VANCOUVER — Well, training camps are over and the 2012 CFL season is here.
No more waiting. Let the kickoffs commence.
There are 18 weeks before we find out who will qualify for the post-season and you know what that means, it’s time to look into the crystal ball and make some picks.
Let’s start with predicted order of finish:
1. Hamilton Tiger-Cats (10-8) – Being reunited with George Cortez should be good for the career of Henry Burris, who looked nothing like a guy who lost his starting job last season in Calgary. Not to discount the addition of Andy Fantuz, but Sam Giguere might have just as big an impact. Some questions on the defensive side and will be tough to replace Justin Medlock, who was the best kicker in CFL last season.
2. Montreal Alouettes (9-9) — Provided Anthony Calvillo stays healthy, putting up pinball-like numbers offensively should be a given with weapons like Jamel Richardson at his disposal. However, lots of questions on the defensive side of the ball with the purging of many vets. Will be interesting to see what schemes ex-Bombers coach Jeff Reinebold produces here.
3. Winnipeg Blue Bombers (9-9) — Several pairs of big shoes to fill on the field and inside the locker room in terms of production and leadership. However, look for Buck Pierce to thrive under Gary Crowton’s offence, Kito Poblah to have a breakout season and for the vaunted secondary to create enough turnovers to keep the Blue and Gold in the chase for top spot in the division.
4. Toronto Agonauts (7-11) — Love the addition of Ricky Ray, but not sure he has the targets to make him as successful as he’s been in the past. That said, Scott Milanovich is a great choice as head coach and we see this team on the rise. Some defensive question marks though. The storybook finish of the Argos being in the 100th Grey Cup in their hometown seems highly unlikely.
1. B.C. Lions (14-4) — Weapons on offence, check. Weapons on defence, check. Consistent kicking game, check. When your biggest problem is potential for the return game, you know you’re in good shape. Mike Benevides takes over from Wally Buono as head coach, but he’s already got the Lions in fine form entering the regular season. This group of vets are determined to get back to the Grey Cup and repeat for the first time in franchise history. Simply can’t bet against them at this time (oops, gave away the ending).
2. Calgary Stampeders (11-7) — Drew Tate could have some ups-and-downs in his first full year as a CFL starter, but he has a great support network in John Hufnagel and OC Dave Dickensen to lean on, not to mention the fact Kevin Glenn is a capable backup. Jon Cornish will have a big season and the defence should be stout after adjusting to Rick Campbell.
3. Saskatchewan Roughriders (8-10) — Some predicting another season of doom and gloom for the Green Riders, but we see a healthy Darian Durant leading the offence and having more time with a bolstered O-line. On the defensive side, a healthy Brent Hawkins and a motivated Odell Willis should provide a much better pass rush and make life difficult on opposition QBs. Look for them to hold off the crossover and make playoffs under Corey Chamblin.
4. Edmonton Eskimos (6-12) — Kavis Reed did an excellent job as a first-year head coach, but GM Eric Tillman has severely limited the Eskimos chances of making consecutive appearances in the West final. Steven Jyles has some upside but he’s no Ricky Ray and Hugh Charles will have a hard time matching the production of Jerome Messam. Fred Stamps is one of the top receivers in the CFL but he’ll need to be for the Green and Gold to avoid a setback.
Montreal Alouettes 24 Winnipeg Blue Bombers 20
Calgary Stampeders 30 Saskatchewan Roughriders 22
Hamilton Tiger-Cats 27 Montreal Alouettes 25
B.C. Lions 36 Calgary Stampeders 30
B.C. Lions 33 Hamilton Tiger-Cats 22