Football bettors are anxiously awaiting the start of the NFL season in September, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t some exciting pigskin to wager on over the summer.
Week 1 of the CFL regular season begins on Thursday night when the BC Lions visit the Calgary Stampeders in the first of four games this week. On Friday, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats will do battle with the Blue Bombers in Winnipeg. That marquee game will be followed by a clash of regional rivals when the Ottawa Redblacks visit the Montreal Alouettes on Saturday. The last game of the week will be played on Sunday when the Saskatchewan Roughriders invade Edmonton to take on the Elks.
Here’s a look at the latest CFL Grey Cup outright odds, followed by our Week 1 betting preview:
|Team||Grey Cup Outright Odds|
|Winnipeg Blue Bombers||+190|
BC Lions @ Calgary Stampeders (-3.5, 48 o/u)
About the Lions (last year: 12-6 SU, 11-7 ATS, 8-9-1 o/u): There was so much hype around this team last year after Nathan Rourke blossomed into an absolute superstar, but now he’s set sail for the NFL with the Jacksonville Jaguars. To make matters worse, receiver Bryan Burnham announced his retirement in the offseason. He finishes fourth on the Lions’ all-time list with 476 receptions and 7,212 receiving yards while his 42 touchdown receptions are good for seventh all time. Running back James Butler also left town for Hamilton after putting up over 1,000 yards on the ground.
But despite those devastating losses on offence, the Lions should be very competitive this season. Vernon Adams Jr. is a more than competent starting quarterback and he looked absolutely incredible in his preseason debut last week, completing all 12 of his pass attempts for 213 yards and three scores.
With the exception of Burnham, BC is returning the majority of its receiving corps. Dominique Rhymes, Lucky Whitehead, Keon Hatcher and Jevon Cottoy are all back to wreak havoc on opposing defences. Both Rhymes and Hatcher hauled in over 1,000 receiving yards a year ago.
About the Stampeders (last year: 12-6 SU, 9-8-1 ATS, 11-7 o/u): Jake Maier took over as Calgary’s starting quarterback midway through last season and now he’s had a full offseason to prepare without any distractions. Among quarterbacks with seven or more starts in 2022, Maier ranked third in passing percentage (74.7) for 2,389 yards and 14 touchdowns. The team went 6-3 with him under centre during the regular season before Maier and the Stamps fell to the Lions in the West Division semis.
Calgary made some significant changes on defence with defensive lineman Folarin Orimolade and linebacker Jameer Thurman leaving town, but the organization brought in defensive end Julian Howsare and linebacker Micah Awe to plug the holes.
On offence, receiver Jalen Philpot is out with a hamstring injury for at least a few weeks, which means Maier won’t have one of his best options as his disposal in the season opener.
Both teams finished with identical 12-6 records last season, though BC finished ahead of the Stampeders in the West standings by virtue of their 2-1 head-to-head regular season record.
Prediction: Lions +3.5.
Hamilton Tiger-Cats @ Winnipeg Blue Bombers (-5, 47.5 o/u)
About the Tiger-Cats (last year: 8-10 SU, 7-11 ATS, 10-8 o/u): The Tiger-Cats have completely revamped their roster with the hopes of competing for this year’s Grey Cup, which will be played at Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton. Veteran Bo Levi Mitchell is the new quarterback and the addition of Butler from BC immediately gives Hamilton a well-balanced offensive attack.
This team made some big moves on defence, too, bringing in Thurman from Calgary to play alongside franchise linebacker Simoni Lawrence, and Casey Sayles and Ja’Gared Davis to bolster the defensive line. Hamilton’s secondary is its weakness, though, after a few key defensive backs left the team in the offseason.
With so many new pieces in place, Hamilton will likely need a few games to gel. And a date at IG Field with the powerhouse Blue Bombers to open the season won’t help the team’s cause.
About the Blue Bombers (last year: 15-3 SU, 11-7 ATS, 9-9 o/u): The Bombers were oh so close to a third straight Grey Cup title until the Argonauts snatched the championship away in the fourth quarter. That should make the Bombers very pissed off heading into their season opener against Hamilton.
