CFL Pass

CFLpass Fearless Predictions: The 2019 CFL season, Grey Cup

This year, as a member of the CFL Podcast Network’s Rouge White & Blue CFL Podcast, Os Davis had the honor of voting in the league’s preseason poll of media members. This was a couple dozen questions some of which required some serious consideration. Os and RWB co-host Joe Pritchard discuss their choices on the final preseason episode of 2019, and details of Os’s choices run below.

The general overview: Lions and Tiger-Cats and more Lions, oh my

Which team will finish first in the West Division?
BC Lions
. At first glance, this seems like a bit of a stretch; BC brings in a new head coach, as DeVone Claybrooks takes over for retired legend Wally Buono, along with essentially an entirely all-new staff. On top of this, the roster has been drastically overhauled. Of the CFL teams described as “new-look”, none are more new-look than the BC Lions.

But few among the CFL press corps agree. The Winnipeg Blue Bombers, this year’s vogue pick to take the West, and the always solid Calgary Stampeders snapped up a combined 82% of the votes in this category. Why not? The Bombers’ current roster is the culmination of a process which should lead to a Bombers appearance in the Grey Cup at least. And one should never count out the Stamps, though losing 13 or 24 starters poses quite a challenge even for the league’s most adaptable team.

Three things that hold over from 2018 for BC Lions: location, location, location. A fairly mediocre and, by season’s end, worn-down Lions team nevertheless went 8-1 in Vancouver, with an average margin of victory just over 7 points in the eight wins. Here’s to thinking Claybrooks’s team is a little better.

Which team made the best overall moves this offseason?
Much in CFL media has been made of the raiding of the Ottawa Redblacks roster by the Edmonton Eskimos and, though digging on the schadenfreude there, what the BC Lions execs started transacting from day 1 of free agency was masterful.

Backing a team built mostly in free agency is tough usually, but BC boasts one heck of an assembly. The offense and defense have been utterly remade: Out are longtime lynchpins like LB Solomon Elimimian and WR Manny Arceneaux; in are WR Duron Carter, WR Lemar Durant, RB John White, OL Sukh Chungh, DB Aaron Grymes and this one quarterback…

Which one player acquisition will make the biggest impact in 2019?
Who will win the Most Outstanding Player in 2019 and why?

Why, Mike Reilly, of course. Not only does one of the league’s top two quarterbacks and players get more favorable homefield conditions and a player-friendly coaching staff, he gets to throw to…

Which team has the strongest receiving corps?
Let’s see … Carter, Durant, Bryan Burnham (forecast by the press corps to lead the league in receiving yards), Shaquille Johnson and the very promising rookie Jevon Cottoy? CFLpass’s going with – you guessed it – BC Lions here, too.

Which team will win the 107th Grey Cup?
Just 10% of the press corps like BC Lions to hoist the ’Cup, with Calgary, Winnipeg and Hamilton all making more popular choices. But here’s the thing: At the MyBookie online sportsbook, the defending champion Stampeders are favored to repeat at +275, but BC Lions is at just +300.

How many 5,000-yard passers will there be?
CFLpass figures 3: Reilly, Jeremiah Masoli and, o, probably Antonio Pipkin.

Which team will finish first in the East Division?
One of CFLpass’s rare majority-aligned opinions, a whopping 89% of the press corps likes the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the East in 2019. June Jones’s handpicked successor Orlondo Steinauer has the résumé as player, coordinator and coach to make a great HC immediately. Meanwhile, Jeremiah Masoli continues to develop as an elite CFL QB and he’s still throwing to Luke Tasker and Brandon Banks.

One key number for the Ticats: 8. As in, that’s how many games they play against East teams.

Which 2018 non-playoff team will have the most wins in 2019?
OK, so this is where the reaching begins. The truth is that CFLpass doesn’t expect greatness from the Toronto Argonauts or Montreal Alouettes; we’re betting against Edmonton Eskimos success in ’19.

Firstly, the offseason reshaping of the Edmonton roster was topped only by BC’s. In the wake of Reilly’s departure, the Eskimos pillaged Ottawa and signed Trevor Harris plus rounded up Greg Ellingson, DeVaris Daniels, Ricky Collins and Kenny Shaw. However, CFLpass isn’t particularly convinced that major improvement to the OL – truly the Achilles heel of the Edmonton passing game the past couple of seasons – was undergone.

