Six months after an exciting Grey Cup between the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, the 2022 CFL season starts with four exciting games in Week 1. Canadians can watch all the action on TSN, while those in the U.S., like myself, can watch on ESPN+ or ESPN.
Out of all the sports that I have ever bet on, Canadian Football is where I have had my best results. There are only four games a week, limits are lower than major North American sports, and information is harder to find. However, with enough research, it is easier to beat the books than with other sports.
This CFL offseason has been chaotic as several key players have either switched teams or retired. As a result, the opening week of the 2022 CFL season should have plenty of craziness. Below, read my primer on the differences between the American and Canadian games, as well as my best bets for Week 1.
CFL vs NFL: How These Football Leagues Differ
The biggest barrier that prevents American football bettors from wagering on Canadian football is that the rules seem confusing. In general, the differences in rules between American and Canadian football results in the latter having lower scoring games, and fewer games decided by three, four, six, seven, or ten points.
To make the rules less confusing, I have assembled a guide below on the differences between the CFL and NFL.
Three Downs Instead of Four
In the CFL, each offense has only three downs instead of four to make a first down. That means that instead of three-and-outs, you have two-and-outs.
With fewer chances to keep drives alive and the same number of yards to make, CFL offenses tend to be pass-heavy. In 2021, 61.8% of CFL offensive plays were passing plays. Additionally, more teams go for it on third down in the CFL than fourth down in the NFL.
CFL fields are 110 yards long, 65 yards wide, have 20-yard end zones, and the uprights are at the beginning of the end zone. NFL fields are 100 yards long, 53.33 yards wide, have 10-yard end zones, and have their goal posts at the end of the end zone.
This translates to more two-point conversion attempts, more special teams touchdowns, and more successful field goals in the CFL.
In the Canadian game, teams can score on one-point plays, also known as singles or rouges.
If a team misses a field goal and the opposing team doesn’t return it past the end zone, the kicking team gets a point. The same is true for punts, as the punting team gets a point if the receiving team doesn’t return it out of the end zone.
CFL Best Bets: Montreal Alouettes vs Calgary Stampeders
Montreal Alouettes vs Calgary Stampeders Prediction
To kick off the CFL season on Thursday night, the Calgary Stampeders will host the Montreal Alouettes.
In 2021, both Calgary and Montreal narrowly made the playoffs. The Alouettes had a 7-7 record, and they play in the weaker East Division. In the shortened season, Montreal had a 2-4 record against the stronger West Division.
Meanwhile, Calgary had an 8-6 record and put together a quietly impressive 6-4 mark against its West Division rivals. Accomplishing that, despite playing tough Winnipeg and Saskatchewan squads five times during the regular season, was no easy feat.
Despite being marginal playoff teams in 2021, both the Stamps and the Alouettes may not make the postseason this year. Both teams have uncertain futures at quarterback, with Calgary’s Bo Levi Mitchell and Montreal’s Vernon Adams Jr. appearing vulnerable last season.
Mitchell is the more established of the two quarterbacks, but can he help the Stampeders cover as 3.5-point favorites at home in Week 1? It’ll be close.
Calgary Stampeders 25, Montreal Alouettes 21
Calgary Stampeders -3.5 (-110) at Caesars Sportsbook
I have a hard time trusting Mitchell, but an even harder time trusting Adams.
Adams completed only 59.3% of his pass attempts last season, which was the third-worst percentage among quarterbacks with 100+ passing attempts last season. He also had only 14 passing touchdowns and threw nine interceptions.
Calgary’s defense allowed only 18.8 points per game last season, which was the third-best in the CFL. At home against Adams, they should hold the line as narrow favorites. Based on the Stamps uncertainty at quarterback, I am only making a half-unit bet on Calgary in Week 1.
CFL Best Bets: Ottawa Redblacks vs Winnipeg Blue Bombers
Ottawa Redblacks vs Winnipeg Blue Bombers Prediction
For the last two CFL seasons (2021 and 2019), the Winnipeg Blue Bombers have been the best team in the league, winning the Grey Cup on both occasions.
On the other hand, the Ottawa Redblacks finished dead last in the CFL standings in both of the last two seasons with a combined record of 6-26. The Blue Bombers are the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Redblacks are the Detroit Lions.
Winnipeg is the Grey Cup odds favorite again this year, but Ottawa should be a much better team. The Redblacks were extremely active in free agency, bolstering their offensive and defensive fronts, and most notably adding quarterback Jeremiah Masoli.
Last year, Ottawa had the league’s worst offense and Winnipeg had the best defense. Will the new Redblacks offense be able to turn things around against a vicious defense?
