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CFL West Division Preview

by Nick Parsons

West Division

Saskatchewan Roughriders – Prediction – 1st Place

The Riders return after a crushing Grey Cup loss and remain the team to beat in the always competitive West division. Darian Durant returns as their starting pivot having thrown for 4155 yards and 21 TDs last season.

They also have some of the best Canadian content in the league with Jason Clermont and Chris Getzlaf (yes the brother of NHL star Ryan). Former Argos standout and special team ace Dominique Dorsey could be the ex factor this year and should hopefully improve their return game.

Both Wes Cates and former Colorado Buffalo Hugh Charles provide depth at running back. Cates led the team in rushing last year with 931 yards and 7 TD’s.

One area to look for is on the defensive line where Saskatchewan sustained losses at the bookends with DE John Chick and Stevie Baggs departing to the NFL. Their replacements remain a question mark.

The Roughriders finished 10-7-1 overall last year and 8-8. They open the season at home as 3 point underdogs to Montreal.

Calgary Stampeders – Prediction – 2nd Place

The Stampeders have had a busy off-season losing several key players, the most notable being WR Jeremaine Copeland who was traded to the Argos for ex Florida State Seminole P.K. Sam.

There is still good strength in the offense with Henry Burris and Joffrey Reynolds serving as one of the top QB/RB tandems in the CFL. Burris nearly threw for 5000 yards last year, while Reynolds rushed for 1498 yards and 13 TDs

Canadian Mike Labinjo will anchor the defense for the Stamps which allowed 24.6 points per game last season.

They open as 13 point favorites in their opener against the Toronto Argonauts, who were blown out 44-9 the last time they visited Calgary.

B.C. Lions – Prediction - 3rd Place

Home advantage could play a big part this year for the Lions. Following the Vancouver Olympics, the Lions have moved out of B.C. Place (under renovations for a year) and will play at the PNE Grounds on the site of the former Empire Stadium. The loyal fan base and outdoor setting will provide a rowdy atmosphere compared to the lifeless dome in downtown Vancouver.

Casey Printers returned to the Lions last season and will look to recapture his MVP form of 2004. Notre Dame alum Jarious Jackson will serve as his backup and will most likely get playing time as rotating QB’s from week to week seems to be a tradition in BC.

Star WR Geroy Simon enters the twilight of his career, but still remains a deep threat for the offence. He won’t have to do it alone with Paris Jackson coming off back to back 1000 yard seasons

Jamal Robertson has been brought in from Toronto who replaces the departed Martell Mallet. On defense, LB Javier Glatt and JoJuan Armour are gone and will need to be replaced.

However, the key for the lions will be their passing attack which will try and recapture the magic of both Simon and Printers. If this happens, look for the Lions to make some strides and the West and compete for top spot.

Edmonton Eskimos – Prediction 4th Place

One of the major changes for the Eskimos will be new field turf at Commonwealth stadium, which used to be the only natural grass facility in the CFL.

Arkee Whitlock returns as the starting RB, while Jesse Lumsden was released in the off-season and is currently out of football. The Eskimos have a tremendous duo in Kelly Campbell (who returns from a stint the Tampa Buccaneers) and Fred Stamps.

They also acquired former Argo Andre Talbot in a trade for DT Eric Taylor. The Eskimos could have a big season, but the ultra competitive West will be the main obstacle for head coach Richie Hall hoping to improve upon on his 3rd place finish.

Ricky Ray enters his 8th season in the CFL having thrown for over 32,000 yards. Former Oregon Duck Jason Maas and 2007 Fiesta Bowl star Jared Zabransky serve as backups.

The Eskimos open as 4 point favorites in their opener against the BC Lions. They were 6-12 ATS last year.

by Nick Parsons' intern Myles Valentin

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