The Canadian Press
Here I am, back again to try and bring down the world in the roll-the-dice game of trying to pick the winners in the first few weeks of the CFL season.
Last year, there was a period in the beginning that I believed I had forgotten what football exactly was. And then as the games went on, the pictures of the winners and losers became clearer and I almost pulled out the victory among my other colleagues at CFL.ca.
This year, I hope to start a little stronger than that absolute dumpster fire of predictions in August of 2021.
Here’s a quick reminder on how CFL Pick ‘Em works. You pick the winners, then you slide the scale for bonus points on how confident you are in the selection. If you’re right, you get the bonus points. If you’re wrong, well, just hope you weren’t 100 points confident on your pick.
Ahead we go into the Week 1 selections with some intriguing matchups to start the year.
Montreal at Calgary
Thursday, 9:00 p.m. ET
We thought we were getting some early drama in Montreal with some guarded post-game comments from Khari Jones after the pre-season contest regarding his starting quarterback. Jones is now making it clear that Vernon Adams Jr. will be the QB1 coming into the season.
In the game against the REDBLACKS, Adams lead the Alouettes down the field for an opening touchdown and then proceeded to throw three interceptions. If you’re looking at that and saying ‘uh oh’ regarding Montreal’s quarterback, well Bo Levi Mitchell wasn’t much better in his pre-season game with two interceptions.
Both quarterbacks will be better after shaking off the rust and I think the Stampeders pass rush will be the difference in the football game as I believe Calgary will be near the top of the West Division standings when the season is over, while the Alouettes have some stiffer competition in the East due to the rise of the REDBLACKS.
Pick: Calgary (100 confidence bonus)
Ottawa at Winnipeg
Friday, 8:30 p.m. ET
If I’m Paul LaPolice, this is the first place I want to be in the REDBLACKS road to redemption after a three win season last year. In this game, you get to grade yourself against the best. Jeremiah Masoli will be among the former Tiger-Cats in Ottawa with a bitter taste in their mouth after seeing the Bombers beat them twice in back-to-back Grey Cups.
However, it’s a new season and a new team for Masoli. I’m excited to see what he and LaPolice are able to cook up in the offence with some playmakers making the move over to Ottawa. Plus, Darvin Adams will make his REDBLACKS debut in the old stomping grounds of IG Field.
The issue here is that I’m not sure the REDBLACKS will come out of this game feeling like they’re right there with the defending champs. While Zach Collaros didn’t play in the pre-season, he still has the vaunted offensive line in front of him with a strong run game and excellent play makers.
Oh, and then there is the defence. The Bombers will be ready to go from the opening kickoff.
PICK: WINNIPEG (100 confidence bonus)
Hamilton at Saskatchewan
Saturday, 7:00 p.m. ET
Dane Evans is now the No. 1 in Hamilton without question. Evans will look around the receiving corps without Brandon Banks and Jaelon Acklin, who moved on in the off-season. The Tiger-Cats, however, do have receivers like Papi White, Tim White, Bralon Addison, and Steven Dunbar Jr., who are all ready to carry the offence.
With Ja’Gared Davis moving on, my biggest question for the Tiger-Cats to answer this season is can they get to the quarterback as often as they have in the past? If so, they will allow a talented linebacking and defensive secondary to eat up quarterbacks throwing under pressure.
The Roughriders defence is once again set up to be the strength of the team. The addition of Darnell Sankey and Derrick Moncrief will make them that much better, despite a younger and inexperienced secondary. Plus, they still have the pass rushers to ease the pressure on the back end.
Offensively is where we find the real questions. Will the offensive line be improved and give Cody Fajardo more time to find receivers down field? Is Fajardo once again ready to prove he’s one of the elite quarterbacks in the league? Have they found a suitable replacement for William Powell?
We won’t know all the answers in game one, but I feel the Riders will ready to start the season strong at home.
PICK: SASKATCHEWAN (0 confidence bonus)
Edmonton at BC
Friday, 10:00 p.m. ET
Two non-playoff teams last year going head-to-head may be my under the radar game of the week. Both organizations want to show early that they belong in the conversation with the other three in the West Division. Also, it’s the only divisional game of the week.
Both teams are hoping to establish a new quarterback at the helm. Both teams are looking for improvement across the board as they invested in the off-season to try and bolster all aspects of the team. BC wants a better pass rush. Edmonton wants a better … everything.
Yes, new head coach Chris Jones was steaming about his Elks after the pre-season finale beat down at the hands of the Calgary Stampeders but that will also allow him to teach and get the best out of his group going into the opener.
The Lions have surrounded new starting quarterback Nathan Rourke with the tools he needs to succeed. A healthy Lucky Whitehead, Bryan Burnham, and an offensive line growing together, all of which could allow Rourke to succeed early and often.
I believe in Nick Arbuckle as a veteran who has had plenty of people question him as a No. 1 guy. The Elks have the tools to be a strong team, but it all depends how quickly Chris Jones can piece the puzzle together.
This might go down as a bit of an upset…
PICK: EDMONTON (0 confidence bonus)