Editor's Note: Nick Christenson is handicapping Canadian Football League games this entire season and making picks each week. What follows is Mr. Christenson's CFL predictions and picks for Week 14 – for the (2) Friday and (2) Saturday night games.
What lessons do we take away from last week’s BC/Toronto game? It sure felt like the Lions displayed that additional bit of determination to make sure that they were the team that would take the “L” against the Argos. With the Lions likely, but not certainly, on the outside of the playoff picture looking in, one can understand this. But most sites have the Argonatus ranked as the 2nd or 3nd best team in the CFL, despite them playing like we saw did on Saturday and having a negative scoring differential despite having the second best record in the league. At the same time, because of their record and the relative ease of their remaining schedule, they’re still in the driver’s seat to finish in first in the East, skipping the first round of the playoffs and getting the conference final at home. So even though one could very easily have them power rated as the 3rd best team in their conference and lowest of any currently playoff bound team, mathematically, they have the best chance to represent the East in the Grey Cup.
The way I look at things, I don’t think I can pick a clearly second best team in the CFL right now, but I’d entertain arguments for Hamilton, Saskatchewan, or Calgary. Then Montreal and Toronto seem pretty interchangeable to me.
Average per game scoring total year to date is 43.7. The average send-out total this week was 45, with Calgary, a slightly below average totaling team on the bye. If we disregard the scoring in the first two weeks of the season, the YTD average is 45.1 PPG. I think that’s pretty plausible as a baseline for scoring this week.
This week's CFL odds according to SPREADS.CA:
Also note that SPREADS.CA offers boosted odds on these CFL games/sides:
Friday, November 5, 7:00pm EDT
British Columbia Lions at Hamilton Tiger-Cats
Hamilton -6.5, Total: 43.5
B.C. had a golden opportunity to win last week’s game, but squandered it, largely due to some abyssmal kicking by Jimmy Camacho. This week, the Lions signed American kicker Nick Vogel, but he won’t have cleared COVID quarantine for this week’s game. B.C. still has a plausible, if improbable, path to the playoffs, and every East contender really wants the one seed in the east, so this game will be full speed. Hamilton’s latest two game win streak has been against the two worst teams in the CFL, so any momentum they might seem to have could easily be illusory. At the same time the Lions have dropped five straight, including last week’s heartbreaker, over a truly grueling scheduling stretch. I think this line is low, and while I haven’t played it yet, I’m considering the Ti-Cats side of this one. If I can get Hamilton -6, I’ll definitely play that or better. I think the total is about right.
Friday, November 5, 9:45pm EDT
Saskatchewan Roughriders at Edmonton Elks
Saskatchewan -6, Total: 46
Edmonton just singed recently acquired QB Nick Arbuckle to a contract extension without him having taken a single snap for them. As I understand it, none of that money is guaranteed, so this means less than it might at first seem. But still, the Argos were more than happy to trade him away and go with McCleod Bethel-Thompson, who I don’t think is anyone’s idea of a top-flight CFL QB, which would make me a little nervous about making him the centerpiece of my franchise going forward. It appears that Taylor Cornelius will be starting for them this week, and it’s entirely possible that this is not the last game he’ll start for the Elks. The Elks are significantly depleted at receiver this week, and I made the Riders 5.5 point favorites, so I think this line is about right. I made the total 44, so I have a slight lean to the over. Edmonton is 3-1 to the over in games Cornelius has started, so at least we know games he starts can be high-scoring.
Saturday, November 6, 4:00pm EDT
Toronto Argonauts at Ottawa RedBlacks
Toronto -10.5, Total: 45.5
As far as I know, the RedBlacks will stick with Caleb Evans at quarterback, although seeing at least some time from Devlin Hodges would not surprise me. Obviously, I’m not seeing what the coaching staff is seeing in practice, but if I were what remains of RedBlack management, at some point I’d want to kick the tires on someone with as promising a pedigree as Hodges has. Ottawa is just playing for pride and evaluation for the future while Toronto is going to go all out to try to maintain their first place lead in the East. Nonetheless, this number seems a little high to me. Toronto has won only one game this year by double digits, against Ottawa at home in week 10. They’ve never been a double digit favorite this year, and now they’re laying 10.5 on the road for Ottawa’s last home game of the year. I haven’t bet Ottawa yet, and I don’t know if I will talk myself into it, but it’s the better play. I made the total 47.5, so I lean toward the over.
Saturday, November 6, 7:00pm EDT
Montreal Alouettes at Winnipeg Blue Bombers
Winnipeg -12.5, Total: 45
There are two questions that make handicapping this game uncertain. First, while there’s no doubt in my mind that as long as Vernon Adams is injured, Trevor Harris is the most skilled QB on the Alouettes’ roster, the question is whether he has had enough time with the system to be able to move their power rating up as compared to Matthew Shiltz, who has been more than capable in Adams’ absence. Sure, Harris looked better than Shiltz in relief in last week’s game, but the Als didn’t make the switch until the end of the 3rd quarter, when defenses were already tired and Saskatchewan had a two score lead. A lot of Montreal’s game stats came on the late 4th quarter drive with little time remaining and Saskatchewan up by 9. Second, to what extent is Winnipeg, who will not play a meaningful game until the conference championship in five weeks, playing at full speed? Certainly, the Bombers’ mentality has to be that they can’t be coasting here. They have to run through the tape to be physically and mentally prepared for the last two games of the season, the only ones that really count. However, who could say for certain that for the remainder of the regular season that they shouldn’t be power rated a couple of points below where they have been in previous weeks? Won’t they be a little quicker to pull a key player if they take an especially hard hit late in a game? I feel like the Bombers are a little more likely to get to a two score lead and not press as hard for that third score as they might have a few weeks ago, and that a back door cover is more likely now than in previous weeks. My gut feeling is that a 12.5 or 13 point line is a little too high, but it’s not way too high.
Winnipeg is the lowest totaling team in the CFL at 39 PPG, so a total of 45 feels a bit high here, but a slightly elevated total is consistent with my gut feeling on the side. No bet, but I prefer the under.
Bye: Calgary Stampeders
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 off-seasons, he enjoys cooking, reading, and hiking.