In addition, banking on one wholly remade team to become an instantly well-oiled machine is one thing but two? This is some reverse logic here, but we can’t see both the Lions and the Eskimos running up double-digit wins. Besides, you gotta have a couple truly fearless predictions among such a forecast. In fact, we’re even going so far as to answer this next one like so:

Will there be a cross-over this season?
No.

On the players and coaches of the 2019 CFL season

Which player is most likely to have a breakout season in 2019 and why?
Dominique Davis
. The logic here: About one week before this ballot was filled out, the Redblacks announced Davis as the starting QB in week 1. After spending eight seasons in the NFL and CFL backing up the likes of Matt Ryan and Trevor Harris, Davis has finally been handed the keys to an offense. Cue “lose Yourself.”

Who will lead the league in receiving yards?
Eric Rogers was the first pick here, as he’ll be the clear go-to target for Bo Levi Mitchell’s Calgary Stampeders.But among Bo’s strengths has been his ability to spread the targets even when the receiving corps is adequate at best.

Instead, we’ll go with Dominique Davis’s certain prime target Brad Sinopoli, who always seems to haul in catches and rack up yards no matter who’s throwing the ball.

Who will win Most Outstanding Canadian in 2019?
Defense-lovers would certainly love Henoc Muamba, Taylor Loffler, Kwaku Boateng or Ted Laurent in this category, but CFLpass is doubling down on our receiving-yards pick: Brad Sinopoli.

Who will lead the league in sacks this year?
Kwaku Boateng
– so big, fast and reactive, it’s straight-up terrifying.

Who will lead the league in rushing yards?
The list in this category shows the stunningly high level of talent available at the RB spot in the CFL: Andrew Harris, Winnipeg; William Powell, Saskatchewan; James Wilder Jr., Toronto; C.J. Gable, Edmonton; William Stanback, Montreal; and Don Jackson, Calgary. We went with Don Jackson based almost solely on the premise that he’ll likely get the most carries of any of this group.

Who will win Most Outstanding Defensive Player?
Delvin Breaux could have a monster year in Hamilton in ’19, but we’re going with that old stalwart Adam Bighill.

If you were starting a franchise today and could sign any player in the CFL, who would your first selection be?
Isn’t Adam Bighill a franchise player? Sure, Reilly and Mitchell are fine choices, but 90% of the ’corps went QB first? Dude, defense rules!

Who will be the comeback player of the year in 2019?
Speaking of unpopular picks, CFLpass’s vote fell completely off the board here, with most press corps naming guys like Zach Collaros and Duron Carter. But we like Brandon Rutley, who has been riddled with injuries his entire career, bottoming out again in 2018 after playing just one game.

Who is the most underrated player in the CFL and why?
This is definitely one of the more difficult questions to achieve anything resembling agreement. Luke Tasker leads this field with just 7% of press corps votes. Our guy was so underrated, he didn’t even get two votes: Branden Dozie, the only player in the top 10 in special-teams tackles and defensive tackles; he also had a league-tying five picks in 2018. Who knew?

Which current Head Coach would you most want coaching your team?
Even if Jason Maas and Rick Campbell exceed expectations this year in Edmonton and Calgary, respectively, they’ll each be many career wins and accolades than Dave Dickenson, who on his current pace could well go down in CFL history as the head coach with the highest winning percentage.

Which up-and-coming coach (current coordinator or positional coach) would you hire as a first-time head coach in the CFL?
What’s funny about this one is that, at the time of balloting, Khari Jones was still Montreal Alouettes OC. No matter: The top-two finishers, Noel Thorpe and Mark Washington, are both excellent choices – though beyond the theoretical, we don’t think Washington will ever take an HC job.

Which newly-appointed Head Coach will finish with the most wins?
Orlando Steinauer and DeVone Claybrooks got 51% and 35% of the vote here and made CFLpass realize we’ve got two rookie HCs in the Grey Cup. Um, can this ballot be redone…?

Our predicted standings, CFL 2019

Not actually part of the ballot, CFLpass nevertheless presents our breakdown team by team for 2019.

West Division
BC Lions – 13-5
Winnipeg Blue Bombers: – 11-7
Calgary Stampeders – 11.7
Edmonton Eskimos – 7-11
Saskatchewan Roughriders – 6-12

East Division
Hamilton Tiger-Cats – 11-7
Ottawa Redblacks – 9-8-1
Toronto Argonauts – 8-10
Montreal Alouettes – 4-13-1

And your 2019 Grey Cup final score: BC Lions 30, Hamilton Tiger-Cats 21.

Now let’s get this thing kicked off!

– written by Os Davis