Predicting sports seasons is a fun, and often embarrassing activity to partake in. But I don’t mind the embarrassment, and by that I mean I go all-in on my predictions. Part one of my two CFL 2019 predictions pieces has an in-depth focus on the 2019 CFL standings and playoffs.
CFL 2019 Predictions
1. Hamilton Tiger-Cats 12-6 -Y
2. Montreal Alouettes 8-10 -X
3. Toronto Argonauts 8-10
4. Ottawa Redblacks 5-13
1. B.C. Lions 11-7 -Y
2. Calgary Stampeders 11-7 -X
3. Winnipeg Blue Bombers 10-8 -X
4. Edmonton Eskimos 9-9 -W
5. Saskatchewan Roughriders 7-11
Y= Division champ X= Playoff spot W= Crossover playoff spot
1. Hamilton Tiger-Cats – 12-6
Hamilton’s going to finish first in the East. With Jeremiah Masoli behind centre, a healthy Brandon Banks plus a ridiculous offensive line, Hamilton will be entertaining to watch on offence. To complement their juggernaut offence, Hamilton has a mighty secondary led by the best cornerback in the CFL, Delvin Breaux. Simoni Lawrence, Ted Laurent, Mike Daly, Cariel Brooks and more are still with the team, plus free agent additions Ja’Gared Davis, Rico Murray and Tunde Adeleke. The Ti-Cats coaching staff is more than fine with Orlondo Steinauer as their leader and Tommy Condell stepping in as offensive coordinator. 12-6 is likely underestimating the success Hamilton will have in 2019.
2. Montreal Alouettes – 8-10
Second place in the East is what becomes tricky. I gave Montreal a slim edge over Toronto for second place and the final playoff spot in the East. The Alouettes should have one of the league’s best defences, unless they fail to gel. There are plenty of new faces on Montreal’s D — Taylor Loffler, Ciante Evans, Bo Lokombo and Patrick Levels — who will be difficult to pass against. On offence, as long as Antonio Pipkin has a longer leash, he’ll grow into a fine starting quarterback. The Als have a sneaky good offensive line, and William Stanback is bound to break out at running back with veteran Jeremiah Johnson complementing him.
3. Toronto Argonauts – 8-10
Things look up in Toronto, but whopping questions marks remain at important positions, starting with quarterback. I’m not sold on James Franklin, and I predict he’ll be benched this season. Could Brandon Bridge be the Argos savior? Toronto has six(!) capable running backs in camp, an exceptional receiving corps now with Derel Walker and a solid offensive line. There’s a ton of Canadian talent and depth on offence too. On defence, aside from their front four, things don’t look great. Not many improvements were made to a team that ranked dead last in numerous defensive passing categories last season. While I have the Argos at 8-10, they could win up to 11 games or as few as five.
4. Ottawa Redblacks – 5-13
Ottawa got decimated on offence in February, something they haven’t recovered from. With Dom Davis at quarterback, I’m wary of the Redblacks. Factor in Davis having a new offensive coordinator and no William Powell, Greg Ellingson, Diontae Spencer or SirVincent Rogers and it should be a long summer for the veteran back up. Unless Brad Sinopoli goes for nearly 2,000 and the Redblacks find some hidden gems, Ottawa’s going to have with win defence. Luckily, they are collectively pretty solid on D. Ottawa’s got a good mix of veterans and up-and-comers which should fare well. Thing is, how long can they hold off opposing offences for? Five wins may be too generous for Ottawa.
1. B.C. Lions – 11-7
I have the new look, new culture B.C. Lions slated at first in the West. Mike Reilly is the obvious reason why, but unlike last season in Edmonton, Reilly’s got a talented defence and coaching staff to his betterment. I expect a rejuvenated Duron Carter to be Reilly’s go-to in a pass-heavy B.C. offence that rolls through the West. B.C.’s offence gets even scarier if John White stays healthy, but that’s a big if. On defence, the Lions have some elite defenders in T.J. Lee, Aaron Grymes, Davon Coleman and Odell Willis. It’s the holes at linebacker, cornerback and defensive end, specifically the depth — overall roster depth too — that may be the Lions downfall.
2. Calgary Stampeders 11-7
Tied with B.C. but finishing second in the West are the Calgary Stampeders. Calgary arguably lost the most talent out of any CFL team last winter, but what’s key is what they still have, particularly Bo Levi Mitchell. Kamar Jorden and Eric Rogers, who are top-five CFL receivers, are healthy, while Juwan Brescacin and Reggie Begelton are adept secondary options. Both Don Jackson and Terry Williams are back, and even with Brad Erdos’ season-ending injury, Calgary’s starting offensive line is very solid. Defensively Calgary lost a substantial amount of skill, but it’s been the next man up mentality for years in Calgary, and players like Folarin Orimolade and Wynton McManis are next in line.
