Week 5 radically shifted the CFL landscape heading into Week 6. The defending Grey Cup champion Winnipeg Blue Bombers beat the upstart BC Lions 43-22 and are now the consensus favorite to win the championship once again.
This weekend we have a full slate of four games, all available on ESPN+.
On Thursday, the Montreal Alouettes, who have a new head coach, will host the Edmonton Elks, who will have a new quarterback. On Friday, Winnipeg hosts Calgary, who now has the second-shortest odds of winning the Grey Cup.
On Saturday, we have an afternoon double header with the Toronto Argonauts hosting the Saskatechewan Roughriders, and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats hosting the Ottawa Redblacks.
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): 10-13, -9% Return on Investment, +3.3% Closing Line Value
All CFL betting odds are current as of Wednesday, July 13 at 10 a.m EST
CFL Best Bets: Edmonton Elks vs Montreal Alouettes
Edmonton Elks vs Montreal Alouettes Prediction
Last week, Edmonton played one of the worst CFL games that I have ever seen, losing 49-6 to Calgary at home.
Going into the second half, the Elks trailed 14-3, but they marched all the way to Calgary’s 38-yard line to kick a field goal. They missed that field-goal attempt and Edmonton returned it 122 yards for a touchdown. No, that’s not a typo because remember, CFL fields are 110 yards long and have 20-yard end zones.
Then after getting the ball back, the game was delayed for about an hour due to a thunderstorm that brought heavy rain. Even though I had Calgary -3, I began to panic as if the game was going to get called off. In that scenario, I would be given a refund rather than a win. At that moment, I went peak degenerate watching the Edmonton groundskeeping crew sweeping rain off the field with brooms.
Once the game resumed, Edmonton completely threw in the towel on defense, allowing the Over to hit in the last minute on a Calgary quarterback sneak.
This week, Edmonton traded their starting quarterback Nick Arbuckle to Ottawa, and acknowledged that second-string quarterback Tre Ford is likely to miss six weeks with a collarbone injury.
That leaves the Elks with either third-string, rookie quarterback Kai Locksley, or 2021 starting QB Taylor Cornelius for this week’s game. Locksley is likely to be a deer in the headlights if he plays, and Cornelius was horrendous last season.
Opposing the Elks is a Montreal team that has a new head coach after firing Khari Jones due to a 1-3 start. Despite their record, the Alouettes narrowly lost to both Toronto and Calgary, and their lone win came against Saskatchewan.
Montreal may have prematurely fired Jones, but they should win by multiple touchdowns against a weak Edmonton Elks team off a bye week.
Score Pick: Montreal Alouettes 30, Edmonton Elks 10
Alouettes -8 (-110) at PointsBet Sportsbook
Eight points is a lot to lay for a losing team with a new head coach, but it is practically a steal against Edmonton at home. The Alouettes have played only playoff caliber teams this season and have been competitive.
Against an Edmonton team that should be winless, I would be shocked if this game is close. I’d be comfortable betting this spread up to -10.
CFL Best Bets: Calgary Stampeders vs Winnipeg Blue Bombers
Calgary vs Winnipeg Prediction
There are only two undefeated CFL teams this season, the Calgary Stampeders and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. The Stamps and the Blue Bombers face off this week in an epic showdown in Winnipeg.
Both teams have great defenses, but Winnipeg’s probably takes the cake. The Blue Bombers allow only 17 points per game, have the best defensive line, linebackers, and have a strong secondary. Calgary isn’t too shabby either as they allow only 21.5 points per game.
Looking at Winnipeg’s rap sheet, their defense is even more impressive. Last week they limited BC Lions quarterback Nathan Rourke to 278 passing yards, a 64% completion rate, three touchdowns, and two interceptions. For any quarterback, these are decent numbers, but for Rourke who is averaging an 80% completion rate and three touchdowns a game, that is an impressive performance.
Additionally, the Blue Bomber defense was able to contain two other strong quarterbacks Hamilton’s Dane Evans and Ottawa’s Jeremiah Masoli.
Against Bo Levi Mitchell and Calgary, Winnipeg should have a big game. Mitchell has been in decline for the past two seasons. Last year, he threw more interceptions than touchdowns. Other than his two games against a woeful Edmonton defense, Mitchell has struggled against Montreal and Hamilton.
