Used to be, the first six-to-eight weeks of a Canadian Football League season provided plenty of excitement. It was like the first 100 laps of a NASCAR race. We all knew the winner wouldn’t be crowned for awhile, but at the same time, we saw some great teams jockeying for position. At Talladega, they traded paint. At Molson Stadium, they traded touchdowns. It was always close until after Labour Day.
That’s not happening this season. This season there is one great team, two very good teams, a mediocre (yet first place) team and four dreadful teams. The CFL is quickly splitting into A & B Divisions.
Saskatchewan is a monster. They have won four games convincingly, put up 30-plus points in each one and last week let Hamilton in its wake, 37-0.
Calgary, which has already been blasted 36-21 by the Roughriders, and B.C. are both rock solid at 3-1 and are the two teams most likely to give the Green Riders a run in the West. They are already significantly better than all four teams in the East.
Toronto, which has lost 39-28 to Saskatchewan and 24-16 to B.C., is 2-2 and clearly the best team in an extremely weak Eastern Division. Hamilton and Winnipeg are messed up and Edmonton, the black sheep of the West, is scuffling around at 1-3, although the Eskies have beaten Hamilton 30-20 in Hamilton’s building.
Unless those 1-3 teams turn it around in a hurry, they won’t even be in Saskatchewan’s rear view mirror by Labour Day.
This week, Winnipeg gets a shot at Calgary, Hamilton gets a chance with Saskatchewan and Toronto can take revenge on B.C. Three less-than-good teams have a chance to gain ground on three very good ones. Meanwhile, Edmonton plays Montreal in a battle of bottom-feeders.
Last week, The Coach and the Doc had solid weeks. Both went 3-1 straight up and against the spread. The Coach is now 10-6 while Dr. Football is 8-8 both straight up and against the spread.
This week, a week that lasts from Thursday until Tuesday, The Doc writes our previews while The Coach adds flippant, but probably unnecessary, comments and sips iced tea.
Game 1 Thursday, 6:30 p.m. CDT (TSN) Edmonton Eskimos (1-3) at Montreal Alouettes (1-3)
A couple of underachievers go at it in the Thursday night game this week. Montreal stumbled badly in Calgary after jumping out to a 24-0 lead and them completely pooped the bed after…but we know they can still score. The Eskimos last week score more points in the fourth quarter than the entire other part of the game while the Lions were coasting. I think Montreal despite having a clueless coaching staff can recover while Eskimos management comes up with a “Plan B” for their head coach. Montreal is favored by 5 ½ points.
The DOC: Montreal to Cover
The COACH: Montreal to Win but not Cover.
Game 2 Friday, 7:00 p.m. CDT (TSN) Calgary Stampeders (3-1) at Winnipeg Blue Bombers (1-3)
Speaking of clueless coaching staffs, the Bombers showed absolutely no signs of life in the second half of last week’s game against Toronto. Bombers head coach Tim Burke will give Justin Goltz his first CFL start this week as Buck Pierce tends to another injury. With Drew Tate and Kevin Glenn both on the shelf, can Calgary come in and play tough in Winnipeg? Well, why not? They have Bo Levi Mitchell at quarterback. The Bombers have been whipped by much worse than him. Still, I expect a home team victory this week or the season is done for the Blue. The big story could be Calgary kicker Rene Paredes. Paredes, an untested kicker out of Concordia, failed to make the Blue Bombers, who settled on Justin Palardy. Paredes ended up in Calgary as an injury replacement where he has become the best kicker in the game – on either side of the border. Paredes has made 29 consecutive field goals (he was four-for-four last week when he put up 73 per cent of Calgary’s offence) dating back to 18-in-a- row he made to finish the 2012 season. What might he do at IGF this Friday night. Calgary is a 4-point favourite.
The DOC: Winnipeg to Win.
The COACH: Calgary to Cover.
Game 3 Saturday, 6:30 p.m. CDT (TSN) Saskatchewan Roughriders (4-0) at Hamilton Tiger-Cats (1-3)
Another week, another curious spread…the Roughriders rag-dolled the Pussycats last week to the tune of 37-0 and they’re only 4.5 point favourites? Hamilton has nothing, Burris is past his “best before” date, and with this almost being played on a neutral site expect another lopsided Saskatchewan win. Saskatchewan is favored by 4 ½ points.
The DOC: Saskatchewan to Cover
The COACH: Saskatchewan to Cover
Game 4 Tuesday, 6:30 p.m. CDT (TSN) B.C. Lions (3-1) at Toronto Argonauts (2-2).
Week 5 ends Tuesday? Good grief. Another Braley Bowl as the defending Grey Cup champs host their Western brothers at what will be a nearly empty Rogers Centre. Ricky Ray is hobbling and the Argos sent a bunch of under-performers packing despite winning last week in Winnipeg. The Lions are rolling and I expect this to continue. No line because of the Ray injury.
The DOC: Lions to Cover.
The COACH: Lions to Cover (no matter the spread).