The first two weeks of the CFL season are in the books, and we have an exciting Week 3 slate to look forward to.
Two of the four games will be televised on ESPN2 (Hamilton vs Winnipeg on Friday and Toronto vs BC on Saturday). The other two games will be available on ESPN+.
Even with two weeks of data, there are still unknowns in the CFL landscape. Toronto and BC have played only one game. Montreal lost its first two games only by a combined four points. Hamilton, the defending East Division champ, has a 0-2 record after an epic meltdown in last week’s contest.
Below, I go over the differences between the CFL and NFL, and my best bets for this week’s slate.
Record (Tracked by BetStamp App): 3-4, -15.2% ROI, +0.1% CLV
All CFL betting odds are current as of Tuesday, June 21 at 12 p.m. EST.
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 10 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: Saskatchewan Roughriders vs Montreal Alouettes
Saskatchewan Roughriders vs Montreal Alouettes Prediction
Montreal lost its first game against Calgary 30-27, but covered the +3.5 spread. Last week, as 3.5-point underdogs against Toronto, the Alouettes fell 20-19 after missing a field-goal attempt with 18 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.
Montreal might be winless, but they are undefeated against the spread. Are the Alouettes due for a win in their first home game of the season?
Visiting Montreal in Week 3 are the 2-0 Saskatchewan Roughriders. The Roughriders won both of their games by more than two scores, but those results are misleading.
In Week 1, the Riders were neck-and-neck with Hamilton until a dominant fourth quarter. Last week against Edmonton, arguably the worst team in the league, Saskatchewan was trailing heading into the fourth quarter.
The deciding factor of this week’s game will be the quarterback play for Montreal. In my opinion, Alouettes starter Vernon Adams Jr. is worse than his backup Trevor Harris. Adams was mediocre last year, and so far this season he has played even worse.
Last week, Adams got injured early on and was replaced by Harris, who completed 18-of-30 passes for 270 yards in relief. If Harris could have turned a few more of Montreal’s promising drives into points, then the Alouettes would have won.
As of Tuesday morning, Adams has missed practice this week with an unspecified illness. If he is out for Thursday night’s game, Montreal should have a better chance of winning with Harris as the starter.
With or without Adams, Saskatchewan’s defense will be unforgiving. The Roughriders allowed only 16 points last week and only 13 the week prior against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
Saskatchewan Roughriders 24, Montreal Alouettes 18
Saskatchewan Roughriders -3 (-114) at BetRivers
Wager: 2 Units
Even though the Alouettes barely lost their first two games, they should have lost by more.
Meanwhile, Saskatchewan’s defense is the best in the CFL outside of Winnipeg. With CFL teams having to play a certain percentage of Canadians, Saskatchewan has a more American defense and a more Canadian offense than most teams.
Even on the road, three points for Saskatchewan is a steal and I would bet it up to four points. As betting limits are raised on Thursday morning, watch for -3 or -3.5 to not be available on the Roughriders by kickoff.
CFL Best Bets: Hamilton Tiger-Cats vs Winnipeg Blue Bombers
Hamilton Tiger-Cats vs Winnipeg Blue Bombers Prediction
In each of the previous two CFL seasons (2021 and 2019), the Winnipeg Blue Bombers were the best team in the league, winning the Grey Cup by beating the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. On Friday night on ESPN2, these two teams meet in what should be an epic rematch.
Hamilton hasn’t looked too hot this year. They got blown out by Saskatchewan in Week 1, but nothing tops their epic loss last week against Calgary.
As a 1.5-point favorite, Hamilton kicked off the game with the news that three Calgary defenders, who were listed as questionable, were out for the game. The Tiger-Cats were leading 24-3 at halftime, prompting friends to send me congratulatory texts as I recommended Hamilton in my Week 2 article. Then the apocalypse happened, and Calgary won the game 33-30 in overtime.
On the other side, Winnipeg is currently the favorite to win the Grey Cup again, even after narrow victories against Ottawa in each of their first two games. Fewer than 36 total points were scored in both of those contests, so it makes sense that the total has opened at only 42.5 points.
Since 2004, 16.1% of CFL games have had 36 or fewer points scored, and 28.2% of games have had 42 or fewer points scored. The betting markets are correct to expect a low-scoring game whenever Winnipeg is involved based on their defensive strength.
