CFL West Division Expert Predictions and Analysis
The CFL's West Division has been dominated by the Calgary Stampeders over the last handful of seasons, with the team claiming the crown in five of the last seven seasons. The Stampeders parlayed their West Division title into a trip to the Grey Cup for a third consecutive year where, this time, they tasted victory by defeating the Ottawa Redblacks. Coming into this season, the Stamps are still the favorites out West, and it's going to take a tremendous season from one of the other four teams to dethrone the champs.
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Let's look at the odds of each team to win the division and why they could or should do it.
Odds are courtesy of Sports Interaction
The Favorite: Calgary Stampeders +125
The Calgary Stampeders come into this season as the odds-on favorite to capture their fourth straight West Division crown. I predicted they wouldn't defend their crown last year. And they not only proved me wrong, but they upped the success rate and went on and won the whole damn thing. I believe the West will be much more than it was last season, and It'll take something special or a big-time collapse for the Stampeders to relinquish their title. The Stamps are very much unchanged in terms of roster and starters from last year. The one constant and perhaps the most important is the steadfast play of quarterback Bo-Levi Mitchell. Mitchell is coming off another outstanding year. And with a healthy receiving corps and a running back in Don Jackson who had a tremendous rookie year, the sky really is the limit once again for these Stampeders.
The Contender: British Columbia Lions +250
The BC Lions come into this season looking to completely flip the script from last year's 9-9 season and a drubbing in the first round of the playoffs, to well above .500 and a playoff win. The Lions made the biggest splash this offseason by acquiring the extremely talented Mike Reilly. Reilly's signing is being touted as the biggest FA signing since Doug Flutie in the mid-90's. Reilly has been the league's more exciting playmaker the last three seasons, totaling nearly 17,000 yards passing and 122 combined touchdowns.
The rest of the roster remains relatively unchanged, so it'll be interesting to see if Reilly can lead the way offensively and get the Lions to the promised land.
The Darkhorse: Saskatchewan Roughriders +575
The Roughriders made a splash before last season and traded for a QB, Zach Collaros. Collaros didn't exactly light up the scoreboard in his debut season, but he didn't exactly disappoint, either. Collaros led the Roughriders to their first home playoff game since 2013, despite throwing more interceptions (13) than touchdowns (nine). The problem with Collaros is that he has a history of concussions, and that should be cause for concern for Rider nation. Backup quarterback Cody Fajardo needs to be sharp and ready at a moment's notice in case Collaros goes down. The Riders made a good signing by stealing William Powell away from Ottawa, and his presence in the backfield should keep the defenses honest and force them to respect the run. That'll free up the passing game and help Collaros work his way down field. The wide-receivers are some of the best in the game, so the Riders - if Collaros stays healthy - have a great chance of making a run this season.
Winnipeg Blue Bombers +375
The key to the Bombers season will be the health of their starting QB, Matt Nichols. I wrote that last season, and the very next day he went down with a knee injury and was forced to miss 4-6 weeks. I will double down on that statement once again and hope Nichols stays healthy for the sake of Bomber fans and the CFL viewers. When healthy, Nichols is one of the best QBs in the game. However, as he gets older and takes more lumps, the presence of backup QB, Chris Streveler, looms larger. Streveler is great in short yardage situations as well as dropping back to pass. He is very much the QB of the future. And depending on how the first few weeks go, the future could start as soon as this year. It'll be up to Nichols to play well enough (and avoid injury) to avoid losing his starting role. The Bombers do have some great weapons in the skill position. However, with a QB controversy possibly upon us, the Bombers could be in for a long season.
Edmonton Eskimos +800
I was extremely high on Edmonton last season, but they faltered down the stretch and ultimately missed the playoffs. Now they come into the season without their best player (Mike Reilly - signed by BC), and there are a lot more questions than answers throughout the roster. Essentially, they had to replace 27 spots on their roster with new faces, so there's no telling how long or even if this team will mesh together in time to make sure they don't fall behind the eight-ball in the conference. The offensive responsibility will fall on the shoulders of Logan Kilgore, who played college ball at Middle Tennessee State and started three games for the Argos in 2016. Good luck with that.
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