This season, I have lost money betting on the CFL but have shown signs that I should make money long-term based on the timing of my bets. That is because I am getting closing line value on most of the games that I am betting. This means that by the time a CFL game starts, the number I bet it at is a better number than the number it closed at.
If I bet a team at -2.5 and they close at -4.5, then even if they lose in the long run, I will be a winning bettor.
This weekend we have a full slate of four games - two nationally televised on ESPN2 (BC/Saskatchewan and Winnipeg/Calgary) and the other two will be televised on ESPN+
On Thursday, the 1-5 Hamilton Tiger-Cats are hosting the surging 2-4 Montreal Alouettes. Friday on ESPN2, the Roughriders host the Lions in a fun matchup between two Grey Cup Contenders.
The highlight of the weekend will be followed by a rematch between Winnipeg and Calgary on ESPN2, followed by Toronto hosting Ottawa in a Sunday late afternoon matchup.
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): 13-18, -15% Return on Investment, +5.1% Closing Line Value
All CFL betting odds are current as of Tuesday, July 26 at 10 a.m EST.
Montreal vs Hamilton Prediction
In the East Division, only one of the four teams has a winning record this season. Two of those teams play each other this week as the 1-5 Hamilton Tiger-Cats host the 2-4 Montreal Alouettes.
What is strange about Montreal is despite having a losing record, they have an average scoring margin of +0.8 per game. They should have a .500 record, but because of bad luck, they have a losing record.
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Montreal has been the unluckiest CFL team this season and it’s easy to see why after looking at their schedule. In the first week, they lost to the 4-1 Calgary Stampeders by a field goal in the final minutes. In the second week, they lost by a point off a missed field goal.
The latest blunder was two weeks ago at home against the Edmonton Elks, who are the worst team in the CFL. Going into the fourth quarter, Montreal was ahead by 13 points. Despite such a dominating lead, the Alouettes found a way to lose by one point.
After last week, it looks like the Alouettes have turned it around. Montreal scored 40 points against Ottawa based on the strong performance of backup quarterback Trevor Harris. Harris completed 80.6% of his passes for 341 yards and two passing touchdowns.
Like Montreal, Ottawa has been unlucky this season. They opened their first three games against Winnipeg and BC, who are the two best teams in the CFL this season. In those games, the RedBlacks lost each game by less than a touchdown.
Hamilton is a much better team than their record indicates. The problem for the Ti-Cats is that the Alouettes are, as well. Montreal should win outright as a 3.5-point underdog on Thursday.
Score Pick: Montreal 27, Hamilton 21
Montreal vs Hamilton Best CFL Bets
Montreal +3.5 (-120) at BetMGM
Montreal Money Line (+140) at PointsBet
Wager: 1 Unit
CFL games are decided by three points or less 21.61% of the time. To bet on a team that I think is going to win as a 3.5-point underdog is a steal.
At the beginning of the season, Hamilton would have been a no-brainer at home as a 3.5-point favorite, but there has been a significant drop-off in their performance this season. Montreal, on the other hand, has been quietly improving, and they are worth a shot to not only cover but win outright at +140.
BC vs Saskatchewan Prediction
The BC Lions have been the most surprising team this season. Last year, they were one of the worst teams, and this year, they are a Grey Cup contender. The Saskatchewan Roughriders are not chopped liver either, as BC is only a two-point favorite.
The Lions win each game on average by 14.4 points this season. The biggest reason why is not because Pamela Anderson was discovered at a BC Lions game in the 80s, it is because of their offense which is led by quarterback Nathan Rourke.
In five games this season, Rourke is averaging a 78.8% completion rate (not a typo), 321 passing yards, 38 rushing yards, 2.8 passing touchdowns, 1.2 interceptions, and one rushing touchdown a game. If Rourke continues putting up numbers like these, then BC should beat every opponent other than Winnipeg by at least a field goal this season.
Saskatchewan, on the other hand, has a strong defense and a weak offense going into this week’s game. Last week, the Riders started their third-string rookie quarterback Jake Dolegala, and their offense couldn’t get anything done.
Dolegala went 13-for-28 passing for only 131 passing yards. The only reason why Saskatchewan was able to score 21 points was because of a missed 61-yard field goal that was returned for a touchdown and several turnovers by the opposing team. Even though they lost by 10, it should have been a 21-point blowout.
With starting quarterback Cody Fajardo likely out again this week, BC should be able to win a low-scoring game on the road in Saskatchewan.
Score Pick: BC 24, Saskatchewan 14
BC vs Saskatchewan Best CFL Bets
Under 49.5 (-115) at BetMGM
Wager: 1 Unit
Unders have been dangerous bets in BC games this season, but Saskatchewan’s defense should do decently against Rourke. When you combine that with the Riders’ precarious quarterback situation, the Under at 49.5 points is a great bet.
