Almost a year ago to the day, I nervously sent in my picks ahead of the 2015 season and felt pretty good about what I predicted.
I didn’t predict Montreal missing the playoffs for the first time since returning to the city, I didn’t predict Saskatchewan’s implosion or Ottawa’s *ex*plosion along with the now infamous “2nd and 25”.
I was actually pretty confident with my predictions last year but this year is a different ball game. It’s been a historic off-season for changes on the field and on the sidelines and it’s tough to tell how everything is going to gel but let’s give this a shot!
Calgary Stampeders (12-6) – Jeff Fuller, Eric Rogers, Juwan Simpson, and Keon Raymond are all gone but Calgary’s strength has always been their depth. Jon Hufnagel has built an empire in Calgary and while he’s headed up to the booth to focus on General Manager duties, Dave Dickenson should be able to step into Huf’s old spot as head coach without missing a beat.
Edmonton Eskimos (11-7) – I worry that Jason Maas’ ascent to becoming a head coach in the CFL has been a little too fast. Ed Hervey has stellar depth in Edmonton much like Calgary but I think the losses of players like Aaron Grymes, Dexter McCoil, Willie Jefferson, and Otha Foster along with head coach Chris Jones are significant. I expect the offense to improve but the defense to take a bit of a hit.
BC Lions (9-9) – I’m a Jonathon Jennings believer. He only started six games in 2015 but a full training camp under his belt preparing to be BC’s starter is only going to benefit the 23-year old quarterback. He developed quite the rapport with WR Emmanuel Arceneaux and I expect that to get even better in 2016. Oh, Soloman Elimimian is back to make “Team 100” complete again too. BC is going to be a fun team to watch.
Winnipeg Blue Bombers (8-10) – If the CFL awarded trophies for off-season moves, Winnipeg could be considered champions. Justin Medlock, Weston Dressler, Ryan Smith and hometown boy Andrew Harris are the flashy additions for the Bombers along with Offensive Co-Ordinator Paul LaPolice. I still have questions about Winnipeg’s offensive line and ability to keep Drew Willy healthy.
Saskatchewan Roughriders (7-11) – Chris Jones arrived in Saskatchewan and immediately started to make changes. *One* defensive starter (Jeff Knox Jr.) remains with the team just a year later so I expect it to take some time for this defense to put it all together. The only quarterback on the roster with any experience is Darian Durant and that’s asking a lot for him to play all 18 games. Depth in Saskatchewan is an issue and it will show.
Toronto Argonauts (11-7) – The Argos *finally* have a home. One of my favourite stats from this season is that the Argos had four different homes in their 140 year history and actually played *four* “home games” in four different cities last year (Fort McMurray, Hamilton, Ottawa, Toronto) last year alone. A healthy Ricky Ray, another year under the belt for “The Big Three” (Hazelton, Elliott, and Gurley) makes the Argonauts serious contenders.
Hamilton Tiger-Cats (9-9) – Jeremiah Masoli will start the season as the starting quarterback in the Hammer and he’s *okay*. Masoli showed his true potential during the playoffs in 2015 but he’s no Zach Collaros. I think Collaros will pick up right where he left off when he’s back from knee surgery but it won’t be enough to make up the difference when the Argos jump off to a hot start.
Ottawa RedBlacks (8-10) – Many doubt Henry Burris can repeat his MOP performance from a year ago as he crossed his 41st birthday in May. Burris himself could be feeling the pressure with Trevor Harris waiting in the wings too. Jason Maas is a big loss on offensive for the RedBlacks and I don’t expect them to have four 1,000-yard receivers again.
Montreal Alouettes (6-12) – I want to believe in the Montreal Alouettes. On the surface, there is a ton of talent on this team. Duron Carter, SJ Green, Kenny Stafford, Tyrell Sutton, Bear Woods, John Bowman, Kevin Glenn etc. I can’t get behind a team coached by Jim Popp. Sadly, he’s also their General Manager and has completely depleted the depth on the team with his embarrassing management of the salary cap. I see Montreal getting off to an okay start but with an already inexperienced offensive line and eventual injuries, they’ll fall off as the season moves along.
104th Grey Cup
Zach Collaros returns to lead the Tiger-Cats to a Grey Cup they should have won last year. Their opponent: The BC Lions. Wally Buono and Jonathon Jennings lead their team to BMO Field in Toronto for an “All Feline” Grey Cup.
– written by Travis Currah