BC Lions should roar to Grey Cup title

BC Lions should roar to Grey Cup title

June 20, 2017 3:00 AM
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Football season is only a few days away!

For those wondering what I am talking about, no I’m not referring to NFL or College Football. I am talking about the Canadian Football League. The 2017 CFL season kicks off this Thursday and the nine-team league consistently offers great opportunities for savvy football bettors to pad their bankrolls before the NFL and College Football seasons approach in August.

The league features bigger fields (55 yards on each side), 3 downs as opposed to 4 and a shorter play clock leading to more snaps of the football over the course of a game. Last week, I looked at the East Division for the upcoming CFL season and this week it is time to shift gears and preview the West Division.

The Calgary Stampeders have dominated the CFL’s West Division for the better part of the last decade. Calgary has four division titles since 2008, including last season in which the Stampeders compiled a dominant regular season with a tremendous 15-2-1 SU record. Even more impressive is that Calgary went 13-5 ATS last season, managing to retain pointspread value in the betting markets despite the fact they were the best team in the league during the regular season.

Calgary enters the season looking to avenge a disappointing and heartbreaking loss in the 2016 Grey Cup against Ottawa. They have as complete a football team as anyone in the CFL with an offense led by the CFL’s top QB Bo Levi Mitchell and a defense that is as stingy as any in the league. Of the five defensive categories (fewest points allowed, sacks, interceptions, forced fumbles and pass knockdowns), the Stampeders topped the field last year in all but forced fumbles and interceptions. Calgary will be right in the mix to win the West and Grey Cup this season as they always are, but one team could threaten their hold of top dog in the division.

That team is the BC Lions. BC was 12-6 SU, 13-5 ATS last season and tied with Calgary for the best pointspread record in the CFL a season ago. The Lions were pasted last season by the Calgary Stampeders by a score of 42-15 in the West Final but the playoff experience should do wonders for 2nd year starting QB Jonathon Jennings, who has all the tools to be a star QB in the league. Jennings has dual threat capabilities with the skills to escape the pocket and make plays with his feet if there is nobody open in the passing game down the field. Jennings had a fine season with 67% completions, well over 5,000 passing yards and 27 TD passes.

The one problem area for him last season was INTs as he had 15 and some of them came at crucial times; that is an area he should improve upon entering his second season as the Lions No. 1 QB. The defense up front has the potential to be scary good in terms of stopping the run and getting a pass rush on opposing QBs, and that is key because the secondary does have some new faces and revamping taking place. BC is by far the biggest threat to Calgary out west.

The rest of the teams in the West all have uncertainty surrounding them. The Winnipeg Blue Bombers had a resurgent campaign last year going 11-7 and qualifying for the postseason for the first time since 2011. Matt Nichols took over as the No. 1 QB in Winnipeg early in the season which led to the eventual trade of former starter Drew Willy. However, Nichols still has a lot to prove as he embarks on his first full season as the starting QB with the Bombers.

The defense took massive strides forward last season thanks to a ball hawking unit that had 30 interceptions leading the CFL in that category. However, those takeaways also masked a defensive unit that still gave up the most total yards in the CFL, so whether that defense was good because they could get stops or because they forced a boatload of turnovers is up for debate.

The Edmonton Eskimos had a very good offensive team last season led by veteran QB Mike Reilly and a solid group of skill position talent, and one of the better OL’s in the CFL. However, their defense didn’t live up to their end of the bargain. Edmonton finished eighth in the CFL last year in sacks, which explains why they had one of the weakest pass rushes.

They did a decent job forcing turnovers but they were only middle of the road in points allowed, ranking fifth last season in that regard. Despite more questions on defense, the offense should once again be solid but with one cautionary fact – the team lost easily their most explosive and dynamic receiver in the offseason with the departure of Derel Walker to the NFL and that won’t be an easy hole to plug.

The Saskatchewan Roughriders wound up tied with Toronto for worst record in the CFL last season at 5-13 and certainly have an uphill climb ahead of them back to respectability. I had a certain amount of optimism for Saskatchewan heading into training camp but to say training camp and preseason was a bumpy road for the Riders would be an understatement. Vince Young’s pro football comeback ended before it could begin as a torn hamstring injury in training camp led to his release.

Kevin Glenn and Brandon Bridge the top two QB’s on the roster had a very inconsistent preseason and the Saskatchewan starting defense was picked apart in the preseason. Roughriders head coach and GM Chris Jones revitalized Edmonton when he became head coach there prior to 2014, including a Grey Cup title, but that success hasn’t translated yet.

Saskatchewan is one of those teams where anything could happen – a squad that has the chance to be greatly improved but they also could be just as bad if not worse this season. This is a team littered with question marks and areas of concern that likely will not be answered until the team notches a few regular season games under their belt.

My pick for the 2017 Grey Cup this season is the BC Lions emerging from the very tough West Division facing the defending Grey Cup champion Ottawa Redblacks from the East in this year’s championship game with BC emerging victorious with the 2017 Grey Cup. You can currently find BC at 9-2 at Westgate to win the Grey Cup while Ottawa is at 8-1 to win it all in 2017 based on the current Grey Cup futures odds.

Enjoy the CFL season and good luck!