With Winnipeg having the toughest defensive line in the league, Tiger-Cats quarterback Dane Evans and a banged-up offensive line should have a tough time this week on the road. Winnipeg should win, but by less than a touchdown.
Winnipeg Blue Bombers 25, Hamilton Tiger-Cats 21
Over 42.5 Points (-110) at PointsBet
Wager: 0.75 Units
Friday’s Grey Cup rematch is a tough game to handicap. Winnipeg should win, but Hamilton is no pushover even with a winless record. That is why I am staying away from Winnipeg as a 5.5-point favorite.
We should see a low-scoring game on Friday night, but 42.5 points is too low of a total. Even with both teams having strong defenses, only 28.2% of CFL games have seen 42 or fewer points scored since 2004.
Both teams have decent offenses, which is why I feel comfortable placing a half-unit wager on this game going Over 42.5 points.
CFL Best Bets: Edmonton Elks vs Calgary Stampeders
Edmonton Elks vs Calgary Stampeders Prediction
Based on their first game, it is easy to have the impression that the Edmonton Elks are the worst team in the CFL. On the road against BC, the Elks lost 59-15 in an epic defensive meltdown.
Last week, against an even better team in Saskatchewan, the Elks had a respectable performance despite losing 26-16. In that game, Edmonton held a 13-12 lead heading into the fourth quarter. Instead of allowing 59 points, they allowed only 26.
The Elks’ chances this week come down to the performance of quarterback Nick Arbuckle. Last week, Arbuckle threw for 315 yards but tossed two interceptions to only one touchdown. If he can limit the turnovers and score in key situations, Edmonton has an opportunity to get its first victory of the season.
Calgary should win, but it is plausible that Edmonton can pull off the upset as 9.5-point underdogs.
Edmonton Elks 24, Calgary Stampeders 22
Edmonton Elks +9.5 (-110) at Betway
Edmonton Elks Moneyline (+340) at Betway
Wager: 0.5 Units on each
Nobody has any faith in Edmonton this year, but in football, anything can happen. In a competitive showing last week against the Roughriders, the Elks showed me that they could win.
Edmonton should cover 9.5 points even if they lose, as they will at least keep the score close. With a (+340) moneyline, the handsome payout is worth a wager as the Elks have a plausible path to victory. I would bet the spread up to +7.5 (-105) and moneyline up to (+300).
CFL Best Bets: Toronto Argonauts vs BC Lions
Toronto Argonauts vs BC Lions Prediction
Of the nine CFL teams, only two have played one game so far this season. Those two squads, Toronto and BC, face off on Saturday night on ESPN2.
Toronto was the regular-season East Division champion last year, while BC had one of the worst records in the CFL. After the Lions roared in their Week 1 opener, winning 59-15 against Edmonton, they have opened as three-point favorites at home against the Argos.
In that Week 1 win, quarterback Nathan Rourke completed 89.7% of his passes for 282 passing yards and three touchdowns. Rourke also added 78 rushing yards on seven carries and two rushing touchdowns. British Columbia torched Edmonton, but can they repeat that performance against a tougher Toronto defense?
Toronto held an offensively challenged Montreal team to only 19 points last week. In that game, they didn’t allow a single passing touchdown and contained the Alouettes’ rushing attack.
Facing the Lions on the road will be a tougher test, but this week’s line is an overreaction to BC’s first game. The Lions should only be a narrow favorite in what should be an exciting game.
Toronto Argonauts 30, BC Lions 27
Toronto Argonauts +4.5 (-110) at Caesars
Wager: 2 Units
There is a lot of hype around BC this season. Ahead of their matchup against Toronto, I am listening to Flava Flav and not believing the hype.
The Argos won their lone game of the season by a single point, failing to cover as a 3.5-point favorite. However, they would’ve coved that number if their kicker didn’t miss two field goals, both of which turned into rouges because the other team didn’t return the ball past the end zone.
With over 10% of CFL games being decided by exactly three points and 4.7% decided by four, getting the Argos at +4.5 rather than +4 or +3 is a huge win if you are backing Toronto. I would, however, bet this up to +2.