Winnipeg Blue Bombers 27, Ottawa Redblacks 15
Under 48 Points (-110)
Winnipeg should beat Ottawa, but I don’t have the stones to back them as 9.5-point favorites. The Blue Bombers probably will cover, but ten points is a high bar to reach.
Whether Winnipeg covers or not, the Blue Bombers defense should shut down an Ottawa offense that hasn’t had much time to gel yet. The defensive line, led by Willie Jefferson, is the best in the CFL and linebacker Adam Bighill was the league’s Most Outstanding Defensive Player award last year.
Ottawa should be better offensively this season, but I would be shocked if they scored more than two touchdowns against Winnipeg in Week 1. At 48 points, I believe that the total has been set too high and the under is one of my favorite bets this week.
I would feel comfortable betting this Under all the way down to 47 points.
CFL Best Bets: Hamilton Tiger-Cats vs Saskatchewan Roughriders
Hamilton Tiger-Cats vs Saskatchewan Roughriders Prediction
Outside of Winnipeg, Hamilton and Saskatchewan are probably the best two teams in the CFL.
Hamilton won the East Division each of the last two years, only to lose to Winnipeg in the Grey Cup both times. This offseason, the Tiger-Cats had significant losses in free agency. Notably, they lost QB Jeremiah Masoli and WR Brandon Banks, who are arguably the best players at their positions in the CFL.
The Saskatchewan Roughriders are like the Green Bay Packers of the CFL. They play in a small metropolitan area with no other professional sports teams, but they have the most dedicated fan base of any team, as the team is publicly owned by the community. Even I bought a share of the Roughriders, just so I can be an owner of a CFL team.
The Roughriders had a 9-5 record last season, but had a net scoring margin of only +0.43 points per game. In other words, Saskatchewan got very lucky last season. They do have a strong roster, however, led by quarterback Cody Fajardo.
In 2021, the Roughriders were 5-2 at home. Saskatchewan should start the season with a win over Hamilton in what the oddsmakers expect to be a toss-up.
Saskatchewan Roughriders 30, Hamilton Tiger-Cats 22
Saskatchewan Roughriders Moneyline (-115)
With Dane Evans as the new starting quarterback in Hamilton, the Ti-Cats should take a step backwards. I think they will make the playoffs this season, but they won’t be as dominant as they were with Masoli and Banks. Saskatchewan is a tough team, and at home, they should win this game.
The Roughriders are currently one-point favorites at -110, but their moneyline at -115 is a better bet. 5.5% of CFL games are decided by only one point and 0.5% end in a tie. It is for that reason that a -115 moneyline is a better price than a -1 (-110) spread.
If this line moves closer to kickoff, I would recommend betting this up to a -130 moneyline or a -2 (-105) spread.
CFL Best Bets: Edmonton Elks vs BC Lions
Edmonton Elks vs BC Lions Prediction
Last year, the Edmonton Elks and the BC Lions were the worst two teams in the West Division. And I don’t expect things to be much different this season.
Both teams will have new starting quarterbacks, and both will get eaten alive by Winnipeg, Saskatchewan, and Calgary. In fact, both the Elks and the Lions went 2-7 in divisional games last year.
What makes this Week 1 matchup exciting is that both teams get to play each other in one of their few non-lopsided games this season.
The BC Lions had a 5-9 record last season. After the campaign, their American quarterback Mike Rielly retired, ending an illustrious CFL career. BC is now elevating Canadian Nathan Rourke to the starting job.
If Rourke succeeds this season, he should have a long CFL career as each team must start a certain percentage of Canadians each game, and quarterback is not a common position for Canadians.
On the other side, the Edmonton Elks had a 3-11 record last year and we have no clue who their starting quarterback is going to be this year. After entering training camp with nine different options, the Elks still have four quarterbacks on the roster.
Nick Arbuckle should get the starting job as he has CFL experience, but he is battling a hand injury. The other alternatives are Taylor Cornelius, who was probably the worst quarterback in the CFL last year, and rookies Tre Ford and Kai Locksley.
With uncertainty at the QB position for both teams, it is tough to figure out who will win on Saturday night.
Edmonton Elks 22, BC Lions 20
Under 48 (-110) at Caesars
I can’t figure out which team is going to win this Week 1 matchup between Edmonton and British Columbia.
Will the Lions roar with Nathan Rourke, who only attempted 82 passes last season, or will the Elks trot away with a victory despite the unknowns at quarterback?
Rather than pick a winner in Saturday’s matchup, I am betting on Under 48 points being scored.
It is my favorite bet of the opening weekend as I don’t know how any of these teams will put points on the scoreboard, even against weak defenses. I would feel comfortable betting this all the way down to Under 46.