I expect this number to move as we get closer to game time, so if you are reading this article early in the week, you should jump on the Under now.
BC -2 (-110) at PointsBet
Wager: 1 Unit
Taking a strong team like BC and making them only a two-point favorite against a team likely to start their third-string quarterback is ridiculous. Even though the Riders have the best fans in the CFL (I am biased as a Riders shareholder), their home-field advantage and defense are not enough to merit making the Lions such a small favorite.
Rourke and the Lions are legitimate Grey Cup Contenders and they need to win this week in order to have a shot at getting a first-round bye in the CFL playoffs this fall.
Winnipeg vs Calgary Prediction
Two weeks ago, the undefeated Winnipeg Blue Bombers beat the then-undefeated Calgary Stampeder 26-19 on the road. This weekend on ESPN 2, both teams meet in a rematch in Calgary.
Both teams have great defenses, but Winnipeg probably takes the cake. The Blue Bombers allow only 16.3 points per game, have the best defensive line and linebacking core, and have a strong secondary. The Stampeders allow only 22.4 points per game, which is also impressive.
Looking at Winnipeg’s rap sheet, their defense is even more impressive. They limited BC Lions quarterback Rourke to 278 passing yards, a 64% completion rate, three touchdowns, and two interceptions. For any quarterback, these are decent numbers, but against Rourke, who is the best CFL quarterback this season, this is an accomplishment.
Additionally, the Blue Bomber defense was able to contain two other strong quarterbacks in Hamilton’s Dane Evans and Ottawa’s Jeremiah Masoli.
Most importantly against Calgary, the Blue Bombers stampeded quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell, limiting him to completing only 42.9% of his 28 passing attempts for only 187 passing yards. In the rematch between both teams, Winnipeg should be able to contain Mitchell again and win a low-scoring game.
Score Pick: Winnipeg 24, Calgary 18
Winnipeg vs Calgary Best CFL Bets
Winnipeg +1.5 (-110) at BetMGM
Wager: 2 Units
How Winnipeg can be an underdog against any team even on the road this season is beyond me. Not only are they undefeated, but they are the defending two-time Grey Cup champions.
Calgary is a strong team, but Winnipeg should be a three-point favorite. As a slight underdog, the Blue Bombers are a great bet, and I would bet them up to -2.5.
Ottawa vs Toronto Prediction
Toronto is the only East Division team with a winning record, while Ottawa is the only remaining winless team. The Argonauts are almost a touchdown favorite at home against the Redblacks, but is that an overreaction to what we have seen so far?
Last year, Toronto was the luckiest team in the CFL. Over the last two weeks, the Argos have been the luckiest once again. Two weeks ago at a neutral site, the Argos beat the Riders 30-24 in a game where they allowed the opposing quarterback to complete 70.6% of his passes but got lucky when they forced three interceptions.
Last week in a rematch between both teams, Toronto got lucky again for several reasons. Even though they won by 10 points on the road, the Argos should have won by more.
The Riders had several players miss the game with illness-related injuries and relied on their third-string rookie quarterback. That is why Toronto had 322 more net yards than Saskatchewan.
Despite this, the game was tied with one minute left. The only reason why the Argos won by 10 points was because of a field goal, and then a fumbled kickoff after the field goal that resulted in a touchdown.
Ottawa is winless and relies on their backup quarterback Caleb Evans. Last season, he was one of the worst CFL quarterbacks, but in the last two weeks, Caleb Evans has shown signs of life. It will be close, but I believe that Ottawa will come through with an upset on Sunday against Toronto.
Score Pick: Ottawa 24, Toronto 20
Ottawa vs Toronto Best CFL Bets
Ottawa +5.5 (-114) at BetRivers
Wager: 1 Unit
I am understandingly skittish on backing a winless team, but Ottawa is in a good spot. The Redblacks have played a tough schedule and have only lost each game by an average of six points.
With Caleb Evans coming into form against an overvalued Argos team, Ottawa should cover and potentially win this weekend against Toronto.
CFL vs NFL: The Biggest Differences
The biggest barrier that stops people who like betting on American gridiron football from betting on Canadian gridiron football is that the rules seem confusing. In general, the differences in rules between both games mean lower scoring games, and fewer games are 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.
CFL: Three Downs Instead of Four
In the CFL, each team on offense has only three downs instead of four. That means that instead of three and outs, you have two and outs.
With fewer chances to keep possessions alive and the same number of yards to make up, 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: Bigger Field
CFL Fields are 110 yards long, 65 yards wide, have 20-yard endzones, and the field goal post is at the beginning of the endzone. NFL fields are 100 yards long, 53.33 yards wide, have 10-yard endzones, and have their field goal post at the end of the endzone.
This means more two-point conversion attempts, more special teams touchdowns, and it is easier to make field goals.
CFL: The Rouge
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. For punts, the punting team gets a point if the receiving team doesn’t return it past the end zone.