2018 CFL Season Preview

2018 CFL Season Preview

West Division

Edmonton Eskimos
Prediction: 12-6
Overview:
With the reigning MOP commanding a formidable cast of weapons and a defence loaded with newly healthy stars, its hard not to peg the Eskimos as early favourites. Expect breakout campaigns from Duke Williams, Bryant Mitchell and fearsome Canadian linebacker Adam Konar. Edmonton looks poised to take the West Division and the league by storm.

Why I’m Wrong:
Their left tackle is journeyman Tommie Draheim, which doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in an offensive line that has struggled to keep Reilly clean at the best of times. Chris Edwards is an unproven commodity at the all-important nickel spot and they will likely start the first six games of the season with Jordan Hoover at cornerback in place of injured Arjen Colquhoun. Edmonton doesn’t have many question marks but the ones they do have are in key spots.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers
Prediction: 10-8
Overview:
Winnipeg will likely struggle early while Chris Streveler plays for the injured Matt Nichols but if he can tread water, the Bombers are loaded. The possess perhaps the best offensive line in the league, arguably its most valuable running back and a dynamic receiving corps that has legitimate Canadian talent for the first time in years. Its equally hard to spot a hole in their defence, which finally has a legitimate MLB in Adam Bighill. The sky is the limit for the Bombers.
Why I’m Wrong:
Its hard to see the Bombers recovering if Nichols misses anymore than the anticipated six games. Its also entirely possible, though I hope not, that the veteran offensive trio of Dressler, Bowman and Harris finally succumb to father time, which would significantly dampen their offensive hopes.

Saskatchewan Roughriders
Prediction: 9-9
Overview:
Saskatchewan is loaded with some of the biggest stars in the game on both sides of the ball. Duron Carter and Naaman Roosevelt may be the best one-two receiving punch in the league and you can say the same about their pass rush duo of Charleston Hughes and Willie Jefferson. But their offensive line terrifies me with a mix of injury prone veterans and unproven rookies. I’m equally unsure about their linebacking corps that doesn’t boast a top five talent at any of the three positions. This is a playoff team but not much more.
Why I’m Wrong:
As new quarterback Zach Collaros goes, so will the Riders. If he miraculously returns to MOP form, expect Saskatchewan to take the whole West Division. If he is below average and gets replaced by Brandon Bridge, knock a couple wins off of my prediction.

Calgary Stampeders
Prediction: 9-9
Overview:
The toughest team to predict, I’m expecting a regression to the mean from Calgary as the crossover team from the West. Bo Levi Mitchell has weapons around him but Calgary’s receivers have always seemed to underperform year after year. Eric Rogers is a great addition, but I’m not expecting him to be the same dominant force he was before NFL and injury. Terry Williams won’t handle the pounding of his predecessor Jerome Messam, which should put all the pressure on Bo down the stretch.
Why I’m Wrong:
On the flip side, I’m in love with Calgary’s defensive lineup. They are dynamic and deep at almost every position. If the receiving corps does finally live up to expectations, this team could be the class of the West Division once again.

BC Lions
Prediction: 7-11
Overview:
Make no mistake about it, the Lions got better this offseason, but the West Division is a cruel and unforgiving mistress. Jennings still hasn’t proven himself to be the undisputed starter, let alone an elite signal caller. Their third best receiver, behind Burnham and Arceneaux, is Shaq Johnson and he’ll likely be stranded at the Z spot most of the season. Their vaunted rush end additions are older and likely to lose steam as the year wears on. Their secondary got worse, with question marks like Anthony Orange (formerly AJ Jefferson), older Marcel Young and unproven Gary Peters. I see a better team but not a playoff one.
Why I’m Wrong:
If Jennings can finally come in to his own as a quarterback, BC may be able to push for a playoff spot but I’m not hopeful for much more than that.

East Division

Toronto Argonauts
Prediction: 12-6
Overview:
The Argos are easily the class of the East division, with a living legend at quarterback (most importantly with high quality backups behind him), a power house running back and some legitimate receivers, alongside a deeply underrated defence. With Trestman at the helm its difficult to see the reigning Grey Cup Champions not rolling into the playoffs.
Why I’m Wrong:
I don’t see much in the way of holes in Toronto, but they are a veteran group and that means that their biggest opponent could be the injury bug. If Ray, Green and Woods miss significant time or Wilder Jr gets overworked, Toronto could struggle.

