CFL East Division Preview
by Nick Parsons
Can't wait for College Football season? Thankfully Canada comes to the rescue with its high scoring games and ex college stars. CFL action starts this week and here's a quick glance at the Eastern Division
Montreal Alouettes – Prediction – 1st Place
Montreal was 15-3 overall in 2009 and a decent 11-6 ATS. QB Anthony Calvillo returns but he will be turning 38 in August. His stats took a dip last year dropping from 5575 yards and 43 TDs in 2008 to 4647 TDs and 26 TDs in 2009, but it did not affect anything in the win column with the Alouettes winning the Grey Cup (the Canadian Super Bowl).
Should anything happen to Calvillo, both Adrian McPherson and former Florida Gator Chris Leak serve as decent backups (Although both sustained pre-season injuries).
The loss of centre Bryan Chiu hurts, but the Als remain one of the most consistent and well-stocked teams in the CFL. General Manager Jim Popp is one of the best talent evaluators in the league and consistently brings top notch talent from both sides of the border (remember the CFL has quotas on the amount of non-Canadian players). The defense returns mainly intact with the only key change being the loss of CB Davis Sanchez.
Montreal is listed as 3 point favorites on the road against Saskatchewan in a rematch of the 2009 Grey Cup.
Hamilton Tiger-Cats – Prediction – 2nd Place
9-9 last year was an improvement for the perennial East division cellar dwellers, which also caught oddsmakers off guard with the Ticats having the league’s best ATS record at 12-5.
Entering the 2010 season, it is clear that Illinois State grad QB Kevin Glenn will be their man at the helm. Last season Glenn outperformed Boston College’s Quinton Porter and the team looked more confident with Glenn at QB.
Second year man DeAndra' Cobb returns as the starting Running Back. The former Arkansas star never had a chance to prove himself in the NFL for the Falcons, but he made the most of the opportunities given to him last year by Hamilton. Twice he topped the 150 yard mark in rushing (rare in the pass heavy CFL).
On defense and offense the Ticats have upgraded their Canadian talent over the last few seasons and with the addition of non-import kicker Sandro DeAngelis, their special teams should continue to improve.
Defensive backs Bo Smith, DB Chris Thompson and DB Lawrence Gordon depart, but former Argo Jason Shivers and ex-Lion DB Jerome Dennis should be an upgrade at that position.
Winnipeg Blue-Bombers – Prediction – 3rd Place
The Blue-Bombers want to forget last season. New GM Joe Mack has cleaned house. Gone is head coach Mike Kelly and in is Paul Lapolice. The signing of both Buck Pierce and Steven Jyles upgrades the QB position, which has been a constant struggle the last few seasons.
New Mexico State alum Pierce has been named the opening day starter and should he stay health, the Bombers could challenge Hamilton for second place in the East. However, Pierce’s health was always a concern during his days with the B.C. Lions.
Running back Fred Reid returns as their premier threat on offense. The former Mississippi State Bulldog and Tampa Bay Buccaneer rushed for 1898 yards and 8 TDs last year. On their Offensive Line, Obby Khan and Steven Morley have recovered from injuries and should solidify their pass protection.
On defense, gone is Linebacker and stalwart Barrin Simpson. The only weakness appears to be the secondary with Jonathan Hefney and Lenny Walls leaving. There have been many changes in Winnipeg and Lapolice will have to patient, but the Bombers can be a solid team if Pierce stays healthy. An 8-10, 9-9 type season is not out of the question and considering all the changes, can be expected.
The Blue Bombers were 7-11 last year and 9-8 ATS. They open as 3 point underdogs against division rival Hamilton.
Toronto Argonauts – Prediction - 4th Place
The Argonauts were one of the best fades last year going 6-11 ATS and hitting the under 11 times in 17 games. Don’t expect too much to change this year.
Dysfunction is one way to describe the Toronto Argonauts the last few years. After losing the Eastern Final in 2007 at home to the Alouettes, the Argos have been on a steep decline, both on and off the field.
With new ownership the Argos look to changes their fortunes. The Bart Andrus era and in is CFL veteran Jim Barker at head coach who will at least give them some CFL knowledge and experience. QB Kerry Joseph was released in the off-season (along with backup Cody Pickett). GM Adam Rita went out in off-season and brought in QB’s Cleo Lemon, Dalton Bell, ex Miami Hurricane Ken Dorsey and Canadian Danny Brannagan.
Lemon came out the winner and will open the season as the starter, although that sparked some controversy as Dalton Bell clearly had better numbers in both pre-season contests.
The Argos have worked considerably in off-season at upgrading their Canadian talent, especially on the Offensive Line, with the additions of OG Cedric Gagne-Marcoux, OL Jonathan St. Pierre and first overall pick Joe Epelle. Despite a 3-15 season, the Argos defence was solid and will have to remain steady in order to improve. The biggest question mark will be at the QB position, if they do not get any sort of consistency, than it will be another long for the Boatman. A repeat 3-15 season is not out of the question.
However everyone including this article accepts a bad season, so expect some value with the Argos this season. They opened as 13 point underdogs against Calgary.
Help from CFL Insider Paul McNab
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