Following a canceled 2020 season, the CFL is back with a condensed 14-game campaign that kicks off tonight. COVID-19 has been uncertain for more than a year about whether or not the Canadian Football League would even have a future, so it’s good to have three-down football still in our lives. With that said, here are my CFL picks for the Week 1 slate.
CFL Picks Week 1
Thursday, August 5: Hamilton Tiger-Cats at Winnipeg Blue Bombers
In a rematch of the 2019 Grey Cup, the defending champion Blue Bombers look to begin with a quest for a repeat when they play host to the Ticats. Veteran quarterback Zach Collaros is set to begin his first full season under center with Winnipeg, after leading them to the Grey Cup in 209 when Matt Nichols went down due to injury.
They’ll be in tough however against a Hamilton TigerCats squad that has been the class of the East division for the last few years. Brandon Banks is a major game-changer at wide receiver and kick returner, and the Ticats will be hungry for revenge. Blue Bombers star running back Andrew Harris’ status won’t play in Week 1, so I like Hamilton here.
The Pick: Hamilton Tiger-Cats
Friday, August 6: BC Lions at Saskatchewan Roughriders
BC Lions quarterback Mike Reilly has easily taken the most punishment out of any gunslinger in the CFL for the past couple of years. The Lions’ offense has one of the best receivers in the game in Bryan Burnham, but they’ll need to protect the quarterback if they want consistent success in 2021 under new head coach Rick Campbell.
The Roughrider experienced a big change in the offseason, releasing veteran defensive end Charleston Hughes, and losing linebacker Solomon Elimimian to retirement. BC is the better team, but Saskatchewan is allowing 100% capacity at Mosaic Stadium for this tilt, and the Riders easily have the best home-field advantage in the CFL. That’ll be the difference on Friday night in Regina.
The Pick: Saskatchewan Roughriders
Saturday, August 7: Toronto Argonauts at Calgary Stampeders
Head coach Dave Dickenson and quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell have turned Calgary into a powerhouse every year, and this season should be no different. Mitchell got injured in 2019 with a pec injury but is ready to go for Week 1 even after nursing a groin injury throughout training camp. At 100% Mitchell is the best player in the entire league, which makes the Stampeders instant contenders. The Argonauts made a ton of good moves in free agency and will have a really good defense in 2021, but Dickenson knows Argos QB Nick Arbuckle well since he coached him from 2017-2019. Calgary will be able to expose Arbuckle’s flaws and win their home opener by a large margin. This is also Ryan Dinwiddie’s first game as a head coach for the Argos, so the coaching matchup really isn’t fair in this one.
The Pick: Calgary Stampeders
Saturday, August 7: Ottawa RedBlacks at Edmonton Elks
Paul LaPolice and Matt Nichols are reunited in Ottawa after being successful together in Winnipeg. The RedBlacks offense will most certainly be better this year, but it’ll be up to the defense to see if they’re able to hold serve as well.
The Elks are going to be a nightmare through the air for Ottawa in this one, as QB Trevor Harris had a 5,000+ yard passing campaign back in 2018. Jaime Elizondo was the offensive coordinator for Harris back then, and is now the head coach for Edmonton. Expect the Elks to throw the ball more than any other team in 2021, and for that recipe to work in Week 1 against the RedBlacks.
The Pick: Edmonton Elks