3. Winnipeg Blue Bombers – 10-8
The hardest team to predict, Winnipeg, lands in the middle of the West. The continuity and depth on the Bombers roster is second to none. What’s concerning is the replacements for the starters Winnipeg lost last off-season. Matt Nichols needs to have a bounce-back season in 2019, which looks promising considering Winnipeg upgraded their receiving corps with the addition of Chris Matthews. The Bombers still have the best two offensive tackles in the West and have an unmatched one-two punch on defence in Adam Bighill and Willie Jefferson. Marcus Sayles, and even Brandon Alexander, should emerge as a top CFL halfback(s), but there are holes throughout Winnipeg’s starters.
4. Edmonton Eskimos – 9-9
Crossing over are the remodeled Edmonton Eskimos. By bringing in Trevor Harris, Greg Ellingson and DaVaris Daniels, Edmonton’s got serious firepower on offence. Harris’ established connection with Ellingson should limit some unfamiliarity issues. For the run game, C.J. Gable and the majority of Edmonton’s offensive line is returning, which is key. Edmonton’s got an elite front seven featuring veterans Kwaku Boateng and Almondo Sewell and free agent signings Jovan Santos-Knox, Larry Dean and Don Unamba. But while their front’s strong, their secondary’s weak and should get exposed. Depth across the roster is very slim in Edmonton; a few key injuries would be the Esks undoing.
5. Saskatchewan Roughriders – 7-11
The Saskatchewan Roughriders are a slightly better version of the Ottawa Redblacks. The Riders arguably have the best defence in the CFL, but they can only do so much. Saskatchewan’s secondary, highlighted by Nick Marshall and Loucheiz Purifoy, is a quarterback’s nightmare on a paper. Then there’s the addition of Micah Johnson, who joins Charleston Hughes on the front four, meaning Saskatchewan has the two best defensive linemen in the league. On offence, the Riders should plan around the run game led by free agent acquisition William Powell. The Riders got a lot of speed on offence, but the aerial attack will be non-threatening all summer, more so their downfield passing game.
Eastern semi-final: Edmonton 20 Montreal 25
Western semi-final: Winnipeg 23 Calgary 37
East final: Montreal 8 Hamilton 31
West final: Calgary 24 B.C. 35
107th Grey Cup: B.C 23 Hamilton 26
Grey Cup Champions: Hamilton Tiger-Cats
Grey Cup MVP: Bralon Addison
My Montreal Alouettes hype doesn’t come to a halt after the regular season. In the East semi-final I have the Alouettes defeating Trevor Harris’ Eskimos in a tight defensive game. The last three years with Ottawa, Harris has faced the lowly Alouettes seven times. Ottawa’s averaged 23 points in those seven games, which would’ve ranked seventh in the CFL last year. The Alouettes have a better defence this year, and home field matters in the playoffs, especially for teams crossing over.
Last year the Bombers came up short in an ugly West Final by both teams. Winnipeg wasn’t good enough last year, and they’re slightly worse on paper this year, which is why they’ll leave McMahon as losers again. Calgary’s still got their quarterback and with their offence and leadership, they’ll find a way at home by picking apart the Bombers defence.
With an extra week of preparation and rest, the Ti-Cats crush the Alouettes in the East Final. It’s been five years since Hamilton played in the Grey Cup, and they’re too good from top to bottom not to get back to the ‘ship. Hamilton surrendered eight points in the 2018 East sem-final, it’s the same story in the 2019 East Final in a lopsided win.
Bo Levi Mitchell versus Mike Reilly with a spot in the Grey Cup on the line just feels right. Seven years ago the Stampeders came into BC Place as underdogs and won outright. This team around, Reilly rights another chapter in the Hollywood movie, taking the Lions to the Grey Cup for the first time since 2011 with a decent-sized victory over the reigning champs.
The Hamilton Tiger-Cats are my 2019 Grey Cup winner. The Ti-Cats are more complete than the Lions, and for a second straight season, the best team in the league wins. Don’t underestimate the importance of Lirim Hajrullahu for Hamilton, who could come in clutch as he did in 2017 with the Argos, whereas B.C. has uncertainty at both kicker and punter. My Grey Cup MVP is Bralon Addison, who is bound for a monster year after a superb sample size late last season.
The Last Word
I like to be bold, and my 2019 CFL Predictions fit the bill: Montreal in the East Final. A new king in the West. Masoli becoming the league’s top player. Part two comes out Sunday night, but for now, comment below on this post or tweet me at @nik_kowalski with your thoughts and your own predictions. Let the CFL season begin.
Main image credit: Embed from Getty Images