —

This admittedly feels strange. The Stamps have been dominant over the last decade now, but they’ve lost a lot of talented starters on both sides of the ball in the last few years. History suggests that the Stamps will be OK and over the course of the season, with Dave Dickenson coaching and Bo Levi Mitchell at QB, they’ll likely figure things out. We just need to see it first.


7. BC Lions

Record: 0-0
Last week: —

On paper, the Lions are improved offensively. If Michael Reilly has time to make plays and show his MOP-worthy form, things will be much better in BC this year. The Lions came out of their Kamloops camp seemingly high on an inexperienced defensive line, so much so that they released DE Chris Casher; an expected starter before camp opened. That group will be put to the test in Week 1 against the Riders.


8. Toronto Argonauts

Record: 0-0
Last week: —

The Argos have spent the last two off-seasons revamping their roster, signing what feels like every high profile free agent that’s hit the market. What will it all look like when coach Ryan Dinwiddie rolls this team out? What will the chemistry be like? How long will it take to develop? Who’s starting at QB in Week 1? There are lots of questions and we can’t wait to see what the answers are.


9. Ottawa REDBLACKS

Record: 0-0
Last week: —

It feels like the REDBLACKS have quietly gone about their work through training camp. There’s been a lot of change since this group’s 3-15 campaign came to a close in 2019. Matt Nichols should be well-versed in Paul LaPolice’s offence and Ottawa’s d-line should be able to apply the pressure that was missing the last time they took the field. They’re in tough against Edmonton this week but this team has the makings of a group that will embrace the challenge.


WEEK-BY-WEEK RANKINGS

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 ARCHIVE
WEEK 0

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