Through the first three weeks of the Canadian Football League season, we have seen some surprise developments. Underdogs started the season a perfect 8-0 ATS in Weeks 1 and 2 but things leveled off in Week 3 as dogs notched a losing 1-3 ATS mark with the lone pointspread cover being the Toronto Argonauts, who won outright as a 5-point underdog against Ottawa. Most of the surprising results in the opening few weeks of the season have taken place in the East Division.
The Toronto Argonauts entered the season with a completely new coaching staff and GM to go along with a totally revamped roster on both sides of the football. They were staring at a rebuilding season according to most people but Toronto is 2-1 SU and ATS to open the campaign with both of their victories coming inside their own division against Hamilton and Ottawa. The Argos offense, led by veteran QB Ricky Ray, has played well in both of their wins and the receiving corps of veteran WR S.J. Green along with newcomers Armanti Edwards and DeVier Posey has led to a solid offense in the first three weeks, but it is the play of this rebuilt defense that has been extremely impressive.
The Argos are ranked third in the league in total yards and points allowed. The contributions to the Toronto Argos’ solid start of Marc Trestman as head coach can’t be underestimated. Trestman led the Montreal Alouettes to being a steady and consistent contender in the CFL every year and his coaching style has clearly made a positive impact to this point.
The rebuilding process in Toronto was expected to be long and painful at the start following a 5-13 season last year that resulted in a full on house cleaning, but the early returns have been very positive for the Argos in their first three games.
A surprise in the other direction in the East is the winless Ottawa Redblacks who are the defending Grey Cup champions. Ottawa is 0-2-1 SU, 1-2 ATS through three games and has not been able to play well for an entire game on both sides of the football. Ottawa’s offense was fine in two games against Calgary but they were shut down by Toronto for the most part in the second half over the weekend and the Redblacks offensive line got dominated by the Argos’ strong and aggressive pass rush.
On the other side of the ball, the Ottawa defense, which lost their best CB from last season in free agency, has had a tough time against the pass, giving up big plays in each of their first three games to Calgary QB Bo Levi Mitchell and Toronto QB Ricky Ray.
Ottawa was considered to be a team in transition on that side of the football and they have surrendered 100 points in their first three games combined and that has contributed greatly to the struggles early in the season.
Injuries have also played a part for Ottawa so far and there is some concern, even though it is still early, the Redblacks may not be able to put forth that more consistent regular season performance after they were a sub .500 team last year in the regular season but got red hot at the right time in the playoffs en route to their championship.
Hamilton was expected to be better than they’ve been so far. Starting 0-2 SU and ATS, they own the league’s worst offense and defense after two games in terms of total yards allowed. Hamilton has been outgained by a horrendous 545 yards in those two defeats. The Ticats will be looking to get in the win column next Saturday as they have their home opener against the BC Lions who have won B2B games on the road against Eastern foes and are 9-1 SU in their last 10 games against East Division opponents.
The West Division has played out more like what most people expected. Calgary, BC and Edmonton are all neck and neck atop the division as many had the Stampeders, Lions and Eskimos as the top three teams going into the season. Winnipeg is just behind that group at 1-1 while Saskatchewan is 1-2.
Calgary had a win and tie in two games against Ottawa to open the season but looked much sharper on the defensive side of the football in their dominant win on the road against Winnipeg last week. The Stamps have averaged 7 yards per play in their games so far. BC has not been firing on all cylinders offensively but have gotten timely scores and relied on their defense to notch a pair of road wins in consecutive weeks against Toronto and Montreal. The Lions still appear to be a very decent threat to the Stampeders in the West. Edmonton is 2-0 to open the season, notching wins against BC and Montreal.
The Eskimos enter Week 4 coming off their bye week and host the Ottawa Redblacks. Mike Reilly and the Edmonton Eskimos offense have played well but their defense has taken a step forward in their first two games after that unit struggled down the stretch in 2016. Winnipeg took down Saskatchewan in OT on the road in their first game but couldn’t handle the step up in class last week in a decisive loss to Calgary at home. Saskatchewan responded to that Winnipeg loss by crushing a sad sack Hamilton team last week to register their first win. But the Riders have yet to prove they can beat a quality opponent.
The CFL has set the pace with several intriguing early season storylines after three weeks and I expect more surprises to be on the way as the 2017 campaign continues to play itself out.