Editor's Note: Nick Christenson is handicapping Canadian Football League games this season and making picks each week. What follows is Mr. Christenson's CFL predictions and picks for Week 2.
Nick's Season Record To Date: 0 – 0 – 0
Last Week: No picks
CFL Week 2
I would like to get these out earlier, but sports books didn’t have CFL lines and totals up before Thursday morning, so this gets published when the information it’s based on becomes available. Further, once again, on Thursday we only have betable lines up at books for Thursday. The other lines are based on what look like send-out lines, but aren’t actually available to bet anywhere I can find.
The first rule of NFL week 2 betting is: Don’t overreact to what you saw in week 1. In the NFL, teams and players are so well known and studied that our pre-season expectations of them are almost certainly better guides to their abilities than their highly variable week 1 performances. In the CFL, this is less true. The players are not so well known, and we should expect that to be especially the case this year, given so many new players, new situations, and the time off since the 3 down game was last played. However, what I was struck by watching the week 1 games, was how much they looked like any other year’s week 1 games. Yes, the defenses were ahead of the offenses, and, yes, sometimes new players made some mistakes due to not being all that familiar with the CFL’s special rules, but no more so that we would expect in 2019 or years prior. Maybe we really don’t need any pre-season games? Maybe regular training camps are too long? I will point out this, though, everything that happens in football in every league is a statistically small sample size. This is never more true than in the CFL after one week, with only four data points. Don’t jump to hasty conclusions.
Despite this warning, and being ready to update my beliefs about CFL teams at the drop of the hat as we get more games, we can learn some things. Here are the things I (provisionally) learned: (1) Don’t be fooled by Ottawa’s victory, this is not a good team. Edmonton QB Harris threw three interceptions, one of which was tipped for a fluky pick 6, fluky even by CFL standards. The RedBlacks offense generated 127 total yards, 3.1 yards per play. That’s awful. Despite being 1-0, I still believe this is the worst team in the CFL. (2) One of the big questions this year was whether BC’s rebuilt offensive line would keep Michael (don’t call me Mike any more) Reilly upright. Again, small sample size, but so far so good. If they can keep this up, BC could have something to say in the West. Unfortunately, the Lions’ defensive front looks like it could still use a lot of work, but, again, it’s early and it’s only one game. (3) Toronto looks to be ahead of schedule. I’m not convinced that McCleod Bethel-Thompson is a top-tier CFL quarterback, at least not yet. However, I thought they might have a real shot at being the #2 team in the East, and their week 1 performance only reinforces that opinion. (4) Calgary’s defense doesn’t look very good, and their offense doesn’t look so good that they can reliably win shootouts. Again, it’s only one game, and there’s a lot of time remaining for teams to get their acts together.
Thursday, August 12, 9:30pm EDT
BC Lions at Calgary Stampeders
Calgary -7, Total: 47
It looks like Rourke is going to get the start for BC, although even after one week we already know that BC isn’t going to tell us everything that’s going on with their QB decisions. In any case, the Lion offense did better with Reilly in last week, despite the fact that he really couldn’t throw downfield. I make BC with Rourke a couple of points worse than with a healthy Reilly, but I don’t have a play on the side. However, the total looks low to me. In week 1, BC scored second most and allowed more points than anyone else in the league. Calgary was number 4 in scoring and was number 3 in points allowed. This should be the highest totaled game on the board by a significant margin, but it’s in second place by a half point. I like the over in this game.
Friday, August 13, 8:30pm EDT
Toronto Argonauts at Winnipeg Blue Bombers
Winnipeg -5.5, Total: 47.5
Winnipeg’s defense looked good last week against a TiCat team that lots of folks seemed to think would be a juggernaut. Toronto’s offense looked quite good last week during their road win in Calgary, but I’m not yet sold on Bethel-Thompson. Nonetheless, the Argos might be legitimately ahead of schedule. I think the line is about right and the total is a little low, but I have no bet here.
Saturday, August 14, 7:00pm EDT
Montreal Alouettes at Edmonton Elks
Edmonton -3.5, Total: 49
Edmonton lost at home to a woeful Ottawa team despite outgaining them 443 to 127. Not being able to punch the ball into the end zone and turnovers cost the Elks the game. Even though that result is not representative of the two teams relative strength, Edmonton failed to impress, and after BC’s win, I have the Elks power rated as the worst team in the West. In my opinion, though, this puts them about on par with my pre-season rating for the Als. I think the line is right, I suspect the total of 49 is a little high. Lean under but no play.
Saturday, August 14, 10:00pm EDT
Hamilton Tiger-Cats at Saskatchewan Roughriders
Saskatchewan -1.5, Total: 47.5
Neither team impressed last week, but the Roughriders held on to win at home after looking dominant early on in the game. While I thought last week that the TiCats were on par with the best teams in the West, I didn’t think they were significantly better, and I haven’t seen anything that would change my opinion. Saskatchewan being only a 1.5 point favorite is too low for what I think are more evenly matched teams, especially with Hamilton going on the road to the West for the second straight week. I made the line Sask -3, so I have a lean toward the Roughriders, but I don’t think I’ll bet it unless the line drops a little. I think the total is spot on.
Bye: Ottawa RedBlacks
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.