CFL Week 1: Predictions and Picks

Oh-Canada Aug 04, 2021

Editor's Note: welcomes Nick Christenson to the staff, who will be handicapping Canadian Football League games this season and making his picks each week.  What follows is Mr. Christenson's CFL predictions and picks for Week 1.

READ:  Handicapping the 2021 CFL Season

READ:  Betting Futures in the Canadian Football League 2021

CFL Week 1

As I write this, it's August 4, 2021.  The CFL regular season starts tomorrow with one game.  As of this morning, sports books finally put up a side and total on just tomorrow's game.  There are no numbers up for any other game right now, so I'm writing this based on what information is available, which isn't much.

Here's the bottom line:  Nobody wanted to be the first one to put up a number on this game. Sports books are far too busy getting ready for the NFL and NCAA football seasons to worry about the CFL, plus you have the Olympics going on right now, plus you have the uncertainty this year after having no CFL season at all last year.  Basically, every book was waiting for someone else to hang numbers which they are willing to copy.  Nobody wants to take a position on this.  Everyone will be moving numbers quickly and moving on "air."

Given all the uncertainty, many bettors will opt to pass and watch in week 1, and that's a fair way to approach this.  But everyone is in the same boat, but the sports books have to post numbers.  Every time the books are on their heels and reluctant to put up a number, one can expect there to be opportunities for the prepared bettor.  There aren't enough numbers up yet to tell if this is the case, but I suspect it might be.

So, it goes, at least for Week 1.

Thursday, August 5, 8:30 pm EDT

Hamilton Tiger-Cats at Winnipeg Blue Bombers

Hamilton -3.5, total: 51.5

The 2021 CFL season starts with a replay of the 2019 Grey Cup, which resulted in a dominating Blue Bomber performance, winning 33 – 12.  The TiCats are everybody's darling to get back to the Grey Cup this year, and the first, daring, book opened them as a 4 point favorite, which was bet down to 3.5 and copied across the planet, or at least the portion of the planet that posts numbers on CFL games.

While I don't dispute the notion that Hamilton should be the top rated team in the CFL, I think this number is too high.  If you believe that home field advantage in the CFL is worth 3 to 3.5 points, this line means that Hamilton is 6.5 to 7 points better than Winnipeg.  That's a lot, especially since we really don't have a good handle on any team right now.

Before the season, the consensus Grey Cup number on Hamilton was about +300.  It was about +500 on Winnipeg, which is significantly lower.  However, everyone agrees that Hamilton has a near lock on the top spot in the East, while Winnipeg is one of three teams in the West who are likely to battle it out through the regular season and early rounds of the playoffs.  Either Hamilton -3.5 on the road is too high, or the spread between Hamilton's and Winnipeg's Grey Cup chances are too low.  Pick one.  I think it's the number that hasn't been up on the board for months.

The total opened at 50 and has been bet up to 51.5.  I initially made it 51, but that's a number pulled out of my backside.  In 2019, the games averaged 49.7 points. Hamilton and Winnipeg were both the top two scoring offenses and defenses in the league in 2019.  Week 1 scoring tends to be a little lower than season average, as coming into the seasons, defenses tend to be a little ahead of offenses in their readiness.  Both teams return their starting QB and head coach, which put their offenses (and teams in general) ahead of the average team coming out of the gate.  Oh, and here's a secret, I don't expect the poor soul who put up the first total on this game did any more work on that number than what you've just read here.  I'm willing to bet he pretty much pulled his number of his backside as well.  I don't have a bet here.

My lines and totals for the rest of these games are very tentative.  I risk making a fool of myself by publishing them.  They're likely worth what you're paying for them.  So it goes.

Friday, August 6, 9:30 pm EDT

BC Lions at Saskatchewan Roughriders

My numbers: Sask -7.5, Total: 50.5

Saturday, August 7, 7:00 pm EDT

Toronto Argonauts at Calgary Stampeders

My numbers: Cal -7.5, Total: 51

Saturday, August 7, 10:00 pm EDT

Ottawa RedBlacks at Edmonton Elks

My numbers: Edm -7, Total: 48.5

Bye: Montreal Alouettes

Nick Christenson has been using mathematical methods and computer  modeling to as tools for successful sports betting for over 15 years.   He lives and works out of Las Vegas, Nevada where, during rare  offseasons, he enjoys cooking, reading, and hiking.