At home, the Blue Bombers should be able to limit Mitchell and the Stampeders. That is why I see them winning by about a touchdown.
Score Pick: Winnipeg 27, Calgary 20
Winnipeg -3.5 (-110) at PointsBet
For the past three seasons, Winnipeg has been the best CFL team. Last week, they beat a BC Lions team as a road underdog by 21 points. Up until last week’s loss, the Lions were a co-favorite to win the Grey Cup with Winnipeg. Now Calgary is the team with the second-shortest odds.
The Stamps are a playoff-caliber team, but they are not likely to be able to compete with Winnipeg or Saskatchewan this season. At less than four points, Winnipeg is worth a bet, but I would only bet them up to five points in this spot.
CFL Best Bets: Saskatchewan Roughriders vs Toronto Argonauts
Saskatchewan vs Toronto Prediction
Last year, Toronto was the luckiest team in the CFL. This season, they have been the unluckiest. The Argonauts allowed more points than they scored in 2021, yet had the best record in the East Division. This season, things have been different.
In their first game, Toronto beat Montreal at home by only a single point after missing two field goals. In Week 4, Toronto lost to Winnipeg by a point after missing an extra point that would have tied the game. The Argos can be a vexing team to analyze because of the positive and negative variance they have had over the last two seasons.
For Saskatchewan, if they played in the East, they would easily be the best team in the division. The Roughriders have a 4-1 record, but only have played teams with losing records. Outside of their lone loss to the Alouettes, they have won by 10 or more points in each game.
The key for the Roughriders is to perform decently on offense because their defense is a strength.
Teams are required to start a certain number of Canadian nationals, who are usually worse than their American counterparts. For most teams, this means having Canadian defenders and offensive linemen. Saskatchewan follows a different formula, as their offense is mainly Canadian, and their defense is mainly American.
The Argos are no pushover as an opponent, but the Riders should win this weekend.
Score Pick: Saskatchewan 27, Toronto 15
Saskatchewan -2.5 at BetMGM Sportsbook
Even with the lowest attendance in the league, Toronto benefits from a slight home-field advantage at home games. Still, Saskatchewan should not be a favorite of less than a field goal on the road.
The Roughriders have dominated their opponents this season. Toronto, on the other hand, should have lost to Winnipeg by more and was lucky to come out with a win against Montreal.
CFL Best Bets: Ottawa Redblacks vs Hamilton Tiger-Cats
Ottawa vs Hamilton Prediction
Capping off the Week 6 CFL slate is a toilet bowl matchup between the Ottawa Redblacks and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. The Redblacks and Ti-Cats are the only CFL teams with winless records.
Despite this, Hamilton is favored by a touchdown at home against Ottawa.
Up until last week, Ottawa was the best team in the East Division. That was until quarterback Jeremiah Masoli was injured on a dirty hit, and now Masoli will be out 10-12 weeks with an ACL injury.
Replacing Masoli will come down to either Caleb Evans, Nick Arbuckle, or a combination of both. Officially, Evans is the starter, but it is hard to know if the Redblacks are being fully transparent about their quarterbacking strategy.
As a rookie in 2021, Evans played in eight games and completed only 59.3% of his passes. He threw for only five touchdowns and had nine interceptions.
Nick Arbuckle on the other hand is probably worse than Evans. This season, Arbuckle has been unbuckled as he has only two passing touchdowns to eight interceptions. He also has thrown for more than 300 yards only once in his four starts.
Facing off against a weak Ottawa offense, is a strong Hamilton passing attack led by quarterback Dane Evans. This season, Evans has been off. But in 2019 and 2021, he was one of the better quarterbacks in the CFL.
Even though Hamilton is winless this season, they should win by multiple touchdowns against Ottawa this weekend.
Score Pick: Hamilton 36, Ottawa 15
Hamilton -6.5 (-115) at BetMGM
A touchdown is a large number of points to lay with a winless team, but in this particular matchup, it is not enough points. There is a very real chance that Ottawa scores only one touchdown this weekend. If that happens, how does Hamilton not cover?
The Redblacks have two quarterbacks that haven’t been able to get it done, and the Ti-Cats have a proven winner in Dane Evans. At home, I have a hard time seeing how Hamilton doesn’t come out with a strong win against Ottawa.
I’d be comfortable betting this spread up to 9.5 points.
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.