Ottawa Redblacks
Prediction: 9-9
Overview:
The Redblacks still boast the Buds and dynamic Deontae Spencer as offensive weapons which should propel them into the playoffs. However, questions abound on the defensive side of the ball. They lack a proven interior pass rusher and may rely too heavily on the nearly ancient Kyries Hebert who will eventually hit a wall. With the inconsistent play of Trevor Harris, nine wins seems reasonable for this squad.
Why I’m Wrong:
If injury or inefficacy claims Harris, the Redblacks have proven that they don’t stand a chance. If Newsome and Leonard can’t get consistent edge pressure while the middle sorts itself out, they’ll lose early and often.

Hamilton Tiger Cats
Prediction: 8-10
Overview:
Hamilton has a strong receiving corps in Tolliver, Tasker, Saunders, and Banks, along with a new rushing weapon in John White. But their shaky offensive line got worse this offseason, which doesn’t bode well for Masoli (or Manziel). I also don’t see enough top end talent in their secondary to compensate for Jerry Glanville’s inevitable CFL growing pains.
Why I’m Wrong:
If Masoli (or Manziel) can continue being effective with their legs and Simoni Lawrence returns to his form of old, while Adrian Tracy has a career year as a pass rusher, I can see the Ti-Cats squeaking in to the playoffs over Ottawa.

Montreal Alouettes
Prediction: 5-13
Overview:
Montreal has some real big time talent that Kavis Reed lured in with big money, but they lack a quarterback and reek of disfunction. A loaded defence can will them to a handful of wins but its hard to expect more from the Alouettes.
Why I’m Wrong:
If the newly added stars can hang on long enough for Drew Willy to be reborn or Mattew Shiltz/Antonio Pipkin to emerge, then maybe they have a chance. If that happens, enjoy the flying pigs.

Grey Cup Prediction
Winner: Winnipeg Blue Bombers
Emerging from the depth of despair when Matt Nichols heals up, the deepest roster in the league finally breaks the Grey Cup slump, defeating the Toronto Argonauts in Edmonton.

Awards and All-Star Predictions

Most Outstanding Player: James Wilder Jr, RB, Toronto
If he stays healthy, Wilder should boast a heavy workload both rushing and passing. He has a skillset not seen in the CFL in quite awhile.
Most Outstanding Defensive Player: Adam Bighill, LB, Winnipeg
Bighill has always played second fiddle to Solomon Eliminian in BC but won his Defensive Player Award in his solo. He’ll repeat now that he’s the heart and soul of Winnipeg’s defence.
Most Outstanding Canadian: Alex Singleton, LB, Calgary
Beaten by Bighill in his quest to win back to back Most Outstanding Defensive Player Awards, Singleton will claim his first Most Outstanding Canadian as consolation.
Most Outstanding Lineman: Chris Van Zeyl, OT, Toronto
If Toronto plays to potential and Wilder builds off a stellar rookie year, expect the ratio breaking tackle Van Zeyl to finally get his due.
Most Outstanding Special Teams Player: Martese Jackson, RB, Toronto
A lot of focus will be paid to Chris Rainey, but the Argonaut sophomore could have a season that makes you say “What about Karen?”.
Most Outstanding Rookie: Monshadrik Hunter, DB, Edmonton
The toughest award to predict as the winner is likely not even on their teams opening day roster. I’ll peg “Money” Hunter as the early favourite due to his father’s pro baseball pedigree and his penchant for Pick Sixes in college.

All-Stars
QB: Mike Reilly, Edmonton
RB: James Wilder Jr, Toronto
REC: Derel Walker, Edmonton
REC: Greg Ellingson, Ottawa
REC: Duron Carter, Saskatchewan
REC: Bryan Burnham, BC
REC: Brandon Banks, Hamilton
OT: Stanley Bryant, Winnipeg
OT: Chris Van Zeyl, Toronto
OG: Sukh Chung, Winnipeg
OG: Ryan Bomben, Montreal
C: Sean McEwen, Toronto
DE: Willie Jefferson, Saskatchewan
DT: Almondo Sewell, Edmonton
DT: Davon Coleman, BC
DE: Jamaal Westerman, Montreal
LB: Adam Bighill, Winnipeg
LB: Alex Singleton, Calgary
SLB: Otha Foster, BC
CB: Ciante Evans, Calgary
HB: Aaron Grymes, Edmonton
S: Antoine Pruneau, Ottawa
HB: TJ Heath, Toronto
CB: Chris Randle, Winnipeg
K: Justin Medlock, Winnipeg
P: Lirim Hajrullahu, Hamilton
RET: Martese Jackson, Toronto

 

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