CFL East Division Expert Predictions and Analysis
The CFL's East Division has been a bit of a crapshoot over the last handful of seasons. The Argos have bookend East Division crowns in 2012 and 2017, while Hamilton won back-to-back crowns in 2013-14 and Ottawa did the same in 2015-16 before adding a 2018 title to their collection. This season, the East Division figures to be much weaker than the West, so it's really anyone's guess as to who will come out on top. The Redblacks are still the team to beat, in my opinion, but apparently not the bookmakers'. Each of the four teams that comprise the East Division have glaring weaknesses that need to be addressed immediately before the season gets away from them. For the Ti-Cats it's the offense, for the Argos it's the quarterback situation, for the Redlacks it's if they can buck the trend of reaching the Grey Cup in one season and missing the playoffs the next, and for the Als it's all the question marks surrounding the QB spot. Let me break it down further for you.
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All odds are courtesy of Sports Interaction.
The Favorite: Hamilton Tiger Cats (+138)
The Hamilton Tiger Cats were in a bit of a precarious situation heading into this 2018 season. They signed Jeremiah Masoli to be their starter, only to go out and sign Johnny Manziel to potentially replace him. That plan really didn't work as Manziel saw very limited time before being shipped out of town, while Masoli took the Ti-Cats to the Eastern Finals. It'll be interesting to see if Masoli can better his productive season last year. If he does, the Ti-Cats may very well be the team to beat in the East. On the defensive side of the ball, the defense ranked among the top half of the league in yards and points per game allowed last year and did not lose any vital pieces of their unit. The defense featured several young, up-and-coming players. And with a year more of experience under their belt, the Ti-Cats defense could be even better this season.
Contender: Ottawa Redblack (+176)
The RedBlack stunned the CFL world three seasons ago by capturing the Grey Cup and then followed that up with an 8-win season two years ago. In true Redblack form, they ran away with the Eastern Division and found themselves in the Grey Cup against a very good Calgary team. The team ultimately fell short, but it's the trend of Grey Cup or bust that worries me about this team. Can the Redblacks continue their air-raid attack on the league despite being without their starting QB from last year in Trevor Harris? The team is looking at four QBs to lead the way, led by Dominque Davis and Jonathon Jennings. Defensively, Ottawa had a bend-but-don't-break mentality, posting a Top 3 defense in points per game, but they ranked among the bottom half in yards allowed, yards per play and opponents' first downs.
Toronto Argonauts (+401)
The Toronto Argonauts came into the 2018 season on the heels of an improbable Grey Cup victory two seasons over Calgary. The "double blue" returned true to form last season by finishing last in the East Division with 4 wins. They will be without Ricky Ray this season due to retirement, so the entire offense will have to rejig itself to take advantage of the players it does have its disposable. To make matters worse, they are breaking in a new offensive coordinator, with Jacque Chapdelaine set to call the shots. The Argos will likely go with James Franklin or McLeod Bethel-Thompson under center, and both of those guys are a step back from the future HOF'er Ray. It's going to be a long season in Argo land this year, and another last-place finish is likely in the cards.
Montreal Alouettes (+403)
The best chance the Alouettes have to avoid finishing in the basement of the Eastern Division is riding their defense for 20 games. The Al's are now into Year 2 of Rich Stubler's defensive systems and will be heavily reliant on that side of the football to keep them in ball games once again. The Als are still trying to figure out who to start at QB for the team, as Antonio Pipkin, Vernon Adams and Matthew Shiltz are battling it out for the starting duty. I hate to be the bearer of bad news to Alouette fans, but this season is going to be another long and losing season. Maye they can take solace in the fact that the Argos may very well be worse.
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