Winnipeg is largely returning the same stacked squad it had last year, with some minor tweaks. Receiver Greg Ellingson is out, but he was replaced by Kenny Lawler. However, Lawler will miss at least a few games due to immigration troubles and is on the suspended list while everything is worked out.
Two-time reigning CFL Most Outstanding Player Zach Collaros still has plenty of weapons at his disposal, though, and the defence should be nasty again this year with Willie Jefferson and Jackson Jeffcoat returning.
Prediction: Bombers -5.
Winnipeg Blue Bombers -5
Ottawa Redblacks @ Montreal Alouettes (-3, 43.5 o/u)
About the Redblacks (last year: 4-14 SU, 8-10 ATS, 8-10 o/u): Starting quarterback Jeremiah Masoli will miss at least the first two games of the regular season as he continues to recover from a brutal leg injury. That means former Edmonton Elks quarterback Nick Arbuckle will be under centre for Ottawa on Saturday. He threw for 2,400 yards and four touchdowns in 12 games for Ottawa last season and is a serviceable backup.
The Redblacks are a miserable 10-40 over the past three seasons and that prompted a complete coaching overhaul in the offseason. Bob Dyce has been promoted to head coach and he brought in Khari Jones as offensive coordinator. It could take some time before the team adjusts to new systems that are being put in place by the new coaching regime.
Dontae Bull, the first overall pick in this year’s draft, is still recovering from a broken leg he suffered midway through his final season at Fresno State. The 6-foot-6, 326-pound offensive lineman will make his debut in the coming weeks and should make an immediate impact.
About the Alouettes (last year: 9-9 SU, 10-7-1 ATS, 10-8 o/u): It’s very hard to predict what we’ll see from the Alouettes this season after widespread changes were made throughout the organization in the offseason. Former Roughriders offensive coordinator Jason Maas is the new head coach as a new ownership group takes hold of the franchise. The team lost Most Outstanding Player runner-up Eugene Lewis and fellow receiver Jake Wieneke to free agency. And 2022 Most Outstanding Defensive Player Adarius Pickett also left for Toronto.
Cody Fajardo is the new starting quarterback after being run out of Saskatchewan. He has a lot to prove this season, but Caleb Evans is waiting in the wings if Fajardo’s struggles continue despite the new change of scenery.
Overshadowing everything in this game is the ongoing wildfires in Quebec. Poor visibility and air quality is a major issue in the region, prompting both of these teams to move their practices indoors. The plan is still for Saturday’s game to be played outside, but bettors will want to monitor the situation leading up to kickoff.
Prediction: Alouettes -3.
Saskatchewan Roughriders @ Edmonton Elks (+1.5, 45.5 o/u)
About the Roughriders (last year: 6-12 SU, 7-11 ATS, 8-9-1 o/u): The Green Riders went 2-0 in the preseason for the first time since 2007, but obviously that’s not an indicator of regular season success this year.
Saskatchewan upgraded its awful offensive line this offseason after the team yielded a league-worst 77 quarterback sacks last year. Trevor Harris is the new quarterback in new offensive coordinator Kelly Jeffrey’s system. Jeffrey has stated that getting the ball quickly out of the hands of his quarterbacks will be a priority for the offence this season in an attempt to limit sacks and injuries to his pivots.
The team will be counting on another big season from running back Jamal Morrow, whose 666 rushing yards ranked fourth in the league last year.
About the Elks (last year: 4-14 SU, 7-11 ATS, 11-7 o/u): This team flat out sucks at home. They really, really suck at home. The Elks will take a 17-game home losing streak into their season opener. In fact, they haven’t recorded a home win since Oct. 12, 2019!
After scoring the least amount of points in the league while also allowing the most last season, Edmonton at least made some improvements on the offensive side of the ball this winter. Steven Dunbar, Kyran Moore and Lewis should be an impressive trio at the receiver position for quarterback Taylor Cornelius.
Kevin Brown, who ran for 486 yards in just seven games for Edmonton last year, averaged an impressive 6.6 yards per carry. With some legitimate receiving threats now on the roster, Brown could be a sleeper to be amongst the league leaders in rushing yards this season.
Prediction: Elks +1.5.