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 8.
CFL Week 8
Three games this week, sorta. This is the part of the season where the schedule gets wacky to accommodate the league having nine teams. We have games on Wednesday and Friday this week, followed by Tuesday, Friday and Saturday next week.
Let’s talk about totals. After starting this season with a serious lack of scoring, the last three weeks have looked more like what we’d normally expect in the middle of the last few CFL seasons. The average game scoring in Week 5 was 53.5 points, in Week 6 it was 45.25, in Week 7 it was 47.5, and that’s an average of 48.75 over the last three weeks. As always, these weeks are very small sample sizes, but my working theory, subject to change with more data, is that we’re now at a point where scoring from here on out will look more like recent CFL seasons than like it did at the beginning of this season. However, the opening totals for this week’s games averaged 44.3, now up to 46.5, so it would appear that the betting market thought the openers were too low as well. For my totals, I made the average of this week’s games 48. I don’t see a lot of reason to think that a baseline total of 44.3 or even 46.5 makes sense at this point in the season, so I think there are some opportunities to look to overs this week, although this would have been more true if we could have bet the openers. If you think that the season long average is a better gauge of where totals should be, the season long average is 42.8, so feel free to adjust your own totals numbers accordingly.
Wednesday, September 22, 7:30 pm EDT
Hamilton Tiger-Cats at Ottawa RedBlacks
Hamilton -7, Total: 44
With Evans and Masoli both banged up, Watford will get his second start of the season only 5 days after last week’s game, as compared to Ottawa who is coming off a bye. Watford was 19/22, although for only 149 yards, against Calgary in his previous outing, which is kind of a mixed bag, but it was good enough to hold on for a win at home. Every extra factor: QB experience, bye vs. short rest, Hamilton coming off a big win, Ottawa coming off a big loss with extra time, Brandon Banks, Hamilton’s best weapon and last year’s MOP, being out, Hamilton being generally banged up, shine like big flashing lights that this may be a let down spot for the Ti-Cats, yet they’re 7 point favorites on the road.
But here’s the deal, Ottawa has played atrociously on both sides of the ball. They’re last in both scoring offense and scoring defense, and after an 0-2 start, Hamilton is hitting their stride with three wins out of their last four. Even with all the negatives Hamilton is facing, my power rating difference adjusted for the situation is right in line with the game line. All the “intangibles” point toward Ottawa here, but I’m not going to bet it. If the RedBlacks can’t get up for this game in this situation, though, it’s hard to find a spot on the schedule that looks good for them.
My total in this game is 45, so I’m passing on that. I’m hesitant to bet an Ottawa game over, as they have real problems scoring majors, and it’s entirely plausible that Hamilton gets out to a big lead in the first half and then just shortens the game without Ottawa having a say in the matter.
Friday, September 24, 7:30 pm EDT
Montreal Alouettes at Toronto Argonauts
Toronto -2.5, Total: 48.5
Toronto has a little bit of an edge, having one extra day of rest as compared to the Als. On the other hand, Arbuckle has been limited during this week’s practice for the Argos. I expect him to play, but if he’s not 100%, that hurts Toronto. Which of these two teams is the better team? Toronto is 3-3, Montreal is 2-3, and power ratings-wise, I have them about a half point apart, so I think they’re pretty evenly matched. Consequently, I don’t have a big issue with the in-division home team being favored by 2.5. Even if Arbuckle can’t go, while I think Bethel-Thompson is a step down at this point, it’s not a huge one, so definitive news on that front is unlikely to move the line enough to change my perception of the side.
Montreal is the top totaling team in the league with a 51 points per game average. Toronto is in the middle of the pack. If you think that 46.5 is the right average total for the week, then a total of 48.5 might be pretty reasonable. If you think that the average total should be around 48, as I do, 48.5 seems a bit low. I’m looking to bet over in this game, although I’d feel better about it if I felt certain I knew the Argos QB situation.
Friday, September 24, 10:30 pm EDT
Saskatchewan Roughriders at British Columbia Lions
Saskatchewan -1.5, Total: 47.5
Saskatchewan has an extra day to prepare for this game. I made the line in this game as BC -1 at home, so I have only a lean to BC +1.5. Note that Saskatchewan has won every game this year where they weren’t facing Winnipeg, clearly the best team in the league. BC, also with four wins, is the biggest surprise team in the CFL so far. The Lion offensive line has played well, and if they can give Michael “Don’t Call Me Mike Any More” Reilly time to throw, that team is a threat to win in every game.
The Riders and the Lions are the #3 and #4 totaling teams in the league so far, so I’d expect scoring in this game to be above average. Again, if you think the average should be 46.5, this seems about right, but if you think the average should be closer to 48, then this might seem a little low, but not enough for me to want to lay 110.
Bye: Calgary Stampeders, Edmonton Elks, Winnipeg Blue Bombers
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.